In 2014 and 2015, I facilitated workshops for Write Around Portland. The workshops typically include 6-10 minute free writes, based on a variety of prompts. The idea is to provide a chance for people who typically do not have the opportunity to write, to explore their creativity and create community. Write Around Portland is a great organization that does good things in our community. Writing through prompts is really, really fun.
Prompt: As I sat there
It's hot. The sun burns through the sky, not a shred of cloud to block its sizzling rays. All I can do is sit here. That's how it is for rocks. No legs, no hands, hell, not even a fin or a sail. Nope, not for a rock. You've heard the phrases, I bet you've said them: dumb as a box of rocks, solid like a rock, stone cold dead. Who wants to be dumb, solid, and dead? Not me.
Not that anyone asked. They never do.
At least last week I was in the grass. That was OK. Cooler, anyway, though kind of scratchy. Then some half-brained kid picks me up – no reason, mind you – and hurls me towards a stop sign. Clang. Yeah, funny. I’m pretty sure I left a dent. I'm probably smeared with red paint, too, though I’ll never know. No eyes, remember? So now I’m stuck here, in the dirt, next to a road, with no cover at all and the sun beating down and every once in a while a car hurtles past, wheels inches from me, washed in exhaust. It’s only a matter of time before someone veers over just a hair and then… wham. Cars are heavy. Trucks are worse. Trust me, I know. You think I was always this small? This smooth? I used to be big, edgy, sharp. I used to tower over people. I used to intimidate. Now I’m just a hunk of granite, hand sized, easy to throw.
If I weren't I rock, I would scream.
Prompt: In November
In November the air turns cold. Leaves fall off of trees and the streets are littered with piles of their death. Outside, people play football on an icy field. Inside, we drink hot chocolate and read beside the fire. The wind slips past the unsealed doors and single pane windows. It’s the time of year you want to have a cat for the warmth it will bring to your lap.
In November, the relatives arrive, carrying bags of groceries and old habits. Adults squabble over whose turn it is to carve the turkey. Children run beneath the table feedings scraps to the dog. No one pays them enough attention so they create their own traditions that they can argue about in the years to come. In twenty years they’ll be the ones drinking wine and asking each other remember the time when…? They will laugh and feel nostalgic about the relatives no longer among them. Uncle Ralph’s annoying jokes will take on charm in the glow of the afterlife.
In November, the stores put away their Halloween atrocities and pull out the Christmas ones. People post pious sentiments on Facebook thanking the universe for the good fortune they blaze across their pages: I am lucky. Admire my wealth of good fortune and my modesty for being thankful about it. Soon we will be shopping and encouraging each other to think of those less fortunate, at least for a few days, and making resolutions most of us won’t keep. It is a time of optimism and depression, of joining and losing family, of excess and desolation.
In November the year slides towards its end and the world lights a candle and hopes for better things to come.
Prompt: The rain dripped
The rain dripped over the windowsill and oozed down the wall to join the growing puddle on the floor. Amy moved her toes up higher on the bed even though she was perfectly dry. She tried not to look too closely at the wet. It seemed to her there was something in it, a shadow just below the surface sending ripples. But that wasn't possible.
Amy pulled the covers up over her knees. The air felt chilly. She wished she had remembered to close the window before she went to bed. Now, studying the writhing wet, she decided it was too late. The puddle had depth to it. It shivered. And it was definitely spreading faster than it should. The drip from the window was steady, sure, but that seeping moisture barely qualified as a trickle. So how had the puddle gotten so big? The farthest edges licked the feet of her bed – or maybe it had spread farther than that – she’d have to lean over to check under the bed and there was no way she was doing that. She was almost certain there was something in the water now, even if that was impossible. She could hear it. She was pretty sure it was humming. And that was so not good.
Prompt: Is this yours?
She sat on the bench eating a sandwich
It tasted like ink with a dusting of apostrophes
When she bit into it, the letters scattered
Pigeons pecked at them
Swallowing them one by one
Is this yours? a man asked, holding up an “L”
She studied his suede boots
The pigeons lifted their heads
Their eyes as bright as pins
The man kept walking
Wait, she thought, but he didn't
She watched the boots cross the plaza
One blue, one red, a flag without stars
She thought he might be the star
She wished she hadn't eaten the sandwich
She should have saved the letters
Strung them together
Told the man her name