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Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Your Final Quarantine Prompt: How Art is Born

Well, friends, I had wanted to offer you all something profound for this last prompt. But as it often does– more so lately–life got in the way. I developed an ocular migraine which made it impossible to read or write. It left me exhausted. Tapped out. Drained. I sat in my tiny basement office with the window facing my backyard and watched the snow fall heavily, weighing down the branches of the freshly leafed out trees. I worried about the destruction a heavy, wet, spring snow might bring them. I thought of how nature sometimes is unpredictable and unwieldy and…terrifying. But this spring snow will melt and soak into the earth and the greenest grass imaginable will emerge from it. There is an artfulness to chaos even when it make us uncomfortable. 

I love this quote by abstract expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler:

So for today, what if you simply write? Without a word bank or first sentence or situation supplied to you (i.e., “a man and a woman argue in a crowded cafe without saying anything…include a purple chapeau”). Okay, use that if inspires you! But today, I’m granting you permission to write freely, without direction or rules. 

Consider this wisdom from Rebecca Solnit:

Write. There is no substitute. Write what you most passionately want to write, not blogs, posts, tweets or all the disposable bubblewrap in which modern life is cushioned. But start small: write a good sentence, then a good paragraph, and don’t be dreaming about writing the great American novel or what you’ll wear at the awards ceremony because that’s not what writing’s about or how you get there from here. The road is made entirely out of words. Write a lot. Maybe at the outset you’ll be like a toddler—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it, but it’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.”*

*From “How to Be a Writer: Ten Tips from Rebecca Solnit” in Lit Hub.

I’ve always believed the best “ideas” spring organically from the act of writing itself. So go write. Set a timer for 15 minutes and keep your hand moving across the page. Maybe turn it sideways. Scribble. Write with a crayon. Make a huge, glorious, chaotic mess. 

That’s it, my friends. Nancy and I will keep these prompts here for you to access any time you need them. For now and always, I’m sending you well wishes, strength, and love. ❤

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 29: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical–A Deserted Place

I’ve been thinking a lot about deserted places, the way this worldwide situation is changing our public spaces. I was really moved by these photos of iconic places: The Eiffel Tower, The Taj Mahal, The French Quarter, The Pyramids of Giza, Times Square, The Washington Mall, The Great Wall of China…empty.

And on the other hand, the empty lake that I usually walk or bike around is now crowded–so many bikes there yesterday I felt like I was on the Tour de France.

As we continue to navigate places and and redefine our spaces, I want to invite you for your second to last prompt to consider the latent tension inside solitude.

Tell a story inside an empty landscape. Consider the latent tension of the rustling cornfield, the quiet junk yard, the silent train station.

eiffel empty

Much love and solidarity

xoxo Nancy

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 28 Prompt: Strange Beauty: A Microfiction Prompt

Read the strangely beautiful “The Two-Headed Calf” by Laura Gilpin, generally considered a poem, but it feels like a microfiction to me:

 

 

The Two-Headed Calf

 

Tomorrow, when the farm boys find this

freak of nature, they will wrap his body

in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north

field with his mother. It is a perfect

summer evening: the moon rising over

the orchard, the wind in the grass.

And as he stares into the sky, there

are twice as many stars as usual.

 

Now write your own micro (try for 75 words or fewer), perhaps involving a strangely beautiful creature, real or fictional, and emulate this structure: “Tomorrow…(then) “Tonight…”

 

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 27: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 11–Bibliomancy

It’s a great word, isn’t it? Bibliomancy

It means to “consult” seemingly random passages from books as messages or guides–or in this case starting points or prompts.

(Officially it means: “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.” From Wikipedia: “Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination.”)

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Your prompt:

Open the closest book and put your finger down on the page. Where it “lands” is your story starter: Use that sentence as a first line (or maybe the title)…

(Here is my result, from On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous: “What’s left of November seeps through their jeans, their thin knit sweaters.”)

Happy Writing!

xoxo

Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 26 Prompt: A Plan Gone Awry

I’ve been struck lately by how many events have had to be cancelled due to lockdown. We humans LOVE to plan for things. The anticipation is often just as fun as the event itself. At any rate, the old saying, that God laughs at your plans, seems particularly apt these days.

For Day 26, your prompt is to write a flash about plans gone horribly awry. There’s a lot of tension and conflict to exploit in that idea alone. Examples:

  • A botched caper.
  • A trip delayed or cancelled or upended by something unexpected (A Good Man is Hard to Find)
  • Mercury in Retrograde times 1000.
  • Perhaps the PLAN is very detailed and specific, somebody has gone to a lot of trouble to make it. 

To heighten things even further, let’s say one character is extremely STUBBORN and INFLEXIBLE and the other is low-key and happy to go with the flow. I’m thinking of Neil Simon’s The Out-of-Towners. Write into the humor and tension that occurs when two such characters must face a carefully planned itinerary that’s botched by a series of accidents, mishaps, and misfortunes. How your characters deal with adversity says a lot about them. Do they prevail in the end? Remember that “trouble” is inherently interesting to your readers.