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! As many know if they read this blog,  have checked out my “About” page, or have followed me since early on – I’m an artist and an art lover. Art has been on my mind a lot in the past few weeks as I’ve been getting paintings and drawings ready for my stint as “Artist of the Month” at Downtown Latte Coffeehouse here in Toledo, and last week I began teaching painting classes at Michaels.

In addition, I’ve always loved going to art galleries or to the art museums, taking my daybook and writing to art – whether it be to a two dimensional painting or a sculpture. I had been doing this for years before I found the proper name for this type of writing: Ekphrastic.  It’s a hard word to pronounce in a hurry, but it’s a word that you should become familiar with.

I couldn’t write about Ekphrastic poetry without mentioning that my favorite poet, Frank O’Hara wrote many poems inspired by art (after all he was called “Poet Among Painters” and was friends with Jasper Johns, Grace Hartigan, Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, among many, many others), as well as prose. Here is a link to his poem “On Seeing Larry River’s Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art.

It should be no surprise that I’ve written many ekphrastic poems over the years; two of those poems were really successful earlier this year. One, “Party Stiff” won an honorable mention at Toledo Museum of Art’s Annual Ekphrastic Competition in May 2013. It was written to the permanent installation, The Party, by Marisol Escobar. The other, inspired by seeing Vincent van Gogh’s painting Bedroom in Arles at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, “The Art of Seeing Value” appeared on New Verse News in early June, and was later explored by Great Writers Steal a few weeks later.

I’m always encouraging my students to try an Ekphrastic poem or a writing. I feel it’s a worthy endeavor (especially for those that don’t take the time to visit an art museum or art gallery on their own!) and can bring such wonderful results. And why wouldn’t it – when you’re putting your best observation skills to work for you…imagery inspired by an image…what could be better? Here’s your fifteenth prompt:

“Writing Art with Heart”

1) It’s ideal to go to an art museum or an art gallery with your daybook, walk through and find the painting or sculpture that you really respond to. That response does not necessarily have to be a positive response, as sometimes a negative  response can bring out some really intense writing, or at least writing that you didn’t expect.

2) Along with the response that you write, make a list of what you see in the painting/sculpture – such as colors, realism/contemporary; what’s the medium? Don’t forget to write the title, the artist’s name, and any other pertinent information about your chosen piece down somewhere – as once you leave the gallery/museum these will become really important – especially as you polish your piece for possible publication!

3) If you don’t have a chance to go to an art museum or an art gallery (although I highly recommend it), you can always use the internet to pull up paintings from different galleries/museums from around the world, or check out a good library book that’s full of art. Another idea is to get postcards of art – they can come in handy too when you don’t have a chance to get away for that museum visit.

4) Once you’ve got your info written in your daybook on your visual piece of choice – freewrite on it for 10 minutes or until you run out of steam. Then as always revise, revise, and then revise again to get your poem or prose piece as lively as it can be.

As with the other prompts, I believe you will find that this works well with whatever genre you choose!

As with all writing, writing about Art 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!