A farewell

I’m sad to announce that River River Writers Circle is ending its run, partly because its crew has been busy working other ships (i.e., our day jobs, families, and other organizations) during the last several pandemic months. Sad, but remember that this means your local libraries, schools, colleges and communities to which we contribute our time and talent have been enriched by the smart, sweet and sincere work that we’ve been doing here. Our efforts in the literary arts haven’t gone away; they’ve gone into the daily machinery.

When I started organizing River River with Donna Miele and David Bell in 2015, the main focus was always in-person gatherings. The need for writers to be together, and to have opportunities to create together, share, and listen to one another, was clear then. We managed to keep the Zoom salons going for months, but it seemed counter to the culture and mission of the organization to continue without the opportunity for in-person events.

Considering that our board members/editors work as school teachers, librarians, freelancers, tutors, professors, parents and writers, I’m amazed at what we managed to get done during this extremely difficult COVID-19 period. There are many people to thank for supporting us in our 6-year run as a nonprofit, but I especially want to highlight our local community of writers who have shown up to events with smiles, tears, and so much heart. We did this all for you.

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.

Prompt for January 29 – Virtual Barat House

You do not know how much there is in the hedges.

The line is from The Life of the Fields by Richard Jeffries, published in 1884.

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

Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of 19th century literature on English country landscaping. This quote and citation came from a Goodreads search of “hedge.”

“Hedge” is also sometimes used as a literary term, apart from its colloquial use. The Cambridge Dictionary characterizes hedge words and phrases as a necessary part of polite conversation. See also, though, this cautionary blog post by Jane Friedman against using hedge words (and inflation words) in your writing.

Prompt for January 27 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Dear friend (or otherwise)

Although the holidays are traditionally the time of year to reconnect with friends, family, and acquaintances, the reflective quiet of late winter often prompts me to reach out across “that burning bridge,” as Michelle Shocked called it. Epistolary stories and poems—creative writing based upon letter-writing—bring immediacy, intimacy, and depth to setting and narrative voice, whether the intended recipient is the narrator’s beloved or otherwise.

Imagine a letter or a correspondence in which one person wants something from the other.

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.

Prompt for January 22 – Virtual Barat House

It just wants love

Make a list of images that represent fears (a creepy doll, for instance). As you imagine encountering one of those images (the creepy doll comes to life . . .), also imagine embodying the image that inspires fear (be the doll!).

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 about the prompt

This is from Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses (Catapult 2021). Salesses offers an exercise on voice through reflection on what we fear, and on how we inspire fear. He provides a personal example of his fear of dolls, imagining “a doll that comes to life and just wants love—but creepily.”