Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! How could I let this time of year go by and not have a prompt directed at all of the festivities of Halloween? As a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays…I even remember my first Halloween costume which was a cat, of course, but it was a one piece deal with the mask sewn onto a “robe” that covered my entire five-year-old body down to my ankles. The mask portion must have been at least a foot and a half across in length and width (or at least it seemed like it!). Now, I’m wishing I had a photo of it. I haven’t thought of that costume in years, but in my mind’s eye I can see it as plain as day – smell the inside of that mask. Don’t Halloween masks have their own smell?

I went “trick or treating” for years…up until about high school. And, in high school I did participate in a few pranks…but what I remember most is a car load of friends going out to the “haunted” cemetery near our hometown and “seeing” all of the ghosts and goblins “appear” on the headstones. Or were those just headlights? I can still hear the screams and the laughter…the pushing and the shoving of each other as we ran back to the safety of our cars.

As a young mother, I enjoyed making an interesting costume for my baby daughter when she was just seven months old – she was Raggedy Ann to my then year and a half old nephew’s Raggedy Andy. I still treasure the polaroid picture…that proves the orange yarn for their “hair,” and the rosy cheeks.

I’m not near the fan of Halloween at my age now as I was at one time…although in recent years I have been coaxed into costumes once more, and I guess I don’t hate it…it’s just not my favorite holiday like it used to be. Nevertheless, the holiday does lend itself to a lot of memories…just as the few that I’ve mentioned here, as well as all types of fun stories that can be spun with ghosts, zombies, witches, and, well, the list goes on and on. So without further spooky ado, here’s your eighteenth prompt (Yes, I messed the count up last week – like I said, I’m a writer, not a mathematician! LOL! This truly is the eighteenth W.P.P.S.):

“Spooky Writing: A Trick or Treat?”

1) I don’t believe there’s a “trick” to writing…except to keep at it…but if there is a trick…it’s finding time to sit down, relax, and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. With that said, here’s some ideas that might make writing about Halloween a “treat”: In your daybook write for 10 minutes about your favorite Halloween costume, your worst Halloween, your scariest Halloween, the pranks that you and your friends pulled on Halloween, or the neighbor you never wanted to go to their door on Halloween. In addition, you can probably think of other events/friends/parties etc. that would lend themselves as prompts to write about various Halloweens through your childhood and adolescent years. Obviously, you can get a lot of traction just from this one set of prompts, but there’s always more!

2) Write about what it was like to drag your kid sister/brother along on Halloween, if you’re a parent – what are your favorite memories of taking your child/children trick or treating? Are you someone that hates Halloween? Why? What’s a tradition that your family always did for Halloween? Can you believe at one time there weren’t all of these Halloween lights and decorations that rival Christmas? If you’re a certain age, say over 40…what was different about Halloween when you were a child? If you’re under 40 – what do you imagine Halloween was like back in the 80s, the 70s, the 60s?

3) If you’re into fiction – what are your favorite Halloween “characters” that you can write about? Zombies? Gremlins? Witches? Ghosts? Headless Horsemen? Can you come up with a special brand of ghoul…maybe a funny one instead of a scary one? Think about conflict…go against the grain! This could be a fun exercise to see where you could place your “frightening” character(s)!

4) Once you have written to one of the prompts…or all of them…see which one strikes your fancy and then expand on it until you exhaust your idea. Tailor it to your own type of writing, be it a poem, a short story, a play, or a piece of creative nonfiction. Once you have something you like, go back through and proofread, cut, add, and as always: revise, revise, revise!!!

As with all writing, this “Trick or Treat” writing should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!



Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop!  This week’s prompt deals with life. Yes, life is a broad subject and it comes at you fast and furious. Some people feel like they’re not living if they’re not snowed under piles of work, others feel they’re not living unless they take elaborate vacations throughout the year. Some live life just going through the motions and don’t really live “a wonderful life” at all, while others are afraid to live…to step out of their comfort zone and try something new: maybe it’s karaoke, maybe it’s switching careers, maybe it’s taking a chance on love, or simply speaking up for the first time in their lives. What is happening in your life right now?

Allow me to introduce you to a couple of quotes on life that you should become familiar with (if you aren’t already):

Emily Dickinson once said of life: “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” Now that’s a statement that is just waiting to be unpacked! And we can’t forget that John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I believe we all can agree that statement is really true too.

With trying new things, being overwhelmed, by being “startled” to live a life in mind, here is your eighteenth prompt:

“Living a Startling Life”

1) What do you do that makes your life startling? Is it stagnant? Are you living? Is not having enough time to get everything done in the day killing the life you really want to live? Do you have so much time on your hands that you create problems for yourself that are not there? Have you tried anything new lately? What scares you to try? Skydiving? Karaoke? Taking dance lessons? Being alone? In your daybook sit down and write using one of those ideas and see where it leads you. You might be surprised. Doing this exercise could lead to an interesting poem, a nice memoir, or essay.

2) As a fiction writer, you can take those questions and ask them of your character. If you don’t have a character in mind to ask those questions of, think of a character that you haven’t had much luck in developing…and maybe these questions can jump start that character’s story. Again, write on one question at a time for 10 minutes each. You may get enough from just one single question that you can save the other questions for another character or for another storyline.

3) Speaking of story-lines, just by the nature of writing about some of those questions listed in #1 you might stumble upon an idea for a story that you hadn’t thought of before. Give it a try! Write!!

4) Once you get those 10 minutes in, keep going with another question until you’ve got the character/information/story/memory that you need to writer your poem, memoir, essay, fiction, or play, and then write even more, revise, write some more, and revise again!

As with all writing, this “Life” writing should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!



Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week is going to be another short one since I want to get this written on Wednesday, and I’ve had a lot of writing and other good things going on this week which has borrowed more time. In my own creative writing class this week we’ve started to workshop fiction pieces, so we’ve been talking a lot about conflict and tension in stories. Conflict and tension are also good for all other types of writing genres as well. If everything was always easy in life, or for your characters, life would be pretty boring. My favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, said that you should be a sadist: “no matter how sweet and innocent your leading character, make awful things happen to them so that your readers will see what they’re made of,” and more of his advice for writing short stories can be found here.

That’s why we see a lot of the same types of story lines over and over. Take love stories for example: will the protagonist get the man or woman of their dreams? There’s always some obstacle coming at them…a third person, a war, parents not approving,  and the list goes on and on.  If Romeo and Juliet were free to date and had no interference what fun would that be? Shakespeare was a master at conflict. Think Othello, Hamlet…and the list goes on and on with his works…. In addition, in stories we root for the underdog, we like to see people overcome hard/bad situations, or see bad things happen to good people and watch how they cope…it makes us feel, well, human.

So with conflict and tension in mind this week, here is your sixteenth prompt:

“Trouble, Trouble Everywhere!”

1) I like to give my students three words that aren’t always connected but can create conflict just by the nature of the words. One particular set always gets some interesting works from students in no more than 10 minutes of class time, and sometimes those pieces go on to become their workshop pieces with fiction or drama. Here are the three words: Priest, Prostitute, Movie Theater.

It’s always amazing how different each person takes those words and makes some fascinating things happen. You can utilize those three words, or come up with three columns of words for yourself…sort of what of these things don’t belong with the other…and your can always mix and match…the third column should be an interesting setting of some kind.

2) Or: Think of a sticky situation and put your protagonist right in it…write for 10 minutes in your daybook.

3) After you’ve written from the three words, or from the sticky situation, expand it where you can…cut out things that are unneeded, and of course, revise, revise, revise!

Both of these prompts can be made into fiction or drama, but you can also utilize the same ideas with poems and creative nonfiction as well.

As with all writing, this “Troubled” writing should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!




Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week the prompt is going to be short and sweet because my laptop has been out of commission one week tomorrow  – the adapter cord got fried during a power surge! Thankfully, it did not harm the laptop – which this has been a reminder to back everything up just in case. So while I’m waiting on the new adapter cord to arrive, I’ve realized how much I rely on that laptop…almost like my left hand. I’m working on my not as comfy and not as in sync desktop computer that I hadn’t turned on in three years!!

If you’re like me you use technology without even thinking about it everyday. And, I not only depend on it to keep in touch with loved ones and friends, I revise my poetry on my laptop, use it as my printing/scanning hub, write this blog, and as an adjunct instructor I not only use technology as a teaching tool, but as an online instructor it’s integral to my livelihood. Oh, and I upload all of my photos from my digital camera…and the list goes on and on.

Some of you may be much younger than me and have never been without depending on all available technology. I am of that generation that grew into adulthood without computers and cell phones, but then when they were introduced quickly became adept and loved it. So for you younger ones, to be without any technology would most likely be a total void. Where as I know I can live without it, it’s just a big inconvenience! Then there’s people like my parents that barely can utilize a cell phone – who don’t care to set up their voicemail on it, and who refuse to even try the internet – let alone have a computer in their home. How can they live, right? They do certainly miss out on a lot more communication because if they were hooked up they’d be able to email, FB, and text…but then again, maybe it’s all fine the way it is.

Nevertheless, the thought of being without technology and the fried adapter cord prompted this week’s prompt. Let’s get to it right now: your sixteenth prompt:

“Living Life Unplugged”

1) Write in your daybook about a time when you were totally unplugged from technology. Maybe it was when you were a kid growing up and computers and phones without cords were something out of science fiction. Maybe it was last week at a campground (but I doubt it, as we all have cellphones everywhere!), or maybe you’re someone like my parents and don’t utilize all of the gadgets available these days.

2) Write what it would be like to live in a world today…as we know it…and all cellphones, computers, laptops, video games, GPS systems, DVRs, etc. were all gone…all that’s left: three or four channels on TV and the only phones that work are those old fashioned kind…hooked to a wall, or in a phone booth…remember those?

3) Pick one of the above prompts and write for 10 minutes or until you exhaust the subject.  Add in as much detail and description of what is going on all around you in either scenario as you can. Surprise yourself with things that you remember, or things that you imagine.

4) Choose one of the four genres: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction or Plays, as these prompts will fall into any of them easily, and then write even more, revise, write some more, and revise again!

As with all writing, this “unplugged” writing should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!


Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! As many know if they read this blog,  have checked out my “About” page, or have followed me since early on – I’m an artist and an art lover. Art has been on my mind a lot in the past few weeks as I’ve been getting paintings and drawings ready for my stint as “Artist of the Month” at Downtown Latte Coffeehouse here in Toledo, and last week I began teaching painting classes at Michaels.

In addition, I’ve always loved going to art galleries or to the art museums, taking my daybook and writing to art – whether it be to a two dimensional painting or a sculpture. I had been doing this for years before I found the proper name for this type of writing: Ekphrastic.  It’s a hard word to pronounce in a hurry, but it’s a word that you should become familiar with.

I couldn’t write about Ekphrastic poetry without mentioning that my favorite poet, Frank O’Hara wrote many poems inspired by art (after all he was called “Poet Among Painters” and was friends with Jasper Johns, Grace Hartigan, Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, among many, many others), as well as prose. Here is a link to his poem “On Seeing Larry River’s Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art.

It should be no surprise that I’ve written many ekphrastic poems over the years; two of those poems were really successful earlier this year. One, “Party Stiff” won an honorable mention at Toledo Museum of Art’s Annual Ekphrastic Competition in May 2013. It was written to the permanent installation, The Party, by Marisol Escobar. The other, inspired by seeing Vincent van Gogh’s painting Bedroom in Arles at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, “The Art of Seeing Value” appeared on New Verse News in early June, and was later explored by Great Writers Steal a few weeks later.

I’m always encouraging my students to try an Ekphrastic poem or a writing. I feel it’s a worthy endeavor (especially for those that don’t take the time to visit an art museum or art gallery on their own!) and can bring such wonderful results. And why wouldn’t it – when you’re putting your best observation skills to work for you…imagery inspired by an image…what could be better? Here’s your fifteenth prompt:

“Writing Art with Heart”

1) It’s ideal to go to an art museum or an art gallery with your daybook, walk through and find the painting or sculpture that you really respond to. That response does not necessarily have to be a positive response, as sometimes a negative  response can bring out some really intense writing, or at least writing that you didn’t expect.

2) Along with the response that you write, make a list of what you see in the painting/sculpture – such as colors, realism/contemporary; what’s the medium? Don’t forget to write the title, the artist’s name, and any other pertinent information about your chosen piece down somewhere – as once you leave the gallery/museum these will become really important – especially as you polish your piece for possible publication!

3) If you don’t have a chance to go to an art museum or an art gallery (although I highly recommend it), you can always use the internet to pull up paintings from different galleries/museums from around the world, or check out a good library book that’s full of art. Another idea is to get postcards of art – they can come in handy too when you don’t have a chance to get away for that museum visit.

4) Once you’ve got your info written in your daybook on your visual piece of choice – freewrite on it for 10 minutes or until you run out of steam. Then as always revise, revise, and then revise again to get your poem or prose piece as lively as it can be.

As with the other prompts, I believe you will find that this works well with whatever genre you choose!

As with all writing, writing about Art should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!