A Writing Prompt on Mother’s Day

The writing prompt for this week is to write about a feature of someone’s body that seems contrary to the inner essence of that person. You can use this for creative nonfiction or fiction. Imagine the way that feature would be if the person had lived the life they should have lived. As an example,…

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Coming Home: A Writing Prompt

I start today with these lines from Robert Frost’s narrative poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in. We know this isn’t always true. Families turn their own away all the time, and sometimes for good reason. In a…

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And Then It Happened: A Story Prompt

You know how it goes. You’re going through an ordinary day—maybe it’s a Sunday, and you’re just taking it easy—and then just like that something happens to change everything. Maybe a visitor arrives, or a phone call comes, or someone says something they’ve been repressing, or they do something they never thought they’d do. The…

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Under Pressure: A Writing Prompt

There comes a time when writers are overwhelmed either by the circumstances of their personal lives, their jobs, or the challenges of the writing itself. Today, I’m thinking particularly of those of us who teach because, as is usually the case this time of year, I’m swamped. I won’t list everything I have to do—after…

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Trust and Betrayal

A week ago, we enjoyed a false spring here in the Midwest—sunny days and temps in the low sixties—but I knew it was only an illusion. I knew winter would return with a slap to the face. The snow came a couple of days ago, and the wind, and the frigid temperatures. Such is life.…

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Dark Corners: A Writing Prompt

My wife Cathy and I went to the apple orchard yesterday. The Honeycrisp is my favorite apple, and I welcome its return each autumn. It tells me we’ve made it through another year, but it also tells me time is swiftly passing. The seasons of a single life eventually run out, and those who love…

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“The First Time I. . . .”—A Writing Prompt

It’s that time again, the start of a new school year. Today, I was on campus for our MFA picnic and orientation. I’d just entered Denney Hall via a side door that was open when I saw two young women peering through the glass doors at the front of the building. I opened the door…

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The Toys We Never Had: A Writing Prompt

This post is late today because I got back yesterday after teaching a week-long novel workshop at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference. While there, I spent some time talking about the importance of finding a way to feel the emotional complexity of a character by tapping into some complicated moments from…

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