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...



Three Lists, Three Elements, Good Things Come in Threes

Yes, I know I promised to provide prompts for short stories too. I admit I am a slacker. I do have a prompt (a borrowed one) that will work for either short stories or for poetry. Behold, the Power of Three: three categories, three elements, three spinning rings of hell, however you wish to think of it. I “borrowed” this idea from two places, Steve Ramirez and the website Creative Writing Now.  

Poetry workshops with Steve Ramirez usually involve two or even three categories of five items: i.e. five mythological beasts, five mundane tasks and five embarrassing secrets. Mix and match until you get friction. Perhaps you decide Medusa likes to sing Disney songs in the shower as she washes her snakes. Which song does she like best? Describe her voice. Do the snakes provide backup?


Now for the short story prompt Three Elements: Choose a set of three elements and write a story that contains all three of them.

  1. A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger. 
  2. A campfire, a scream, and a small lie that gets bigger and bigger.
  3. A broken wristwatch, peppermints, and a hug that goes too far.

Somehow the “hug that goes too far” draws me in. Check out the full list of three element sets as well as other short story ideas. 

The story “Cat Person” has generated a lot of attention on Twitter. I think Red Vines, movie theater, and bad sex would be its three-element prompt if I were to attempt to reverse engineer the story. 

Faerie Tales Revisited—A Prompt from Two Idiots Peddling Poetry

From my last post, you know how much the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry reading series means to me. Along with providing amazing features, supporting local poets and providing a welcome home for zombie and Star Trek poems, co-host Steve Ramirez posts prompts every day for April’s 30/30 challenge.

Here is a prompt from Steve posted way back in 2013. He even provides sample poems, bless his heart. 

Btw, Steve began his own blog. Check it out.


Because I am personally focusing on poetry right now, I have neglected all other forms of writing. I will try to do better in the future, but Steve’s prompt lends itself equally to fiction, whether flash or longer pieces. Check out Jan Stinchcomb’s story published at Rose Red Review.

To read more of Jan’s amazing fiction, visit her website with its links to her other published stories. And buy her book. ;-)