Prompt for July 22 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The dog ate my grief

Feel free to apply a “fill in the blank” approach to this prompt. The cat scratched my sense of humor; the frog croaked my homework. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A deeper dive into the prompt . . .

In December 2019, O, the Oprah Magazine began publishing fiction online in Sunday Shorts. In what may or may not be just a weird coincidence, three out of six stories published so far use extended animal metaphors. Laura Van Den Berg’s “The Upstairs People” and Kristen Arnett’s “Birds Surrendered and Rehomed” feature a Great Pyrenees dog and a parrot, respectively, as metaphors for loss and grief. (In Arnett’s case, I can’t help also reading the story as a wry twist on Maya Angelou’s title, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”) Curtis Sittenfeld’s “White Women LOL” portrays a community’s pursuit of a runaway pet and the ways in which its own shameful weaknesses elude its control. Think you might have written something that’s a good fit for the section? O, the Oprah Magazine invites story ideas and other queries at the email address on this page. Oprah and her editors don’t explicitly seek stories involving animals . . . but now that we’ve read between the lines, maybe we know better.

Prompt for July 17 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

I’m reading a poem by one of my mentors, Leslie Ullman, in the new issue of Cloudbank, and I’m reminded of her lessons to me as I headed into my toughest summer, the one in which I was writing a master’s thesis while single-mothering. But that’s not the prompt. The poem, even with its title, “Use fewer notes,” opens the door to this reflective-imaginative opportunity. Take this excerpt inside with you.

   A lost summer blooms...

...we revisit less encumbered versions of

self, the promises
we half-kept and then
  forgot, replacing daydream

with modest achievement
    clutter of passwords
   and rechargeable devices designed

to relieve us of suspension, silence,
  the tease of uncertainty, chord or phrase
    that might have left intervals for what next?

Enjoy your writing time, and then join us at 7pm in our virtual salon for readings and conversation. Hope to see you then!

Prompt for July 16 – Virtual Barat House

In the night . . .

Thank you to River River writer and board member Karen Clark for the prompt, inspired by a friend’s insomnia.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here: Zoom meeting

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

And just because a new comet doesn’t come along every day, here’s a picture of NEOWISE, an in-the-night phenomenon viewable above the Northwestern horizon for the next few weeks.

NEOWISE photographed by Jim Tang over Emerald Bay, California this week

Memoir by Jennifer McArdle from our virtual circles

Learning to Lie

I was born in December, which means I’m a Sagittarius. They’re supposed to be blunt to the point of rudeness.

When I was a kid, I informed my mother about this aspect of my horoscope. She said, “Yes, that’s true.”

My dad often told me that he knew I didn’t lie, which made him proud. For most of my childhood, I am not sure if I actually was incapable of lying, or I just didn’t have any interest in it. I never cheated on an exam or on homework. I never stole anything.

Much to the annoyance of my parents, I also didn’t like lying when I was too old to get the discount for children under a certain age. I didn’t like lying when people gave me presents I didn’t like. I couldn’t lie to be sad when a relative died.

I did lie through omission sometimes; I remember when I was in third grade and had to switch seats with this boy who was always made fun of me and encouraged other boys to be mean to me, too. He had written under his name tag on his desk: “General. Captain. Hero. Man.” I erased all those things and replaced it with, “Stupid”. When we returned to our seats, that boy stared crying, and my teacher asked me, “Was it you?” I just kept coloring, but I never said No.

Continue reading “Memoir by Jennifer McArdle from our virtual circles”

Prompt for July 15 – Virtual Didier Dumas

For those times when you need to fill creative holes . . .

In the “cool tools” department, try an online “placeholder” generator to inspire your creation of new elements. These tools were developed by and for designers to easily generate dummy images in specified sizes—to fill holes, for instance.

I’ve set up this tool to give you a random 400-pixel-square image each time you click the link. If you’d like to play with other sizes or orientations, visit picsum.photos and follow the instructions.

Use the photo(s) you generate to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir). Suggestion: choose one particular aspect of craft (character or persona, setting or landscape, narrative or emotional tone, for instance) for which the photo will be your guide.

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for reading and discussion.

If you would like to share your work on our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm.

Prompt for July 10 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

(This is a re-blog from this Tuesday, a writing prompt crafted by our summer intern Ellie Rostan.)

As the world is being shaken and drastically realigned by COVID-19, normalcy seems lost, and we are lost in the strangeness that is becoming our new normal. Carson McCullers’ poem “When We Are Lost” imparts a universal voice to this very terror of losing oneself in a warped space or time or “the joined trickery of both conceptions.” When we are lost, we writers write. We write to regain our footing, to make sense of the strange, to pull on what is uncomfortable. The prompt is simply this: Write to finish this phrase, however you see fit:
“When we are lost…” 

Join us for our virtual salon on Zoom at 7pm for readings and conversation. And meet Ellie!

Canceled for today – Virtual Barat House

Donna is celebrating her birthday! Please join Anu for the virtual Carson McCullers house circle tonight. The prompt will go live right here at 6pm, and the meeting will be at 7. The meeting link will be posted with the prompt.

You might also consider challenging yourself with this prompt from our intern, Ellie Rostan:

As the world is being shaken and drastically realigned by COVID-19, normalcy seems lost, and we are lost in the strangeness that is becoming our new normal. Carson McCullers’ poem “When We Are Lost” imparts a universal voice to this very terror of losing oneself in a warped space or time or “the joined trickery of both conceptions.” When we are lost, we writers write. We write to regain our footing, to make sense of the strange, to pull on what is uncomfortable. The prompt is simply this: Write to finish this phrase, however you see fit:
“When we are lost…” 

Be well, everyone.

Prompt for July 8 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Dig out that one good moment

Rebecca Watkins, “How to Love a Bad Day”

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for reading and discussion.

If you would like to share your work on our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm.

Open for submissions for issue 12 – and a writing prompt inspired by Carson McCullers

Tomorrow night (July 8) at 8pm, Rivertown Film will screen a conversation with directors Karen Allen and Kristi Zea on their films with the director of the Carson McCullers Center, Nick Norwood, and moderator Susanna Styron from March 25, 2017, celebrating the birthday centennial events in 2017 organized by CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians. Be sure to check it out on their YouTube channel, part of their Artists from the Archives series. In the meantime, one of the teen writers who participated in the events that year, Ellie Rostan, offers a special writing prompt for this week:

As the world is being shaken and drastically realigned by COVID-19, normalcy seems lost, and we are lost in the strangeness that is becoming our new normal. Carson McCullers’ poem “When We Are Lost” imparts a universal voice to this very terror of losing oneself in a warped space or time or “the joined trickery of both conceptions.” When we are lost, we writers write. We write to regain our footing, to make sense of the strange, to pull on what is uncomfortable. The prompt is simply this: Write to finish this phrase, however you see fit:
“When we are lost…” 

Send us your writing! Our open submissions period for issue 12 continues until the end of August. While we are not accepting new poetry as we deal with the quarantine backlog, fiction and creative non-fiction sections need your best work.

Prompt for July 3 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Borrowings, gleanings, erasures, black-outs, and riffs. These are a few of the ways that poets reuse the canon to make new, fully alive verse. In honor of Independence Day, our national holiday, let’s make something living out of the old poem by Francis Scott Key. What’s your vision, and “[w]hat is that which the breeze… now conceals, now discloses?”

Try shaking up the old poem and writing something new out of the process. Then join us at 7pm for our online salon on Zoom for readings and conversation. Hope to see you!