Category Archives: Writing Prompt

I Can Promise

I cannot promise it will be selected for the anthology,

but I can promise it will be held with love and careful hands.

I cannot guarantee it will change the world, or even the world of one,

but I can guarantee its words will be transformative.

I can’t promise perfection, I promise it will move your spirit.

Dear Sister is not about magic, it’s about healing.

It will never be about avoidance or dancing around the issue,

it will always be centered on love, need, truth-telling, and the power of the narrative.

I cannot assure you of anything except remind you that the time you spend talking about how you wish you could do one thing to help another person could be spent writing a letter to uplift a human soul.

I can confirm more than the reception of your submission.  I can confirm that it will be read with open, wide eyes. 

The editing will be a collaborative relationship.  This project is about healing and voice and the process will reflect that.

I hope that answers your questions and maybe provides a temporary seat for your fear so you sit in your own chair

and write.

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The Long View

As a child, I knew that I would someday pick up photography as a hobby.  I never envisioned myself as a photographer – always a writer – but there was something about the power that a photograph can hold.  The way you can view a photo from a time that you don’t remember as a baby or a photo you took yesterday and the image can evoke emotions that you thought were buried or you simply had forgotten were even there.

This particular photo is one of my favorites.  It was taken when I was probably a few months old.  I’m being held by my sister and am with my two brothers.  The film of 1979 isn’t like the digital technology of today, but I think this is one of the most beautiful photos in my possession.  A perfect photo today means flawlessness, clarity, and jaw dropping color.  A perfect photo for me, though, is looking at something and getting lost in it.  The blur, the accidental lighting, the faded pieces of memory.

I am a passionate amateur photographer and thank heavens that digital cameras exist for my artistic drive.  But I miss how film allowed and even celebrated unevenness.  Light that wasn’t well distributed, faces that are scrunched, looking away, blinking.  I miss how film gave you limits and you simply had to accept whatever the shutter saw, no exception.  If you were out of film, you were out of film.  No double or triple pictures taken in sequence like we do now with digital. I love this photo as is…a picture of me and my siblings, with an old bike on the lawn of our New Jersey home is more precious than most of my technically superior images now.  Film captures more than the subjects.  It reflects our human nature for error and missteps.

We are like that.  Our lives are like that.  Our memories are certainly like that.

Beautiful.  Uneven.  Our personal memos to embrace our imperfect lives.

The Cross Over with Domestic Violence

When I worked in sexual assault as a legal and medical advocate, many clients were raped in the context of an abusive relationship.  Both issues are about control and power – among other things – and it results in much overlap between the two worlds.

Last night I attended a talk given by a Project Coordinator of the local Domestic Violence shelter who does outreach within the Latina community.  She educated the audience about the specific risk factors, trends she is seeing, and how often women are “strong, intelligent, but also naive” when it comes to healthy relationships and pass red flags for “oh, that’s normal” behavior.  She also spoke to the commonality for women to be raped by their abuser.

Survivorship is not one dimensional.  Sexual assault is sometimes only one of many things that are survived by survivors.  Physical, emotional, and psychological abuse sometimes go hand in hand with survivors.  The complexity of domestic violence and sexual assault cannot be explained in one letter, but you can write a letter about what you yourself have survived.

Offering your solidarity to a reader doesn’t mean writing a litany of all occurrences and abuse that you have experienced.  It means offering your understanding that abuse and assault often and do occur and you found your way out.  You survived.

Tell her how you did.  Tell her not only how you survived, but how you lived afterward to write a letter.

Lessons from Voicemail: The Power of Brevity

Have you ever recieved a voicemail message where the person begins giving you important information but then, suddenly, they start sounding like a carousel?  The information is being repeated – again – with nothing new to say.  The person just doesn’t know how to end the voicemail message and, wanting to make certain you understand the information and also out of lack of preparation, keeps talking.  While you, the listener is thinking, “Yup. Ok, GOT IT.  Stop talking.”

What power lies in brevity, eh?

The beautiful thing about voicemail is that it’s an opportunity to leave something memorable.  It can be a message of information, greeting, memo, humor, love, or nothingness.  It can be anything, but it must be brief.  The window is open only a few inches.  No sense in trying to fit your whole body through when a wave from your hand will suffice.

It is oftentimes the person/writer who spends more time in active preparation and expels fewer words than the gregarious individual with long laces of prose who stays with us.   This may be difficult to do with trauma and healing when there is so much emotional memory, so practice your power for succinct writing .  Fine-comb your memory for the gold and leave it on the page.  Take out what you WANT to fit and leave only what does.

Choose the largest stones. Let go of the pebbles.

Natur(e)al Surprises

I took this photo yesterday.

Driving around for a series of errands on a crisp and beautiful autumn day, I knew that it was a high chance of photographing simple but beautiful pieces of scenery purely by chance.  I was right.

I ended up at a donated farm turned research center for organic farming.  As beautiful as the farm was, I couldn’t help but marvel at how close this place was to my home.  Not any more than 20 minutes, maybe, and yet I felt I was in another world.  Not one car, not one living soul walking.

It’s always a beautiful thing to be taken aback by nature in the hidden spots in your hometown that still have some strange power to lure you in a new direction and surprise you with its secret beauty.

Have you ever found yourself in old but new territory?  A place that wasn’t on the map but surprised you with its offering?  Have you ever been pleasantly surprised at your hometown and what it can offer you?  Ever find an unknown spot in your community where peace and wisdom found?

Perhaps for today’s writing prompt you can think of a place in your hometown that still catches your breath when you see it.  Maybe you’ve never seen it before.  Maybe you’ve seen it a hundred times already.  But, is there a place close to where you live that sets your heart on fire?  A place that makes you feel you need to genuflect in its natural reverence?  Where is it and, more importantly, what did you find there?

The Blueberry Diaries

 

Beautiful blueberries handpicked by my parents

 

I don’t know many people who refute blueberries.  In some form of it – pie, smoothie, shake, tart, muffin, pancake, even beer – everyone finds their way to a blueberry or two.

The blueberry is an enormously healthy fruit.  Research reports come back glowing about the blueberry: it can help sustain vision, clear out toxins, promote your immunity, keep your memory sharp, aid in both cancer and Alzheimer’s treatment, smooth out your digestive track, and give your brain a happy kick.

Blueberries.  They sound life-saving, don’t they?

There are two blueberries in my life.  One source is my deliciously irresistible vegan choco-blueberry smoothie.  This smoothie simply makes me happy, is healthy to boot, and starts my mornings off with just enough of a full stomach to feel satisfied and also not too heavy that I feel sluggish.  It gives me energy to carry my son up and down the stairs, change his diapers, feed him bottles and food, clean up his messes, watch him crawl, play with him on the couch, write, edit, launder clothes, and do the dishes before noon everyday.

The blueberry is my drug.

The other blueberry is Nick, my husband.  And while I physically do not try to blend Nick in my smoothie or eat him for better health, he’s he kind of partner that is not only life-sustaining, but life-giving.  He often clears my head, opens my heart, helps me remember what is important, and tries everything in his power to keep me healthy – mentally and physically.  That means he tries to understand the writing, publishing, and blogging world even though he’s never written, published, or blogged one word in his life.  It means watering the newly planted grass seed at 10pm at night because I didn’t remember to do so earlier that day.  It means laughing with me right before I fall asleep doing impersonations of Stephen Colbert.  Being my blueberry means sitting out on the front steps of our house to wait for the Super Harvest Moon and pointing out peach-colored autumn leaves on a feathering tree.

The blueberry people of your life are the ones who not only help you recover from whatever has ailed you, but help give you new life, new perspective.

In the aftermath of assault, most people try to be there for you and try to understand, but it will only be one ir two people who stay.  The one or two who admit they DON’T understand, but understanding is not a prerequisite for being there and listening.

Who’s been a blueberry in your life?

Cross posted at My Ecdysis

Let There Be Change, And There was Change

There’s a reason why there are so many songs about “change.”  Outside of the genre of love, change – and our in/ability to cope with it – is often a subject of human interest.  What was once there is no longer.  The relationship that flourished is now stagnant.  The soil that was once ripe for tilling is now overturned with rocks.  The closet’s door that always had to be shut at night now swings open with ease.

I used to be identify Republican (I know…I know…) when I was a roaring 8 year old, listening to political debates with my Dad.  I used to think that when the sun shined in our living room, the dust particles were fairies protecting me and my family.  During grade school recess, I was told to go back to my own country, and I believed I wasn’t supposed to be in the United States because of my brown skin.  I used to envy smokers, write political letters addressed to the world, and signed up for every kind of march in D.C. once I was on my own.

I identify independent now and listen to Sinatra with my Dad.  I’m allergic to dust and believe I have every right to live where I am.  I tried smoking and quit, write political letters addressed to the world, and walk with my son around the neighborhood telling him about the revelations of Latin America and the Philippine cultures.

Who were you before?  Who are you now?

 

The Editor, Prompted

I was getting all geared up to write a prompt this morning when I visited a favorite site of mine, Writing Ourselves Whole, which is an uplifting site dedicated to the practice of writing in the midst of healing and transformation.

It had already been bookmarked for a while and this morning I read “Light Through the Layers of His Eyes,” and sat, stunned, afterward.  Stunned, meaning, I was looking out the window for several minutes, finding the regular pattern to my breath.  I wasn’t out of breath,  but I don’t know how long I had been breathing so shallowly when I read this.  It was written so honestly, with so much watercolor gentleness about such a brutal violation, that I felt I was there.  With her.  In that room.

I wanted this to be a poem but it’s just the same old story and I’m coming out as not quite ready to let go trying to tell you how it was. This is an awful memory: he was the one who taught me both the hatefulness and acceptability of queerness, the way he’d mock and cackle over gay men he knew, decry their mother issues, their obvious narcissism, and then later, mucfh later, in bed with me(and how much I need a phrase that incorporates the tender brutality of a forced and enforced consent into something as plain and bald as ‘rape’), he would detail his own bisexuality, he wanted to form an allegiance with me, but I couldn’t agree too easily, because of the doublethink and the nausea that caused.

And so, my friends, I, the editor, find myself prompted by someone else.  There’s no need for me to write a prompt for today.  Read the brave words of this brave woman.  Reflect.

Write yourself whole.

A Letter Only You Can Write

Our lives are like DNA, no two prints are the same.   And while some experiences share similarity, our reaction and decisions on how to process those experiences are never identical.

Not just writers, but we, everyday people, often forget that we have the only signature to our lives.  There is no one else that can write what you need to write.  Someone may have similar thoughts or follow a cognitive pattern in line with yours, but no one can express the way you do.  And if you choose not to express, those words and ideas and potential die with the decision to remain inactive.

Write.  Write not for the anthology, but for yourself.  Write for your own healing.  Write for someone else’s healing.  Write for your sanity.  Write for your pleasure.  Write not to get published, but for practicing self-permission.  Write out of the hunger to preserve your passing winds of inspiration.  Write some.  Write all.  Just write.

Claim the authorship of your life and believe in the voice that compels you to write your name on the wall of humanity that only you can sign.

“I was here.”

There’s No Place Like Home, Figuratively

There’s a reason why the widely known cliche “There’s no place like home” line was embedded into a movie about rainbows and a place called Emerald City.  Home, for many of us, changes from place to place.  It’s not always the same Kansas farm that gives us comfort.  Home, ideally, is the place or sometimes person that brings an overall state of relief without trying.  By simply existing, this place or person is home.  Walls/arms embrace us for who we are – faults and quirks, tempers and spitfires – and we sink into this embrace when we most need.

Write a letter about when you came home after trauma.  How long did it take you?  Where or who was home?  What did you find?  Are you still looking for home?

Remember, don’t explain.  Write.

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