Connie A Thompson

Category Archives: Writing

Writer Wednesday: Writing Prompts

photo-14I used to hate writing prompts. They were always so specific having little to do with the ideas swirling through my mind. My mentor, Leslie Pietrzyk this semester at the Converse MFA program happens to love them. It only took one workshop with her and now I love them too.

Leslie doesn’t give long prompts, they are simply a word or object. You have fifteen minutes to write. Our first prompt was the word, exhausted. Our second prompt was an object, an ivory rhinoceros.

I enjoyed listening to my fellow students and mentor as they shared how they worked rhinoceros into their work. One chose ivory rather than the animal and one had his character stomp like a rhinoceros.
Here is my rhinocerus example.

Bree watched his thick fingers as he maneuvered the knife scraping and gouging the wood. He claimed it was his third attempt at making a giraffe. Their necks kept snapping before he could finish.

She surveyed the other animals: elephants, zebras, gorillas, rhinoceros or would it be rhinoceroi. Two by two. These were a gift for his great-grandson, Noah. Brie couldn’t fathom a girl her age being married and have a baby.

She picked up the rhino, feeling the weight of it, her fingers felt the rough areas.

“I still have to sand it. Make it smooth. Can’t have him getting splinters,” her grandfather chuckled.

Bree didn’t remember the old man as kind. She remembered him as cranky and always smoking cigarettes, a Pabst blue ribbon beer always by his side while some sports show played on television. There was an ashtray on the front porch so she suspected he still smoked. A sweating glass of tea sat near his side. The television was dark and silent.

On the walls hung a multitude of pictures. There was no organization, it seemed every time her grandmother received a new school picture, she bought a frame and found an empty spot to hang it. Brie saw her first grade picture as well as her high school graduation picture among the collage.

I’ve found these prompts to be an excellent way to get the writing started. So often, beginning is the most difficult part. The small goal of fifteen minutes of writing while focusing on an object or word gives me freedom to experiment. Check back every Wednesday where I plan to offer a prompt.

Today’s Prompts: Green and the photo at the top of this post. You have 15 minutes for each. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Permission to Write a Bad First Draft

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Just about every author I’ve asked about what books should I read on writing, always says Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King‘s On Writing. I’ve read them both in the past, but now I’m seeing them through new eyes. There was a time when I said I wanted to be a writer, but life always got in the way. I would finish a few pages and think this is great. A few days later I would read those pages again and realize how awful they were. I didn’t see the gems hidden within that first draft. I have found my first draft is just my way of getting the ideas down on paper. It is with the editing and rewriting that the real story begins to appear.

I was under the misconception that when a writer writes, everything is wonderful. I had no idea how many drafts a piece can go through. I just turned in my first short story for the MFA at Converse College. I am anxiously waiting to hear what my mentor has to say. The story was birthed at Hub City’s Writing in Place conference through a prompt given to the glass by Wiley Cash. His novel, A Land More Kind Than Home is one of my new favorite books. I can’t wait to read his next novel, This Dark Road to Mercy. He read just a few pages to us this summer. I know when I finally get my copy, my nose will be buried in a book. My family will need to understand that I will be unavailable once I start. (Of course they are used to this. Me, immersed in a novel? Yes since the days of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls).

That day in class I wrote two pages. Wiley encouraged me to keep with it and see where it went. The story I finished with was not the one I started with, but I did keep a few of the sentences in tact. From that scene came a short story about a little girl who is caught between the innocence of childhood and the excitement of becoming a teenager. She has a kitten poster beside a Shaun Cassidy poster hanging on her bedroom wall. She loves her mother and yet she is embarrassed by her as well.

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So many books and so little time. I’ve replaced my radio listening time with audio books. Right now I’m listening to Stephen King narrate On Writing. I believe it is so powerful to hear the author read especially about his own creative process. I am still in awe of King’s overwhelming elation at selling the paperback rights to Carrie. It was more money than he ever imagined. All this from a little story he started and originally threw in the trash. His wife, Tabitha saved it and encouraged him to keep going. A supportive spouse is a definitely plus for anyone who aspires to be an author. My husband sometimes teases me when I start talking about people. Are these real people or characters in your work?