Prompt for May 22 – Virtual Barat House

A Bird’s Eye View

Consider anything difficult you may be writing—or avoiding writing, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Distance yourself and look at it from a completely different perspective; free yourself, for a moment, from the gravity of your difficulty. Try writing it from a bird’s eye view.

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.

Deeper dive into the prompt

Five hundred million birds arc the sky over the hills of Beit Jala every year. They move by ancient ancestry: hoopoes, thrushes, flycatchers, warblers, cuckoos . . . It is the world’s second busiest migratory superhighway: at least four hundred different species of birds torrent through, riding different levels in the sky . . . Every year a new landscape appears underneath: Israeli settlements, Palestinian apartment blocks, rooftop gardens, barracks, barriers, bypass roads.

Colum McCann, Apeirogon

Colum McCann’s Apeirogon deals with intimate aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff along the West Bank. There is very little upon which any two people may agree about this particular political and human situation, except that it is very difficult to talk (or write) about.

McCann balances the extreme vulnerability and hurt of the book’s main characters against a literal bird’s eye view of the region, loosely following the migration of birds.

Protip from Lynda Barry: Spiral Your Way In

Before I begin writing, I set a timer for two minutes and I draw a slow, tight spiral and I let my mind’s eye drift to scenes . . . I just draw the spiral and drift. I set the timer again and make a list of any of those scenes and any other scenes that come to me. I look for scenes I can picture like snapshots. Things I was doing, places I went, where and what and who.

Lynda Barry, “Month’s Mind: Pandemic Diary Project” in The New York Times, Sunday, May 3, 2020
Illustration from Syllabus by Lynda Barry

Prompt for May 20 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The World Is Your ______

I like oysters, but not everyone does . . . and regardless, I don’t aspire to interact with the world as if it were a legless, semi-ambulatory saltwater mollusk that is only .01% likely to spit pearls. Meet me in the morning with wild tail-thumping and sloppy kisses; ask me for walks, food puzzles, and belly rubs; if I show up to play, let the world delight and surprise me with all the ways in which it is good!

What beast of a world do you (or your fictional characters, or your poetic persona) wrestle and play with? Or do you slurp it up with a little cocktail sauce and a squirt of lemon?

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 8pm here.

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.

Borrowed Pages – A tribute to Terry Jones

Back in January, before the pandemic, we lost a Python.

Writer, director, and Chaucer scholar Terry Jones was perhaps most famous for his portrayal of Brian’s mother in Monty Python’s Life of Brian—“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy. Now go away!”and as the purveyor of, er, craft street food featuring SPAM.

In Terry’s honor, the illustrations for this post were offered as a prompt for write! in late January, 2020. Participants at the writing circles, as they so often do with the prompt, made SPAM their own.

Enjoy the resulting Borrowed Pages!

Continue reading “Borrowed Pages – A tribute to Terry Jones”

Friday write! Cancelled This Week

Hello! In case you haven’t received Meetup or Facebook notifications about it, this Friday’s write! (Virtual Barat House), usually happening from 12-2pm, is cancelled. Donna will be attending her son’s virtual college graduation! (The New School Class of 2020, BFA in Design Technology, for anyone who’d like to know . . . ) And Maureen has a conflict as well. Hope to see you next week.

This evening’s write! (Virtual Carson McCullers House), blog prompt at 6, virtual meeting at 7, will take place as scheduled.

Prompt for May 13 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Fill in the First Line

I’m insanely proud of my son, a new college graduate, who is designing an educational game about democratic electoral systems, based in part on Mad Libs, to promote the idea that the power to vote should make you happy (kids these days . . .). In his honor, below are a few first lines from novels, partially eviscerated for your creative enjoyment.

Fill in the blanks and 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 8pm here.

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.

★The sky above the NOUN was the color of television, tuned to a(n) ADJECTIVE channel. (William Gibson, Neuromancer)

★Ships at a distance have every PERSON’s NOUN on board. (Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God)

★I was born twice: first, as a(n) NOUN, on a remarkably smogless PLACE day in January of 1960; and then again, as a(n) NOUN, in a(n) ROOM near PLACE, in August of 1974. (Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex)

★As I was a stranger in PLACE, I knew nothing of the splendor of its GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE, nor of NAME, the Harbor City, whose lights and colors spill into the ocean like a NOUN. (Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria)

★Our mother performed in NOUN. (Karen Russell, Swamplandia)

Fiction by Stuart Nager from our virtual circles

The party took a turn when I was in the shower. Steam clouded the entire bathroom. I was waiting. It was taking its time tonight. A heavy thumping on the door makes me jump every time. Three times: THUMP pause THUMP pause THUMP! Silence. I thought it wouldn’t happen tonight. I was wrong. My eyes jerked to the curtain with the first THUMP. The second THUMP and my stomach fell to my ankles. My heart skipped a beat while my testicles disappeared with the third THUMP. The sound of the water beating down drowned out. Rain without sound. That rain was now scalding my skin. That damn noise!

Again.

Continue reading “Fiction by Stuart Nager from our virtual circles”

Poetry by Tedo Wyman from our virtual circles

May Day

"Sunday morning,
chat in the backyard
sounds great," I text,
and it sounds
like a plan,
a téte-â-téte
under her sweetgum tree
at opposite ends of the yard,
in lawnchairs.
We'll keep our voices
up, yell at each other
those private things
friends need to share
my sex life,
her rage,
it'll be the next
"Overheard in Nyack"
podcast, we'll dub the
episode "Two Crones Vent" or
"Broads Go Bonkers in Lockdown."
Neighbors will tune in live,
we'll blow enough foam
off the oat lattés
to modify the air current
of our spirits:
summon Feng Po Po,
pull off the stoic masks,
emerge from
screened images,
rampage
into the trenches
of flesh and blood to
invoke the Anemoi,
banish Boreas,
declare victory.

Image from #atthebirdfeeder © 2020 david e bell

Prompt for May 8 – Virtual Barat House

Aspiration

In a moment like this for sure I see
how lazy and insufficient in love
have been those dreadfully many moments
that came before and came before as I
sleepwalked through them feeling very clever
while speaking slowly of mindfulness.

George Saunders

This is the first line of “Aspiration,” a short poem that George Saunders shared with fans in a recent newsletter, the first that he’s sent out since the pandemic lockdowns began. I personally find the line an apt observation of what happens within at the moment of so many personal transformations.

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 for readings and discussion.

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.

Fiction by Daniel Bliss from our virtual circles

Disturbance

“Dr. Finkelstein, I have to thank you for seeing me on such short notice, I—” She felt the room around her disintegrating and recombining with each of her breaths, with the beat of her heart. In, like the outer world were made of sand, swept away by the wind. Out, back again, completely reconstituted. She closed her eyes. It was better with her eyes closed, she realized.

“Not at all, my dear,” the doctor said. “I live to serve my patients, every one.”

Staccato, between short breaths, she started talking: “A week ago . . . you gave me . . . a bottle. You told me—”

“A bottle?”

“All right, go on.”

“What was in that bottle, Dr. Finkelstein?”

Continue reading “Fiction by Daniel Bliss from our virtual circles”

Prompt for May 6 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The party took a turn when . . .

This prompt is inspired by the first line of one of my favorite novels on family complications, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. But you don’t have to write about family.

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 8pm here.

If you would like 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.

Deeper dive into the prompt

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I’m a mother several times over, and I love my own mother, but I’ve always felt conflicted about the holiday. Mother’s Day greeting cards epitomize the silly but very human urge we all have to simplify the complex. (To say the least.) Commonwealth explodes the myth of the simple, serene nuclear American family truthfully, with insight and good humor. If Mother’s Day is truly about family, Commonwealth is the slant Mother’s Day card you’ll never find on the rack.