Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writing Prompts with Sisters and a Cafe

Café Tortoni, en Avenida de mayo, Buenos Aires
Robert Fiadone

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably figured out by now that I love Ted Kooser's weekly column "American Life in Poetry."  I think he picks quality, accessible poems ,and often they inspire me.  I plan to feature the columns from time to time because a lot of these poems make great writing prompts.  Enjoy this week's poem "More Lies" by Karin Gottshall, and you will find the prompts below. 

American Life in Poetry by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

Some of us have more active fantasy lives than others, but all of us have them. Here Karin Gottshall, who lives in Vermont, shares a variety of loneliness that some of our readers may have experienced.

More Lies by Karin Gottshall

Sometimes I say I’m going to meet my sister at the café—
even though I have no sister—just because it’s such
a beautiful thing to say. I’ve always thought so, ever since

I read a novel in which two sisters were constantly meeting
in cafés. Today, for example, I walked alone
on the wet sidewalk, wearing my rain boots, expecting

someone might ask where I was headed. I bought
a steno pad and a watch battery, the store windows
fogged up. Rain in April is a kind of promise, and it costs

nothing. I carried a bag of books to the café and ordered
tea. I like a place that’s lit by lamps. I like a place
where you can hear people talk about small things,

like the difference between azure and cerulean,
and the price of tulips. It’s going down. I watched
someone who could be my sister walk in, shaking the rain

from her hair. I thought, even now florists are filling
their coolers with tulips, five dollars a bundle. All over
the city there are sisters. Any one of them could be mine.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Karin Gottshall, whose most recent book of poetry is Crocus, Fordham University Press, 2007. Poem reprinted from the New Ohio Review, No. 8, Fall 2010, by permission of Karin Gottshall and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Fiction Prompts:
We have done story starters before to generate fiction, but today's story starters involve you filling in a blank and then going from there.  These starter lines are inspired by today's poem. 
1.  He likes a place that is lit by __________________ . . .
2.  He watched someone who could be her ________________ walk in . . .
3.  She carried a bag of __________________ to the __________________ . . .

Poetry Prompt:
I love the line, "Rain in April is a kind of promise/that costs nothing."  Think about nature and the months and what kind of promises that cost nothing.  Make a list of about 5 things, and then pick one to write a poem about.

Essay Prompt:

If you could add one thing to your life that doesn't exist, what would it be?  Why?  Write about it.

Picture Prompt: 

Look at today's picture and write a scene between two people inside the cafe. This can be done in fiction or drama. 

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