Thursday, July 30, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 31: Shakespeare

Write about a Midsummer Night's Dream. One of yours or Shakespeare's.

Writing Prompt, July 30: Sickness

I just talked to a friend today who stayed home from work because her daughter is sick--and home from day camp. They are on their way to the pediatrician. I remember getting a call when our daughter got sick at overnight camp. When we went to pick her up, not only did she have a raging throat and a fever, she was also covered in poison ivy.

Write about getting sick in the summer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 28: Summer Storms

Write about summer storms.

I couldn't resist this poem, from today's Writer's Almanac. I love "by a string of buttered days," "wallowed in this picnic sun," a clump of daisies nodding by the road," "the dog cowers," the shutters banging out their warning," etc.

Counting Thunder

For several weeks the weather has been mild
And we have wallowed in this picnic sun,
(Our baskets stuffed with bread and wine) beguiled
By a string of buttered days, which one by one

Have lulled us into such complacency
That any thought of rain or want or cold
Would seem killjoy to a mind disposed to see
A clump of daisies nodding by the road.

But lightning flash upon the ridge portends
A sudden change of weather is at hand.
Caught unaware, we face the rising wind
And count the interval before the sound

Of thunderclap announces the return
Of darker times we had soon forgotten.
The dog cowers. The weather vane turns
Wildly, and we scramble forth to batten

Down the shutters banging out their warning.
No use pretending storm clouds won't draw near.
They're certain now. The anvil head is mounting
High above the things we've held so dear.

We light the lantern as clouds obscure the sun,
And gather frightened children in our arms.
The lightning flash and thunder merge at one,
And we hunker down beneath the raging storm.

by Robert Hass
Counting Thunder
David Robert Books, 2008

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 27: Hats

I just read that Joseph Mitchell wore a fedora to work every day. My dad wore one too. In the summer Mitchell wore a straw fedora.

Write about summer hats.

I'm going to write about my dad and his hats and about how now at age 91 he still takes his hat off when a lady gets on an elevator. So when we ride the elevator together at his retirement home, he pulls his hat off right away, as the elevator doors open for us. Some traditions die hard. He has lost control of so much in his life but he remembers to remove his hat.

His many floppy tennis hats worn on the court, on his sailboat, and in his garden.

The straw hats he and all his Princeton classmates wore at reunions.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 26: Hours

Write about "summer hours."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 25: By the Road

"For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summer-time roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy."

(opening sentence of the novel Olive Kitteridge)

Write about a familiar road in summer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 24: Color

As I look out at the verdant lawn and trees, the color green screams out at me. There has been so much rain here in Boston this summer that everything is incredibly lush. Though I've never visited, I imagine Ireland looks like this: emerald grasses and deep green leaves.

(I'll add a photo or two when the driving rain stops.)

Write about the color green.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 23: Listen Up

Write about summer sounds. You might want to start with a line from this poem, from today's
Writer's Almanac:


In the afternoon of summer, sounds
come through the window: a tractor
muttering to itself as it

pivots at the corner of the
hay field, stalled for a moment
as the green row feeds into the baler.

The wind slips a whisper behind
an ear; the noise of the highway
is like the dark green stem of a rose.

From the kitchen the blunt banging
of cupboard doors and wooden chairs
makes a lonely echo in the floor.

Somewhere, between the breeze
and the faraway sound of a train,
comes a line of birdsong, lightly
threading the heavy cloth of dream.

by Joyce Sutphen
Naming the Stars
Holy Cow! Press, 2004

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 22: Deliciously Fresh

(A summer dinner of stuffed squash, sauteed squash, and tomato prepared (and veggies grown) by Maria Hitt.

Write about a favorite summer meal. Include recipes. Write the entry as a poem (in honor of Frank Mc Court) who engaged his high school students by having them recite as poetry their family recipes.
Invent and post here a summer salad.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 21: Portraits of Place

Sontag writes, in Susan Sontag Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963

"Athens would make a good setting for a story--about foreigners, traveling. It has lots of clear-cut and attractive props.

The plump American queens of Athens, the dusty streets filled with construction work, bouzouki bands in the taverna gardens at night, eating plates of thick yoghourt and sliced tomatoes and small green peas and drinking resinated wine, the huge Cadillac taxis, middle-aged men walking or sitting in the park fingering their amber beads, the roasted corn sellers sitting on street corners by their braziers, the Greek sailors in their tight white pants and wide black sashes, strawberry sunsets behind the hills of Athens seen from the Acropolis, old men in the streets sitting by their scales who offer to weigh you for one drachma--"

Go into town or the city and make a list of the "clear-cut and attractive prompts" around you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing Prompt, july 19: Bathing

Write about the bathing suits of your life.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 18: Reunion

Write about a summer family reunion. You might want to use a line from the poem below to get started.

Family Reunion

The divorced mother and her divorcing
daughter. The about-to-be ex-son-in-law
and the ex-husband's adopted son.
The divorcing daughter's child, who is

the step-nephew of the ex-husband's
adopted son. Everyone cordial:
the ex-husband's second wife
friendly to the first wife, warm

to the divorcing daughter's child's
great-grandmother, who was herself
long ago divorced. Everyone
grown used to the idea of divorce

Almost everyone has separated
from the landscape of childhood.
Collections of people in cities
are divorced from clean air and stars.

Toddlers in day care are parted
from working parents, schoolchildren
from the assumption of unbloodied
daylong safety. Old people die apart

from all they've gathered over time,
and in strange beds. Adults
grow estranged from a God
evidently divorced from history;

most are cut off from their own
histories, each of which waits
like a child left at day care.
What if you turned back for a moment

and put your arms around yours?
Yes, you might be late for work;
no, your history doesn't smell sweet
like a toddler's head. But look

at those small round wrists,
that short-legged, comical walk.
Caress your history—who else will?
Promise to come back later.

Pay attention when it asks you
simple questions: Where are we going?
Is it scary? What happened? Can
I have more now? Who is that?

by Jeredith Merrin
Bat Ode
The University of Chicago Press

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 17: On a Walk

Take a walk and look for animals. Sit outside and write about what you see.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 15: In a Garden

Sit in a garden and write. What do you hear, smell, see? What's crawling on the earth? Observe the sunlight on the plants. Feel their leaves.

". . . I have salvaged dead wood from the grove of trees behind the flower bed, have made a crude bench from this. I sit there and I look at the cascade of Sweet Briar Rose, at the brush of lavender, and I try to imagine the Saffron crocus growing between them.

"I have cleared the tangle of trees above the flower bed so that now the sun moves over the garden. I can see where it falls, what it touches. There are blackbirds calling from the woods."

from The Lost Garden, by Helen Humphreys

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 14: Traveling

Write about a summer trip you took when you were a child. I am the bonneted baby on my grandmother's lap and don't remember waiting for this flight. I think I'll write about it anyway.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writing prompt, July 13. A July birthday

Write about a July birthday--consider writing about somebody you don't know. Or maybe it's the birthday of one of your characters.

Every July, there is a four-day gathering at Walden Pond to celebrate Thoreau's birthday. The Thoreau Society was founded in 1941, making it the oldest society devoted to an American author. It's also the largest.

Thoreau wrote, "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

(From the Writer's Almanac, July 12)

Writing Prompt, July 12:

Write about poison ivy, red ants, ticks, bed bugs, mosquitos, chiggers, or . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 11: Is it safe . . .

Prompt: "Is it safe to go back in the water?"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 10: A Favorite Book

Prompt: Write about a favorite summer read from childhood. What did you love about the book? Where did you read? In a hammock, on a porch, under the sheet at night with a flashlight?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 9: Watermelon

Prompt: List everything you can think of about watermelon--words, phrases. Don't think. Just write.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 8: Warm Weather Rock

Prompt: Think about a song that celebrates summer and write.

For me, first up is "Hot Town, Summer in the City," by the Lovin' Spoonful and that steamy July back in 1966.

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city . . .

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 7: Step Onto the Ferry

Prompt: Write about taking a summer ferry ride.

I love this opening from Step Onto the Ferry, and Summer Begins

The piece by Lili Wright appeared in the Sunday "Travel Section," when the New York Times still offered a back-page travel essay.

Without a doubt, ferries are my favorite way to travel. I would take a ferry to California if I could. I would take a ferry to France.

Sure, ferries are slow and heavy. They can be rusty and cranky and can grunt when you least expect it. They have dirty windows and plastic seats without cushions. Ferries are the frumpy, weak-coffee serving, wiener-roasting rec rooms of transport, but I prefer them to any other means.

A ferry trip feels like a clean beginning, an ending to whatever happened before. As you leave land behind, you also leave behind that worn-out, crusty you who had lost her sense of humor and possibly her grace. . .

Monday, July 06, 2009

Summer Prompt, July 6: Overheard

Prompt: Write an overheard dialogue between two people sitting out on a screened porch on a hot July night. Set this up by introducing the reader to who is eavesdropping and why? Where is the listening during this overheard conversation?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 5 Summer heat

Prompt: Pick a line or a word or an idea from this poem and use it as your starting point.

A Warm Summer in San Francisco

Although I watched and waited for it every day,
somehow I missed it, the moment when everything reached
the peak of ripeness. It wasn't at the solstice; that was only
the time of the longest light. It was sometime after that, when
the plants had absorbed all that sun, had taken it into themselves
for food and swelled to the height of fullness. It was in July,
in a dizzy blaze of heat and fog, when on some nights
it was too hot to sleep, and the restaurants set half their tables
on the sidewalks; outside the city, down the coast,
the Milky Way floated overhead, and shooting stars
fell from the sky over the ocean. One day the garden
was almost overwhelmed with fruition:
My sweet peas struggled out of the raised bed onto the mulch
of laurel leaves and bark and pods, their brilliantly colored
sunbonnets of rose and stippled pink, magenta and deep purple
pouring out a perfume that was almost oriental. Black-eyed Susans
stared from the flower borders, the orange cherry tomatoes
were sweet as candy, the fruit fattened in its swaths of silk,
hummingbirds spiraled by in pairs, the bees gave up
and decided to live in the lavender. At the market,
surrounded by black plums and rosy plums and sugar prunes
and white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, perfumey melons
and mangos, purple figs in green plastic baskets,
clusters of tiny Champagne grapes and piles of red-black cherries
and apricots freckled and streaked with rose, I felt tears
come into my eyes, absurdly, because I knew
that summer had peaked and was already passing
away. I felt very close then to understanding
the mystery; it seemed to me that I almost knew
what it meant to be alive, as if my life had swelled
to some high moment of response, as if I could
reach out and touch the season, as if I were inside
its body, surrounded by sweet pulp and juice,
shimmering veins and ripened skin.

by Carolyn Miller, from Light, Moving. © Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 4:

Write about a struggle you've had--or are having--with dependency.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 3: Summer Camp

Write about summer camp.

If you didn't go to camp, pretend you did and write about that. Or make up a story about somebody who did go.

I found a letter in my childhood keepsake box, "my treasures," addressed to my older sister Nancy and me, from our friend Dodie Pettit, about being at overnight camp:

Please excuse my writing because I am on my bed. This is rest hour. Carol -- I hope you can read script. . .Tonight the Iroquois are going to put on a tribe show. I don't know what it is because I'm a Mohegan and it's a secret.

Thursday our cabin (cabin 7) canoed to Trigger Island for a cookout. We went skinny dipping and tipped the canoes. . .

Dodie has drawn a tiny map in the letter. You might want to create a map of a camp or a camp trail and write about that.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writing Prompt, July 16: Sorrows

"All sorrows can be borne if you tell a story about them."
Karen Blixen

Write about a summer sorrow.

Writing Prompt, July 2: A Summer Word

Pick a word that captures a feeling of summer. Write about it. Here's something I wrote in a prompt workshop. Some of you have heard it. My word: Dawdle


I watch the two little bodies walking down the beach at the water’s edge where the sand is cooler. I can see their shoulders held back, proud of their solo mission, big girls off alone without an adult. As they blur and become dots in the mirage of summer heat, I gaze farther down the beach at their destination, the little gray shingle box of a store, its blue postage size flag rippling.

I imagine their joy at entering that odd little room with its saggy wooden floors, the screen door that slaps shut, and its short shelves holding only the necessities—a few tubes of toothpaste, the package of Oreos, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, paper towel. And at the far end, the magical Mary Poppinsish penny candy counter with glass jars of Mary Jane’s, Hershey Kisses, Reese’s cups, candy cigarettes, Tootsie Rolls and Airheads.

Before they left I reapplied sun screen to their freckled pink faces, insisted they wear long tee-shirts over their swim suits, tucked their salty hair behind their ears, and plopped their pastel baseball caps on their fair heads. Each girl clutched a quarter in her fist.

They will return, waving their little brown bags of melting chocolates and sticky wax papered treats.

My last words to them, these little girls aged eight and five, after promising a swim when they get back, the last words I say to them are, “Don’t dawdle.”

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