Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, we’re here in the last week of November, and the day before Thanksgiving, Time sure flies past, fast, doesn’t it? All month we’ve been writing to prompts that are what we, as writers, are thankful for. I could not let the month go by without writing about family. After all, whether you come from a big, happy family, a crazy, small family, or a “normal,” dysfunctional family, we all have them…we all have parents, but we all don’t have siblings. I don’t. I’m an only child, so I’ll never know what it’s like to have fights with a sibling, to have that camaraderie of “we’re in this together,” or to have a sibling pitted against you by a parent. I will never be an aunt.  By the same token, those of you that are not only children don’t know what it’s like to have all attention directed on you – good and bad – to learn that you don’t know how to argue/fight  as an adult because you’ve never had to as a child, or how alone your childhood can feel. Of course, there are perks to be an only child as well – one of my favorite ones is that I never get bored because I learned to entertain myself, I developed a vivid imagination, and I don’t mind being alone – when others can’t stand to be alone for five minutes.

I always wanted children of my own, and not just one – so that’s why I have two daughters instead of one. I now have five grandchildren, so I definitely am not alone in this world, and both of my parents are still alive and I know a lot of people my age can’t say that. I love my family, and have good relationships with my daughters and grandchildren; although, I don’t see them often enough. My parents, well, they’re my parents – we’ve had a lot of water under the bridge…and they sure have given me plenty to write about. In fact, I believe I’ve mentioned it before – I’m compiling a poetry memoir of childhood poems, and I hope to have it ready to start submitting to publishers by the end of this year. I have a few more poems to add, and to come up with a good title and it’ll be ready! So, that’s something to be thankful for as well…progress…and survival of youth!

Here is a sample of one of my poems from that manuscript:

No Swimming

I wish I knew how to swim instead of walking

nowhere on treadmills or lifting dumbbells

 

inside a drab gym to tone my middle-

aged muscles and slim my widening hips.

 

Why did I listen to my overcautious mom

and grandma warn of drowning and

 

ingest their tales of never learning to let go,

never handing control over to water bodies?

You can view “No Swimming” in it’s entirety in the anthology, Backlit Barbell: An Anthology of Health and Fitness,  compiled by A.J. Huffman, found on Amazon, or when my book gets published.

And, speaking of being published – I’d be remiss if I did not mention that my little poetry “family,” Company of WomenJayne Marek, Mary Sexson, and I have all been nominated for a Pushcart by Chatter House Press for a poem each from our book Company of Women: New and Selected Poems. You can find the nominated poems from the book here.

Family, blood or chosen, is what makes life interesting as well as giving us reason for life. And, with that thought in mind, no matter what your relationship is with your “blood” relatives, you’ve many things to be thankful for – even if it’s that they’ve given you plenty to write about! With that in mind, here’s your twenty-second prompt:

“Family Tales”

1) In your daybook write down five things that you’re thankful for in your own family – maybe it’s that you have one, maybe it’s their health, maybe it’s wealth related; it’s going to be things that you can only know. Once you’ve got your five things, then go back to each and write a bit on the one that sticks out to you most – get in those particulars, why is this what you’re most thankful for? By the same token, you can always turn this prompt on its head and write the five things you’re least thankful for in your family…sometimes those things that keep us from enjoying a family get together can be a powerful thing to write about!!!

2) Think about what I was saying about being an only child at the beginning of this blog. Write about your own birth order, your siblings and how you relate, what was your biggest fight as a kid with your sibling(s)? What is it now? What’s the funniest thing that happened, that makes you still laugh today? If you’re an only child – what stands out to you about growing up a “lonely only?” You can expand this list as you keep writing down things you remember  – and this prompt alone can give you a plethora of things to write about!!

3) Now find one of the most interesting things that you’ve written about in #1 or #2 and form it into a poem, an essay, a short story, or a play – family can certainly lend itself to being a catalyst of good literature…just think of the work that has been written involving family! I bet you can name at least 10 books, plays, or poems off the top of your head that involve family. You know, like Sylvia Plath‘s “Daddy?” Augusten BurroughsRunning WIth Scissors, you get the gist. If you can, write them down – those might remind you of a story in your own family.

4) As with all writing, this “Family Tales” 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!

Lylanne

 

 

Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! We’re over halfway through November and in the first two weeks I’ve prompted you to write about friends of all kinds, including the furry kind. This week let’s try a different angle of being thankful – thankful for things that didn’t turn out the way we thought they should, or prayed they would.

Have you ever heard the Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers?” If you haven’t you should give it a listen…the next time that you want something so bad and it doesn’t work out…it may not be apparent in the moment, but somewhere down the line it will become clear why things didn’t turn out the way we wanted. In the case of the song, it’s a high school love that didn’t last, but it’s discovered later on that how it played out was how it was meant to be – the true love was met because the first one was lost.

Relationships aren’t the only thing that don’t always go our way…but later on we see why. Often times it’s a job, a promotion, a raise, or something on our career paths that we want so bad we can taste it. When we don’t get what we want we’re left asking: Why? Or Why Not Me? (Now I’m hearing The Judds song, and realizing I have a country song theme going I didn’t plan on!) However, maybe not the next day, the next month, or even the next year do we have an answer – but eventually it becomes apparent…when we’re doing some other job we never dreamed of…and are genuinely happy. See how optimistic I’m being?

So with this new-found optimism about why things work out other than how we planned, we’ll be thankful for what we’ve got and how things turned out. So with that idea in mind, here’s the twenty-first prompt:

“Temporarily Un-thankful or Thanks for Nothing…Yet”

1) In your daybook, write down some major disappointments in your life. Then write down what happened in your life because of/in spite of those disappointments. Did you get a different job? Did you find the love of your life? Did you stumble upon a different hobby? A new career path? A sport that you actually excelled in? Were you able to make a move that you wouldn’t have if you’d gotten what you wanted? Continue on with this exercise until you have several interesting things to write about.

2) Now from that list pick one of those disappointments and write all of the things that actually happened (good and bad) because of that setback in your plans. If you want, you can continue down the list and do the same – when done see what connections you can make with your list, or if you see something that you hadn’t even thought of before…that you could be thankful for.

3) With any of the prompts above take your disappointment/optimistic happening and create a poem, an essay, a story, or a play around it. You’ll note that just by the nature of this writing you’ll have some conflict which lends itself well to a good story or a play.

4) When done with Step 3, take your work and revise it – cut anything that’s unneeded in this particular piece. By the same token, add material/images if needed. Then revise, revise, revise!

As with all writing, this “Temporarily Un-thankful…” 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!

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! We’re two weeks into November, and this is our second week of writing about something that we can be thankful for since it is the season! Last week’s prompt asked you to think about your friends and how thankful you are for them, whether they are old friends, new friends, close friends, lost friends, etc. Last week’s prompt didn’t include one group of friends that I’m certainly thankful for: the four-legged friends. In my case it’s cats, but I’ve had dogs in the past and am certainly a fan of giving pets a good home.

I’ve always been cat crazy, even as a child – yet, I wasn’t allowed to have a cat (or any pet for that matter) until I was nearly ten years old. So, it was a dream come true to have a cat of my own, and my first one was named, Kitti Tom. As an adult, I didn’t own a cat for many years (exes that hated cats…and they’re long gone…the exes that is!), then the first one, Scribbles, came to me when I was thirty-one. Scribbles was with me for eighteen years, and she had many other cat siblings along the way. I’ve not been without a cat since, and never will. My cats (right now I have Graham, Tink, and Fiyero) give unconditional love, and are a great comfort to come home to after a long day at school.  I’ve written about various cats in my life, but “Unexpected Visitor” was published in the book that I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson: Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013), and was about one of my favorite cats of all time, Jonathon. He was another that lived to be eighteen years old! Here is that poem:

Unexpected Visitor

Lovers came and went,

but for eighteen years you graced my lap,

you slept next to me, and followed me

around the house. You didn’t care

if the dishes were done, or if

I gained a few pounds, or shed a few tears.

You were there, a purring anchor –

even as your spirit was leaving me.

 

Jonathon, you came to me

in a dream last night, strong,

healthy and handsome. You

ascended the wooden stairs

coming up out of the basement,

ran into my open arms.

You reveled in my touch,

I cried your name –

my one constant. (47)

My pastel portrait of Jonathon:

Image

With your four-legged friend in mind, whether it be cat, dog, ferret, horse, rat, etc, here is your twentieth prompt:

“Fur-ever Friends”

1) In your daybook write down a list of every pet you can remember from your childhood until the present day. After you have your list, some will have pages, others will just have a few, write down the descriptions and some memories of each one. This will give you tons of writing to work with. You will also see that as you start working with your memories of your pets, other memories of that time period will come rushing back as well – write it all down. Then the next time you think you have a “writer’s block” (of which I don’t believe in as long as you write SOMETHING every day) then you’ll have a list of memories and subject matter to use anytime.

2) You should have a list of pets…even if it’s two or three, that’s enough. Now take that list and concentrate on writing about your favorite pet, the funniest pet, the pet with the best personality…or the worst, and as you write down certain traits other ideas about your four-legged friends will come to you, and jot those down as well. One of the hardest things to write about, yet is very rewarding, is writing about a beloved pet that has crossed over (like Jonathon). You will find a lot of tears while writing, but it’s nice to have a tangible memory of your pet when you’re finished.

3) Find photos of your pets, write to those photos. Who is in the photo with the pet? Where was the picture taken? What year? How old were you? Your pet(s)?

4) With your favorite genre in mind, take any of these prompts and write as much as you can for as long as the material is coming. When done, take your work and revise it – cut out unneeded words or memories that don’t fit in this particular piece (but make sure to save those memories somewhere as they might fit in some other future piece!) By the same token, add material/images, if needed. And just revise, revise, revise!

As with all writing, this “Fur-ever Friends” 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!

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Since it’s November and Thanksgiving is this month, it seems like a good time to write about what we’re thankful for. As writers we may do this in many ways already: maybe we honor a grandparent or a family member with a poem, or maybe we write about our hometown, or where we’ve spent a lot of time, as a setting in a novel, short story, or an essay. We may be thankful for that love of our life, that special person who broke through our defenses, and pour our hearts out in a sonnet or a prose poem. Or we may be thankful that we escaped a rotten relationship and write the next big drama for the stage…the things we’re thankful for should be endless, and should give us endless possibilities to write about.

So, I’m going to guide us through four Wednesdays to touch on a few of those possibilities and as you write and read the prompts, you may come up with so many more of your own. With this week’s prompt we will explore the idea of being thankful for our friends. If you’re lucky you have more than you can count, but inevitably you have your closest friends, those friends that you would confide anything to and never worry that they’ll betray you, you have those friends that are ones that make you laugh and that you enjoy going out with and letting your hair down, you have friends that are your office or work buddies, friends that are ones you’ve made through mutual interests such as clubs, hobbies, church, or activism, and sometimes if you’re lucky enough you have lifelong friends that have known you since childhood. No matter what type of friendship(s) you have, or have had throughout your life…they are something to be thankful for as they get us through the highs and lows of our lives – and those friendships are all just waiting to be mined for stories or poetic moments. I have written many a poem involving my friends, and a few of them appear in the book I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson, Company of Women:New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). I’ll share one poem and an excerpt from my section of the book What She Taught Me:

Our Night Out

In a dark bar on a Toledo Saturday,

too early for the happening crowd,

too late for two friends who decide to stay

in a place that pulls our memories

from “far-out” places – the music patronizes

our middle-age while still flirting with youth –

swigging liquid courage, musing over Dancing

in the Dark, and “Who’s going to drive you home,

tonight?” Remembering loud nights

that didn’t seem too long, way back when,

when we were not paying attention to time,

tick, tick, tocking forward. Our minds reflecting

refracting pieces of our disco selves unraveling

like an off track 8 track tape and when we twirl

around we see each other in the bar mirror –

cynical and dark. (51)

And, here’s an excerpt from the title poem “What She Taught Me” which is dedicated to my former high school art teacher, mentor, and one of my dearest friends, Ann Johnson:

                     I

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who pushed me past my limits,

made me give a voice to purple,

in front of the class, who praised

my Polka Horse block print and

asked to keep it for her own,

 

who gave me unlimited hall passes

signed AJ, to ditch my dreaded Home Ec

at the end of the school day to come

to the art room, where no one cared

if I could sew a stitch, or sauté an onion.

 

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who flunked me for not painting

by deadline, who teased me

out of my shell, who didn’t turn me away

when I dropped by her house to say “hi,”

dressing so funky that

she didn’t care who stared.

 

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who was vibrant and different,

in school convocations, who dared

to show vulnerability, I would not have

kept going back to school,

each day a new reason to live. (61)

This poem continues on and has a second part to it as well – you can see how in both poems that I was writing about specific incidents…reflecting on my feelings and the friends that I was writing about.

So let’s get to it! Here is your nineteenth prompt:

“Forever Friends”

1) In your daybook write down a list of friends, you can start as far back as you can remember and list as many as you can all the way up to present day. Some of you will have pages and pages, and others will have an intimate few. Then with that list go back and write down a few memories that you have of each. You can see how this can explode into so many ideas that you could spend months just writing down memories and incidents, let alone picking one or two to really concentrate on. Be as detailed as you can with your lists and memories because that will help you when you go to write the specific story, essay, or poem about the friend(s) that you select.

2) You have a ton of friends to choose from on your list, now write about the friend you’ve had the longest. Write about a friend you lost and never thought you would. Write about a friend that betrayed you. Write about a friend that was so generous you don’t know how you’ll ever repay them. How about those Facebook friends? Friends or not…that is the question…now write!

3) Write a thank-you letter, note, poem to a friend and really send it.

4) Take any of your prompts and write until you have something you’re happy with in your genre of choice…and then as always, revise, revise, revise!!

As with all writing, this “Forever Friends” 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!

Lylanne