Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Christmas and New Year’s actually fell on a Wednesday this year, so the prompts this week, and next, will come on Thursday until we get back into our “normal” routines. Since it’s the end of another year it is a good time to reflect on what’s past, whether we like to or not…nevertheless, there’s still five more days in 2013 and we can’t count out that a lot of things can happen before 2014 comes knocking on our door.

With that said, 2013 has been an interesting year, and in many ways a hard one – not only for me but for a lot of others as well. It’s not been as catastrophic as some years can be…with the death of a loved one (or two), or a major crisis…like a divorce, or a job loss; although, a few of my friends have suffered these hardships and my heart goes out to all of them, as I know they’ve struggled and some are struggling still.

For myself, it’s been a year where I’ve struggled with money – a lot. It started out with having my gallbladder removed on the 3rd of January – and with no health insurance. Which means that I’m still paying, and will be paying, for some time to come. Also, adjunct hours got reduced and even though I was blessed with enough classes to keep the money coming in – it’s not enough to ever get ahead. And for whatever reason, one of my schools “overpaid” me during one pay period and then had to take it back over four more this Fall…so it’s an ongoing cycle of being in the working poor and that is a real hard thing to accept. I love teaching, and plan to continue, but it sure would be nice if teachers got paid better – and got more respect from the general public.

And, if it’s not money…it’s love. Another of life’s pleasures that I’m not always on the “lucky” side of. Let’s just say in 2013, I put myself back out there, and I’m not giving up…. 🙂

On the positive side of things, I’ve had a few poems published that I’m really proud of – especially “The Art of Seeing Value” that appeared in New Verse News in June and then again in Great Writers Steal. In March, Company of Women: New and Selected Poems, that I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson was published by Chatter House Press. We had a great book launch in Indianapolis, and had some wonderful readings in Chicago, Toledo, Three Oaks, MI. We also had a book signing at Indy Authors Fair in October, as well as a reading at Big Hat Books in Indy the night before. If that weren’t enough – all three of us were nominated twice for Pushcarts from Chatter House Press and from Cincinnati Writer’s Project.

I’ve had a couple of one-person art shows – one at Starbucks in Perrysburg, OH, in February and one at Downtown Latte in Toledo, in October – and from that show I got to be the featured artist of the month for Where’s the Cat.


I got nominated for a Circle of Excellence teaching award at Terra, and have enjoyed a year full of friends, old and new, and of good times with my family – like going to see New Kids on the Block with my daughters and granddaughter and then really liking the concert too.

And, oh yeah, my gallbladder surgery was successful and I’ve felt great afterwards. I’ve had good health, my cats, family, and friends have been well this year – so when all is said and done, 2013 hasn’t been all bad at all…

So what does my ups and downs, wins and losses, happy times and sad times mean for your writing prompts? Well, I’m glad you asked – because just as I did you need to take some time and reflect on 2013. Here’s your twenty-sixth prompt:

“Oh, What a Year it’s Been!”

1) In your daybook write a list of all the highlights of 2013, then make a list of all the low points of the year. If you make these lists into columns you can also get a “feel” of whether 2013 fits into a great year, or one of those years you’d rather forget. We’ve all had a few of those, and thankfully the latter happens a lot less than the former…at least I hope it does for you too.

2) Once you have your lists, pick something and expand on it. Write for ten minutes or until you can’t think of anything more to write about that topic. If you have some time, pick one from the opposite column and do the same.

3) I mentioned having a year that you’d rather forget. I’ve got a few that stick out in my mind for various reasons: 1983, 1998, and 2010. I’m hoping I don’t see anything like any of those again. If you’ve had one of those years where everything goes wrong: a bad break-up, your car gets totaled, your grandmother dies, various other relatives die…you get the picture, take that year and give it the once over. It’s not always easy, but sometimes you need to write about it just to get past it.

4) By the same token, you may have a year that stands out like no other – one where you got married, a birth of a child, a new job, a major award, you fell in love, you went on a trip of a lifetime, by all means write about that year and hope that you have more just like it!

5) Any of these prompts will lend themselves nicely to any of the genres of writing: poems, fiction, memoir, plays. So, choose your favorite and tailor your stories from the prompts into any form that you feel fits. Once you choose, write to that genre – and then always revise until you are happy with your work. If you’ve never sent anything out to try to get published – maybe do that before the end of 2013 – or make it a goal for 2014.

As with all writing, this Oh, What a Year it’s Been!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! It’s exactly one week before Christmas, and as a writing instructor I just recently got all of my grading completed and can finally relax for a few weeks before another new semester begins. So this week with the holidays on my mind, there’s always a couple of other things as well – one, I have free time so I can catch up on even more writing and maybe finish a full-length play or novel that I’ve been working on for years and, two, that it never goes unnoticed that two days before Christmas, when I was twelve years old, my paternal grandma died. This year will mark the 45th anniversary of her death, and that doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long, or that I’m so old! If that wasn’t enough, in 2007, on that same date (December 23) my beloved cat, Jonathon, who I had in my life for eighteen years, took ill and had to be put down.

Image     Image

Jonathon pics circa early 2007 – one with a wink and one helping me write on my laptop.

Loss is hard to take at anytime of year, but it does seem like it happens quite often near holidays – be it Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. And, if it’s not loss – there’s always plenty of illnesses to around at this time of year. I was just telling a friend of mine last weekend that as a child I was sick nearly every Christmas with strep throat and a 102 degree fever, and I bet a lot of you had experiences like that as well.

So I was thinking that for this week’s prompt we’ll focus on loss/illness/disappointment…give the holidays a little twist instead of the happy, happy that we always idealize this time of year to be. Here’s your twenty-fifth prompt:

“Melancholy Holidays”

1) In your daybook write about someone close to you that you’ve lost near the holidays. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, it could be the 4th of July, or even your own birthday. If you’ve not lost someone near any holiday, write about someone that you’ve lost that you especially miss during one of these special days. Write about a memory that you have of them at the holidays, did you have any special traditions? Write down anything that you can remember.

2) Write about a Christmas/Winter break when you were sick. Did you miss something you’d been looking forward to? Did you get special treatment? Did you get left behind with a babysitter, or by yourself?

3) If you don’t want to write about loss or illness, why don’t you write about your biggest disappointment during the holidays. Was it something you asked Santa for and didn’t get? A Christmas or New Year’s Eve spent alone?  Flip that and write about the best gift Santa brought you, or the best Christmas or New Year’s Eve ever!

4) Write on any of these prompts for 10 minutes or until you run out of steam. After you get to that point, work your writing into your favorite genre: a poem, a play, an essay/memoir, or a short story. Then, as always, revise – cut/add – give your writing plenty of energy and imagery!

As with all writing, this Melancholy Holidayswriting 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 you may recall from last week’s post that it’s the end of the semester for me, and so I’m not going to give long lead-ins to my prompts like I usually do. Yeah, right, I know; once I start writing I can’t stop. But, I’m going to have to try to be brief since I’ve been grading all day and have another full day of it again tomorrow. So, what am I going to prompt you to write about this week? Well, because it’s in the midst of the holiday season and another semester has ended it’s easy to wax nostalgic, as I seem to do quite a bit, but time passages comes to mind. And because I heard the same “old” song twice in as many days in random places, I’m thinking I should write about that and it’ll all fit together…wait and see.

So, I was on my way to an adjunct meeting last night at 7 PM and had my car radio set to the 70s on 7… and what song should come on? Harry Chapin‘s “Cats in the Cradle.” And, for whatever reason it really hit me in a different way than it had before. Probably because I’m getting older, probably because it’s nearing the end of another year, probably because I don’t see my daughters often enough….


Me and my daughters, circa early 1980s

When I first heard the song and loved it, I was young…eighteen and attending Ball State University my first time around…back in 1974. It reminds me of being in a friend’s dorm room and hearing the song come on the radio…long before Walkmans, iPods, and iTunes. I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, and Chapin’s song certainly does that.

Then tonight I was in a grading frenzy and had the TV on for background noise. I happened to have it turned to The Middle, and the episode was about Christmas, being together (or not) and how fast kids grow up. The song the cast referenced several times, was “Cats in the Cradle!” With that, it seemed that I needed to respond to that song this week, so it’s my cat-alyst for your twenty-fourth prompt(s):

“Cat-chy Lyrics”

1) Write in your daybook about a song that has been with you over the years and how it has changed in its meaning to you, from one decade to another, or for you youngsters – one year to another. It could be about love, it could be how you’ve changed over the years, or how someone else has changed…and if you have more than one of those songs, by all means, make that list. Remember, lists are good and always gives you something to come back to if you need ideas to write about.

2) Take a line or the title from that song (or one of those songs from your list) and either use it as an epigraph for your work, or use it as a jumping off place for your own writing. Or reference the song, or the singer in your work. There’s all kinds of ways to utilize the song. Write until you exhaust the subject.

3) If you’re a parent, write about your child/children – listen to Chapin’s song on the Youtube clip referenced above – write a poem or story that starts from birth to their age now…. If you’re not a parent, think about your own childhood and how your parents have changed over the years. Write for 10 minutes or until you run out of things to say.

4) Take any of these writings and shape them into the genre of your choice. Then revise!

5) As with all writing, this Cat-chy Lyricswriting 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! So, here we are in December already…the last month to close out another year. When we get to this point in the year we have a good sense of where we’ve been, what we wished we’d done, and what we want to do in a new year. It’s also at this time of year, if you’re like me, that we’re coming to an end of another semester. As an instructor that means many things, especially as a writing instructor: mounds of papers to grade, panicky students, grateful students, elation that you’ve made it through another semester, and sadness that you’ll miss some students or a special class dynamic.

If you’re a student (or ever have been a student, you’ll remember) it means crunch time, late nights, all-nighters, elation that you made it through another semester, and sadness that you will miss a favorite teacher, a favorite class, or friends that will go in different directions in the coming year.

Because of the craziness at this time of year, especially this week and next (right on the heels of a late Thanksgiving!) I will be making my intro into my prompts a bit shorter…some of you will like that, I imagine! LOL!

Without further ado, here is your twenty-third prompt:

School’s Out…for the Semester!”

(And, yes, I do hear Alice Cooper‘s song in my head as I’m writing this…)

1) In your daybook write a list of some of your favorite memories of a school year ending (or a particular semester). You can start with kindergarten and go up through the grades if you like. As with some of my other prompts, this will give you a plethora of things to work with later when you feel that you’re having a writer’s dry spell.

2) On the flip side write a list of some of your worst end of school/semester endings. Was it a missed project? Was it the year you got strep throat and missed the last few weeks? Maybe it was a car accident that left you without a car for two weeks to get back and forth to school…right at finals (that happened to me during undergrad!). Maybe it was a break-up with your boyfriend/girlfriend…or maybe you just hated the class and plain bombed it. Write about it now…with some distance…find the humor, or really let the ill-feelings come out…it can make for some good writing!

3) Write about your favorite teacher. It could be a teacher from elementary, junior high, high school, or college – or a teacher from every year. Some are lucky to have one teacher that changed their life. I’m one of those people. I’ve written about mine several times, Ann Johnson, my high school art teacher, who is still one of my dearest friends. In fact, in the book Company of Women: New and Selected Poems, (Chatter House Press, 2013) that I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson, my poem “What She Taught Me” is the title of my section in the book. It is a poem that I wrote in honor of Ann. So, write a poem about your most influential teacher. If you’re lucky enough to still be in contact – send the poem to them!

Here’s a recent photo of me and Ann:


4) Take any of the writings that you got from the prompts above and then hone in on one for 10 minutes or until you can’t write any longer. You should be able to come up with a poem, essay, short story, or a play from utilizing any of these prompts. Once you do that and you’ve written a decent draft, revise! And, then revise again!

5) As with all writing, this “School’s Out…” 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!