Confession: When we were eleven, one of my friends bought a hamster, put it in a shoebox, poked holes in it, and hid it in his closet. If you've ever had a hamster, you probably realize that hamsters can chew through cardboard, and fairly quickly, so while he was at school, the first day after buying the hamster, it escaped, his mom found it, and they returned it to the store, and he was grounded.
Confession: I knew about the hamster before his mother told my mother the hilarious story of her idiot son's not so secret pet. I imagined the problem was the cardboard box, so I bought a small terrarium, filled it with ripped up newspaper (I was a paperboy, so it was Very Easy to come by), and bought a gerbil which I kept in my closet, secure that it would not escape. And it didn't. And I had it for four days before my own mother heard it scampering around its tiny cage while I was at a friend's.
Have you ever had a secret pet? Or did one of your friends? Where did you or they come up with the idea? How were you found out (you were definitely found out)? What happened to the pet after the discovery?
I have never met anyone who loves their job So Much that they can't think of a single part of it they dislike. Vanna White spent most of the 80s and 90s grumbling under her breath every time she had to turn over the vowels* because she loved the contestants, and hates that they were spending money they hadn't even officially won yet, on easily sussed letters.
She also hated it when, for the final puzzle, contestants blew their letters on rstlne, and so she approached the producers about giving those letters to the contestants automatically, and letting them try some of the more dangerous ones. Thus, she reclaimed the parts of her job that made her uncomfortable.
What part of your job do you like the least? How can you reclaim it so that it becomes something you can, if not love, tolerate?
* - Nothing I've said about Vanna White in this prompt has been true. It is All Lies.
Inspired by Cantab regulars Zeke Russell and Cassandra de Alba, write a poem in which a ghost appears but does not mean you any harm.
Weird things happen everywhere. Life happens everywhere. At home. Within a mile of home. The moon. Everywhere.
Cars, being places that take you from one place to other places, offer even more opportunities for weird things to happen.
What's the most unusual thing that's ever happened to you involving a car?
There is so much real horror going on in the world, you would think we'd be shying away from horror in pop culture. But it's the time of year when people want scary clowns, sexy sanitation workers, and world leaders with no concern for lives other than their own.
It's a drag.
This Halloween, write about trivial horror. Runny eggs, inconvenient traffic detours, flatulent malumets, anything that is more annoying than horrifying. Write about these trivialities as though they're actual horror.
If you need inspiration, check out Jujji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon And Mu.
Families can be difficult. From awkward holiday meals to death or abuse, it's not always a fun subject to tackle. There's an outdated quote that is attributed to Harper Lee, but almost definitely stretches back centuries that You Can't Pick Your Family.
But, of course, you can.
Write about someone from the family you aren't blood-related to, or legally related to. Someone you've met in your life that you've become more than friends with, and tell us about that relationship. It's probably not all feather pillows and orgasms, either, but you and this person stuck with each other for no other reason than you cared about each other, and that is bound to involve a story or two worth sharing with an audience.
It's been almost a decade since Reddit introduced the world to the Ask Me Anything forums, where a celebrity or politician (remember The Goold Old Times when those were two different categories.
It's rare that an Ask Me Anything makes the news when it's successful. A person answering the questions they're asked should be satisfying and worthy of note, but I only hear about them when they go horribly wrong: when someone has recently had a scandal, and somehow believed that people would be more concerned with their latest album or artistic vision than their social or political faux pas.
There a few different ways to approach this as a prompt. Either write a series of ten to twenty questions, and ask someone else to come up with the person or concept that has to answer them, OR come up with a person or concept that you want to act as a voice for, and crowdsource some questions that people would like your character to answer.
Last week, divisive chanteuse, Taylor Swift, released the fastest viewed Youtube lyric video of all time. Forget whether it has one of the wonkiest choruses of all time, ignore the actual video's crimes.
A lyric video is filled with graphics that sometimes reflect the actual lyrics of the song, but sometimes represent the rhythm of the song.
Pick a song that you love or hate, and write a Lyric Video for it. Don't write down the lyrics, assemble images to represent how the song's movement and lyrics feel to you. Be as surreal as you feel comfortable with.
Rachel McKibbens uses a technique she calls Ghost Lines, where, to prompt a poem, she gives you a line from a poem or prose piece that you use to start your own poem. When you're done with your first draft, you erase the author's line, and your left a poem that's entirely of your own creation.
This week's Ghost Line comes from Wanda Coleman's Bathwater Wine: “When the book is closed, the words starve.”
For at least the last few weeks, the world has been a relatively terrifying place for many of the people I care about. Let's be real simple this week and just write about a place where you still feel safe.
Discuss a time you took someone you care about to a play, a movie, a poetry slam, a concert, some cultural event you love. What was your purpose in taking them there? Did they enjoy it? Did it change the way you interacted going forward?
Write about a time someone you cared about took you to an event that was out of your experience zone. Something you didn’t imagine you’d be at all interested in. Did you become interested? Instead of focusing on your relationship with the person who brought you, discuss how it altered your perception of the thing they exposed you to.
In somewhat of a crossover from The Interactionality projects I'm working on, I offer, as prompt, a couple of lines from Phillip B. Williams's Thief Of The Interior: You cannot love a god/that you fear.
This week is a two-step prompt.
1: What's the worst cover you've ever heard of a song you love.
2. What's the worst advice you've received from someone whose advice you usually respect - or - what surprisingly good advice have you received from someone you normally wouldn't trust.
Can you work these two things into one poem?
Being a fan of a band, or an artist, or a pop culture franchise has grown increasingly tough in the age of The internet. In addition to finding out that your heroes may have horrifically out of touch opinions, there's also the disappointment of finding out that many of the fans, who you might imagine you have things in common with, reveal a surprising prejudice. Whether it's misogynist sci-fi fans, racist comic book readers, homophobic hanggliding enthusiasts, or anti-Vegan photographers, someone is making your fandom look bad.
Address this portion of your fandom however you are inspired to address them. Consider explaining how they're impacting the thing you love.
Everyone has nightmare stories about their local transportation service, whether it's a late subway train, an exploding bus full of chickens, or sitting next to a colicy baby on a plane.
What about the sunshine? What about the moonlight? What about the good times? What about the boogie?
Surely you've had at least one positive experience with commercial traveling. Tell us about it!
When I was eighteen, I worked in a record store, and at a YMCA camp, and was a full-time student. I was experimenting with having a life, and thus, didn't provide myself much time for things like "hairuts" and "intelligent decision making". I was at work one day when I realized I had scheduled a date, and my hair looked like someone had covered my hair in superglue and dumped a large bucket of red fur on top of me. So I hopped over to the salon next to the store and asked the person working if she could cut it so that it was about an inch off, all the way around. After some perfectly reasonable shearing, she then took out an electric razor, I assumed to shape the hair on the back of my neck. Instead, she began to shave a one-inch line around my head. I asked her to stop and explain what was happening to my head, and she couldn't. So I re-explained what I'd wanted, and she resumed shaving a one inch line around the side of my head.
As I left, the woman behind the desk, who had clearly seen that this hairdresser wasn't really up to communicating with clients yet, asked me not to put on my hat (which I was clutching) until I was out of the parking lot.
I then went home and gave myself a crewcut. It was the shortest haircut I'd had since I was a baby. From that day forth, I was always really specific with barbers and stylists, and didn't try to do anything fancy with my hair.
When my father's wife died about ten years later, I was shaving my hair short for her funeral when the guide fell off my razor and shaved me to the skin. I saw no other option but shaving my entire head. It was winter, and very cold. I was tired from traveling to the funeral, and couldn't figure out why I was colder than usual (no hair) so I appeared more introspective than usual, which my family seemed to register as grief, but was actually just selfish contemplation.
Have you ever had a haircut that has either changed your life, or changed how other people perceived you? Was it an awesome haircut? A terrible one? Did it actually have an emotional affect on you past the day you received it?
If reincarnation is real, what would you most like to come back as? Given the life you've led, what do you think you're most likely to come back as, whether you like it or not? What do you think other people will believe you will come back as?
How about your loved ones? What will they come back as? Have they seemed to come back to you as something else already?
Today doesn't just feel like the longest day of the year, it is the longest day of the year. What did you do with your longest day?
Imagine what you wish you could do with the longest day of the year. Imagine that somewhere, some version of you is able to do precisely the things you wish you could. Now you, being you, meet idealized Solstice You at a bar or a coffeehouse or a bookstore or wherever you choose to relax today. Solstice You starts telling you all about the wonderful day they've had. How do you react? Do you become friends with Solstice You, or are they now your mortal enemy?
When you were in high school or college, did you ever sit down on the first day of class, get your notebook out, and spend five or ten minutes before realizing you were in the wrong class? Ever go into a conference center where a bunch of unrelated meetings were taking place and discover what you thought was a creative writing workshop was an AA meeting? Was there a night you woke up married with two children and remembered that you're a terrible role model who is incapable of monogamy?
Write about a time you were in a place you were not qualified to be in. How did you get out of the situation? Or did you go with it until you became qualified to the be there?
Wikipedia Wormholes are addictive.
I'm an enabler.
Choose an event or subject you are an expert in. Find a link to something in the Wikipedia entry that you didn't previously know. In that article, find another link. Keep doing this until you are at least six entries away from where you started.
Write about this new information as though it is something you are an expert in. You can either do the research (outside of Wikipedia, even!) or just make shit up. It's your life.
Do not connect it to the original subject you looked up. Don't even reference it.
BONUS PROMPT: Ok, but, like, how DID you get from your area of expertise to this new information? Give us a guided tour through your six or more pages of information.
However Do You Want Me? However Do You Need Me? How? However Do You Want Me? However Do You Need Me?
The house I'm staying in during this vacation has a private pool. Having a private pool was one of The Most Important Factors in choosing a place to stay. On previous trips, when I didn't make a private pool a priority, I was sad to discover that most pools are closed at the times I wish to swim. I, then, discovered that the pool was colder than I'd imagined and had to pay for the pool to be heated.
To justify these expenses I made it a point to go swimming in that eventually warm pool Every Night I stayed there. So between ten p.m. and five a.m., you could find me floating or swimming in that pool for at least half an hour.
One of my co-vacationing friends always drives to the nearest Krispy Kreme before entering the vacation home. We don't have Krispy Kremes in Massachusetts at the moment (due to a poorly thought out 7-11 deal in the early 2000s), so whenever he is within an hour or so of the sugary confections, he picks up a box or two for everyone to enjoy.
When you take a break from your everyday routines, do you develop a new ritual or rituals? Tell us about it/them.
I love water parks. I'm working on a prose piece about this, so I'll refrain from a wax poetica, but I am an enjoyer of water parks.
My favorite go-to-water-park for this vacation recently closed, and while it's scheduled to reopen while I'm down here, I'm not too keen on braving the long lines for a new attraction in a tourist town.
I mentioned this to a friend, and he suggested, rather than scope out the new park, he knew a way to sneak into a long-closed park and experience it as a sort of water park graveyard.
It definitely smelled like death.
I'll probably be sharing my experience about the waterpark graveyard soon. In the untilwhile, is there an activity or place that you love that might one day disappear? What will it be like when it's abandoned?
I'm on my way to a nice, relaxing vacation. It is my first vacation in several years, and I need it to be relaxing. Naturally, all signs points to this going horribly wrong. Paychecks not showing up, the house I booked turning out to be unavailable, weird credit card hiccups. You know, 21st century American clockblocking.
I'm sure it will all work out, because if it doesn't work out, that will be Awful, and part of my nice, relaxing vacation is to not have to deal with Awful. Power of positive thinking, right?
But remember that time you used the power of positive thinking, and everything fell to shit anyway? Tell me about it. Maybe we can exorcise the possible impending Awfulness by laughing or shaking our heads at Awfulness Past.
Write Or Die
Scott Woods's Twitter Prompts
Rachel Mckibbens' Prompt Blog
The 30/30 Prompt Blog
Asterisk And Sidebar Prompts