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.

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”

Prompt for May 1 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Poet Eavan Boland died this week, and I have been too sad to think about it until just now, as I started considering what prompt might honor her memory.

I learned a lot from her in a book she co-edited with Mark Strand, The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. She reflects in her wonderfully personal introductory essay on the way her lyric voice started to enter and claim the domain of traditional forms:

“To start with, if I get up from the table, walk out of my room, I can hear the breathing and stirring of my small children. All day I will have been with them: lifting them, talking to them, drying their tears, setting their clothes aside at the end of the day. Through all these tasks and pleasures I have begun to hear my voice. It is the entirely natural, sometimes exasperated and always human voice of someone living in the middle of their life, from task to task, full of love and intense perceptions.”

I found it wonderfully consoling to think of her, esteemed poet, sounding exasperated. The exercise to begin your writing tonight: jot down a sentence or fragment you said earlier today to someone. It could be something from a text or email that you sent. And then go someplace from there, paying attention to the form of the utterance and the form of what comes next, in whatever genre you prefer.

Join us on zoom at 7pm tonight for readings and conversation. Hope to see you then!

Prompt for May 1 – Virtual Barat House

In and Out of the Frame

Choose an image from this Life magazine archive , from your own photographs, or from a work of art—here’s one featured on Google Arts and Culture today, but you might prefer one that’s hanging on your wall. Or just look outside, restricting yourself to the confines of the window frame.

What can you reveal about the unseen? Does one of the people in the frame have a hidden characteristic or secret? You can extend this question to animals and other beings, to the plants, the built or natural landscape, the historical period, whether real or imagined. Extend beyond the frame, if you like.

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.


Thank you to River River board member and Journal editor Rebecca Watkins and her poetry for inspiring this prompt.

Prompt for April 29 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Disturbance

Some disturbances are small: a tree falls in a forest, creating a light gap. Some are huge: a tsunami knocks open a nuclear power plant.

[D]isturbance is always at the middle of things: the term does not refer us to a harmonious state before disturbance. Disturbances follow other disturbances. Thus all landscapes are disturbed; disturbance is ordinary . . . Whether a disturbance is bearable or unbearable is a question worked out through what follows it: the reformation of assemblages.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, “The Life of the Forest,” Chapter 11 in The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

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.

Prompt for April 24 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Following a recipe, following a knitting pattern, flowing through a hands-on project step-by-step with a formula to guide it — these can be some of the most satisfying and soothing activities. Write a piece that uses the format of a list of instructions. Let it meander off course, if you want. Or describe an exercise in following instructions that goes horribly wrong. Let your inner muse provide the manual…

Write something and join us on Zoom at 7pm for reading and conversation. Send us your writing for the River River blog. We will try to publish as many pieces as we can during this quarantine and virtual salon period. This is our way of keeping up as much of the vitality of our in-person circles as possible.

Prompt for April 24 – Virtual Barat House

Once Upon a Time . . . but better?

Make a short list of fairy tales you know well. Was there something about any of these stories you’d like to play with or change? For example, I personally think that if I were Cinderella, I would prefer a pair of Seven League Boots to glass slippers. And perhaps the story of Snow White, a poisoned princess in suspended animation in a big glass box resuscitated by the breath of a courageous man, takes on new meaning in the era of the coronavirus, suggesting hyper-reality rather than straight escapist fantasy.

Once Upon a Time . . . but better. 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’d like 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.

Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles

A Walk Up the Driveway (4)

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

The damp chills through to the bone tonight. I’m traveling again, time and space are soft and fluid. It’s the 60’s. It’s one of those infinitely long early summer evenings in the south of England. The low angled sunlight is warm gold. We’ve gone walkabout from our lodgings. We’re near Canterbury, if memory serves me right, on the edge of the rolling green the English call the Downs. Horse country in so many ways.

Not far there is the giant outline of a running horse etched onto the side of a hill. The horse dates from late Bronze Age, some time between 1380 and 550 BC. Turf was cut away by ancient artisans revealing the white chalk underneath. What is amazing is that from inception until late in the 19th century, there has been a chalking day festival every seven years and as part of the festival the turf was trimmed back, and swept clean.

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