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.


  1. I liked this prompt, thanks. I'd want to work on this further in the future.


    An Old Oak Desk

  2. First freewrite - but excellent prompt I will save for a rainy day.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Vivinfrance and Flaubert. I'm glad you like our prompts!

  4. Thanks for the prompt. My house is chock-full of variations on the junk drawer. I like having a use for all those little things.
    junk drawer


I only ask that all comments be polite and constructive.