2-Minute Prompts

Two minutes is a short amount of time. But a lot can happen. You can send an important email. You can break a heart. You can change your fate.

You can get stuck in traffic. You can listen to your favorite song on the radio. You can drink half a cup of coffee.

In my weekly writing group, we often end the session with a prompted two-minute free write. While it is far from the main-event of the evening, there is a certain magic about the writing that is produced in that time. The pressure is off.  Everyone is relaxed, or wired off too much coffee, or one too many cookies.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the prompts and the pieces I wrote to accompany them. It would be great to hear from other bloggers out there, feel free to write your own responses to the prompts, but remember, it can only take 2 minutes!

Prompt: Make a list of subjects NOT to write about.

Good things not to write about, depends on the audience. If it’s my mother, than anything that is, or could be perceived as violent, destructive, dangerous, sexy, or incestuous. I shared some of my writing with her, and have since stopped. She said to me one day, thoughtfully, after reading a poem of mine, that I was, “intense.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, I mean in regards to compliment, insult, general observation. I don’t like to write about things that are boring. I like to write about weird, messed up, violent, manipulative people, because isn’t that what’s real? No, your emotions, she told me. Your emotions are intense. I don’t think I was ever like that. We’re different, my mother and I. She thinks I write about things that are too intense, I think I write about things that are all too real.

Prompt: If you could have someone else’s bone and why.

I would like no one’s bones but my own. Maybe my body will fall apart. Maybe I’ll fall off a ladder and need to be put back together. And in those moments I will say give me whatever bones you have. But for the time being, I can’t imagine anyone else having bones that would go with mine. It’s not that I think mine are better or bigger or stronger. But they are mine. And the body is something which is so uniquely OUR OWN. I wouldn’t want that to be diluted with spare parts. And if I were to get Mother Theresa’s hip or Ringo Starr’s wrist, how would I live up to that? Would I have to become an excellent drummer? Would I suddenly become selfless? Maybe my bones will turn brittle and break, but I still think I don’t want to be anyone else but me.

Prompt: Group Leader asks for a random noun. One of the group members says “brick.” Group leader says OK, now start with the sentence, “This is not a brick.”

This is not a brick. And my road would certainly not be yellow brick. Black maybe or the rusty red of a typical brick. But then, this is not a brick. My road would be a dirt path maybe. Shady under thick green foliage. Hot summer sun somewhere above. Or a long wooden-planked boardwalk leading over hot sand. The ocean its reward. Or the back alley of a city street, all hot, steamy, stinky asphalt. Dumpsters and cigarette breaks and men sleeping in doorways. My way wouldn’t be brick. It would be leather studded kiss in the sand. It would be shag carpet up to my ankles. There would be no one in sight on this road. Men working. Out of order. Do not pass go. Hopefully I have a get out of jail free card lying around here. This is not a brick road. This is not wonderland. There is no Peter Pan, so I might as well stop waiting for him. I can stay young forever and I can do it on my own time. Image

Practice Makes Perfect

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Main Street Writers held their annual reading at Food for Thought last Thursday

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in two public readings. One was an open mic in Northampton, Massachusetts hosted by Straw Dog Writers Guild. The other was the annual reading for Main Street Writers at Food for Though Books in Amherst.

I read the same piece for both readings; an excerpt from my novel. I chose the introduction to Little Ho Peep’s back story, a surreal story about a little girl growing up on a dump with her one-eyed gypsy abuela.

I am not naturally inclined to public speaking, it is always nerve racking. But reading my work out loud, to an audience, has been great practice.

It was such an honor having my friends and family there to support me. It also is so humbling to listen to the amazing talent that is prevalent in the Pioneer Valley. Becoming part of this community has been so important to me.

I encourage everyone out there to share their passions. Whether it is music, poetry, visual arts: I believe that the simple act of sharing can broaden our appreciate for our craft.

Happy Reading!

My First Public Reading!

Last night I decided to attend a reading in Northampton, Massachusetts. I found the blurb in a local paper. It said: Writers Night Out, hosted by a group called Straw Dog Writers Guild.

I went, expecting to listen and maybe meet some other like-minded people. However, when I got there, the woman running it said that it was open for anyone to read. I was unprepared, and told her I would sit out this first reading.

As I sat, sipped my beer and waited for the show to start I thought,” Why not? What do I possibly have to lose by doing this, except my dignity?” So I went out to the car, got my computer (I never go anywhere without it these days) and put my name in the hat.

I got picked to read second. I was nervous but also thrilled. These are the kind of experiences I need to be having, need to be getting comfortable with. The reading went well. My legs were shaking throughout the 5 minutes. But it felt great to do it.

Along with my other writing goals, my new goal is this: attend some kind of literary event every week. Even in our small Pioneer Valley, there are lots of amazing events. Even if I don’t get to read, just being in the audience, networking and being involved in a literary community will be very rewarding.

I didn’t get a picture of myself, but I promise next time I will.

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My camera is terrible!
Next time I’ll get a picture of myself.

If any other bloggers out there have favorite literary activities, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you!

Joining a Writing Group

At the beginning of the year one of my goals was to join a writing group. It is an important way not only to connect with other people who share similar interests but also to receive important feedback and critique.

Since I am not living in a big city my options are rather limited. I was surprised to find how few writing groups there are in Western Massachusetts. Here are a few that I’ve found:

Northampton, MA: I was in touch with the leader of this writing group. It is a ten-week course with weekly sessions. Each session includes a writing exercise followed by reading. However, only two people get “positive feedback only” on their writing. The other people just get to read with no feedback (otherwise, in the words of the group leader, we would be there all night). I don’t really see the point in receiving only positive feedback, but maybe some other people out there have had good experiences with this technique. I will go to a trial class in two weeks to check it out.

Amherst, MA: This is another ten-week session with weekly meetings. Writing ranges from fiction to poetry to essays. Sounds pretty interesting, but one of the things that makes me hesitate is that I would be the youngest person there, by at least two decades. I know it is important to make connections with writers of all generations, but I do feel like the age gap may make it a little harder for them to understand my writing. I’m going to a trial class this week to see what it’s like.

Hadley, MA: This is an eight-week workshop whose participants are mostly post-college writers. The spring session is focusing only on fiction, which is great. Participants will get two workshops where they share work with the class, receive line edits as well as a one-page critique of the piece. I think this will be the best group for me to join, due to the age and interest of the participants and what I can expect to receive in terms of feedback.

I am very excited to be joining this group, along with my good friend Halie Mills, whose writing of poetry and prose inspires me. I hope that being surrounded by other young writers will help give me further perspective as I continue working on my manuscript.

If any readers out there have any comments or suggestions about finding a writing group I would love to hear from you!