Growing Teeth on the Inside—Vagina Dentata and Other Prompts for the Strong Stomached

For the first prompt, use the picture of the ovarian teratoma to write a poem or short story from the perspective of a tissue that has grown teeth and sentience inside another’s body. Does your narrator feel safe and content within the other, or does the narrator want to chew its way out of its prison? How much does the narrator understand of its world and its own limitations?

For more information on this dermoid cysts and teratomas and its possible relation to the myth of vagina dentata, click here.


For the second prompt, write a variation of a vagina dentata poem. Think of the movie Teeth but with less assault and more bite (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). For inspiration, here is a poem by the amazing Arminé Iknadossian.


Btw, this poem was published in Moon Tide Press’s Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror. Come out to Goldenest Diner (13030 Goldenwest, Westminster) on October 17th at 7 p.m. to hear more poems from this anthology. Don’t forget to wear your dark side on the outside to compete in the costume contest!

For the final prompt—muhhahahahahaha—make a list of five iconic objects/image of a famous horror or suspense movie and write from that object’s or image’s perspective. What does Freddy’s blade-embedded glove help him keep track of? To-do lists, to-kill lists, multiplication tables? What does the elevator want to carry in its belly in The Shining? Does the elevator see itself as a protector or a villain?


Chanting Turkeys, Final Countdowns, and a Basement Vortex—Prompts for October

For October all of my prompts will be weird and creepy. Also, I am trying to write more horror poems to jumpstart next month’s NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month).

For the first prompt, write what the turkeys are chanting as they circle a dead cat in the road. Is it a dirge, an elegy, an ode, or maybe a limerick? Perhaps it is the nine-line, countdown poem, the nonet?

For a video of the circling turkeys, click here.


For the next prompt, write a poem on the theme of a countdown to the apocalypse, armageddon, the Rapture, a Nickelback revival, or similar event of wholesale terror and bloodshed using the form nonet—a nine-line poem in which the first line has nine syllables, the second has eight, and so on until the last line with only one syllable. For more information and a sample poem, check out Robert Lee Brewer’s explanation on the Writer’s Digest site.

For the last prompt, write a short story or poem based on the photo below. What came through the vortex and why? What happened next?

Good luck!


I aspire to be Magic Realism Bot—Prompts

Twitter can be a joy—full of pet pics, shade-throwing dictionaries, Chuck Wendig, Sappho Bot and of course Magic Realism Bot. I simply cannot outdo Magic Realism Bot, so I will acknowledge my defeat and steal its prompts….


If the witch’s cauldron doesn’t jumpstart any ideas, let’s play around a bit. If life is a bowl of cherries of alternate timelines, you have chosen to eat the one containing the pit of hell with undercooked eggs and Nickelback on an endless loop. Describe.

O you escape that pit only to be faced with the same bowl of cherries: the next one contains the Garden of Eden with carnivorous daisies and deceitful tulips, but the dragonflies…they are tiny fire-breathing terrors and you have invaded their tettitory. What is plan of escape and your weapon of choice?


Next prompt: Who literally killed poetry, and what were the motive and the weapon? Be alliterative detective.

OMG, I cannot even blame the wine. I didn’t have any…

Sooo sorry.


Animus, Schadenfreude, and Rancor: Giving Birth to All My Little Bitter Joys—Prompts

I want to thank Jan Stinchcomb for messaging me this poem. It is incredible.

For the first prompt, use the last line of Dayna Patterson’s “Self-Portrait as Titania with Newborn Animus”: “All my words call for bandages” as a ghostline. Go from there. Ignite.


I find the imagery in this poem breathtaking. Only on a second reading, did I notice all of the sound devices—alliteration, consonance and assonance as well as the careful attention given to rhythm. So many examples of sound repetition: “womb of worry,” “faith has fled,” “fathers’ fallow,” “What are we but the leavings.” So lovely.

For the second prompt, write a poem in couplets and include this repetition in at least one of the two lines and consciously slow down phrases and lines for greater effect. The phrase “vernix of red flame” felt heavy in my mouth as did the hyphenating of phrases—their slowness mimicking the birth in the poem. I am not a sound poet and often miss these devices, although I am trying to improve both my performance and my awareness of sound and rhythm for the reader. If you prioritize sound or at least balance it with imagery more than I, please offer suggestions in the comments. I would love to hear them.

For the third prompt, take one of the questions in the poem and write a response poem answering that question.

For the final prompt (as usual), write a poem or story using the following words: “vernix,” “fringe,” “cusp,” “scorch,” “linkage” “flesh,””rope,” “render,” “sterile,” and “wounds” but do not use either birth nor botany/farming as your subject matter.

And as always, make sure to avoid mimicking another’s voice—make the words and images your own—and acknowledge the poet for your inspiration.

Good luck!

The Form of Hope—Prompts

For the firstt prompt, take the line “All poetry is a form of hope” (midway in the poem) from Dean Young’s “Small Craft Talk Warning” to use as a ghostline. From there, create a list of items that somehow are the form for hope. Play with the idea of poetic forms. Perhaps include an image to represent morning for an aubade (a love song or poem associated with dawn). See what connections you can make between poetic forms and personal associations. Bend, blend, and reform however necessary.

I appreciate this poem’s disparate images. I have not yet found the through line but am not disturbed or disappointed that I haven’t. Instead, the poem feels like each image is a separate treasure or is akin to people watching and trying to explain the relationships seen among a group.


For the next prompt, take five concrete nouns from the poem (e.g., “hive,” “ornaments,” “ghost,” “dosage,” “space station”) and five verbs/would-be verbs (“miscalculate,” “thaw,” “forces,” “probing,” “counted”) and mix and match. See what creates friction and write in whatever form—sonnet, free verse, flash fiction, etc.— works in the moment.

As always, give credit to the poet who inspired you and be careful to write in your own voice. Good luck!


Bonus prompt: create a dialogue between the two small piles of stones and lighthouses in the distance.

Event and Prompt: This Wednesday at the Ugly Mug—Dark Ink Anthology Reading! Be there and be scared (of me apparently)

Mermaids, monsters, 50-ft. women, oh, my! Join us at 8 p.m. at the Ugly Mug in Orange for your favorite creature feature and Moon Tide’s publisher Eric Morago whom I blackmail into publishing me because I keep his darkest secret in an empty Kleenex box on my bedside table. I haven’t ever seen it—it is a dark secret and avoids the light, duh—but I feed it pumpkin seeds, so I know it is still there. Buy the book and free his secret or his soul—both probably cost the same.

And now for the first prompt: write a poem or story about taking a mermaid for a lover or an enemy. For inspiration, read Jan Stinchcomb’s “The Lorelei Project.” Just remember, not all hearts beat warm. 


 (This is the mermaid I created out of rocks, seaweed, and shells a few years ago.)

And here is a picture of me looking very intense (or my attempt at frightening at the Dark Ink anthology launch:

(Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)

(Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)

And here is my mermaid poem in the anthology...but you have to buy the book to read the ending of “Mermaid: The Ending.”


Thank you, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, for the photo and for the plug on Twitter!

Christmas Prompts—The Gift of the Internet

Last year I came up with my own prompts for the holiday; this year, just a big nope. My brain this holiday season is the blankest page in a notebook, not even lined. So here is a list of writing prompts for both poetry and fiction from Litbridge.  


And here is a bizarre short story that I loved from Greg Van Eekhout and found today on Twitter. Again, Twitter (in spite of all of my griping about Nazis, incels and bots (oh, my!) is a blessing. How could I not click on the link with that description...


NaNoWriMo NOW—First Day to 50,000 Words

Hi all, I meant to give prior notice, but procrastinating and petting my cat Pebbles took usual. This month is National Novel Writing Month—a don’t-fuss-just-write writing challenge. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. The goal is not to write 50,000 perfect and polished words (if you do, then awesome!), but just to write. After November, you have the start of a novel to then complete the story, revise, edit, revise some more, edit, edit, edit... 

Ideally, you should have a plot outline and some characters thought out. I don’t have either. Let’s just jump in and start swimming. I have however signed up at the site. This organization really does provide a lot of support, including writing events and writing buddies, and fun rewards. [It also encourages younger writers in K-12 schools and gives resources and materials to libraries.]

What kind of prizes can you get for completing the challenge—other than bragging rights, of course? The T-shirt. Really, it is all about the T-shirt—a self-congratulation to wear on your chest and a pat on your back for your back. I did complete the challenge in 2013. OMG, I did not realize it has really been five years.... Regardless, I still wear the shirt and will until it disintegrates into fine layer of lint. (yes, yes, yes, the date is on the shirt, and I still didn’t realize how long ago, but I don’t stare at my shirt unless I spill food on myself). 

So go to the site, sign in, and start in. Good luck!  


Keys, Hopes and Dreams—The What-You’ve-Lost Prompt

Humans destroy and break things—hence the invention of bandages, spackle, superglue, duct tape and  a whole industry providing windshield repair. But humans may lose more things than they break. I don’t have the percentages on me right now—I think I left them in the other side of my brain. So write a prompt for what you have lost—phone in the toilet, wedding ring in the ocean, your Play-Doh partner from preschool, your imaginary friends and real friends and frenemies, your belief in human progress, your cat Fluffy, your hope for the future, your memory of last Thursday, your childhood self and your sense of self. 

Imagine an afterlife in which all that you have lost is reunited. You are surrounded by mixtapes and house keys, friends and library books, grandparents and pets, all of the former selves and the self-confidence you held for one whole week...

I love both of these poems: “In the Museum of Lost Objects” by Rebecca Lindbergh and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. 


Not pearly gates but gates to somewhere...

Hulk Smash—The What-You’ve-Broken Prompt

Humans are clumsy creatures. We do NOT land on our feet, but so much lands around our feet in shards and splinters. I personally seem to project a field of chaos—technology fritzes out, clocks slow down, sidewalks crack, people trip and fall, hopes crash and best intentions collide all at my presence.

Write a poem or short story about what you have broken: hearts and a liver, globes—whether worlds or grapes, a companionable silence, a marriage, bones or an exoskeleton, the shadow of a bird, a unicorn’s last hope, a sense of order, any sense at all, etc. After you broke it, did you buy it? If you did, in what coin did you purchase its loss? If not, whom or what do you still owe? Where do you carry that debt? On your back, around your neck, in your belly or inside your throat?

For inspiration, read “What’s  Broken” by Dorianne Laux.


Hulk toe smash.  

Lazy Post Prompt with Giant Squid—Posting Other People’s Prompts with Random Pic

Hi all, as you may have noticed, I am a bit of a slacker (hence the single post for last week). As further proof of my slacker affiliation, I am just posting a shared Facebook post of multiple prompts. Many of them are probably suited more to fiction than poetry, but that is feature, not a bug in spite of National Poetry Month 30/30 challenge (which as further proof of my Slackerdom citizenship, I am 11 days behind—Ooof).

Here, is the link. I hope one of them gets you started!

If nothing else, maybe it is time for you to write that sonnet to a giant squid you’ve been putting off. Or maybe that’s just me. Good luck!


Wishing Well—prompt

You get three wishes and one lamp to rub. Or maybe you are offered one last wish. Nah, you get all the wishes you want. Write a poem or a short story about that one wish, the three, or the many. What did you wish for? If it is a wish for wealth, be sure to specify what you want the money for. Who does your wish help? Only yourself? Does it harm anyone? Who suffers? What are the consequences for you and for others? Check out this fantastic poem “wishes for sons” by Lucille Clifton. Or if you wish (pun intended, sorry), explore the world Clifton created and flesh it out in a short story or a poem of your own. For more world building and gender shifting, read the amazing Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness .


It’s a Trap!

Yes, it is a trap, I mean, prompt from Steve Ramirez of the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry at the Ugly Mug. His prompt even has its own samples poems from Reginald Dwayne Betts and an introduction by Jericho Brown.


If Steve’s prompt doesn’t spark anything, let’s ask more questions until the answers start new questions. Think about the cages or the boxes we build for ourselves or allow others to put us in. What is it made of? Concrete and iron, cardboard, a picket fence, a closet? Why did you stay there? How long did you remain? How did you finally get out? Or are you still waiting for a key, a pair of scissors, a Facebook post, a zeppelin, a lit stick of dynamite to help you escape? What will it take for you to free yourself, or can you only hope for a rescuer? If so, who is that person(s)? What are they wearing, and do they ride in on a horse or a dragon, a VW Bug or a pet fish to release you? Do they bring a toolbox or a lockpick or a chainsaw or a blowtorch?


Ursula K. Le Guin—Build a World

The amazing Ursula K. Le Guin 

The amazing Ursula K. Le Guin 

I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s books and the vistas she provided me. I particularly admire that she created a world, realized it excluded women and demonstrated both the difficulty in correcting that inequality and the ultimate joy and freedom for everyone—even the dead—in tearing down artificial walls.


For your prompt, write a story or poem using one of these ideas. If you can (and wish), try to incorporate that mythic quality she employed so effectively in the Earthsea cycle and in other writing. Create a world, the one you want your loved ones to live in. For more opportunites to adore Le Guin, read her poem “The Maenads” and learn more about her life and all of her works on her website.  


Or if you want to use the prompt but not necessarily as a tribute to Le Guin, mix two or more of the items: pet the woods, invent a cat, write the collective dream of a city council or provide the standard operating procedure for an orgy (with a clear timeline—some actions should occur prior, and not after, others). Or perhaps live in a protest. What sign would you carry for life?

A Universal Message

Since I am still not quite over the flu, I am cheating today and using a poetry prompt from Poets & Writers: imagine that the universe is trying to tell you something. Click here for the prompt.

If that prompt doesn’t strike anything for you, let’s tweak it slightly by adding the condition that the universe is writing you a love letter. Perhaps the universe is burning part the world just for you. Why else would every store window advertise matches and kerosene? Maybe the trees are bursting into reds and golds even in winter. Don’t be afraid to be selfish; after all, the universe is mouthing promises against your throat. Give in. Write a poem or flash fiction piece or even a personal essay. You know the universe wants you to. 


Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh—Three Offerings

Recently I posted a prompt of three items that can be used for either poems or short fiction. Let’s update that prompt to fit the holiday: choose three items, but make these items offerings. Like the three kings, you may offer three items of value to God’s first-born son, or something less tangible, perhaps the first deep embrace you received after a year alone, the smell of rain after a long drought, the last goodbye you said to someone you lost.

Or make your offerings to some other power in your life, whether benevolent or malignant. Or make offerings to multiple influences. Regardless of who receives them or what the offerings are, you paid a price to have these or will pay dearly to give them away. For inspiration, read T. S. Eliot’s “The Gift of the Magi.”


‘Tis the Season to Earn that Coal—Sex Prompts

There is time enough to post prompts celebrating the true spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah. Tonight is for all the naughty boys and girls to whom Santa gives coal to keep those furnaces burning hot... If you wish, keep the Christmas theme. Are you Santa’s favorite elf? Write about sitting on his lap. Does Santa carry a candy cane in is pocket, or he is really happy to give you a present? Is there dancing on the North Pole? Santa did name one of his reindeer vixen.  

If the season of giving and receiving does not make you make you think of fishnet stockings, then let’s just get down to business. Write a sex poem. Don’t hold back unless edging is your thing. Remember, really nice boys finish last—after the girl does. 

 For inspiration, read Kim Addonizio’s “What Women Want” and listen to the poet read her work. 

This prompt works for short stories too.  If you need a little help to get started, check out this NSFW random prompt generator. I think I will let you find your own stories...