Writing & Weathering

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! So, I don’t know about you, but the weather is always appearing in my poems and journals. Here in Indiana, well since I moved back in July anyway, has been extremely hot and humid, and now in August we’ve had a couple of weeks of severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes. This past Wednesday there was an outbreak of tornadoes, and an EF3 ripped through Kokomo – just an hour north of Indy, along with various lesser strength tornadoes near there and around central Indiana. We’ve also had a lot of rain, which has caused flooding the likes that haven’t been seen in downtown Indy and around the suburbs. Whether you believe in climate change or not, and I know most of my writing cohorts do, something different is going on…at the very least, tornadoes in Indiana were usually the norm in April-June…not late August; although, I know they can appear anytime…so it seems the seasons are off by a few months. The tornadoes in Kokomo also reminded me of the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak there, and in nearby towns…the same towns I was hearing named on the weather alerts. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived there then, and live there now – in fact, my now 87-year-old aunt’s house was the only one left standing in a block in Russiaville in 1965...the same house that she still lives in. As a child, and seeing the destruction of those tornadoes, and the tears of my family at the devastation of their friends and neighbors, and hearing the horror stories of that day left an impression on me. I’ve written one poem about that day, but it appears there’s more there to mine.

So with weather on my mind, I figured it would be a good time to use weather as writing prompts:

  1. In your daybook, write about a time you’ve experienced a tramatic weather event, be it a tornado, hurricane, flood, blizzard, etc. You may even have more than one – so in that case, make a list of those experienced and then write for 10 minutes on the one that seems the most interesting to you.
  2. Maybe you (or your character) are petrified of storms, write about how you (or your character) handle that – especially in public situations when you’re usually a calm and collected person.
  3. If you write essays, you may want to tackle climate change in a more personal way than the political angle.
  4. If you write plays or short stories, you may want to write about a situation that has arisen from a shared weather event. Take into consideration the Starbucks in Kokomo that was demolished; yet, the workers and customers were unharmed because of taking refuge in the bathrooms.

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Keep writing!

Lylanne

 

Settling IN

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, July 8th was moving day and it went off without a hitch, so that is a relief. Now that the cats and I are in Indianapolis, we’re settling in quite nicely. We’ve been here just a little over a week, and the only thing left to do is unpack one more box of clothes, and hang pictures/paintings on the walls – and it will feel like we’ve never left. I never had a doubt that I wouldn’t feel right at home, and that I do. I’ve even had visitors already at my apartment, and a lot of people that I need to see now that I’m back. It’s funny, I was so anxious to leave this state six years ago, and it’s quite a newsflash to me how wonderful it feels to be back home. I’m happy, and look forward to the opportunities and the creative adventures that await me here. It’s also nice that I have friends in OH and MI who have been in contact with me through snail mail, and social media – it’s all the connections we make with others along the way that makes life so rewarding isn’t it?

Whether you’re going through life changes, mind changes, or just trying to adapt to this ever changing world we live in, here are a few prompts in hopes of helping you get some thoughts on paper:

  1. Write in your daybook about a time that you felt truly settled. Maybe it was/is a relationship. Maybe it was/is a home/apartment. Maybe it was/is a place that you lived/live. Maybe it was/is a job/career. Or maybe you’ve never felt settled – ever. Write what that feels like.
  2. Write about a place that you were anxious to leave. Did you? Why or why not? If you left, did you ever want to go back? As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side…do you find that…that way of thinking has helped or hindered you? Take a character that you’re working with – and see what they feel about where they’re “stuck” in your story/play.
  3. Use these three words in a poem/story/play: unpacking, incense, wine.
  4. Write about a connection that you, or your character, has made – was it a good one? Is it one that will stick for a lifetime? Was it one that should never have been made? Explain.

Enjoy the prompts! If you get something that you’d like to share – post it comments below, or email me at lylanne@lylanne.com

See you next week!

Keep writing,

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Time Challenges

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! As writers we’re all familiar with facing the unknown…the blank page, the characters we haven’t developed yet, the plot or incident that will make a story sing, or what words will bring this or that poem to life. And, as writers we’re all familiar with the looming deadlines. As a poet/playwright, and even as a writing teacher, I meet these obstacles on a regular basis – if not in my own writing that I want to submit somewhere, but with students that are in a panic because of an approaching assignment deadline. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a creative vehicle or a research paper the results are the same…a sense of dread/panic/hopelessness mixed with a dash of exhilaration (if you like the challenge)...before we finally get something of substance down on paper.

If we’re lucky what we write will eventually turn into something we like and are excited to share with others. And, if you’re not a procrastinator…like I can be, you will have a few days, weeks, or even months to tinker with your work before the deadline arrives. Believe me, I never have months (unless it’s something that I’ve had sent back and decided to revise further to attempt publication or production elsewhere) to tinker with my work before sending it off.

I do like a challenge, and that is why I’ve participated in writing that really puts the pressure on. When I lived in Indianapolis, I participated in something called Masterpiece in a Day. It’s where you go to Fountain Square on a designated Saturday in September, register before 9 am to write a poem or a piece of prose, or create a piece of visual art…anyone that registers has to have their piece completed and submitted by 3 pm and by 5 pm judges announce the winners – hence, “masterpiece in a day.” I was fortunate enough to place 2nd for two years, and 3rd in another…all with poems. The competition is always stiff, and believe me it was a great feeling to even participate and get something written that I could live with…let alone win anything.

So, I knew that I could write under pressure…with a blank page (no head starts) as a rule – and that’s why I didn’t hesitate to jump at a chance to participate in a theatre version of this in Canton, MI (now that I live in Ypsi) on January 8th & 9th, 2016, at The Village Theatre. StageLab24 is billed as a theatre experiment. Here’s how it works: the author shows up at 8 pm, goes through an orientation which includes the rules, such as the plays could have no more than 4 characters, no more than 12 pgs., etc, then between 9:30-10 pm begin writing a 10 minute play. The play was to be complete and ready to turn over to the director by 7 am the following morning.

I had a few ideas rumbling around in my head by 10 pm, and began typing up dialogue for one of them…I felt like it was going nowhere and quickly decided that I needed to switch gears…in the 2nd play attempt I began thinking it was going to be about a bird sanctuary being held up by a group of rednecks (roughly based off of the Oregan standoff… and represented by one male character since I was limited to characters)…and that a couple of avid female birdwatchers come to the sanctuary and through a lot of comical banter (not so comical to the male) the women drive him off…however,  as any writer knows…sometimes the characters take over and other things happen…and it became a strange love story within some of those other elements…it surprised me, but in a good way. I titled my play, Bird Land.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because I also love to direct, I had signed up to direct my play as well…which meant no sleep. Auditions came after breakfast (and TLC Productions who put on StageLab24, provided us, the seven writers, the directors, and the cast with excellent food and beverages the entire duration), and by 11 am – it was time to meet with my cast (Melissa Francis, Lori Ann Dick, & Pat McKabe) that I’d selected and start rehearsals. By 6 pm we had a break for dinner, and at 8 pm the plays went live to the public. It was an exhilarating experience, and one that I’m happy that I was a part of – even if I was at the theatre for over 27 hrs, and awake for a total of 49….

The take away is that time challenges aren’t something that writers should dread – sometimes they can force you into doing some pretty incredible work. And, even if you aren’t happy with what you have – you have a new piece that you didn’t have before…and possibly one that has taken you to places that you weren’t even planning to go! If you ever get a chance to take part in something like Masterpiece in a Day or StageLab24 – do. Even if it’s one time, but my hunch is…you’ll want to do more of it the next time you get a chance.

Here’s a video of the making of StageLab24 filmed by Anna Johnson: Video

Here are some writing prompts to get you writing…or searching for deadlines:

  1. Take a current event (i.e. the Oregon standoff) and write it into a story that you’re already working with, or use it as a jumping off place for your story or play...trust your characters, and let them lead you where they want to go.
  2. Write about your love affair with coffee…or your hatred of it. How did either come about? Was there ever an incident centered around coffee that you remember?
  3. Write about a memory from 30 years ago. Where were you in 1986? Who was in your life? What was your favorite song? What were you worried about? If you’re someone that wasn’t born 30 years ago, or were to young to remember…write a character that reflects on the year for some reason…
  4. Write these words into anything that you write: Freeze/Reunion/Sriracha.

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!

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: 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: KISS: Keep It Short, Storyteller

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s been way too long since I’ve written here, and I do have good reason. I’m super busy, but I’m not complaining! I’m happy to be busy: Teaching a lot of classes, Writing my own stuff, Directing a one-act play, among other things; and even though I think I can do everything that I want to do, and do it well…I come close, but sometimes something has to give…and unfortunately it’s been my devotion to this blog. Nevertheless, I refuse to give up on it as I know that there are those that utilize the prompts that I post, so I’m not promising to be here weekly, but I will pop in and post as many as I can, whenever I can.

With that said, and knowing all of us have a lot of things we juggle in life besides our writing, it got me to thinking about writing less. No, I’m not advocating that you stop writing so much but, instead, that you write shorter pieces. You see, if we all set out to write a novel, a full-length play, a standard short story, an epic poem, when we are busy it’s easy to become overwhelmed and instead just give up on writing at all.

I know that I steal away moments during the day, to write snippets of poems or an idea. And, lately, I’ve been working on a scene of a play in whatever stolen moments I can get. It does work, and those writings may not be finished pieces, but I know that when I do have more time I can go back in and clean them up…add to them if they need be, or maybe some of them will fit into the new brief genres: Flash Fiction, Short, Short Plays, Six-Word Memoirs, etc. These new genres are becoming all the rage, and there’s more and more places that are publishing these types of pieces.

Stealing time away to write is nothing new, one of my favorite poets, Frank O’Hara, wrote poetry on napkins during his lunch hour and some of those became collected as the Lunch Poems, and Ernest Hemingway has been attributed to writing one of the first six-word “novels:” For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn. And, I was told to be “more concise,” more than once by my late Shakespeare professor,  that “it’s a meaningful art.” Check out a few of these for reference: Smith Magazine, Poetry Tweets, Brevity, Flash Fiction, 10 Minute Plays, Haiku. With this idea in mind, here are your prompts to try your hand at artfully concise writing.

“KISS: Keep it Short, Storyteller”

1) In your daybook write for 10 minutes on a story idea or a poem. After 10 minutes is up see if you can write that story/poem idea in a concise way: 140 characters, 6 words, flash fiction, a 1 page play, haiku style? Go for it!

2) Take some of your writings that you’ve done from other prompts, here on Writing Prompt Pit Stop or elsewhere, and see if you can turn one of those into a concise, short, short.

3) If you feel it goes against your grain to write anything shorter than a 12 page story or a 40 line poem, explore that in your daybook. Interview yourself – or your character.

4) Share your concise works here in comments if you’re so inclined – or try to find a home for them. There’s always a contest or opportunity for your work somewhere – if you keep revising your work, believing in your work, and seek that place out.

See you again, soon!