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

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, we’re here in the last week of November, and the day before Thanksgiving, Time sure flies past, fast, doesn’t it? All month we’ve been writing to prompts that are what we, as writers, are thankful for. I could not let the month go by without writing about family. After all, whether you come from a big, happy family, a crazy, small family, or a “normal,” dysfunctional family, we all have them…we all have parents, but we all don’t have siblings. I don’t. I’m an only child, so I’ll never know what it’s like to have fights with a sibling, to have that camaraderie of “we’re in this together,” or to have a sibling pitted against you by a parent. I will never be an aunt.  By the same token, those of you that are not only children don’t know what it’s like to have all attention directed on you – good and bad – to learn that you don’t know how to argue/fight  as an adult because you’ve never had to as a child, or how alone your childhood can feel. Of course, there are perks to be an only child as well – one of my favorite ones is that I never get bored because I learned to entertain myself, I developed a vivid imagination, and I don’t mind being alone – when others can’t stand to be alone for five minutes.

I always wanted children of my own, and not just one – so that’s why I have two daughters instead of one. I now have five grandchildren, so I definitely am not alone in this world, and both of my parents are still alive and I know a lot of people my age can’t say that. I love my family, and have good relationships with my daughters and grandchildren; although, I don’t see them often enough. My parents, well, they’re my parents – we’ve had a lot of water under the bridge…and they sure have given me plenty to write about. In fact, I believe I’ve mentioned it before – I’m compiling a poetry memoir of childhood poems, and I hope to have it ready to start submitting to publishers by the end of this year. I have a few more poems to add, and to come up with a good title and it’ll be ready! So, that’s something to be thankful for as well…progress…and survival of youth!

Here is a sample of one of my poems from that manuscript:

No Swimming

I wish I knew how to swim instead of walking

nowhere on treadmills or lifting dumbbells

 

inside a drab gym to tone my middle-

aged muscles and slim my widening hips.

 

Why did I listen to my overcautious mom

and grandma warn of drowning and

 

ingest their tales of never learning to let go,

never handing control over to water bodies?

You can view “No Swimming” in it’s entirety in the anthology, Backlit Barbell: An Anthology of Health and Fitness,  compiled by A.J. Huffman, found on Amazon, or when my book gets published.

And, speaking of being published – I’d be remiss if I did not mention that my little poetry “family,” Company of WomenJayne Marek, Mary Sexson, and I have all been nominated for a Pushcart by Chatter House Press for a poem each from our book Company of Women: New and Selected Poems. You can find the nominated poems from the book here.

Family, blood or chosen, is what makes life interesting as well as giving us reason for life. And, with that thought in mind, no matter what your relationship is with your “blood” relatives, you’ve many things to be thankful for – even if it’s that they’ve given you plenty to write about! With that in mind, here’s your twenty-second prompt:

“Family Tales”

1) In your daybook write down five things that you’re thankful for in your own family – maybe it’s that you have one, maybe it’s their health, maybe it’s wealth related; it’s going to be things that you can only know. Once you’ve got your five things, then go back to each and write a bit on the one that sticks out to you most – get in those particulars, why is this what you’re most thankful for? By the same token, you can always turn this prompt on its head and write the five things you’re least thankful for in your family…sometimes those things that keep us from enjoying a family get together can be a powerful thing to write about!!!

2) Think about what I was saying about being an only child at the beginning of this blog. Write about your own birth order, your siblings and how you relate, what was your biggest fight as a kid with your sibling(s)? What is it now? What’s the funniest thing that happened, that makes you still laugh today? If you’re an only child – what stands out to you about growing up a “lonely only?” You can expand this list as you keep writing down things you remember  – and this prompt alone can give you a plethora of things to write about!!

3) Now find one of the most interesting things that you’ve written about in #1 or #2 and form it into a poem, an essay, a short story, or a play – family can certainly lend itself to being a catalyst of good literature…just think of the work that has been written involving family! I bet you can name at least 10 books, plays, or poems off the top of your head that involve family. You know, like Sylvia Plath‘s “Daddy?” Augusten BurroughsRunning WIth Scissors, you get the gist. If you can, write them down – those might remind you of a story in your own family.

4) As with all writing, this “Family Tales” 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!

Lylanne

 

 

Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Since it’s November and Thanksgiving is this month, it seems like a good time to write about what we’re thankful for. As writers we may do this in many ways already: maybe we honor a grandparent or a family member with a poem, or maybe we write about our hometown, or where we’ve spent a lot of time, as a setting in a novel, short story, or an essay. We may be thankful for that love of our life, that special person who broke through our defenses, and pour our hearts out in a sonnet or a prose poem. Or we may be thankful that we escaped a rotten relationship and write the next big drama for the stage…the things we’re thankful for should be endless, and should give us endless possibilities to write about.

So, I’m going to guide us through four Wednesdays to touch on a few of those possibilities and as you write and read the prompts, you may come up with so many more of your own. With this week’s prompt we will explore the idea of being thankful for our friends. If you’re lucky you have more than you can count, but inevitably you have your closest friends, those friends that you would confide anything to and never worry that they’ll betray you, you have those friends that are ones that make you laugh and that you enjoy going out with and letting your hair down, you have friends that are your office or work buddies, friends that are ones you’ve made through mutual interests such as clubs, hobbies, church, or activism, and sometimes if you’re lucky enough you have lifelong friends that have known you since childhood. No matter what type of friendship(s) you have, or have had throughout your life…they are something to be thankful for as they get us through the highs and lows of our lives – and those friendships are all just waiting to be mined for stories or poetic moments. I have written many a poem involving my friends, and a few of them appear in the book I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson, Company of Women:New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). I’ll share one poem and an excerpt from my section of the book What She Taught Me:

Our Night Out

In a dark bar on a Toledo Saturday,

too early for the happening crowd,

too late for two friends who decide to stay

in a place that pulls our memories

from “far-out” places – the music patronizes

our middle-age while still flirting with youth –

swigging liquid courage, musing over Dancing

in the Dark, and “Who’s going to drive you home,

tonight?” Remembering loud nights

that didn’t seem too long, way back when,

when we were not paying attention to time,

tick, tick, tocking forward. Our minds reflecting

refracting pieces of our disco selves unraveling

like an off track 8 track tape and when we twirl

around we see each other in the bar mirror –

cynical and dark. (51)

And, here’s an excerpt from the title poem “What She Taught Me” which is dedicated to my former high school art teacher, mentor, and one of my dearest friends, Ann Johnson:

                     I

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who pushed me past my limits,

made me give a voice to purple,

in front of the class, who praised

my Polka Horse block print and

asked to keep it for her own,

 

who gave me unlimited hall passes

signed AJ, to ditch my dreaded Home Ec

at the end of the school day to come

to the art room, where no one cared

if I could sew a stitch, or sauté an onion.

 

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who flunked me for not painting

by deadline, who teased me

out of my shell, who didn’t turn me away

when I dropped by her house to say “hi,”

dressing so funky that

she didn’t care who stared.

 

If she hadn’t been that teacher

who was vibrant and different,

in school convocations, who dared

to show vulnerability, I would not have

kept going back to school,

each day a new reason to live. (61)

This poem continues on and has a second part to it as well – you can see how in both poems that I was writing about specific incidents…reflecting on my feelings and the friends that I was writing about.

So let’s get to it! Here is your nineteenth prompt:

“Forever Friends”

1) In your daybook write down a list of friends, you can start as far back as you can remember and list as many as you can all the way up to present day. Some of you will have pages and pages, and others will have an intimate few. Then with that list go back and write down a few memories that you have of each. You can see how this can explode into so many ideas that you could spend months just writing down memories and incidents, let alone picking one or two to really concentrate on. Be as detailed as you can with your lists and memories because that will help you when you go to write the specific story, essay, or poem about the friend(s) that you select.

2) You have a ton of friends to choose from on your list, now write about the friend you’ve had the longest. Write about a friend you lost and never thought you would. Write about a friend that betrayed you. Write about a friend that was so generous you don’t know how you’ll ever repay them. How about those Facebook friends? Friends or not…that is the question…now write!

3) Write a thank-you letter, note, poem to a friend and really send it.

4) Take any of your prompts and write until you have something you’re happy with in your genre of choice…and then as always, revise, revise, revise!!

As with all writing, this “Forever Friends” 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!

Lylanne

 

Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week marked the autumnal equinox on September 22 (my birthday!) at 4:44 P.M., or as a lot of people call it – the beginning of Fall.  Fall happens to be my favorite time of year, and not because of the reason previously mentioned in parentheses. I love the warm days and cool nights – sweatshirt and jeans weather; I love football, I also love the way the light changes – do you ever notice the difference in how the shadows fall? Or how the sunlight hits the houses right at dusk around this time of year?  When it was legal (around these parts) I loved the smell of burning leaves. As a child I loved those leaves raked in a pile, and then the chance to go jump in them and giggle with my neighborhood friends. I suppose kids still like to do things like that? I just saw a video clip on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer the other evening that was of a dog enjoying a big pile of leaves. That Husky was still having some “old-fashioned” fun.

In addition, Fall used to mean back-to-school, at least we made it to September and after Labor Day – so one could associate school clothes with the cooler weather instead of how students today that need to wear lighter clothes because they’re going to school in the heat of August (and in some places year around). Fall also means apple cider, pumpkin pie, and the leaves changing color:

Image

The season not only gives us football, but it marks the World Series, and before Winter gets here – so does basketball. And if that weren’t enough excitement there’s the “Fall” Holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving. I imagine by now you’re starting to guess where the I’m leading you with the prompt this week. If you guessed you’re going to write about Autumn/Fall, then you’re right on target. Here’s prompt fourteen:

“Falling for Autumn”

1) Think about some of the autumns of your childhood. What was it like in your classroom? What did the air smell like? Who were your friends? What outfit could you not wait to wear back-to-school?  What games did you play outside? Were you able to stay out until the streetlights came on? What were some of the sounds of autumn back then? What are some of the sounds you notice now? Are they the same or are they different? You can continue thinking about autumns of your life – what was high school like? Did your school get to have bonfires? What about Homecoming? Fall dances? After high school was it college or marriage? Either way you can just go through and make lists of different memories of Autumn/Fall in your daybook. As always, you can write on each memory that comes to mind for 10 minutes or until you exhaust the memory.

2) After you have some memories written in your daybook, then you’re ready to start mining your writing for poems or stories, plays or memoir. Whatever your genre of choice is Fall, as any season, can give you so much to write about. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in writer’s block – there’s always something to write about…even if it doesn’t seem exciting at first. If you stick with it, the good stuff will come. Have patience with yourself.

3) Don’t hesitate to take some of your own memories and give them to a fictional character – sometimes they can take those memories and turn them in a way that you didn’t, or couldn’t, if you stick with writing a memoir. Again, it’s up to you as to how you handle your subject matter…after all, you’re the writer!

4) After you’ve written that story or poem, or one of the other genres – see what you can do to pare it down, or add to your work (if needed), and then as always: revise, revise, revise…and when you think you’re done revising…do it one more time!

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 “Fall” 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!

Lylanne