Prompt for May 15 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Maybe we all agree that resilience is a necessary component of our collective weathering of this pandemic and its fallout. I’ve read many different pieces of advice on how exactly to develop this resilience though, and it occurs to me that this would be difficult to prescribe in some universal way. But one of my favorites from this week was a post from the Rubin Museum of Art in their “Daily Offering” series, in which classical Indian musician Roopa Mahadevan of Brooklyn Raga Massive reminds us to look to the voices of our elders and to the arts of the past to find “a connecting thread of resilience, of beauty, and of hope.”

The prompt for today’s writing is to engage with a work of art, writing, or music from your heritage, representing a wellspring of the wisdom of your elders. Let that thread lead you into a newly imagined world, as you write in any genre you wish. Then join us at 7pm on Zoom for readings and conversation. Here’s the link to the talk and performance posted by The Rubin, if you wish to listen and be inspired, nourished by the music, too.

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!


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,
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 Carson McCullers House

The personification of nature as “Mother Nature” often feels a bit strange to me. And as we head into Mothers’ Day weekend, I’m reflecting on the nature of this– the oddness of the expectations set up by this poetic gesture.

Perhaps she painted this humble landscape,
whose unbrowsed grasses, daisies, Queen Anne's Lace,
and thistles stretch to the farthest mountain
with no tree or boulder to hide behind,
no landmark the human eye can focus on...

(from THISTLES in a FIELD by Marilyn Nelson,
in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-justice Poetry Anthology, 
ed. Melissa Tuckey)

Maybe it feels odd exactly because I think of it as a poetic gesture, which is something that can be extended infinitely. We can take it too far.

But sometimes it is very useful to our practice to take a figurative usage too far. For tonight’s writing, try stretching the personification to comic, grotesque, charming, or awe-inspiring dimensions. Wonder for a moment what kind of Mothers’ Day card fits this mother.

Imagine and write and join us at 7pm in our virtual salon on Zoom for readings and conversation over these fresh-on-the-page musings.

Prompt for May 8 – Virtual Barat House


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


“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.

Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles

A Walk Up the Driveway (5)

The distance across my harbor.
The equator of my world.
At dusk, an amble up the drive
gray gravel damp underfoot
a milk over cereal crunching

I’ve raked gravel down this driveway in summer heat, sweat stinging broken blisters. I’ve shoveled this driveway after a late winter storm, numbing cold meltwater seeping through the worn-out seams of boots long past their sell-by date. I’ve dug a drainage ditch through wet leaves and hard packed earth in the cold slashing autumn rain. But most of all I’ve ridden a cafeteria tray down hard-packed snow in the half lit night of a winter snowstorm, laughing.

Continue reading “Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles”