Category Archives: Story Starters

Prompts to get you writing

Mad Libs Poetry

I recently contributed a post about Mad Libs Poetry (a form of erasure poetry) to the Literatures in English blog. It’s a great programming idea for teachers and librarians of all stripes!

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Filed under Are You Reading...?, Field Trip, Klickitat Recommends, Poem Project, Professional Practice, Story Starters, Stray Observations, This Business of Writing

‘dog ear’ poetry

'dog ear' poetry

Something else to try — “The above ‘dog ear’ poem was found by folding over the corner of page 110 in Willa Cathers’ Pulitzer winning novel One of Ours.” via Winston Plowes’ April 18th entry on Pulitzer Remix

At the beginning
mothers died
and spurred

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April 18, 2013 · 2:30 PM

NaNoWriMo in the library

National Novel Writing Month, more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo, is under way. Have you considered inviting participating writers into your library for an “open swim” writing event? The official website offers a publicity kit for the price of shipping but you could always create your own promotional materials as well.

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Filed under Professional Practice, Story Starters, The After Hours Writer, This Business of Writing

Story Starter: Smithsonian Flickr

I recently posed this Story Starter to Story Problems and I thought I’d share it with you too. It was inspired by this post on the Smithsonian’s blog.

Visit the Smithsonian’s Flickr (or your favorite Flickr page) and select an image (like above?) that intrigues you.

Write about (choose one of the following):

  • What’s happening at that moment, or, if you’d prefer, what is about to happen.
  • Imagine you’ve just found this image in your grandmother dusty attic. Do you recognize it? Do you not? What’s your reaction? Oh no! Don’t tell me a deep and troubling family secret has been revealed at a most inopportune time?
  • You are very, very old and used to be very, very famous. One day a reporter comes to visit you and asks you about the photo. What do you tell them? What do you keep to yourself? What do you only tell us, the reader of your tale?

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Filed under Adventures in Tutoring, Story Starters, The After Hours Writer, This Business of Writing

Inspiration Sold Separately!


You may remember that I recently taught a workshop where I asked the students to write stories in the form of catalogs.

I realized something while preparing for it. While it’s true that junk mail refuses to die, even in a world where Print is supposedly shaking a death rattle, catalogs just aren’t the artifacts for the 12 – 15 year olds in my class that they were for me at their age. I doubt any of their families keep photo albums. If they do, they call them scrapbooks.

This meant there was a bit of a communication gap when it came time to describing how and why catalogs make for compelling, innovative storytelling vehicles. It didn’t help that my main example, (deep breath) Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry is not age-appropriate (due to lack of life experience on the part of the students) even though it is PG, content-wise. Neither is a reference to Norton’s narration in the beginning of Fight Club.

If you have any ideas on how to update this workshop for the (cringe) Millennial generation, I’d love to hear it. Something to do with on-line shopping perhaps? Or maybe I should just wait until the hipsters reclaim analog purchasing methods along with rendering their own lard.

Generation gaps aside, preparing for the workshop helped me realize that determining what a person might own is a great way to build a character. I think of it as my twist on Alice Munro’s maxim that you should always decide what a character would carry in her purse (or his wallet or backpack).


May 29, 2012 · 10:15 AM