occasionally updated blog

  • whitehouse:

    Sally Ride transformed history when she became the first American woman to fly into space. To remember Sally and celebrate what would have been her 64th birthday, find out how she inspired us to reach for the stars.

    I was Sally Ride in my grammar school play. I wore a full body snow suit as a costume. I read a lot about who she was and what she did. Possibility is a everything.

  • NiProWriMo 9/30 or Just Passing Through

    What are those large social issues that plague the world by existing? I’m talking about slut shaming and body shaming and police brutality against black people and misogyny and hunger and and and

    List as many as you can. No time limit. Write until your hand cramps.

    Today, I want use to use a ghost line*. Now, obviously, I ask you to write lists because I think they can be useful in writing into/out from a prompt, but they aren’t binding. I’m going to ask that you, despite your own resistance, draw from list.

    [* A ghost line is a line that we write from, that we may erase later. You start your poem or line(s) with the line. For example if my ghost line is “We never wore them…”, I might start each line with that exact phrase or I might start each stanza with it or I might start a train of thought with it and see where it goes and, when/if I run out of steam, I start with that line again.

    It is equal parts anchor and tether, allowing you freedom to explore and freedom to return to where you started. As you draft and re-draft, you may erase the line or you may to keep it.]

    Choose an issue that only impacts you minimally. For example, it has been a long time since I have truly hungry, so I could choose hunger (but not misogyny or racism against black folks). Describe your relationship to it. This is a kind of name in a circle in the middle of the page with arrows and lines to ideas/details exercise; you are not aiming for complete sentences or even complete thoughts.  What is your relationship to this? When have you seen it? Where? What does it look like? Anything you can think of. Access your sense if possible.

     Our ghost is: It wasn’t mine. I was a tourist

    Check me out. 

  • NiProWriMo 8/30 or The Letter of the Day

    Choose a letter, any letter [spreads them out on a table before like a magician]. Write the letter down; commit.

    I’m often surprised by my vocabulary - the way it finds a word I haven’t seen/heard in years at just the right time and the way it seems to shrink every day. It’s often a muscle that we allow to languish, favoring the familiar and unassuming instead of the showy stuff of calendars and SATs.

    Set a time for 2 minutes and list every word you can think of that begins with your chosen letter.


    Say all the words out loud. Feel them in your mouth and body. Now, pick the word that feels right right now.

    Do you have it?

    Now dissect it. I don’t mean etymology; I mean cut it open.

    What sounds make up its body? What organs does it house? Does it bleed? Is this a dissection or a vivisection?

    More prompts? Possibly.

  • NiProWriMo 7/30 or Run

    What do want? Can you think of things, physical and experiential, that you desire? Name it. Name them. For 2 minutes list things you want - as many or as few as you can think of.

    A few days ago, I read this article on the winners of the 90s Nickelodeon toy runs. Since then, I’ve been thinking about getting what we want.

    What happens when you get what you want in triplicate or quadruplicate? What do you do with the extra? Where do you store it? What does it cost to obtain/maintain? What unexpected accessories come along with it? What does it do your relationships?

    Imagine yourself on the “[thing you want] Run.” You can have anything you can carry: cars, joys, money, lovers, love, revenge, etc. What are the rules of the run? What is your strategy? How does that strategy work out in the heat of running?

    Psst. You. Wanna support these writing prompts?

  • NiProWriMo 5/30 or You Can't Get Thar from Here

    Let’s start with two questions?

    What one word can describe the worst you ever felt? What one word can describe the best you ever felt?

    Today, write direction for how to get from one of those places to the other.

    What is the starting point like? What senses does it activate? What landmarks do you pass on the way? What method of transportation do you take to get there? How do you know when you’ve arrived? Is it a round trip? How long is the journey? What does the landscape look like?

    Hi, I make stuff. You can help.

  • NiProWriMo 4/30 or Open Mic: The Poem

    In my classes, we talk a decent amount about intertextuality; how are these texts talking to each other and about what?

    If you you’ve ever been entrenched in a poetry scene of any kind, you may have a more visceral real-time experience of this.

    Let’s steal that form. It’s not exactly call-and-response and it’s not quite (but maybe it is) passive aggressive notes.

    Write a series of short poems (haiku perhaps) that are in conversation with each other. I hesitate to say stanzas because I want to emphasize the separateness of the positions between the two voices. Imagine the poems as coming from two distinct speakers.

    If there’s a relationship that you’ve been looking to explore, now’s the time.

     Note: This doesn’t need to be serious. I keep thinking of the poem/answer-poem that often happens after poets in a scene end their relationship. That possibility of humor, though, doesn’t negate the attention that you should pay to voice and pacing.

    p.s. Want to help support these writing prompts?

  • NiProWriMo 3/30 or Epistolarian

    Make a list of life-changing events - events from your life or general events. The time you got hit my an 82 Hyundai or spending your first night alone after a breakup. The time your Uncle Drew got drunk on [holiday you celebrate] or finding out that [thing people believe in] isn’t real.

    If you are feeling like you want to get outside of yourself, list events that have happened to other people. Martin Luther King, Jr. being assassinated.  Jennifer Lawrence  winning the Oscar. Your neighbor getting divorced.

    People often write letters to their old selves. The idea that we could have changed who we became if we had given ourselves just the right advice at just the right time is a delicious fairy tale. But, I want to address the inevitability of who we are/who we became/who we will become.

    Today, pick one of those life-changing events and write to the person involved 5 minutes before the event. You cannot change what will happen, what do you say? What do they need to hear?

    Hi, there. I’m doing a thing.

  • NiProWriMo 2/30 or I Give it a 4

    List a few things you do every day. We’re not looking for deep here, just mundane things you do. Make coffee. Flush the toilet (I hope!). Check the mail.

    List a few things you see other people do every day. My neighbor brings her kids in from her car. The other neighbor stands on his porch looking around (cough, judging us all, cough). My boss walks to the kitchen holding an empty mug.

    List a few things that most people do; aim for a range of mundane to intimate. Unlock the door. Get mail. Take a bath. Kiss a lover. Return email. Attend a funeral.

    I’m a teacher so often I was observed and critiqued as a part of my job. The way it works is simple: my direct supervisor sends me an email saying that she’d like to sit in on a class. I say yes. She shows up, takes notes, and then writes a report that I must sign and comment on. The signed report goes to the higher ups and is a part of my employment record.

    It’s meant to evaluate my teaching and  point out areas that can be improved on.  Honestly, it’s a a very useful thing.

    Today, evaluate something or respond to an evaluation.  What does a formal evaluation of your high school partner’s kissing say? How would you respond to an evaluation of your recent performance at a funeral.

    If you are feeling particularly judge-y, try evaluating an entire relationship. Daughter: A Formal Review.

    The lists you produced should provide a jumping off point, but feel free to veer off in unexpected directions. (If you want to get outside of yourself, you can critique something from a different POV. How would you car critique your driving? How would the coffee critique the barista?)

    Here’s the thing, everyone does something right. An observation, if it is honest, is rarely a condemnation. It is also rarely unmitigated praise.

    Wanna support more writing prompts?

  • NiProWriMo 1/30

    I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to even attempt prompts again this year, but I figured - in the Spirit of the Dread Pirate Roberts - I can always give up tomorrow. That said, I like gardening. Right now on my dresser, there are tiny beans growing, two not-even-close-yet watermelons, a dream of a cantoloupe, and maybe thirty small hints of tomato plants. The idea of the plants is probably larger than the plants. They, for me, are relaxation; dirt is the closest I get to meditation. So, I have to ask: what am I really trying to grow? Two options. 1) Pick and abstraction (love, hate, fear, etc.) and grow it from/into something literal. What medium does it grow in? Does it flower or vine? Is it fruit bearing or is a tuber? What do you water/feed it with? How did you prepare the soil/medium? 2) Plant a literal seed and reap an abstraction. If you plant tomato seeds in the garden, but prepare the soil with the ashes of a parent, what blooms? If you plant pumpkins, in the spring instead of the summer what sprouts?

    Psst. You. Wanna support these writing prompts?

  • It's not your birthday, but you can still cry if you want to

    At Two River Theater, the current offering is Absurd Person Singular. Beyond the amazing title, it offers us lot of possibilities for inspiration.

    While we’ll be lobbing no spoilers, it is safe to say that there are three couples going to three parties. Let’s start here.

    These are just questions to push you in an absurd direction. Include as many answers as you can in your piece.

    Before the party

    Pick (or create) a holiday. What customs are associated with the celebration? Add a custom.

    You are invited to a celebratory party. Who is invites you and how is the invitation delivered?

    What feeling do you most associate with the host? (Put that feeling aside for later)

    What will you wear?

    At the Party

    What gift do you bring to the host? When do you arrive? Are you dressed appropriately? Who do you see?

    When appetizers are served they are made of the emotion you associate with your host. What are they? Do you like them? Eat them? Hide them in a napkin?

    What do you drink? What is everyone else drinking?

    Something catches on fire; what is it? (How) does the flame get put out? What is lost in the fire?

    There is an animal at the party? What is it? What is its name? What does it want? How did it get there?

    Where is your date? Who is your date? Who else are they talking to? What is the small talk question you are most bored with? 

    What song does the radio blare?

    When you leave, what do you take with you?

    After the Party

    How do you get home? Who comes with you? Will you be invited back? Will you go? What do you do with the thing you’ve taken?

  • The Writing Process Tour

    What are you working on?

    I am working on reestablishing a daily writing practice. I am happiest with my work when I have that. I am more vulnerable and straightforward if I am writing as part of a committed routine. Since I haven’t been writing every day, I am making more art (sewing, collage, etc.) to fill that need. This part of me - the person who enjoys the making of a thing - is surprised to find that words are seeping into these other media.  

     I have been circling and re-circling motherhood in my writing. What it means. How it functions. The policing of it. Part of that story, if I tell it, is linked inextricably to race, color, and privilege. It might be most honest to say that I’m writing a series of poems about the complications of family.   

    How does your work differ from others of its genre?

    The simplest answer: I’m writing it. What I write is coming from a combination of my identities. it is me mapping who and what I am in a world I do not understand. On any day the baker in me may be writing about walking to get sushi. The teacher may be writing about children. The mother may be writing about incurable illness. There are enough mes in enough combinations to produce something new. My challenge is give voice to them, even the ones I do not like or am not proud of.

    Why do you write what you do?

    Because it is this or gasoline and anger.

    How does your writing process work? 

    I start everything in head. In my car to be specific. I have a 45 minute commute these days, which is shorter than what it used to be. Sometimes I turn the music off and sit with an idea. Not an idea for a poem or story or essay, just an idea.  I marinate on it. I allow myself to wonder and pick it with questions. Something will get stuck in my head then: a question, an answer to a question, a way of looking at it. I marinate on that. Then a line comes. It may be a lonely thing for a good long time, but eventually another comes. Once there are 3 or 4 lines I am interested in, I find a good smooth pen and I sit down to write. What comes from that session gets read out loud or left alone. I try to give myself either an audience or time to help me learn what is essential and what is me meandering around the thing I want to say or describe.

    When I am writing daily, I catch better ideas. The drawback of my current habit is that ideas/ thoughts/ lines slip away. 

  • [exhale]

    While it wasn’t intentional, it seems fitting; yesterday’s prompt started with the words “I’m thinking, today, of endings.”

    I think that prompt - 20 out of a goal of 30 - will end my NiProWriMo. I may sneak in another by Wednesday, but, if I don’t, I’m okay with it.

    That said, my friend Lauren had an idea: #MakingMay. I’m down. I may only get 20 things made, but it’ll be 20 more than I have now.

  • 20/30 NiProWriMo or Bookends

    I am thinking, today, of endings. When will the last time my child asks me to kiss an ache be? What forgettable night was the last time my dad made me pancakes?

    I am thinking, too, of beginnings. I remember holding each of my children for the first time.

    Today, let us structure our memories using this format:

    The first time

    The last time

    It may take a line or a stanza to complete those thoughts. You may cycle through them once or ten times. The goal is not to arrive at a conclusion, but to witness the span of the thing.

    I’m doing a thing. Wanna help?

  • 19/30 NiProWriMo or Skill set

    There are some things that people assume we are – or should be good at – for reasons that are beyond our control. For example, how am I supposed to know how to stop my kid from crying? I’m a person, not a trained child psychologist. Oh, because I’m a mom? Write down a few of the things people (and/or you) have assumed you’re good at.

    Now, who might actually be good at those things?

    Write to them.

    You can ask them for advice (How can you be better at those things?), you can complain (“Everyone treats me like I’m you.”), or both or neither.

    Hey there, writerly type. I could use your support.