Jumpstart Your Writing: Valentine’s Day Prompts

We’re headed into the third week of our “Jumpstart Your Writing” workshop here on Sanibel. It is going well. Nine of us are writing like crazy. For each class, I’ve created an envelope of “jumpstarts.” The first week the ten-minute prompts were adapted from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Faraway. I typed and printed out a couple of sheets of Natalie’s ten-minute writing prompts and then cut the paper into slips, which I placed in an envelope for each person. The idea is to draw one or two slips from the envelope and, without pausing to think too much, plunge in and write for at least ten-minutes. The second week’s envelope included prompts based on stories and people. The third week’s collection was from the prompts we each created during the first class meeting. Other strategies have included story-telling (comparing oral and written versions of the same story) and writing from photographs. We’re using In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction for inspiration and as models for our own writing. Next week we focus on words. We’ll each bring in a piece of writing that we love because of the words.

imagesSince tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here are two poems: one by Tony Hoagland, one by Gertrude Stein (which I like because of the sound of the words.)

The prompt (Hoagland): Pick a simple object (like a windchime) and pair that object with a person you love or loved. (It doesn’t have to be romantic love. Any kind of love will do just fine.) Write for ten minutes.

The prompt (Stein): “Twinkling with delight…” Use this phrase as a start. Go for ten minutes. (Note: If you click on the high-lighted word burr in Stein’s poem, you will find a page that talks about Stein,Toklas, and this poem. You’ll also see that Stein’s poem was a kind of “note in a bottle.” I’ll say more about this in my next blog.)



She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.
No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.


“Windchime” copyright © 2003 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted from What Narcissism Means to Me with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org


[The house was just twinkling in the moon light]


The house was just twinkling in the moon light,
And inside it twinkling with delight,
Is my baby bright.
Twinkling with delight in the house twinkling
with the moonlight,
Bless my baby bless my baby bright,
Bless my baby twinkling with delight,
In the house twinkling in the moon light,
Her hubby dear loves to cheer when he thinks
and he always thinks when he knows and he always
knows that his blessed baby wifey is all here and he
is all hers, and sticks to her like burrs, blessed baby


Gertrude Stein, “[The house was twinkling in the moon light]” from Baby Precious Always Shines: Selected Love Notes Between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (St. Martin’s Press, 1999). Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Gertrude Stein.

These poems (and thousands more) can be found on the Poetry Foundation website:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org.

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