Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Looking Back, Leaping Forward!

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s a new month, a new year, and it’s a leap year at that…so an extra day to write! It’s hard to believe that this is going into my fourth year of writing this blog. Granted, some years I’ve been more consistent with my posts than others – but every year I start out with the best intentions of writing a blog every week, and sharing a few prompts that might encourage others to write something…anything at all…in any genre. Sometimes I use a photo, that I’ve taken, as a prompt but mostly I use a few ideas that I’ve either observed, experienced, or have found to be tried and true in my own work. I try to always write the prompts in such a way that no matter if you’re a poet, fiction writer, nonfiction writer, or playwright, you’ll find something helpful. So if you’re new here, welcome aboard.

Looking back on 2015, I had challenged everyone to write something everyday at this very time of year. I did pretty well during 2015 in doing that; however, my big change was that I wrote way less poetry and wrote way more short plays. I stayed creative by teaching several creative writing workshops in the region, and I was active every month of 2015 in at least two-three small writing groups a month (I think every writer needs at least one trustworthy small writing group). Some of which I’m the “leader,” and some where I’m just a participant. I did lose a supportive poetry group, Company of Women, at least as it once was, last year with one of my cohorts, and friend, moving to the west coast, and with me moving to MI and becoming more involved with theatre. In theatre, I gained a lot of new friends and new opportunities. I directed five short plays, won two awards – one an audience choice for my play, “Frida Kahlo: Heartbreaker,” that I wrote and directed, and the other was a scholarship at Boxfest Detroit 2015; as a director I was eligible to propose a project (Portable Folio Productions), which was to create a playwriting/directing group that meets once a month, puts on staged readings, and will ultimately culminate in a major production in September of 2016. Nevertheless, I did have several poems published in 2015, participated in National Poetry Month’s, Found Poetry Review‘s Pomosco Challenge (a poem written to their supplied prompt every day) and completed it. I was a featured reader several times early in the year…so all in poetry land was not lost.

Leaping forward into 2016, I have my goals set. If you’ve read this blog before at this time of year, I always advocate setting goals rather than making resolutions…I find goals easier to keep track of and attain. It also comes with a plan instead of “wishful” thinking. I’ve already laid some ground work for this year by submitting a chapbook and a full-length poetry manuscript towards the end of last year. This year, three days in, I’ve written two new poems and have submitted another chapbook submission. I finished three short plays at the end of 2015 that I had committed to writing for 365 Women a Year Playwriting Project ; one was about Peggy Lee, one on Helen Frankenthaler, and the other on Patsy Southgate. Hopefully they will find their way to the stage somewhere. So, the goals that I have in 2016 is to keep up the writing pace of 2015 – and to bump it up. To get a poetry chapbook or manuscript published; to write more plays…I’ve again committed to three more plays for the 365 Women a Year Playwriting Project in 2016. And, yes, this is the year I vow to complete a novel that I started in 2007. So writing is going to take up a lot of 2016, and that makes me happy. What are your writing goals for 2016? I wish you the best in whatever type of writing you do and I hope you have the success that you seek.

Here are a few prompts to help get you jump started on your writing journey in 2016:

  1. I enjoy the show Downton Abbey, and tonight (in America) is the 1st show of the final season. I believe it hooked me because of the characters and the interesting story lines…and because I love history. In your daybook, write a character or a scene from another period than our own. Develop it as much as you can in 10-20 minutes.
  2. On New Year’s Day it’s been a tradition in my family to cook cabbage for good luck. Write for 10 minutes about a tradition that has been passed down through the years in your family. How did it start? What are you afraid might happen if you don’t participate? Have you ever missed the tradition and the year turned out to be a bad one…or better than ever?
  3. If you write poetry, challenge yourself to write in a different way than you normally do. If you always write free verse, try something formal such as a sonnet, a haiku, or a pantoum (my favorite). If you always rhyme, try writing free verse.
  4. Use these words in whatever genre you write: privilege/January/ scandal.

If you get anything that you want to share, you can always share it in comments below, or contact me: lylanne[at]lylanne.com

See you in a week! Don’t forget to keep writing! Happy New Year!!

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Playing the Name Blame

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s no secret that my name is different than most others, and I’ve never met another with my first name…and I get that all the time, people upon hearing my name for the first time saying they’ve “never heard that before.” I take pride in my first name now, but for at least the first 20 years of my life it was a thorn in my side…as an only child, I was extremely shy…and during my elementary school years and even during high school, it was embarrassing to have my name draw attention to me. And it did, on the first day of classes, inevitably the teacher would be calling roll…stop dead in their tracks…and then they would make an attempt to sound out my name, if they even attempted at all (this was back in the 60s and 70s when unusual names were not that common, nowadays this may sound absurd). I would slowly raise my hand and pronounce it for them, as everyone stared at me. Eventually, I did find some humor in it as my other classmates that knew me would catch on to this phenomenon, year after year, and either say it with me or they’d laugh…because friends knew my face would turn 10 shades of red.

As an adult, I’ve learned to treasure my name. Especially, as a creative person who writes and paints because it certainly does stand out. And, even though I used to blame my mom for saddling me with that name for life, I’m glad she did. In fact, in a phone conversation last week she was telling me how my great aunt warned her against spelling my name the way she did when I was born, as no one would ever pronounce it correctly. It turns out, my great aunt was right more often than not (she was a school teacher), but because of the way my name is spelled it makes it even more unique, so I’m glad my mom held her ground.

I’ve written about my name in one poem, with my first name as the title that is in the chapbook, A Charm Bracelet For Cruising (Winged City Press, 2009), and recently because of conversation in my classes with students this year I came up with some ideas for students to write about their names. In one class I have three Kaitlin’s, and even though on my roster they are each spelled different, they all sound the same – hence, when I say their name and they’re all sitting in the same vicinity – they all think I’m talking to them. In my poem, I speak of what it’s like “when someone speaks my name/ no one else turns around.” But, I find it interesting that I will never know what it’s like to have a common name, and what that must be like to share a name….

So for your 59th Prompt(s) I thought we’d have some fun with your names or those of your characters:

“Playing the Name Blame”

1) In your daybook, write about your name. It can be your first or your last. What troubles or misunderstandings has it caused you? How did you get your name? Was it a family name, one that was put together (as mine was) to incorporate both parent’s or grandparent’s names? If you have a common name, what is it like to be in a classroom or a meeting and someone says your name? If you have an uncommon name, what are some of the things you’ve had to resort to to explain your name to others? Pick one of these questions that gave you the most traction, and write for 10 minutes.

2) Write a poem, essay, or a story about your name. You can use some of the freewriting that you got from the above prompt to give you some ideas.

3) If you write plays or fiction, you know that names are really important to your characters/protagonists/antagonists. What do you do when you’re first contemplating a character to come up with their names? Do you do research to see what their names mean? Do you associate them with someone you know that has that name? How might it affect your character if they dealt with a problem with their name?

4) What might it be like if your character (or you) had the same name as a serial killer or some other unsavory person? On the flipside, what if they shared their name (or you do) with someone really popular…a celebrity, a president, etc.? What antics or wants/needs might ensue?

5) If you’re interested, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on this blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Time-Out from the Rat Race

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It certainly is a joyful time of year (for most people) and there’s a lot of hustle and bustle, planning, family, friends, gift wrapping, last minute shopping, daily commitments, meetings of all kinds… and we get so bogged down in everything that we’re doing that we forget to take time out…not for the season, (that was last week’s prompt topic)…but for ourselves; especially as writers and artists we get caught up in doing everything that we’re “supposed” to do, that we don’t relax…reflect…and create. It may not seem like there’s time with the “to do” lists we all have the rest of the year, let alone around or during the holidays. However, I’m here to tell you that to keep your sanity you need to take some time to yourself – even if it’s only 10 minutes a day to jot something in your daybook, or to draw or paint in your art journal or on a canvas. I think you’ll find that if you tell yourself – 10 minutes – it takes the pressure off, and once you are into whatever you choose to create…you’ll find that you’re relaxed, you’re enjoying yourself, and you might just allow that 10 minutes to turn into an hour or two. After which, you will feel refreshed, inspired, and ready to go on with all of your other obligations. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get a poem out of it, an idea for a new story, novel, or play, or for a new painting series. The point is, you’ll never know until you take a few minutes to yourself…and create. So my 57th prompt is to challenge you to do something creative for yourself:

“Time-Out from the Rat Race”

1) In your daybook write whatever comes to mind. Maybe you need to get something off of your chest that’s been bothering you, maybe you just want to write a letter to someone who’ll never see it, or maybe you have an idea that you’ve mulled in your mind for a while – get it down on the page or the canvas. Commit to 10 minutes, and stop there if you need to, but if you have the urge to keep going – do it.

2) As the holidays draw nearer…write a poem about how hectic they are. Or, how much you love the busy-ness. Or, how lonely you feel. Or, what makes all of the hustle worth it.

3) Try your hand at making a new “Scrooge” or “Grinch” character without infringing on them.

4) Just write or draw for the mere joy of it. Have Happy Holidays!

5) If you feel up to it, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on the blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

I plan on being back here next week! 🙂

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Songs of the Season

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! For me this time of year means the end of the semester, and another chunk of classes to grade…and this particular semester that means eight classes! However, I’ve been doing some bit by bit, and I’ve got it all planned out to do some each day to save my sanity. The other happenings this time of year are the celebrations of the season, and whether you celebrate Christmas, as I do, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa...,it usually is a time of year that is looked forward to. One of my favorite things this time of year, besides the pretty lights everywhere, are Christmas Carols. I remember learning them as a child and loving to sing them, and I still do. If memory serves me, one of the first songs I memorized and was able to sing as a child was “Away in the Manger,” and then there was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” etc. I also remember hearing on the radio Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy,” by Buck Owens, and thinking that song was so funny (I was 8 or 9!). Songs bring joy and memories, and especially the special songs that are tied to this time of year. By the same token, they can also evoke sadness…at the loss of loved ones, a relationship that ended, or a sense of loneliness if you don’t have others to celebrate the season with. Again, it’s an example of how powerful words can be. So, for your 56th Writing Prompt Pit Stop Prompt(s) I thought if would be fun to re-imagine or create new songs for the season!

“Tis the Season…to Write a New Song!”

1) In your daybook, write a list of Christmas Carols, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah songs that you’re familiar with and love the melody. After making your list, pick one of your favorites and re-write a new lyric to it…share it with others, turn it into a poem, or add it to a story you’re writing.

2) Make up a brand new song, either serious or humorous, religious or secular. Think of the song by Buck Owens that I mentioned earlier, or “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Why can’t you come up with a new “classic?”

3) I mentioned recalling the first Christmas Carol that I learned. Do you remember what Holiday Song you learned first as a child? How old were you? Did you learn it for school, church, or just because you wanted to? Do your still sing that song today? Why or why not?

4) Switch it up, is there a Christmas Carol or Holiday Song that you don’t think you can hear one more time? It’s played or sung to death, and you wish you would never hear it again? Why? Was there too much exposure, or was it connected to some event in your life that was not a good one? Write about it. Maybe have your character in a story make this “confession” if you don’t want to make it your own.

5) If you feel up to it, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on the blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

In between grading, I’m hoping to be back here again next week! 🙂

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Being Thankful in a Thankless World

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s that time again, here in the U.S., where we’re supposed to take a break from our busy lives and give thanks for everything we have. I have no problem with that at all, except that it seems that we’re being pretty hypocritical if that’s the only time of year that we do it…it’s kind of like the people that only go to church services on Christmas or Easter, or expect to be appreciated for things that they do for others, when they rarely take time to tell anyone “thanks” themselves. I’m not really getting on my soapbox, these are just things that have been weighing on my mind of late. I’ve been extra thankful “of late” and not because it’s the season to do so. I just feel good about the life choices I’ve made lately, and about how I’ve been able to rise above a lot of depressing and low times. This has been quite a year of change, and it’s taken a lot of bad things happening to make me appreciate all that I do have. After all, I have my health…, I have my parents, my daughters, and my grandchildren, who are all healthy and happy, I have so many great, loyal friends, I have my three kitties, who are healthy, I have teaching jobs that I love, I have been blessed with talents…art and writing, I’m getting to direct a one-act play for the first time, and I’ve had so many good opportunities. I don’t take any of these things for granted, and I have found my way back to a spirituality that’s always been within. So, after having such a difficult August 2013-August 2014, I’ve found hope and purpose. It was just a year ago in this very blog I wrote “Temporarily Un-thankful or Thanks for Nothing…Yet” and I was asking you to write about life’s major disappointments. This year, I want to change it up and ask you to write about life’s major joys. Here are your fifty-fifth Writing Prompts:

“Being Thankful in a Thankless World”

1) In your daybook, write down some of the most joyful moments of your life. It could be anything from your wedding day, the birth of a child, to the first time you drove a car, drew your first picture, wrote your first poem…or maybe it is just seeing a beautiful sunrise or sunset. No matter, write down what it is…then choose one of those moments and write for 10 minutes or until you exhaust the topic.

2) You see those lists on Facebook…writing down each day three things you’re thankful for. Instead of posting it there, write a list in your daybook of what/who you’re most thankful for. Each day, choose one and write something about why that you’re thankful for that thing or person. A twist could be to do one of these lists for a character that you’re working with in a novel, story, or play. It might be amazing what you find out about the character.

3) Think about someone or something that you take for granted, and write about what life would be without them/that. Go where you’ve not gone before.

4) And, of course there’s always got to be some conflict when you’re doing any kind of creative writing...so write down the times that you’ve felt like you weren’t appreciated in this “thankless world.” Then take one of those times and turn it into a poem, a story, or a play.

5) If you feel up to it, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on the blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

I’m coming upon the end of the semester, so ideally I’ll get to writing here weekly again in mid-December! 🙂

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Summer Daze Redux

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, another summer semester is drawing to a close, and in a mere few weeks another fall semester begins. Last week I wrote about how much I’m enjoying this summer, and I still am. I just don’t know why the summer season seems to fly by faster than any other – even though autumn is actually my favorite season of the year. I’m just worried with as cool as it’s been this summer (only three 90 degree days so far here in Toledo…yet, I’m not complaining about that! Ha!) that our winter will be another like the past one…and, ugh, well I wrote about that winter way too often. So let’s think of good, positive things such as more warm days, more days out on the patios, more relaxing times than taxing times, and more times with friends and loved ones.

I feel that there’s plenty of things that we haven’t tapped into when it comes to summer and writing about the things we like about this season, or about some of our favorite memories, or the opposite, and because of that I’m going to add on to the prompts I gave last Wednesday and keep the summer fling going. So in this, my 50th Writing Prompt Pit Stop entry, I’m going to encourage you to explore some more summer season ideas, and give you another image to work with:

“Summer Daze Redux!”

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Frog at Wildwood Metropark

1) Frogs have been having a banner summer around these parts. I’ve seen more frogs in the pond at Toledo’s Wildwood Metropark than I’ve seen there before, and when I went to Indiana last weekend to be with family, at their pond there were tons of bullfrogs calling out in the evening. I’ve even painted a few pictures of frogs this summer! So, from this photo I took at Wildwood Metropark, maybe it will inspire you to write about some memory involving a frog, or will inspire you to write a poem about this particular one. Remember the lyric “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” from “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night? Maybe there’s a memory or a story there. Have you ever read Annie Dillard‘s Creative Nonfiction “The Giant Waterbug”? If not, you should…it’s an excellent example of imagery and how, if written well, those images will stick with you…for better or worse. You won’t forget the frog in that essay…. Have you ever eaten frog legs? I haven’t. I’m not sure I ever will, but I have friends and family that have and love them…see, there are stories and poems everywhere.

2) Last week I suggested to write about the sounds of summer (did you write about frogs?), so this time around let’s concentrate on the tastes of summer. How about all of those grand veggies from the garden or the local farmer’s market? What are your favorites? How do you prepare them? What do you wait all year for to eat at the State Fair or other festival? Have you ever got the taste of bug spray in your mouth? What’s some other tastes of summer you can think of, good or bad? Make a list of them…then choose what interests you most and write on that for 10 minutes or until you exhaust your subject.

3) Write about your favorite song from any summer. There are times that songs sort of get ingrained into your mind during a specific summer, and we all know that music can take us back to a specific place or person. What song brings back your favorite summer memory? Your worst?

4) Write on any or all of these prompts for, yes, 10 min. each or until you exhaust the subject. Then once you have something on the page – decide if you can make a poem out of it; maybe there’s a story there, or an essay. Once you write that out, then revise it – share it here in comments if you wish.

Keep writing!

See you next Wednesday

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: 60 Years

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Last week I wrote about a milestone for myself – it was actually 40 years ago on the 21st of May that I graduated from high school. This week, and actually 60 years ago on the 29th of May, that my parents got married. So, this week as we get into prompts we’ll think even more about milestones. This past Sunday my two daughters and I actually pulled off a surprise anniversary party for my parents…my joke about the surprise party was that it was a surprise that they made it 60 years (of course as of last Sunday they could have split in the past few days and not made it)…as I lived with them for 18 years…and I know the dynamics of the couple. I also know that I’m happy that they got together, or I wouldn’t be here. However, back in my youth, I spent many a time wondering why these two ever stayed together…now that they’re up there in years they do seem well-suited to one another…so do couples grow together against all odds? I wouldn’t know. As of now, my longest claim to a relationship has been a whopping 8 years…twice, to two different people. At this point in life, I do know that it would be sweet to be in a nice, loving relationship – but I’m still unsure that I would want to cohabitate at this stage in life…or even marry again, if I could here in the U.S.  I also know that both of my daughters married young…and my oldest is coming upon 20 years in June, and my youngest will celebrate 16 years in November…and they’re all happy, and I’m happy for them. So this week for your 41st prompt we’re going to ponder those long relationship milestones in your lives or in the lives of your characters:

“Until Death Do You Part…”

1) In your daybook write about the relationship that you’re in now – what milestone year are you in the relationship, or what one are you nearest to? Is it a surprise that you’ve made it this far? What trials and tribulations have you made it through? Was this the person that you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with? Why or why not? Was it love at first sight, or did your partner/spouse grow on you over time? If you married, did you marry quickly or was it a long engagement? If you’re not married, but still with the same person…what has kept you from marrying? In your relationship, married or not, did you ever go through a patch that you didn’t think you’d make it through together? What was it? What kept you from throwing in the towel?

2) If you’re not in a relationship right now – why not? Is it by choice or by design? What was the breaking point that made you decide to stay single…at least for a while? Or is it just hard finding the right person? Why do you think that is? Is there someone that you wish that you were with at this moment? Why aren’t you? If you could, what would you do to make the relationship work this time around? If death took your partner/spouse from you, how does that make you look at relationships? Do you think you’ll ever find another or was that it? Why or why not?

3) Write about a couple you know well, perhaps parents, that you either did not know how they stayed together, or if you’re a child of divorce how you wished that they had. What sticks out to you about their relationship? How they loved one another? How they fought? How they didn’t talk to one another? Maybe it was how they held hands every night while watching TV, or maybe they played cards together, or the pet names they called each other…. How did this couple affect your expectations of a relationship? Use a photograph from their wedding day (or even your own) and write to that…knowing what you know.

4) Write on any of these prompts for 10 minutes or until you exhaust your subject. Some of the prompts may be harder to write about than others – especially if you’ve lost a spouse or had a bad break-up…; nevertheless, it’s sometimes the hardest things to write about that create some of the best writing. Remember, you don’t always have to write non-fiction/memoir…you can take some of your own experiences and fictionalize them…and give them to a character (or two). Any of these prompts will work in any of the genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or plays.

5) As with any writing, when you’ve written your piece…revise, revise, revise…until you’re ready to share your work with the world.

6) Once you’ve revised your piece, don’t hesitate to share it with me in the comments section or at lylanne22@yahoo.com

See you next Wednesday! (Yes, I know today is Thursday this week…but it is the 29th…so I waited a day.)