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!


Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to another Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week’s writing prompt is going to encompass something that has been a common thread through a lot of my poems – Nostalgia.

Some don’t like the idea of nostalgia because it may mean that you’re living in the past (or it may conjure up memories that hurt or depress). As a poet, I don’t find visiting the past a bad thing; in fact, there’s a lot of information about ourselves that we can learn by going back into our past – either by memories, old photographs, yearbooks, etc. there are just so many triggers. Of course, one of my favorite ways of visiting the past is listening to music from my childhood: The Beatles, The Supremes, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees or from high school: Elton John, Carly Simon, Carole King,  Alice Cooper, Chi-Lites, etc. I could go through all the decades after that, but I think I’ll just leave it at that. In actuality, any “oldies” song puts me right back in the place I was when the song was popular – for better or for worse. When those feelings are evoked that’s a good time to get the daybook and jot those feelings/memories/images down.

In the last year (I was a latecomer, but now I’m caught up) I’ve become a devoted fan of the TV series Mad Men. It is such a well-written show, with such interesting characters, but another reason I’m attracted to the show is all of the props from the 1960s. During that decade I experienced kindergarten – junior high, so all of the clothes, the cars, the furniture, the events, all evoke memories. Some that I’d forgotten about – for example, the “pedal pushers” that Betty wears early in the series – reminded me of my aunt when she was that age, and brought back memories of specific incidents that I was then able to write about.

Earlier this month The New York Times ran an article “What is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows,” and it shares of how nostalgia can actually be good for you. It also says that instead of making you feel depressed, “reminiscing” can make people “feel better.” I believe that to be true, and my writing shows it. So, this week’s prompt should make you feel better in many ways. Give yourself permission to reminisce, and while you’re at it get a good poem, essay, of flash fiction from the exercise. Here’s your fourth prompt:

“Waxing Nostalgic”

Choose one of these “nostalgia” inducing ideas and freewrite for 10-20 minutes. After you have written as much as you can, start shaping your poem, essay, or flash fiction. If you need to add more, revisit a specific from the idea you chose, or play a different song from the same time period as you write more.

A) Take your daybook and a pen/pencil to an antique store and browse through items there. You’ll discover old magazines, old postcards, and items that you will be surprised to “re-discover.”

B) Think of the decade/era you want to write about, play some songs from that time period nonstop as you write.

C) Go through old photographs, until you find one that speaks to you and you have to write about it then and there.

D) If you’re of a certain age, watch Mad Men; or a movie or a TV show from when you were a child. Write in your daybook anything that inspires you – it may be the clothes, the hairstyles, the jewelry – even an actor/actress or character.

As with all writing, it should be fun! 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!