Promptly Speaking

Who watched the Super Bowl last night? Millions of us, including me. I’m not exactly a sports fan, but there is something about this final football game of the season that pulls me in. I used to think I was pulled in by the fun commercials that accompany the game, the spectacular half-time shows (Lady Gaga gets a lot of respect from me for last night’s performance), and the chance to hang out eating stuff that isn’t good for me. But it’s more than that. There’s that sense of so many people coming together to root for their team, of being part of something big and fun. And, last night, it was the wild comeback of the Patriots over the Falcons after they trailed by 25 points.

What does any of that have to do with writing and creative work?

It has to do with not giving up. It has to do with pushing toward your goals even when it feels like your work is getting trounced or your idea is intercepted and taken up by some other player. You never know when there will be a chance to slip your work into the perfect publication and score an acceptance.

And that’s why this Monday after the big game is the perfect time for some new prompts. Let’s wipe the potato chip crumbs from our fingers and get to work.

  1. Driving down a street in southeast Minneapolis this morning, five wild turkey crossed the road in front of me and wandered into someone’s front yard. What wild thing has crossed your path today?
  2. A school bus with its stop sign arm extended and its red light flashing, stopped to pick up kids near my house. A white car came from behind, zoomed around the stopped bus and sped off. Where was that driver going and why did they break the law?
  3. An article about wealthy survivalists was in the January 30 issue of the New Yorker. What makes you lurch into a survivalist mentality?
  4. Valentine’s Day – celebrate it or ignore it?
  5. What stops your heart?

Happy writing.

Current Calls for Submission

Gyroscope Review is accepting submissions for their general submissions category until March 15, 2017. Guidelines here.

Gyroscope Review also has a themed call for submissions open until March 15. Guidelines for that are here.

Good luck!

 

laptop writing

 

Today’s images courtesy of Pixabay.com.

 

 

 

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THE HIATUS IS OVER…

There are still tomatoes ripening in the garden, flowers blooming, crows calling across the back yard. Windows open, I feel that pull to be outside, camera in hand (or garden shears if there are fruits and vegetables to be harvested). But there is a whole cadre of poems waiting for my co-editor Constance and me to decide upon for Gyroscope Review. There is a mountain of flash fiction also awaiting publication decisions over at Fine Linen Literary Journal. And there is One Minnesota Writer, which spends the end of every summer languishing while I take a break to figure out what’s next.

For my whole life, I have been unable to shake off the rhythm of the academic calendar. Summer is down time, travel time, outside time. I do a lot of thinking over the summer, especially when I’m pulling weeds or watering plants or walking my dogs in that early morning summer light that always feels holy. Schedules are something to be shunned during June, July, and August; the older I get, the more clear I am about that in my own life. These months are mine for rejuvenation. Even when I had jobs that did not allow three months of summer vacation, that rhythm was present, that sense that summer is slow-down time, take-it-easy time, be-in-the-moment time. This is a rhythm I have been incredibly lucky to live by and it is not something I would ever willingly give up.

But here it is September, time for new projects, regrouping, and anticipation. A year ago, I had just had a conversation with Dave Morehouse about helping bring his flash fiction dream, Fine Linen Literary Journal, into print. I was also finalizing plans with Constance Brewer for our digital poetry quarterly, Gyroscope Review. And I was trying to figure out what to do with One Minnesota Writer that might be a little different. On top of that, I signed up as a member of AWP and made plans to attend their huge annual spring writing conference in Minneapolis. There was a big void to fill after Every Day Poets, where I spent five years on staff, suspended publication in June of 2014. In some ways, I moved too quickly to fill that void.

Since last September, I’ve had a few project timeline collisions. I’ve found myself busier than I wanted or anticipated. My annual summer hiatus gave me room to think about all this and ask myself important questions: Am I a writer first or an editor first? Where is my balance between the writing work and other parts of my life such as family obligations, volunteer work, and a broad range of other interests? What about the writing projects I’ve started and have yet to finish?

It might be expected that these kinds of questions get easier to answer as one matures. They don’t. Families grow, opportunities multiply, and the awareness of life as a finite amount of time sharpens. Every year, I expect my summer to be slower but, in spite of suspending some of my work, it isn’t. As I watched the birth and maturation of my little urban garden, canned tomatoes, moved my daughter into her first real apartment, spent time with my granddaughter, and travelled to Germany, I knew that being selective on what I say yes to is more necessary now than ever. I cannot say yes to everything if I wish to be good at anything.

I’m not 21 anymore; the world does not lay open at my feet. Rather, it is a complex map that I study for openings that fit. Sometimes I choose wrong. Opportunities that look wonderful before I start them sometimes become onerous within weeks for all kinds of reasons. And it’s hard to find the right time to exit and go in a different direction if there isn’t time to step back and think.

So, I’m very grateful for my summer hiatus. And One Minnesota Writer will be changing as one of the results.

After several years of running writing prompts on my First Five Fragments for Friday feature, it’s time to give up all that alliteration and those prompts. I learned that people generally like prompts, especially picture prompts, so feel free to follow me on Instagram (kcmickelson) where I post a lot of photos, or on Twitter (@kcmickelson) where I occasionally comment on some random thing, all of which make decent writing prompts. And, I am tweeting a series of prompts over the next few weeks for the Fine Linen Twitter feed (@finelinenmag). There are many, many writing prompts available on other blogs and all of mine will remain in the archives here, so there is certainly no shortage. But, as a writer, I know it’s time to move beyond the prompt and talk about other things.

What I want to do here is share essays that are connected to what I’m working on, what’s in the news, and what catches a writer’s interest. Well, okay, this writer’s interest. Writers have a responsibility to be part of a broader conversation, be threads in the community fabric. Like any other artist, a writer offers a specific vision that just might shift the conversation.

That’s exactly what I want to do. Shift the conversation. Let me know what you think. I’ll be posting regularly on Mondays from here on.

So long, Summer.

First Five Fragments for Friday – Onward Hiatus Edition

Writing prompts to get you moving.

Well, here we are in mid-July already. For me, that means it’s time for my annual hiatus from One Minnesota Writer. Summer cannot be properly experienced from the seat in front of my computer. I have plans, some at home, some not, all of them away from the screen.

So, here is the last list of writing prompts for this summer:

1. You’ve packed your suitcase, arrived at the airport on time, settled into your seat on the plane. You realize you’ve forgotten one thing. What is it?

2. Immerse yourself in a place where you do not speak the language. Where are you?

3. Where is the scariest place you’ve travelled?

4. Friends are coming to stay at your house for a week. What do you miss most while they are there?

5. Where is the first place you slept that wasn’t home?

Hope these do get you moving either in your writing or in real life. For this post, I’ve closed the comments. Happy writing, happy Friday and happy summer!

See you in September.

First Five Fragments for Friday – Post Op Version

Writing prompts to get you moving.

After a week off from One Minnesota Writer, I’m happy to report that I can breathe better. I had surgery to correct an old broken nose, unblock a nasal passage. Writing and reading on the computer made me feel motion sick, which surprised me. Same with my phone screen. So I slept, watched T.V., read actual paper books. Editing was not an option. Neither was blogging, social media, email.

Since I’m clear that everyone needs computer breaks on a regular basis, this time off didn’t make me terribly sad. Instead, I loved having time to read books. The two I finished lead me to today’s first two prompts:

1. The advantages of sameness

2. The reincarnation of dogs

Wondering about the books that inspired those? The first one is inspired by The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book is from my daughter’s bookshelf and I did not read it at the time she was all excited about it. It’s a quick read, since it’s a YA book, and a good conversation starter. The second is inspired by A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron. This book is narrated by a dog who is wiser and more compassionate that many people. If you like dogs, this is for you. Bring Kleenex.

The rest of this week’s prompts are:

3. The last thing you see before you sleep

4. Drug-addled memory

5. Suffocation

There’s even a bonus prompt this week since I slept through last Friday:

Optional surgery

One of the things I thought about as I sprawled on our couch over much of this past week was that I wold never elect to have unnecessary surgery. I thought about perfectly lovely people who choose a nose job or some other surgical alteration. That will never be me.

What about you?

Happy Friday. Off to take a deep breath.

First Five Fragments for Friday

Writing prompts to get you moving.

This has been sort of a weird week. My husband is out of the country at a cat and dog genetics conference (wow, typo that just happened – nearly swapped out “dog” for “god”, which could have been entertaining), my son’s car broke down in St. Cloud and I drove up there to help him out (that, for those of you unfamiliar with Minnesota, is slightly over 70 miles north of my house), and I went to see Bob Log III perform at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis Wednesday night. That was a whole different kind of weird:

Anyway…..those events and more all provide fodder for lots of writing, art, whatever. How do you pull writing or art prompts from your daily life? Do you write them down? Record them on your phone’s voice memo? Take a photo?

What I put here is not necessarily what I use in my own work. It’s a collection of sparks. Breathe some of these into fire.

1. If you had to find a new job right this minute, where would you look first?

2. What will you never tell your friends?

3. Who are two people you would never put together at a dinner party?

4. Your best friend asks you to do something you hate. Do you say yes anyway?

5. You’ve had your share of small talk for quite some time, but there’s one more event that includes people you haven’t seen in 10 years or more. What happens next?

Happy Friday. Headed outside this weekend where all the best ideas hang out.

Update on the big-headed flowers from my post, “Photos on the Fly“:

Opening nicely!

Opening nicely!

First Five Fragments for Friday – Morning Light II

Weekly writing prompts to get you moving.

Last week, I shared five early morning garden photos and promised you more this week. Here you go:

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Variegated hostas

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Sun dappled green hostas

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Meadow sage

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Mallards visiting the neighbors’ water bowl

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False indigo and the last of the poppies

Happy everything – Friday, Summer Solstice, and Father’s Day.

All photos by KC Mickelson 2015.

First Five Fragments for Friday – Morning Light

Writing prompts to get you moving.

At the beginning of this week, I did one of my favorite things: head outside in the early morning to capture images from the garden. They always soothe and inspire me. My wish is that these images do the same for you.

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Spider gossamer catches sunlight

Coral bells as bright as can be

Coral bells as bright as can be

A knotted crabapple cradled by columbine

A knotted crabapple cradled by columbine

A new big-headed flower forming

A new big-headed flower forming

Morning sun bathes the front garden

Morning sun bathes the front garden

Next week, I’ll have five more from this same photo shoot.

Happy Friday.

all photos by KC Mickelson 2015.

First Five Fragments for Friday – Garage Sale Edition

Weekly writing prompts to get you moving.

This week’s tasks centered around clearing things out of our house and moving them to the garage for the Roseville city-wide garage sale. Old stuff offers great writing prompts. So, without further adieu, here you go. This week’s prompts.

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BONUS ROUND:

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That ought to spark something.

Happy Friday! May you find a great garage sale this weekend.

First Five Fragments for Friday – Poetry Extravaganza

Writing prompts to get you moving.

Need a good poetry craft book to get you moving? You might like The Portable Poetry Workshop by Jack Myers (Boston: Wadsworth, 2005). Here are five things from that book:

An opening should have the force of interest that a first impression has when meeting someone new. (from Chapter 7: Opening, Closing, Titling, p. 249)

Think of one of the many snafus typical in our modern culture and write a poem that explores the ethical and moral aspects of that situation. (from Chapter 6: Types of Poems, p. 246)

Next to an event in a poem of yours, juxtapose a simultaneous event that parallels or enhances the original event. (from Chapter 3: Connecting Content, p. 82)

…the poet is almost always blind to some of the faults in his or her own writing, even if he or she is an excellent critic of others’ work. (from Chapter 9: Troubleshooting and Workshops, p. 299)

Try writing a completely new poem by keeping only a small fragment of the poem you are struggling with (from Chapter 8: Revision, p. 297)

Need prompts to go with the above? I can help you with that!

1. Seedlings

2. Half-unpacked moving boxes

3. Headaches

4. Sleeping dogs

5. A violent emotion

Happy writing. Happy Friday!

You can find The Portable Poetry Workshop on Amazon and on barnesandnoble.com

You can find The Portable Poetry Workshop on Amazon and on barnesandnoble.com

First Five Fragments for Friday – Another Photo Prompt Friday

Writing prompts to get you moving.

Photos from an ordinary Thursday.

Happy Friday. Have a nice Memorial Day weekend!

All photos by KC Mickelson 2015.