Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Ray Bradbury

Morning Tea by Ornamelle
Morning Tea, a photo by Ornamelle on Flickr.
"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for." - Ray Bradbury

I hope you like the quote by Ray Bradbury and this lovely photo by Ornamelle.

For today's writing prompts, start by making a list of 10 things you love, and then pick just 1 and write for 10 minutes without stopping. You can turn that thing you love into a story, poem, essay, song, play, etc. Just write what about what you LOVE today. That is the key!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Fun with Words

How many words can you make out of this phrase:

I love vine ripe tomatoes.

Spend a few minutes putting together a few words.

Here is a start for you:


AFTER your list is to your satisfaction, pick six to eight of the words to use in a poem, short story, essay or song.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lemons and Lemonade Creative Writing Prompts

Lemon and Sky by fonticulus
Lemon and Sky, a photo by fonticulus on Flickr.
We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. -Alfred Newman

Good morning!  Perhaps you might have heard a quote similar to this one: 

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I have several stands around here. James Brady

Our creative writing prompts today will be based on lemons vs. lemonade. 

Fiction:  Think up a situation that starts out as a lemon, but ends up being being lemonade.  For example, I've read a true story about two people who were stuck in an elevator for hours and ended up falling in love.  They got married. 

Creative Nonfiction:  Have you had any past lemon-like situations in your life that ended up being lemonade in the end?  Write about one.

Poetry:  Start with a negative image or situation, but end it with positivity. 

Please fell free to post part of what you write.  I promise I will read every comment!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Willy Russell

Today is the birthday of English playwright and songwriter Willy Russell.  For writing inspiration, Willy Russell loved to listen in on conversations. In honor of Russell's birthday, we will do just that for writing practice.

Writing Practice: Listen in to a conversation at a cafe, park, or anywhere. Write out part of the dialogue, then finish it up the conversation with your own ideas, but with the voice of the people you were listening to.
Write out a conversation for any of the people from the picture.


Here is some inspiring quotes  for the day.  You can respond to one of them in writing any way you would like:  with a poem, essay or story.

Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. It may be that you will not meet again in this life.
Jean Paul Richter

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Jade Bennington

For your weekend writing pleasure, I'm happy to announce our guest prompter, Jade Bennington.  She gives us some ideas about how to work through our dreams in journals and how to use them to inspire creative writing.   I hope you enjoy these prompts by Jade.


Dream Journal Writing Prompt by Jade Bennington

There are times when dreams come at night, so vivid and puzzling, that I awake feeling heavy with the desire to create something with them, to write them down and enjoy them, to make sense of them.  I've found that writing down my dreams in a journal provides me with a great source of inspiration for future poems and projects.

It's been helpful for me to mark my dream pages to easily find them.  Others might like to make a separate dream journal.

Poetry Prompt:  Browse through past dream journal entries.  Read an entry and consider what emotion is most obvious in the dream, whether it is a feeling of anxiety, contentment, anger, or joy. 
Write out the dream in the present tense.  Then, write a poem in which the most compelling dream image or emotion is described in concrete detail.
It can be interesting to weave together images from different dreams that are grouped together by a common thread or emotion.

Fiction Prompt:  Write a story in which a fictional character comes face to face with a dream conflict, object, or person. 

Here's an example of the dream writing process:

First, the journal entry.

I dream that my house is on fire.   After the fire is gone, I discover that some of my journals which I no longer own are piled up behind the family room couch.  I flip one open and find that a friend had gone through them, and with a red felt pen, had written notes in the margins. 

To work with this entry and better understand it, I circled the main words, which were: fire, house, journals, friend, and red felt pen.
And then I wrote a line for each main word, if it could speak.  For example, for fire, I wrote: "I show you your clinging."  And for the red felt pen I wrote, "At my best, I correct, and at my worst, I hinder with censorship."

From here, I could write a poem which includes the journals stacked behind the family room couch. 
I could write a story which begins with the main character discovering someone else's journals, or a story that begins with a fire.

There are many ways to approach dream writing.  Sometimes the dreams won't fit into a poem or story, and that is okay.  Writing out dreams can be an art in themselves and teach us something about our minds.  This knowledge can better equip us for creative writing.  So, let's see what we can create.

Jade Bennington is a published poet and fiction writer from Brooklyn, NY.  When she isn't writing, she enjoys parks and gardens, classical and singer-songwriter music, loose leaf tea, and visual art.  She is the author of the short story collection, On a Wobbly Beach Chair beside the Ocean and can be found blogging about creative writing at Blush of DawnShe currently lives in southern Massachusetts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Let's Make a Sandwich!

Really? Sure!  Sometimes the prompts I choose are inspired by some fabulous pictures I come across.  I absolutely LOVE this picture by Pink Sherbet Photography.  Thank you Pink and Flickr!

The fun-write below is for everyone. After your fun-write, pick an exercises below from today's writing prompts.

PLEASE post your invented sandwich in the comments below. I'd love to read about them.

FUN-WRITE: Invent a sandwich, a silly or serious, one-of-a-kind sandwich. Justify why you choose it to be what it is. Give it a name. Make it fun, make it original.

1. Essay prompt: Think of sandwiches you've enjoyed throughout your life. They could be from your home, someone else's home, a cafe, camp, anywhere.

Make a list of 5 to 7 sandwiches.
Then pick one.
 Free-write for a minimum of 5 minutes about the connection you have to that place, time, etc. associated with the sandwich. Is that memory really about the sandwich? Probably not. Go there.

2. Fiction Prompt:  From your fun-write, invent a character that would eat the sandwich you created. Write a scene where the character either makes the sandwich or orders the sandwich.  Show how the character either enjoys it or not. Give it a minimum of 5 minutes.

3. Poetry: Write an ode to you favorite sandwich in 20 lines or less.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abstract Art Writing Prompt

Messy Trail by Ecosalley
Messy Trail, a photo by Ecosalley on Flickr.
Today, look at the photo for one minute. Then free-write for 5 minutes without stopping.

After that, work with what you have and use it to create a poem, essay or story.

Happy Writing!  I hope you are enjoying the writing prompts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing Prompts Inspired by Charles Bukowski

What Matters Most by Hryck.
What Matters Most, a photo by Hryck. on Flickr.
In honor of Charles Bukowski's birthday, our creative writing prompts will be starter lines from within his poems. However, you don't have to write a poem. You can use the starter lines to start anything. Pick one and write for a minimum of 5 minutes without stopping.

1. It's not my death that worries me, it's. . .
2. Very little love is. . .
3. I walked away from. . .
4. I remember my father's. . .
5. The man across the table has watery blue eyes and a . . .

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing Prompts Inspired by the Poem, "Something You Hope You Won't Have to Tell Your Daughter" by Shoshauna Shy

Ultra Concentrated Joy! by soopahgrover
Ultra Concentrated Joy!, a photo by soopahgrover on Flickr.
Today I want to direct you to an interview with poet Shoshauna Shy at Long Story Short. Please read the interview and the enjoy her poems throughout.

Today's creative writing prompts are inspired by Shoshauna's poem, "Something You Hope You Won't Have to Tell Your Daughter." First, read the poem at Long Story Short,. Then pick one of the writing prompts below.

1. Poetry Prompt: In the last stanza the poet refers to simple, everyday things like "the smell of dish soap" and the "swallow of lemonade." Make a list of ten simple, everyday things tied to one of the senses. After you make your list, use at least three of them in a poem, OR pick one phrase from your list to use as a title of a poem. 

The buzz of bees
The plop of ice-cubes
The smoothness of velvet
The roughness of wool

2. Essay Prompt: Have you ever been in a situation where you had to tell someone something that was difficult? Write about it.

3. Dialogue Practice: Write a scene where a character tells another either some very good or very bad news.

Happy Writing!

To find out more about poet Shoshauna Shy, please visit 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Word Stew Writing Prompt with Shaindel Beers

Many thanks to Shaindel Beers for providing the "Word Stew" writing prompt below.  Once you gather your words,  you can turn them into a poem or a story or ?????  The sky's the limit.  Have fun!


WORD STEW by Shaindel Beers

photo by Jeff Kramer

One of my favorite prompts, whether writing poetry or fiction, is a "word stew." I teach both Intro to Poetry Writing and Intro to Fiction Writing at Blue Mountain Community College, and my students and I "make" poetry and fiction stews every quarter.

What I do is write categories on the board, such as:

(1) A store or business --
(2) A color --
(3) An invention --
(4) A town or city --
(5)  A make and model of car or truck --
(6) A band --
(7) A song by that band --
(8) An animal --
(9) A plant --
(10) A food --

I put enough categories on the board so that each student gets to pick a word or phrase for that category. Then, we each have to write a poem or story that includes all of those words. So, go out, find some friends, and have at it with this prompt! It's better to do with others because inevitably other people will pick words outside of your comfort zone and you'll have new material to work with that will force you to make a departure from your normal work.

Here's a poem that I wrote in a workshop I led at Prescott College when I guest-taught in Sheila Sanderson's poetry class:

If Tesla Had Aimed His Death Ray at Vortex, Kentucky

There wouldn’t be a girl at Target in her red polo shirt
and khakis, waiting for a boy in a Ford Ranger
who will drive up,  steady as an assembly line,
singing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,”
to pick her up from work. She would not stretch
like a lily on a stem, straining for the sun, to see if he is there,
in the indigo pick-up to rescue her from shoppers
too good for Wal-Mart who will let you know it
by unleashing a storm of insults the way Wal-Mart shoppers
are too meek to. When she gets in, he will change
from Garth Brooks to The Beatles out of respect,
and they will sing off-key about the octopus’s garden.
They will joke about getting a van and painting it
like a yellow submarine. You are happy for them,
Dear Reader, because you know that death is stalking them
like a panther. Time does not stretch like Turkish Delight,
and you are glad that Tesla did not aim his death ray
at Vortex, Kentucky, because these are your parents.
The quiet trailer park girl, the burly boy in the pick-up.

Every time I do a poetry or fiction stew, I tell the students participating in the workshop how grateful I am for their words, because I would never have come up with that particular work without them. Tesla's death ray and Vortex, Kentucky? Those two items would have never converged in my mind if I hadn't been forced to do it in a prompt! Now, let's see what you can come up with.

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. A Brief History of Time, her first full-length poetry collection, was released by Salt Publishing in 2009.

Shaindel was raised in Argos, Indiana, a town of 2,000 people. She studied literature at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama (BA), and at the University of Chicago (MA) before earning her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has taught at colleges and universities in Illinois and Florida but feels settled in the Eastern Oregon high desert town of Pendleton. Her awards include: First place Karen Fredericks and Frances Willitts Poetry Prize (2008), Grand Prize Co-winner Trellis Magazine sestina contest (2008), First place Dylan Days Poetry Competition (2007), Award-winning poem published, Eleventh Muse (2006), Honorable mention, Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Awards (2005), Honorable mention, Juniper Creek/Unnamed Writers Award (2005), and the title poem from this collection, “A Brief History of Time,”was nominated for a Pushcart prize (2004).

Shaindel loves meeting her readers. You can find her on Facebook or on Twitter.

You can find out more about Shaindel Beers by clicking on her website below:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old Houses by Robert Cording : American Life in Poetry


Old house, Dendron, VA

For today's creative writing prompts, first enjoy the photo and read this week's American Life in Poetry column below.  After you gaze, enjoy and read, you can choose to either start a story from the setting of this old house, write a poem about any old house, or write an essay about any house from your life.


American Life in Poetry: Column 333

Here is a lovely poem by Robert Cording, a poet who lives in Connecticut, which shows us a fresh new way of looking at something commonplace. That’s the kind of valuable service a poet can provide.

Old Houses by Robert Cording

Year after year after year
I have come to love slowly

how old houses hold themselves—

before November’s drizzled rain
or the refreshing light of June—

as if they have all come to agree
that, in time, the days are no longer
a matter of suffering or rejoicing.

I have come to love
how they take on the color of rain or sun
as they go on keeping their vigil

without need of a sign, awaiting nothing

more than the birds that sing from the eaves,
the seizing cold that sounds the rafters.

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 Robert Cording from his most recent book of poetry, Walking with Ruskin, CavanKerry Press, Ltd., 2010. Reprinted by permission of Robert Cording. Introduction copyright ©2011 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.
American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication here and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration.

Old Houses by Robert Cording : American Life in Poetry

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wordle Writing Prompt from Mark Stratton

Wordle: Adventure Paragraph

For our weekend creative writing prompts, here is some inspiration contributed by Mark Stratton. He is offering a wordle which was made from a blog entry he wrote about going back to school this fall to study poetry.

You can use as many or as few words from the picture to write whatever you would like. No rules! Feel free to post what you come up with.

As another prompt option, you can respond to one of Mark's favorite quotes below:

"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed."

— P. G. Wodehouse

‎"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

- Galileo Galilei

A huge thank you to Mark for contributing prompts this weekend. You can learn more about Mark Stratton by vsiting

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Ice cream! Mine!

Ice cream! Mine! by Ollie Crafoord
Ice cream! Mine!, a photo by Ollie Crafoord on Flickr.
Here is a link to a poem by a high school student named Tara Morris. The poem is called, "I am a Mint Chocolate Chip." Please read it at this great website that offers a new poem every day. It is one of my favorites, "Your Daily Poem."

After you read it, take 5 minutes and write a list of all the objects that are a part of your life and define you. I love that Tara started with ice-cream. What is your favorite ice-cream? Pick objects, but also pick situational things. The fact that the bus is not just a bus, but a "missed bus," tells us a lot.

After you make your list, please write in either essay or poetry form using favorite images from your list.

PLEASE feel free to post part of what you write today. I would love to read it.