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

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

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 25: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 9–Parables

Last night I was rereading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, and I wanted to share this parable about a man dealing with fear:

“He said he was determined to get rid of his negative emotions. He struggled against anger and lust; he struggled against laziness and pride. But mostly he wanted to get rid of his fear. His meditation teacher kept telling him to stop struggling, but he took that as just another way of explaining how to overcome his obstacles.

Finally the teacher sent him off to meditate in a tiny hut in the foothills. He shut the door and settled down to practice, and when it got dark he lit three small candles. Around midnight he heard a noise in the corner of the room, and in the darkness he saw a very large snake. It looked to him like a king cobra. It was right in front of him, swaying. All night he stayed totally alert, keeping his eyes on the snake. He was so afraid that he couldn’t move. There was just the snake and himself and fear.

Just before down the last candle went out, and he began to cry. He cried not in despair but from tenderness. He felt the longing of all the animals and people in the world; he knew their alienation and their struggle. All his meditation had been nothing but further separation and struggle. He accepted–really accepted wholeheartedly–that he was angry and jealous, that he resisted and struggled, and that he was afraid. He accepted that he was also precious beyond measure–wise and foolish, rich and poor, and totally unfathomable. He felt so much gratitude that in the total darkness he stood up, walked towards the snake, and bowed. Then he fell sound asleep on the floor.

When he awoke, the snake was gone. He never knew if it was his imagination or if it had really been there, and it didn’t seem to matter. That much intimacy with fear caused his dramas to collapse and the world around him finally got through.”

The power of parable, and the reason they have such a lasting effect, is because parables use the power of narrative to show rather than tell. And since human beings are by nature storytellers, the lessons are more usually understood, absorbed, and assimilated.

Most religious texts use parables, but other books I love that use parables and allegory are The Tao of Pooh and The Alchemist, if you are looking for some quarantine reading.

Your prompt:

Write a parable.

(These three steps are adapted from here)

  1. Start with the moral lesson. Think about a moral principle that has been important in your own life, or one that you’re still struggling to learn fully. You might also choose something that you’re curious about and want to explore.
  2. Consider its consequences. What might happen as a result of behaving (or not behaving) according to your moral lesson? In “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” the consequence of dishonesty is that liars will not be believed in important moments, and it’s hard to live without people’s trust.
  3. Write a story following a basic beginning-middle-end structure. The beginning sets the stage and tells us who all the main characters are, while establishing important themes; in the middle, some kind of problem, conflict, or danger emerges; and in the end, we learn about the results of that conflict.

(And for fun: here’s a picture of me with a cobra in Nepal when I was about 27. Unlike the lesson of the man in the parable, my face is saying: take the picture quick!)

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Happy Writing! In solidarity!

xoN

 

Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 23: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 7–Reverse

“Sometimes what you think is an end is only a beginning. And that wouldn’t do at all.”
― Agatha Christie

“Since when,” he asked,
“Are the first line and last line of any poem
Where the poem begins and ends?”
― Seamus Heaney

backwards-tux

 

I’ve always been fascinated by stories told backwards, and I just discovered that there is an actual term for it: reverse chronology. #thingsIlearnedinquarantine

So…let’s fast forward to the end.

Your prompt:

Tell a story that begins at the end and works its way backwards.

 

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if-you-watch-the-movie-jaws-backwards

 

In solidarity! xoxoN

 

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Day 21: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 5–Celebrity Cameo

I’ve been finding it interesting how, in this streaming, online version of our lives, celebrities seem less exalted, more normal, also wearing their sweatpants, also struggling, also hoping. Also reaching out. The dividing line between the stage and the audience seems to have been breached, and maybe that’s a good thing.

In fact, here are a bunch of celebrities singing John Lennon’s “Imagine“:

So…your prompt:

Write a story that includes a celebrity (cameo or other) appearance.

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Happy writing!