Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Writing Prompt – Death

Angel Gabriel taken at Holy Redeemer Cemetery - Baltimore, MD  - by Kelly A. HarmonSomeone in my family died this week.

It was unexpected, but not surprising. Still a bit of a shock to hear on the phone.

Human nature being what it is (and this being my family, I guess), the first order of business was a tussle over which family plot my uncle will be buried in.

(What – your family doesn’t have any death real estate?)

Grudges can be held, apparently, into the grave…and for decades beyond.

And we learned there’s going to be an autopsy. Required, apparently, by the state.

Since there’s time between death and burial preparation, the phone lines have lit up among the older generation in the family. People who have not spoken to each other in years, finally have a topic to bring them together.

Funny how that happens.

After you get over the initial impact, that kind of “out of the blue” call gets you to thinking about, well, death.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Caution! Some of these prompts may cause you to come to terms with death.

  • Plan your own funeral.

    (If this seems morbid to you — consider that you’re doing your family a favor by letting them know what it is you want to happen upon your death. It saves them the time of speculating (perhaps agonizing) during the initial grieving process. With luck, it will ensure that they lay you out in your favorite outfit, instead of something pulled off the rack at the funeral home.)

  • If you can’t plan your own funeral, plan one for someone else. Be creative: plan a funeral for your Great-Uncle Harry who always slipped you a fiver when he saw you, and never forgot your birthday. Do it up right. Conversely, create a special ‘funeral in hell’ for that neighbor of yours with the dogs that never stopped barking, the wild parties every day of the week, and the police raids which happened on a regular basis.
  • Your grandmother dies and leaves you $75,000 in her will. How do you feel when you hear this? What will you do with the money?
  • Write a story — starting with the reading of a will — where the most unlikely person in the room inherits all the cash and assets. This is the black sheep of the family — the runaway, the drunk, the drug user. Everyone hates him (or her). Speculate why this person inherited everything. Was there a relationship with the deceased that no one else knew about? What happens with the family dynamics now that this person inherits?
  • Your spouse or partner dies suddenly. Write their eulogy.
  • Write your own eulogy. How do you think people will remember you?
  • You’ve just learned you have terminal cancer. Write what happens for the next week of your life.
  • Write the funeral scene of the villain in your current work in progress. Or, write the funeral scene of your favorite evil character from a book, movie or television series.
  • And now for some obligatory quotes about death:
    • I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid. ~ Thomas Stearns Eliot
    • Let death be ever daily before your eyes, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything. ~ Epictetus
    • Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him — that is the best account of it that has yet been given. ~ Edward Morgan Forster
    • Our scripture tells us that childhood, old age and death are incidents only, to this perishable body of ours and that man’s spirit is eternal and immortal. that being so, why should we fear death? And where there is no fear of death there can be no sorrow over it, either. ~ Mahatma Gandhi.
Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Balticon… A Lot of Fun (So far)

I had no panels or readings today, but found myself busy enough that I fell into bed exhausted by the end of the day.

I picked up my fellow-writer-friend Trish Wooldridge at the (Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) at 8:30 a.m. (!) and we scooted down to the Inner Harbor for coffee and Italian almond cookies at Vaccarro’s in the Light Street Pavillion.

Being the writer geeks that we are, we headed over to the Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum – unfortunately located in a not-so-great part of the city. A manned police car sits outside all day long so that visitors aren’t accosted by the locals. In order to enter the museum, you have to knock on the door and wait for the curator to unlock it and let you in.

The house is tiny, and it’s hard to imagine how five people lived in the household without stepping on each others nerves.

Except for one item, all things in the house are reproductions, but it’s still interesting to see the photos and city directories and playbills.

The one authentic item in the home is Poe’s lapdesk which he used when he attended University of Virginia. The curator referred to it as Poe’s “laptop.” (This satisfies both my writerly geekiness and my tech geekiness….can’t get any better than that!)

Here’s a photo of me (my hair wild from Baltimore humidity) standing beside Poe’s laptop.

Kelly A. Harmon and Edgar Allen Poe's 'Laptop'

Of course, after we visited Poe’s House, we had to visit his grave. Here it is…

Egar Allen Poe's Grave

Poe is buried in the Westminster Hall Cemetery which is an old, estasblished graveyard. Age and elements have eroded most of the slender gravemarkers, but there are large monuments protecting the mouldering bones of several former Baltimore residents famed for their part in the Revolutionary War.

(I love graveyards. They’re beautiful and serene…and wonderful places to sit down write (quiet and inspiring!).

After the Baltimore tour, we drove to the Con and met up with other writers from Broad Universe and got our schedules straight for the rest of the weekend.

Tonight is the Steampunk Ball. Here’s a photo of Jean-Marie Ward (and some guy I don’t know!) in their dance finery.

Jean Marie Ward at the Steampunk Ball - Balticon

More tomorrow as the convention continues…