Friday, July 29, 2011

Using Unfamiliarity to Create Dramatic Tension in Writing

Hello, everybody.  This week's guest prompter is award-winning writer Terri Giuliano Long.  
Thank you to Terri and all my guest prompters who help us out and bring us unique lessons and ideas!
Please let us know how you like the prompts.  Comments are always welcome.


Use Unfamiliarity to Create Dramatic Tension
by Terri Giuliano Long
Setting and atmosphere provide a backdrop for stories and poems, creating a sense of reality that puts readers in the moment. That’s only their most basic function. Skillfully written atmospheric detail also increases tension and drama.
Although the two work together, setting and atmosphere are not interchangeable:
Setting: the story’s time (time of day or historical time period), location, weather

Atmosphere: prevailing mood, which can be established or affected by setting

Typical ways to use setting and atmosphere to create narrative tension include: 1) setting characters in opposition to nature; 2) using dramatic irony; 3) placing characters in an unfamiliar setting. For this prompt, I’ll focus on unfamiliarity.

In strange places, we think and behave differently than we do in familiar places, where we’re comfortable and we know what to expect. Settings unfamiliar in time or place evoke a similar sense of disrupted balance for characters and for readers.
Eric Larson’s riveting book The Devil in the White City, set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, pits protagonist Daniel Burnham against serial killer Dr. D. H. Holmes. Larson vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the period, luring us into the underbelly of this unfamiliar world. This tense situation is made even more dramatic by our lack of familiarity with nineteenth century Chicago. This world operates differently than ours, so we never quite know what to expect. 

In his 2005 film Hostel, Quentin Tarantino uses an unfamiliar place to create dramatic tension. Three college students backpacking in Slovakia, looking for fun and adventure, encounter terror beyond their wildest imagination. In a familiar setting – say, the U.S. or England – where the students knew the language and had a reasonable chance of getting help if they needed it, the story would be less inherently frightening. In Slovakia, even before anything terrible happens, we feel a creepy sense of danger. The kids have absolutely no idea how this world works, or how to survive it; as that reality sinks in, it terrifies them, and it terrifies us.
Writing Prompt
a) Describe a familiar place. Maybe it’s your hometown or your alma mater, your workplace, your favorite city or rural area, the city or town where you live now. Use all five senses to evoke a tangible sense of this place. What makes it unique? Describe the weather, the people, the culture, the environment – the architecture or decor. What language/s do people speak? How do people interact?
b) Write a scene or poem set in the place you’ve described. Make the scene active, vibrant – write about a riot, a block party, a festival, a parade. Bring the place to life.
c) Think of a person who’d be unfamiliar in this place– someone far younger or older than you or the other characters (a grandmother walking in on a frat house party, for instance), a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language, a city dweller in the backwoods for the first time. Rewrite a scene or poem from his or her point of view. 

What changed? How did a lack of familiarity affect the protagonist? Did anything unexpected happen? How might readers interpret and experience the scenes differently? If you’re intrigued, keep writing! See where the story poem takes you!

Terri Giuliano Long teaches writing at Boston College. Her award-winning debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, is the 2011 Book Bundlz Book Pick. Visit her blog: Or connect with her on Facebook: Or Twitter: @tglong

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blueberry Writing Prompts

Blueberries by La Grande Farmers' Market
Blueberries, a photo by La Grande Farmers' Market on Flickr.
Have you ever picked blueberries? What are your memories of blueberries? What do blueberries remind you of?

1. Memoir Prompt: Write about a memory of blueberries.

2. Poetry Prompt: Do an acrostic poem with the word BLUEBERRIES written down the side of your paper.  Make a reference to something that is shade of blue in four of the lines.  Here is a rough draft starter example:

Blueberry picking time in Michigan, and I
Love the wild taste of blueberries fresh from the patch
Under a sizzling sky
Blue thoughts of pies, jam, and cobbler cloud my mind, this
Eternal summer to be frozen in a Ziplocfor winter blues protection, but
Right  now you are fresh, real,
I've never known sweeter blues than this taste of July
Endless rows of blue paradise
Succulent summer, so delicioius and short, I savor you in blue. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Abstract Writing Prompts

Abstract Art, Dubai by Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing
Abstract Art, Dubai, a photo by Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing on Flickr.

"Abstract Art... is part of the constant change and vital searching that energizes every true art."  (Leonard Brooks)

For today, we are going to do abstract writing prompts based on the picture above. 

1.  Free-Write Prompt:  Write for 5 minutes about the energy you feel, see and hear from this work of abstract art.

2.  After your free-write, write either a short essay or story (minimum of 300 words) or poem (10-20 lines) inspired by the painting.  Use your notes from the free-write to keep you going.

Please feel free to post part of your work or what you think about the painting.

Happy Writing!!!

Nature-Inspired Writing Prompts

Colorized Butterflies by Ang Kim

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." George Washington Carver

Today, I'm asking you to tune into nature.  Even if it is too hot to go outside, you can look out a window, find a picture, or remember something.

Free-Write for 10 minutes:  Write something about nature that you have not noticed before.  For example, I have zinnias blooming in my garden, and I was intrigued that  Ifound one pink zinnia with two petals that are white.  I've been going back to that image all weekend, and I think I would like to write about it. 

Poetry Prompt:  Look at your notes from your free-write and draft a poem from them.  Any length, any style, even if it is a bad poem.  (You can always turn it into a better poem later!)

Fiction Prompt:  Look at your notes from the free-write and use an image to relate to a character.  Write about a character that is connected to one of the images or discoveries you found in your free-write. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Joy Harjo

Happy Weekend, Dear Writers!

I have a great guest prompter lined up for you next week, but this Friday, looks like you get me again.  I hope you are enjoying the blog and the prompts.  Please let me know if you know of any artists or writers who want to contribute to inspiring others because I would love to feature them.

I came across this FABULOUS poem by Joy Harjo that is online at the The Writer's Almanac.  Please go to the poem "Perhpas the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo.  Read the poem 3 times.  Yes, that's right, 3 times.

After you read the poem, take some silence just to think.  Reflect on tables you sat at during family gatherings over the years.  Or even just your own every day table.  What memories are sparked?  For your creative nonfiction prompt, please write on the subject of table memories for 10 minutes. 

For your poetry writing prompt, write an ode to a table from your life, a specific table. 

And for your fiction writing prompt, practice dialogue.  Think of a conversation from a kitchen table, or make one up.  Write a dialogue with a little conflict.  Use your relatives for character inspiration. 

Happy Writing and have a great weekend everyone!

Love to all,


Creative Writing Prompts with Random Words

Random Words of the Day:

pinball, trickle, crawl, sin-sweet, knuckles, happiness, mess, purge, saint, soul, cranes, Swiss Army knife, bandanna, vote, swear, essence, sunburn, boat, veil

Writing Prompts: 

1.  Free-write about the feelings the picture gives you.

2.  Write a 10-line poem with 5 of the random words.

3.  Make 3 opening lines for a story using three of the random words in each sentence.   Then pick your favorite line and write from that for 10 minutes without stopping.

4.  Pick a word that prompts a memory and write for 10 minutes without stopping.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Enjoying Where You Are Writing Prompt

This beautiful quote and painting is by a dear friend of mine, Chantal Hoey Sanders.  She is one of the most positive people I know, despite her daily struggle with fibromyalgia. 

For today's writing prompt, I want you to take this quote and run with it.  Make it a poem, a story, an essay, or just free-write and explore in your journal.  Write about where you are in this VERY moment and what you can enjoy despite your circumstances. 

Thank you to Chantal for providing today's prompt.  Blessings to all of you, dear writers!

Please visit Chantal's website to learn more about her and how she has found victory on her life's journey through fibromyalgia.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summertime Writing Prompts 1

Vlasta Salnikova |

Creative Writing Prompts for Summer

It's going to be a hot one out here today, for sure.  Today for our creative writing prompts, we are going to reflect on summer.  Where I live, summer is a great time to eat fresh fruit (like watermelon) and vegetables.  We also have a lot of colors with the flowers in bloom. We will use quotes today to jump-start our writing.

Free-Write Prompt

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. - Aldo Leopold

Free-write for at least 5 minutes on what you have noticed about summer recently.

Essay Prompt

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. - Celia Thaxter

Write about what you are grateful for in summer.

Poetry Prompt

What are some of your favorite summer foods?  Write a poem about one of them.  You might want to review Barbara Crooker's prompt on food before starting a summer food poem. 

Good luck and enjoy!  As always, feel free to leave a comment or an excerpt of your writing. 


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Writing Scavenger Hunt with Miss Good on Paper

Good morning, Writers!  This weekend you can think of your creative writing prompts as an adventure.  Our guest prompter is Miss Good on Paper and she has a fun and interactive set of writing prompts which I know I will look forward to using with high school students in a couple of weeks.  I hope you enjoy them.  Please let me know how the prompts work out for you---we read all your comments and appreciate them.  Thank you, Miss Good on Paper, for sharing this fabulous idea!

Nick Stubbs |

The Writing Scavenger Hunt by Miss Good on Paper

I used to love scavenger hunts, searching for items and crossing off the found objects on my list. Who am I kidding? I still love scavenger hunts. It’s why I must make a list before going to the grocery store. It’s why I love holidays like Easter, when I can hide eggs and watch my nieces and nephews discover each hidden egg like it is buried treasure. 

Writing can sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt, too. You search through your mind and your notes for the right detail, the perfect setting, the ideal word. Yes, it is sometimes tedious, but you have to admit that it’s pretty fun, too. 

The scavenger hunt activity is one I use with students to help get them out of their chairs and into the world. After all, so much of the inspiration for writing doesn’t happen when staring at a blank page or screen. Real life is where you meet people who will become the basis of your characters. Real life is where all your story’s amazing details begin (even if you don’t realize it at the time). 

Below you will find a list of items. You’ll need to get out of your seat and start searching. You may even need to leave your home to find some of these items; take your time and take the list with you on your next outing. Try jotting down your results because you’ll need all of this later.

When you’re finished finding each item, there is a related writing activity to help you quilt together all of the items on your list.

Writing Scavenger Hunt:
One piece of graffiti 

One name of a store or restaurant·        

One vivid and specific description of a person

Two pieces of dialogue (overheard from someone besides you)      

Two smells  (be specific)    

Two hand gestures or facial expressions that a person makes   

Three names of food and/or drinks you’ve never tried before        

Three sounds (be specific)


Touch something and write down a description of how it feels     

Listen to a song (any random song will do) and write down one lyric       

Find one specific thing that is beautiful, one thing that is sad, one thing that is grotesque, one thing that is funny

Writing Activity Fiction writers: Write a scene involving that uses as many of the “items” from your scavenger hunt as possible. Try to incorporate at least one character in your scene. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.

Poetry Prompt:  Write a poem that tells a story and uses sensory details from your scavenger hunt. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.

As a writer your job is to pay attention and observe the world. Try to imagine each day as a scavenger hunt in which you are always collecting snippets and details to use for your writing.  Let me know what you find on your scavenger hunt. I’d love to hear all the wonderful details! 

Miss Good on Paper is a writer, blogger, and English instructor.  She writes literary fiction and her writing has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, The Potomac Review, Pank, and many others. She is also the author of the blog, The Writing Apprentice. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lao-Tzu Writing Prompts 1

Iperl |

Lao-Tzu Writing Prompts

Whether Lao-Tzu from China is a myth or actually lived, and whether or not Lao-Tzu was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star (after which he lived in the womb for 62 years before emerging after his mother leaned up against a plum tree), it is true that Lao-Tzu is considered the founder of Taoism and given credit for many insightful quotes.  Today we look at one Lao-Tzu quote that will inspire our creative writing prompts. 

"I have just three things to teach:  simplicity, patience, compassion.  These things are you greatest treasures."

Essay prompts:

1.  Do you agree that simplicity, patience, and compassion are the greatest treasures?  Why or why not?  Give examples.

2.  Reflect on how simplicity can bring joy and contentment.  How can you incorporate more of that into your life?

3.  Reflect on patience.  Do you need more?  What do you think you can do to become more patient?

Story Starters for Fiction Writing:

1.  She found pleasure in simple things like. . .

2.  He was surprised by her act of compassion. . .

Poetry Prompt:

Write a poem that contains at least three simple things that bring you joy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing and Imagery

Dailos Ortuño |

Writing and Imagery Creative Writing Prompts

Today we will explore imagery.  I want you to go to the poem which is featured on Your Daily Poem.  It is by Mary Jo Balistreri and it is called "Poetry."   Within this poem, you will find some strong nature images.  Which one is your favorite? 

Today, I want you to explore nature and collect a list of images.  Please feel free to share your images in the comments section.

Poetry Writing Prompt:

Pick an image from your list and start a poem with it. 

Memoir Writing Prompt:

Mary Jo's poem is filled with imagery that is based around the scene of camping.  Do you have any memories of camping?  Please write about one.

Fiction Writing Prompts:

Below are some story starters based on Mary Jo's poem.  Pick one and write from that for five minutes without stopping.

1.  When they heard a wolf's wail echoing from the woods, they were not afraid because. . .

2.  She found comfort in the unseen sounds of . . .

3.  Reflections were shining from. . .

Friday, July 8, 2011

Writing Prompts With Colors by Maribeth Fischer

Debra Millet |

This weekend, I'm quite delighted to introduce a fabulous writer and instructor, Maribeth Fischer.  I've had the pleasure of participating in a couple of Maribeth's workshops, and I always walked away with brewing poems and more insight on writing.  This weekend's creative writing prompt puts you on a mission, so as you explore with the list she will ask you to start, I am requesting that you please share part of your lists in the comments section this weekend because we would love to read them.  Thanks so much and enjoy your writing time!


Exercise: Finding Orange  by Maribeth Fischer

     Orange was my nephew Sam’s favorite color, though I didn’t know this until after
he died just before his eighth birthday. Vaguely, I recall that when he needed hearing aids
at age five or six and could choose any color, he choose orange….At least I think he did.
Maybe it was purple, another favorite color; maybe one of each. I know, too, that in one
of my favorite photographs of Sam, taken on his seventh birthday, he’s wearing a bright
orange Buzz Lightyear Hawaiian shirt.
     But not until his funeral do I recall actually knowing for a fact that Sam’s favorite
color was orange. I remember how the men—his dad and my brothers, Sam’s uncles--
wore orange ties with their dark suits. I remember too, how in the days before that awful
March morning when we buried him, my mother and I frantically drove from one art
supply store to the next looking for orange foam core to make storyboards of Sam’s life.
     Mostly, I remember how after the funeral service, we released 200 orange balloons into
the grey Wisconsin sky.
     In the months after Sam died, I began noticing orange everywhere: someone’s
orange t-shirt or the orange highway cones at a construction site; an orange moving
van, an orange silk dress in a shop window, the orange front door of a stranger’s house.
     And then I began actively searching for orange, taking photographs of my discoveries. I
pulled over along a narrow two-lane highway one morning, cars honking as they swerved
by, to take a picture of a rusted orange mailbox in the rain. Another night, through the
windshield, I photographed a peach-colored sky. I stood in front of a children’s boutique
another day to snap a photo of a pair of toddler’s orange and white striped socks pinned
to a clothesline in the window. In traffic, I sped through yellow lights to catch up with a
bright orange VW or a truck with an orange license plate. I walked the beach, camera in
hand, and spotted orange beach umbrellas, sand buckets and beach chairs, and once, an
obese man in orange swim trunks. I collected shells with vivid orange markings on their
interiors, noticed that the entire side of a restaurant on the main street of my town was
painted bright orange!
     Friends began giving me orange gifts: soup bowls, bath towels, pillowcases,
frying pans, wine glasses and earrings. Orange running shorts and running shoes, nail
polish, a small table, a wrist watch, an orange Cross pen, orange desk calendar, and from
my friend Gail, a Murano glass ring from Italy that for a year, I wore everyday on my
wedding ring finger. Even now, nearly six years since Sam died, when the man I love,
a man who never knew Sam, gives me a motorcycle helmet for my birthday, he spends
weeks searching for one with an orange stripe down its center. That orange stripe is what
makes the gift unique and meaningful and what makes the helmet—for a woman who
never rode a motorcycle before meeting this man—absolutely perfect. The orange stripe
tells me that this man loves me, that he pays attention to what makes me happy. In fact,
the real gift for me isn’t the helmet but the detail of that orange stripe across its top.
     But what does any of this have to do with writing?
     A lot.
     Maybe everything
     Especially if you understand that writing is about looking hard at what has
surrounded you perhaps your whole life and finally, finally noticing it. And not just
noticing it, but finding the meaning in it, and the beauty. As the poet W.S. Merwin once
said, “A poem results from a sudden awakening of attention.
      For me the color orange is a poem.
      A rusted mailbox in the rain.

EXERCISE: Pick a color that means something to you: It could be your favorite
color or the favorite color of someone you love or even a color you don’t like at all.
Start searching for this color. Every day. Right now: Wherever you are sitting, find ten
examples of this color. Do this for a week. Ten examples a day for seven days. Don’t list
the same example twice. And be picky. Try to make yours a list that no one but you could
have created. This might involve searching for the color. Going to new places. Taking
walks. Driving home a different way.
     If your color is red, for instance, then noticing apples in the grocery store isn’t
really paying attention. Any one can find this example. Easily. Your goal is to notice the
surprising reds, the reds that appear when you don’t expect them.
Right now, I am sitting in a Starbucks and I am trying to notice the reds and yes, I
see the stop sign at the end of the parking lot (pretty typical) and the bright red “Mattress
Discounter” sign on the building across the street (more specific, but kind of ho hum),
and the red car (a dime a dozen) that just pulled into the lot, the red taillights of the cars,
the red Exit sign over the door…all kind of generic. But at least I am noticing things (
I wouldn’t have seen any of this had I not forced myself to pay attention. I hadn’t seen
any of these things, in fact, though I’ve been coming to this Starbucks for years). Then
I notice the knot of the blue-and-red striped tie of the man sitting nearby. He’s wearing
a gray sweater-vest and the tie disappears into the vest, so the triangle-shaped knot--
comprised mostly of the red stripe across its center--is all I see.
     Two days have now passed since I wrote the above description, but I can still picture that man…not just his tie, but his grey sweater vest, his pink oxford shirt, his narrow face and silvery–gray hair (almost the same color as his vest) cropped short. This is part of the joy of noticing: you think you are just focused on one detail, but that single detail will gives you an entire picture.
     Again, to quote W.S. Merwin: “IF you could get one moment right, it would tell you the whole
thing” he said in an interview. “And that’s true of your own life—each moment is absolutely
separate and unique, and yet it contains your entire life.”
      So it is with details.
      And this, in a nutshell, is what the best writing is about: finding the exact detail that
allows us to see a world we couldn’t have otherwise.
     So seven days. Ten objects a day. This is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it should
be a challenge. Keep in mind that if it’s easy to find your ten objects, chances are that
you are finding generic examples as opposed to specific examples that are unique to you.

Remember: The search is as important, perhaps more important, as what you
actually find.

Maribeth Fischer's first novel, The Language of Goodbye, was awarded Virginia
Commonwealth University's First Novel Award for 2002. Fischer’s second novel, The
Life You Longed For, chosen as an April 2007 BookSense Notable Book, as well as a
alternate book selection the Literary Guild. Currently it has been released in five foreign

Fischer’s literary essays have appeared in such journals as The Iowa Review and The Yale
Review, and have twice been cited as notable in Robert Atwan's Best American Essays.
She has also received a Pushcart Prize for her essay Stillborn, as well as a Smart Family
Prize for her essay Lottery.

Currently, Fischer lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In addition to founding the
Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild and serving as executive director of the Writers At The
Beach: Pure Sea Glass writing conference, which over 5 years raised and donated over
$65,000 to mitochondrial disease research in her nephews’ names, Fischer teaches
workshops in writing. She also speaks at medical conferences and to healthcare workers
about writing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writing Prompts: Have a Day of Swans, Hollyhocks and Splashing. . .

Jdgrant |

On Tuesday, The Writer's Almanac featured a fantastic list poem by Lou Lipsitz called, "Have a -------_ Day."  The poem is a clever list poem that brings the term "Have a Nice Day" to shame.  Lipsitz' poem is a list of surprising wishes for your day.  Here is a little excerpt from the middle of the poem:

. . . Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles. . .

Creative Writing Prompts for July 7, 2011

Warm-up:  If you are able, please read the entire poem by Lou Lipsitz.  After reading the poem, create a list of your own fun wishes for what kind of day you want to have or you'd like someone else to have.  Be outrageous and go wild.  Have fun and hold nothing back.  Write for 5 minutes without stopping. 

Poetry Prompt:  Model a list poem after the example poem. Weave your list into a poem with a clever ending. 

Fiction Writing Prompts:  Below are some story starters based on the Lipsitz poem.  Pick one or make your own original to start a story from.  Write for 5 minutes and see what you get.

1.  He was looking forward to a day of diving into cool water. . .

2.  It was a day of soaking rain and lightning. . .

3.  The sisters were having a day of hair-yanking jealousy and meanness.  It all started when. . .

Creative Nonfiction

Think of a fond summer memory.  Write about your memory starting with the phrase, "It was  a day of. . . "

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

my favorite things - julie andrews

Today's writing prompts are centered around our favorite things. Enjoy the music by Julie Andrews. Then make a list of 10 of your favorite things. Try to make a phrase for each. For example, it's not just a rose, but "raindrops on roses," as the song goes.

After you make your list, you can chose to write an essay or a poem about one of them. You could also write a list poem titled, "My favorite things," and include all on your list and perhaps more.

This is good writing practice.  No such thing as writers block on this one!

For fiction writers, if you have a novel you are working on, pick one of your characters and spend a time making a list of what your character's favorite things are. This can give you some insight as you continue on with your book. If you are not working on a novel, pick a character from one of your short stories and go from there.

Happy Writing! And please, in the comments section, give us a few of the items on your list. We'd love to see them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bikini Writing Prompts

A girl in a bikini is like having a loaded pistol on your coffee table.  There's nothing wrong with them, but it's hard to stop thinking about it.  - Garrison Keiller

Happy Birthday, Modern Bikini!

It was on this day in France in 1946 that the Bikini was formerly introduced in Paris.  The designer had a hard time finding a model to agree to pose with it, so he had to hire an exotic dancer.  The bikini, introduced as the world's smallest bathing suit, was predicted to cause a cultural explosion grater than the nuclear explosions in Bikini Atoll, so that is where the name "bikini" comes from.  Though it was formerly introduced in the 40s, Roman paintings and evidence from the Mayan civilization prove that the bikini dates much farther back than the 1940s.

Memoir Prompt:  Write about a memory of a bikini--- seeing one, wearing one, etc.

Poetry Prompt:  Write a poem about a bikini.

Essay Prompt:  What do you think about bikinis?  There are some countries where it would be quite scandalous to wear one.  Do you think they are a good idea?  Why or why not?  Explore your thoughts and give examples to back up your opinion.   

Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July Writing Prompts 2011

Aleksandr Klimashin |

4th of July Fireworks Writing Prompts

Happy 4th of July! 

When I was a child, 4th of July was a little scary.  I was horrified of fire, and I can remember going inside the house or garage when it came time to light sparklers with my sister and cousins.  Eventually, I got more used to them, but I would hold them from as far away from my body as I could, and I wouldn't twirl them and skip around like the other kids did.  I have no idea where the fear came from, but to this day I am not very comfortable around fire. 

I did love fireworks, though.  My family would walk down to the neighborhood school where we would have a beautiful view of the fireworks show that was coming from the county fairgrounds.  I loved the different colors and forms.  Like most kids, I was disappointed to see it all end.  But how I loved the grand finale when so many colors exploded at once! It always gave me such a magical feeling, a rush of excitement. And when I reflect on those times now, I can still feel that same feeling, and it is true happiness and sacredly special.    I think I felt safe watching the fireworks because I knew they were so far away, but probably mostly because my family was all standing closely together without any other distractions, just the fireworks and us. 

For today's creative writing exercises, you are going to make a list of places where you have seen fireworks.  After you have about 5-10 things on your list, pick one and write a short memory about watching the fireworks in that place.  Include how you felt, who you were with,what the occasion was, etc. 

Fiction Writing:  Pick a place from your list and start a short story in that setting.  Write for 15 minutes without stopping. 

Poetry Writing:  Write a haiku with a reference to fireworks.  See my post on haiku if you need to refresh the general rules. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Junk vs. Treasure Writing Prompts with Donna Vorreyer

I'm happy to announce that today our guest prompter is teacher and writer Donna Vorreyer.  I connected with Donna online when I came across her awesome blog that includes a featured called Poetry Tow Truck.  She posts weekly poetry prompts, so poets will want to make sure they visit her blog.  Today, Donna has created prompts for poetry and prose writers based upon the them of a junk drawer.  I hope you will post a comment or even part of what the prompts inspires you to write.  Enjoy and have a great weekend!

One Man’s Junk is A Writer’s Treasure:
Using Ordinary Items to Create Narrative
      Writing Prompts by Donna Vorreyer

If you are a normal, red-blooded, human being, you have the equivalent of a junk drawer in your house. Oh, it doesn’t have to be a drawer. It may be a basket, a plastic box, a purse or even the back seat of your car. But you have a place where strange, everyday items collect themselves and live together.

Very often, it is hard to remember why some of the items were kept or how they got there. If you take inventory of the everyday items lying around your house (or even in this one place), you have the seeds for some new writing. Like William Carlos Williams says, “No ideas but in things.”

For today’s prompt, gather five everyday household or junk drawer items. Grab them quickly without too much forethought. Go do it. Now. (Not trying to be bossy, but having them before you read on works best.)

Now that you have your items, arrange them in order on the table. (Items 1,2,3, etc.) You will now use them to create either a series of small poems (or a short story, if you are a prose writer) with a narrative that incorporates these items as integral parts of the story.

As an example, I will share a few “snapshot” poems that were based on photographs of everyday items that I traded with poet/book artist Matt Barton. (His “inventory” poems were collected in a mini-chapbook called moments.) These poems start to create a story of a relationship that is damaged or over in some way:


I grew
to flotsam
in the chardonnay
those gritty bits
of grief
between the teeth
you never
completely got it
not once


You prefer shiny orbs
all flash and sparkle
glazed with glass and glitter

Me the dull felt circle
made in second grade
hanging from a pipe cleaner
on an inside branch


frayed bristles
break free
and float around
my gums
brush against
the places
your tongue
used to

For an alternate prompt, you could literally make an inventory list. (Item One: Corkscrew. Black plastic with a silver spiral. Small scratch on the turning mechanism…) That list itself could be a poem or a piece of fiction written in short vignettes.


Donna Vorreyer is a poet/teacher from the Chicago area who has enough junk in her desk alone to keep her writing for years. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Rhino, Weave, qarrtsiluni, Cider Press Review, New York Quarterly, and most recently in Mixed Fruit and Referential Magazine. Her first chapbook Womb/Seed/Fruit was published by Finishing Line Press in 2010 and a second, Ordering the Hours, is slated for publication in 2012 from Maverick Duck Press. She blogs at Put Words Together; Make Meaning, which includes weekly prompts for writers on Saturdays. To find more her work, visit her website.