The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Prompting the Writing

        This summer I'm working with teachers of writing. All day, four days a week, for five weeks. It's pretty heady stuff.

         Every day we start with a daily prompt. Each day, a different teacher chooses a prompt to get us writing for 10 minutes. Then, we share what we've written.

         One day the prompt was a commercial. In it, a father kept doing crazy things with his kids and kept saying, "Don't tell Mom." (It ended with the mother going skydiving and saying, "Don't tell Dad.") The prompt: Begin your piece with the words "Don't tell."

          Sometimes the prompt is a photo on the internet. Once, it was the first line from a novel: "The mouth is a strange place." It's the perfect way to start the day--warming up our writing mind.

          Yesterday we had five columns, and we had to choose one word from each column to use in our piece. As soon as I saw "Mrs. Cassidy," I knew what I was going to write about. (The other words I chose were sink, scatter, swell and iconoclastic.)

          Here's my story:

         "Swell. You're here," I said. A middle-aged woman stood at the door. She didn't look worthy of him. She looked like he had settled. Really settled.
          "Yes? Can I help you?"
          "So, you must be Mrs. Cassidy. When you married him, you got me all whipped up into a frenzy. Years ago, I made a voodoo doll of you, and eventually, scattered parts of it all over the country. You're an undeserving skank and your reign with him--the partridge of all the Partridge Family, the iconoclastic singer of the 60's and 70's--well, your time is up."
         Her mouth gaped open, like a brainless fish stuck in a tiny fishbowl.
         I yanked her by her hair, not even giving her the chance to say another word, and started shoving her in  a direction I hoped would lead in a direction which would lead to either the bathroom or the kitchen.
        Another reason to shout "swell," because we had gotten to the back of the house where the kitchen was. I filled up the sink, keeping my grip on her hair and despite her struggling, managed to hold her head under the water until she was limp and motionless.
        Now I could take my rightful place beside David...

        Why did "Mrs. Cassidy" instantly spark an idea? When I was 11 or 12, I was in love with David Cassidy. When he married the actress Kay Lenz, I was aghast. I could easily imagine a pre-teen crush going awry.

Aaah... the days when all hair was feathered back...

        Certainly there are huge holes in this story, and if I was interested in revising it, there's loads of work to do. However, I benefited from warming up with a little creative spark.

        How do you warm up? What rituals do you engage in to start off your writing? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

NOT What He'd Imagined...

       Denmark Vesey was a former slave. He bought his own freedom. Unfortunately, he was unable to purchase his wife and his children's freedom. 

Denmark Vesey

      A leader in the newly-formed AME church in Charleston, Vesey and a whole network of slaves and freed slaves plotted a bloody rebellion in June of 1822. They were going to kill the mayor, along with every white person they saw.

      A slave confessed to his master and told of the plot. The plan was squashed. People were arrested. Many were hanged... Vesey was one of them.

      That was 193 years ago. The killings that happened in the AME church--almost two centuries later... they were far from what Vesey had planned for Charleston. 

       Unfortunately, this plan--the plan to shed blood in 2015--was not squashed...

         (If you'd like to read a novel in which Vesey has a role, read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Sarah Grimke and Angelina Grimke, two feminists and abolitionists, also are two main characters. It's a wonderful read.)