Friday, March 18th, 2016

Writing Prompt – You Had Me at “Hello.”

Teenaged girl talking on a cell phone.Hello.




Nǐ hǎo.



There are a ja-billion™ ways to say hello—and its equivalent—in a ja-billion™ different languages.

Good Day.

Greetings are a mixed bag. Formal situations call for formal greetings. (How do you do?) Early morning salutations differ between chipper folks (Good Morning!) and those who need a few more cups of coffee (unintelligible grunt). Greetings between good friends ride the scale between none at all, and hopping right into conversation (Did you see what Jenny was wearing last night? I wouldn’t be caught dead in that!) to downright insulting. (You look like shit. What happened to you?)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a short story which begins with a single word of dialogue: “Hello.” The greeting can be in any language. What happens?
  • Write a poem about greetings, salutations or beginnings.
  • We have certain expectations for greetings. What if you were greeted differently than expected? For example, your coach shook your hand, but your pastor slapped your butt? Write what might happen if this happened to you.
  • If you journal, write about a time when someone greeted you in an unusual way. What happened?
  • Good luck!

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Dreams and Other Gifts of the Night

wooden artist manikin leaping from reflective sphere in fantastic landscapeDo you dream?

I almost never dream. I’m always excited when I do.

I had a dream about two weeks ago where I was walking across the landscape and there were black snakes all over the ground as far as I could see. I couldn’t take a step without watching closely so that I wouldn’t step on one. They weren’t stationary, but moving sinuously in all directions. The entire landscape undulated with movement.

Seriously cool. I love snakes.

(I know a bunch of you are probably creeped out about now. Sorry.)

Author Judy Reeves refers to dreams as “Gifts of the Night.” Lately, I’ve been seeing a Chinese doctor who disagrees. He says it’s bad for your health to dream. I used to agree with Ms. Reeves, but my doctor is starting to win me over…maybe dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you think?

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Think back to your last dream. Pretend that what happened there actually happened in real life. Write it down as a diary entry or create a short story. Embellish it, flesh it out. Make certain it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Think back to your last nightmare. Pretend that what happened actually happened in real life. Write it down as a diary entry or create a short story. Embellish it, flesh it out. Make certain it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Use this as a story starter:

    Ev’n now your eyes stare wild; your hair stands up—
    Your pulses throb and flutter, reeling still
    Under the storm of such a dream—

    From “Life is a Dream,” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

  • What is the language of dreams?
  • Hemingway said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Write an essay or a journal entry about your thoughts.

Good luck!

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Anticipation

Tall stalk of wildflower with purple petals.It’s cold and windy here today, and I should have expected it, because we had some icy precipitation late last night and that never bodes well for the morning.

But last weekend it was warm enough outside to wash the car and do some painting. So it had me hoping for an early spring.

No such luck.

But here I am anticipating it.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty in the garden and uncovering the fig trees. I’m ready to sweep winter’s grime off the garage floor, and do a bit of spring cleaning. Hell, I’m ready for shorts and flip flops.

How about you?

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • In a letter to Paulinus, Pliny the Younger said, “…the happiest man, in my opinion, is he who lives in the conscious anticipation of an honest and enduring name, and secure of future glory in the eyes of posterity.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • Remember Heinz Ketchup Commercial about anticipation? “So Good It’s Worth the Wait” ? Write about a time that anticipation was worth the wait. (This could be about you, or about a character in your story…)
  • Conversely, write about a time when anticipation wasn’t worth the wait. How did that make you (or your character) feel? How did you (or your character) react?
  • Write a scene in which the main character is anticipating good news, and received bad news instead. Or, write a scene where your character is anticipating bad news, and receives good news instead.
  • Make a list of things you’re anticipating right now. Choose one or two and write predictions of what you anticipate will happen. Next, write how you’ll feel once these anticipated events will occur. Now, write and essay about your future. If you’re moved, write a poem instead.

Good luck!

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Then and Now

Old Church ClockHere’s a prompt that will make you think. Take your time and be honest with yourself.

First, make a list of ten-to-fifteen words that describe you as a child.

Next, make a list of ten-to-fifteen words that describe you as you are now.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about how the lists are the same. What child-like qualities have you maintained? (Or what adult-like qualities did you possess as a child?) How does it make you feel to know that in some ways, you’ve not changed? Do you wish you were more mature?
  • Write about how the lists are different. At what point did you mature? What word was the beginning of the turning point in your life? How do you feel to have lost those child-like qualities? What do you enjoy about being more adult?
  • Think about the first word on the list describing your child-self. Why did this word come to mind first? What are some things you said or did that characterize this word?
  • Similarly, think about the first word on the list describing your more mature self. Why did this word come to mind first? What are some things you say or do that characterize this word?
  • Write a poem, Ode to Yourself. Write it in three parts: the first stanza should describe your child-self and use some of the words on your first list. The last stanza should be about your adult self, and use some of the words on that list. The middle stanza should be a bridge between the two—or a transition—and use words from both lists.

Good Luck!

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Writing Prompt – It takes Two

Two white capsule pills sitting on the tip of someone's index finger.I’ll bet you thought, when you saw the title of this prompt, that we’d be talking about two people.


It’s that close to Valentine’s Day, after all.

And I admit, I thought about it—but what fun is that? So, today’s prompt is about two of something—but not people.

Here’s Your Prompt:
Pick an idiom, write about it – a poem, character sketch, story sketch, scene—whatever. Mind the rules: no people as principal “players” in the prompt…

  • two of a kind
  • of two minds
  • one step forward, two steps back
  • two birds with one stone
  • two shakes of a lamb’s tail
  • it cuts two ways
  • two-timer
  • lesser of two evils
  • no two ways about it
  • can’t serve two masters
  • knocked down a peg, or two…
  • two bricks shy of a load
  • eating for two
  • terrible twos
  • two-faced

Good Luck!

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Writing Prompt – What’s In The Box?

Vintage MatchBox with the Cover Faded and PeelingThe blizzard dropped a lot of snow on us, and we were digging out for days. As a consequence we hadn’t had mail delivery for nearly a week. But I finally got something in my mailbox yesterday.

There was the usual accumulation of junk newspapers and circulars, but there were also two padded envelopes and a larger box.

“What’s in the box?” asked the Husband of Awesome™.

And I couldn’t remember what I might have ordered.

That’s what happens when a blizzard comes along and all you do is dig out for a week. Brain white-out. Snow blind. You forget about the things you ordered. Or the stuff you didn’t order, but you knew was coming. Or that you’re awesome enough that someone sent you a surprise. (It could happen.) 😉

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Imagine you’ve just received something in the mail. What’s inside?
  • Imagine it’s spring! You’re digging in your garden, and the shovel hits something hard. You realize you’ve struck a tiny wooden chest. What’s inside?
  • A woman packs a lunch for her (you choose) loving/cheating/scandalous/insane/generous/abusive/virile husband. What did she pack? What happens when he finds it?
  • A man pick’s up his spouse’s/sister’s/niece’s purse and it accidentally empties onto the floor. What’s inside? What happens when he’s caught handling that object?
  • Because it’s cold outside, you order dinner and have it delivered. It arrives, you pay the delivery service and they leave. And then you open the box. It’s not what you ordered. It’s not even dinner. What’s inside? And, what are you going to do with it?

Good luck!

(Oh, and in the box? The Christmas-gift yarn I’d ordered to knit a cardigan–my first try at sweater making. Wish me luck!)

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Writing Prompt – The Big Snow is Coming

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.

This is Grace. She loves the snow.

Winter storm Jonas is coming tonight.  I’m one of those lucky people whose area is likely to received more than a foot — quite possibly two feet — of snow, if the forecasters are correct.

I’m looking forward to sitting by the fire, sipping martinis, and plotting out my next novel.  I’ve also got a “snow to-do list” to tackle:

  1.  Build my first snowman of 2016
  2. Try out my new snow shoes
  3. Bean the Husband of Awesome™ with a snowball before he gets me
  4. Get in some snowy-wildlife photography
  5. Build an igloo

Okay, that last item on the list is pure dreamery. It’s possible—my siblings and I built a HUGE one when we were kids. But there were three of us, and I don’t think I can scrounge up that many willing folks in the neighborhood to lend me a hand this weekend.

Still, I can hope. That long-ago igloo takes up a lot of real estate in my fond memories.

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.Here’s Your Prompt:

  • The obligatory easy prompt: write an essay — My Favorite Snow Memories, My Least Favorite Snow Memories, etc.
  • Write about a snow-related accident: avalanche, skiing accident, fifty-car pile up on the highway–even getting lost in the snow. Write how the snow makes things worse. Is there a way the snow ameliorates the problem? Can you use this sketch in your current WIP? Or write a short story based on it? How about a poem?
  • Will you be in the snowfall area today? If you can, find a protected area where you will be out of harm’s way. Watch and listen to the snow fall. How does it sound? What other things do you hear, or not hear? What do you observe about how snowfall changes nature? Write your observations and your feelings.
  • Will you be alone and isolated this weekend? (If not, can you pretend?) During your isolation, write your Personal Manifesto for 2016. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, take the time to jot down goals and aspirations for the year. (It’s proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them!)
  • Good luck!

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Prohibition

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921. ~ Photo from

On January 15, 1920 the “Dry Law” went into effect in the United States. It was the 18th amendment to the Constitution and banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.

The law was intended to reduce the crime rate. But there were several loopholes. For instance, manufacture and sale of alcohol were prohibited, but drinking was not. A person could obtain a prescription from his doctor which allowed him to get and drink alcohol. Alcohol could also be consumed in church for religious reasons.

The law brought about the “unintended consequences” of the rise of bootleggers and gangs. These gangs hired “rumrunners” to buy rum in the Caribbean and bring it back to the US. Or, they brought in whiskey from Canada. Al Capone created the largest bootlegging operation in the US.

Thirteen years later, the law was repealed, and cities all over the US erupted into riotous, joyful, celebration.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about a time when you were prohibited from doing something. Had you always been able to do this, but were suddenly stopped? Or, did you want to try something for the first time, but a parent–or employer–told you no. What happened?
  • Drinking in the US is prohibited until age 21. Write about your first time having a drink. Did you over do it?
  • Write about a time you prohibited yourself from doing something. Why did you do this? Did the prohibition work for you? Why or why not?
  • Write about the last time you were tanked, inebriated, foxed, sloshed, intoxicated, under the influence, or blind drunk.
  • Have you ever been forced to throw something away–like when prohibition agents poured beer into the streets to get rid of it? Write a poem about your feelings on the matter. Did your feelings change over time? How do you feel now? Have you ever forced someone else to discard anything? Why, or why not?
  • Write about the time you were the lone, stone-cold-sober person surrounded by drunks. Why were you there? How did you feel?

Have fun!

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Writing Prompt – New Beginnings

Colored PencilsIt’s still early enough in the new year to be thinking about new beginnings. I don’t know if its my innate love (obsession?) for office supplies, but new beginnings make me think of sharpened pencils and blank spiral notebooks. Or, blank, pristine papers waiting for me to desecrate them with words.

I try to do my organizing in December:

  • clearing off the desk to start the year fresh
  • reviewing all the notebooks page by page:
    • making to do lists for things which never got done
    • copying ideas into my Ideas Folder (adding as much detail as possible, so I’m not left with cryptic phrases later)
    • Adding phone numbers and addresses to my Contacts
    • etc.
  • Organizing the to-do lists
  • Creating a “master plan” of what I want to accomplish for the year
  • Scheduling the time on the calendar now, so I can’t complain about not having time for it later.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Write the “new year” scene of the main character in your book. Or, write the “new year” scene of a brand new character you intend to use in a story. How does the new year affect him or her? Does he buy fresh stationery? Does she regret the passing of another year and nothing to show for it? Does your character have some annoying (or meaningful, silly, prolonged, secret) ritual he must accomplish before the new year starts?
  2. Write your own new year scene. How does the new year affect you? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Are you wondering how you’ll make this year better than last? Are you chomping at the bit for a fresh start?
  3. Write a poem: Ode to the New Year, or, Good Riddance to the Past.


Friday, January 1st, 2016

Writing Prompt: What Would You Give Yourself?

Pile of wrapped gifts.Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I’ve added any writing prompts to these pages, and I hope to get back to doing them weekly as I’ve done in year’s past. I hope today’s is as thought-provoking for you as it was for me.

Since it’s the holiday season, my mind has been on gifts lately: what should I purchase for whom? I’m still in that frame of mind, since I still have celebrating to do. Most of my gifts have been purchased, wrapped and given, but there are one or two more items that I still need to attend to.

When I was driving to work the other day — in silence, as I’ve been trying to do lately (more on that later, I think) — a thought popped into my head: If you could gift yourself anything, what would it be?

And there’s your prompt: if you could gift yourself anything, what would it be? Why that? Here’s the catch: you can’t answer with something obvious: a new car, more money, a different job. What’s your true heart’s desire? What would it take to realize it? What steps could you take today to make it reality?