Prompt for February 19 – Virtual Barat House

You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

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 for readings and discussion.

Notes on the prompt

This is the last line of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She offers it as part of her response to her students’ frequent question, “So why does writing matter, again?”

Thank you so much for gathering over the last few years with us, both in person and online! We hope to be back sometime, in some way. In the meantime, keep writing and creating. It has been a joy and a wonderful period of exploration.

Prompt for February 17 – Virtual Didier Dumas

I never looked back.

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.

Notes on the prompt

This is actually a last line, from the story “Gold Coast” by James Alan McPherson. The narrator has told the entire story by looking back on his time as a janitor, so the line is sort of ironic, sort of forboding: perhaps we never escape the circumstances from which we believe we’ve risen; or perhaps what drives us dwells so deep in our memories that we’re not even aware of always looking back. The idea for this prompt came from writer and editor Rachel King.

Prompt for February 12 – Virtual Barat House

Watch me.

A delighted toddler, the guy who hands you his beer just before a brawl, a plea from a vulnerable neighbor . . .

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 for readings and discussion.

Note on the prompt

It’s a stock phrase, taken in this case from the title of a new thriller by Mark Wisniewski, Watch Me Go.

Prompt for February 10 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Go Someplace You Don’t Belong

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.

Notes on the prompt

This was offered by the author and teacher Jeffrey Rotter in a workshop. It’s intended to guide writers in creating and developing setting for fiction, but should work well to inspire any form. The idea is to give your inner eye permission to look at details from which you might unconsciously shy away.

Prompt for February 5 – Virtual Barat House

My name is Ruth. I grew up with my younger sister, Lucille, under the care of my grandmother, Mrs. Sylvia Foster, and when she died, of her sisters-in-law, Misses Lily and Nona Foster, and when they fled, of her daughter, Mrs. Sylvia Fisher. Through all these generations of elders we lived in one house, my grandmother’s house, built for her by her husband, Edmund Foster, an employee of the railroad, who escaped this world years before I entered it. It was he who put us down in this unlikely place.

Opening of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

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 for readings and discussion.

A note on how to use the prompt

Writing is part of a conversation. We write to articulate our understanding of the world, and through writing, we often come to a new understanding. Sometimes we even succeed in bringing readers along with us. Reading helps us as writers because, though we might not be conscious of doing so, we write in response to what we read. 

So you might enter into conversation with this prompt by simply jumping off from the first sentence, “My name is Ruth,” and wondering what kind of person Ruth is.

Or you might jump off from another part of the excerpt that stirs you up. (For me, it would be that last sentence: “It was he who put us down in this unlikely place.”)

Or you might respond to the excerpt as if you were conversing with Ruth. To whom is she speaking, where is the conversation taking place, and how does that person respond? You might also write as if you were corresponding with Ruth through a personal email, a business email, or as if this excerpt were part of Ruth’s yearly holiday letter (did she write it to you? Or have you nosily read someone else’s mail?).

Or you might respond by picking up a different book and finding a different first line from which to jump!

Hope you find some richness here.

Prompt for February 3 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Ever since you were a boy, you’ve dreamt of being Kung Fu Guy.

You are not Kung Fu Guy.

From Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Everyone is the star of their own movie. It might not be a movie that anyone else wants to watch, but maybe things will change.

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.