This week I had the privilege to attend a writing workshop at Montreat Conference Center. Every day, I met with a group of 10 writers of all ages and backgrounds. It was a joy to gather with other writers, hear their unique voice come through their pieces, and be stretched in my own. I haven’t done “creative writing” since college (2 decades?!). While I write do creatively, I use the stories as illustrations of God’s workings in the world with a sermon or blog attached. I enjoyed the challenge of writing a piece that could stand alone.
Every day, our teacher, Ina Hughes, gave us a myriad of writing prompts. Some we wrote in class and some we worked on in the afternoons as assignments. Here are a few of the pieces I wrote, along with the writing prompt.
IN-CLASS WRITING PROMPT #1: October
The class was asked to name descriptive words for “October.” After we had about 35 on the board, we were prompted to write about October without using any of those words. We were given 30 minutes to write. Here’s my piece:
Falling for October
The first days of kindergarten are sticky and hot. Every day, we walk, my daughter and I, down the block, through the brush on the next block that our neighbor neglects to trim. Then we huff as we climb up the bridge – the rusty concrete monster that provides the only passage over the railroad tracks. We climb up. We pass over. We climb down.
Every day, the weight of the backpack grows heavy on my 5 year old’s shoulders. I take it about 3 steps up. We make it to the school gate just as the bell rings. A hot sweaty mass of adorable children in heavy backpacks that miraculously never topple them over push through the gate.
I watch my heart leave me for another day.
I trudge back over the bridge, through the brush, down the block, and into work, with hair 3x bigger and make-up running from sweat.
I long for the crisp cool morning air. The cozy hoodies. The boots. That air that hits your lungs and tells you: the new time has come.
12 hours ago, I left home for the mountains 500 miles away. Early this morning, my husband sent a picture our family, warmly dressed, standing in front of a tree painted in yellows and reds.
It had come.
I had missed it.
ASSIGNMENT #1: Fiction or Non-Fiction?
The class was asked to write the opening sentences of a personal narrative on two notecards. We placed 1 card into a bowl and kept the other. Our assignment was to write our own story AND a story based on the card from a classmate. In class, we read the fiction and non-fiction pairs; then guessed which was which. Here is my fictional piece, using a classmate’s prompt.
“Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Yes,” she said, excitedly.
In an instant, she sailed through the air and landed softly on his strong shoulders. Out they went, off the porch, and down the path that passed by the tall climbing trees, which guarded the house.
“Do you hear that?” he asked as he looked up high into the branches.
She didn’t really, but she loved when he tilted his head back like that. She nestled into his soft brown hair, and watched as strands of her own fell onto his. Her wavy brown hair blended with his and she couldn’t tell which was hers and which was his.
Still gazing upward, he mimicked the sound of the quail.
Hugging on tight, she felt the movement of his cadence rumble through her cheek bone.
“It’s a Bob White,” he told her.
“Okay,” she said as they near the end of the path. She put her hands on his cheeks and pulled his head back to earth. That was the signal to keep going. So he turned right.
She turns left, calling out to her son: “Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Yes,” he says excitedly, grabbing her hand as they come to those sky-high trees she once climbed as a child.
She stopped suddenly when she heard the familiar sound. “Do you hear that?” she asked.
She mimicked it back, the cadence of her voice, sailing upward through the branches.
“It’s a Bob White,” she tells him.
“Okay” he says, entwining his tiny fingers with her long ones. He bends down, pulling her with him, as he picks up a funky shaped rock. As they inspect it, she watches as her wavy brown hair falls onto his, blending in so she couldn’t tell which was hers and which was his.
ASSIGNMENT #4: FOOD MEMORY
Wednesday afternoon’s prompt asked the class to write on a memory of a food or a board game. I had a bit too much fun with this one and giggled to myself for a good 20 minutes on the outside patio at the lodge.
Mac and Cheese
Boil the pasta.
With love, I prepare a favorite meal
Melt the butter
The hot cheesy dish with memory appeal
Stir in flour until smooth
The adults at the table will eat it with glee
Add milk slowly
With memories of eating on their grandmother’s knee
Beat the eggs
The kids at the table will push it away
Stir in cheddar
This is not my mac and cheese, they will say.
Stir in parmesan
Then they will tell a magical tale
Stir in colby
When they ate in a castle, like a fairy tale
Stir until thick and bubbly
Cinderella herself had made them this treat
Pour into dish
So no other meal could ever compete
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs
That day they were royalty, a princess and a prince
Bake at 350
And they haven’t had cheese with their mac ever since.
IN-CLASS WRITING PROMPT #5 FIRST LINES
The class was given a list of “first lines.” We were asked to choose a line and write a short story or poem. We were given 15 minutes. I took a long time deciding and wrote something on different first line. Then I felt drawn to this one. I jotted it down in about 3 minutes. Of everything I wrote this week, my classmates felt most drawn to this short poem. I read it at the closing worship for the Fall Craft Week conference.
Everyone Else Was Grieving
Everyone else was grieving, but I was busy.
Tissues in place.
How many easels for pictures?
How many pews to rope off?
How big is the urn?
Will this table do?
This is my grief process for those I love.
I hold their hands as they go.
I pray with their families.
I ask for life stories.
I assure of God’s presence.
I write a message to honor their life
That speaks of the new life to where they’ve now gone.
When everyone else grieves, I get to work.