The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Writing Prompt: Write a poem about a hobby May 3, 2010

Hi everyone!

Some of you may know that it’s the beginning of garage sale season. I’m a particularly big fan of garage sales this year because I need things for my house, but I also need to eat and pay my electric bill. Already, I’ve found some great deals and I’ve seen some interesting items and people.

After returning home one day I realized that browsing garage sales is a very concrete sensory experience and so I though I’d try to capture some of those details in a poem. So here it is:

Browsing through Garage Sales on a Friday Morning

The sunlight glints off the asphalt

and people wearing sneakers and sunglasses,

some with plastic car seats at the crook of their elbow,

walk into the shaded garage, or stand in the driveway,

peering into plastic totes.

Some breathe heavily and push with their elbows,

but most make polite conversation and examine bowls and stuffed animals with a smile turning at the corners of their mouth.

So here’s your prompt: Write a poem about a hobby or any activity you do that has some concrete sensory details, especially if it’s an everyday activity like shopping, doing dishes, or yard work.

Then, if you feel inclined, share your work here!


Wedding Salutations April 28, 2010

This past weekend I was part of a wedding party. It’s always an honor, and this was especially exciting, as I introduced the bride and groom. (I made sure to brag about it, too!)

photo by Anne Harrigan

After having been in so many weddings (this was my sixth) and having been a guest at many more, I have yet to find a go-to wedding gift. I’d written earlier about finding the perfect go-to shower gift, but weddings are a whole different animal. Usually, I resort to something off of the registry.

But then there’s a new problem: what do you write on the card?

It doesn’t help when you leave to the last minute (even during the reception!) and you brain is so mushed you can’t think of much to say beyond something generic like, “Congratulations! God bless!” But when you’re at the wedding of a writer, that hardly seems to suffice.

So, I’ve tried to come up with some creative wedding salutations since then. Here’s what I have so far:

  • For those Dr. Who fans: “May your love be like a tardis, normal to the typical passersby, but unbounded by time and space by those who enter in.”
  • For those Creative Memories scrapbookers out there: “May all your memories together be creative.”
  • For all the Photoshop lovers out there: “May your love for one another be like Photoshop: able to turn a grey sky blue, a frown to a smile and change your focus to what matters most.”
  • For those supermodels who marry each other: “May you love looking at one another as much as you love looking at yourself.” (Okay, I don’t have any friends who are that vain, but I was trying to think of something out of the box.)

How about you? What creative wedding salutations can you come up with?


Writing Prompt March 22, 2010

Filed under: Journaling,Writing — ashleybarrett @ 11:04 am
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Hi everyone!

I’m still doing the Spring Cleaning Challenge at Nourishing Gourmet but for me, the challenge this week did not merit a post.

So here’s a new writing prompt. This prompt is somewhat adapted from From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write excellent fiction.

Take some brief anecdote from your life and write it the exact way you would narrate it to a friend. Let it sit for two weeks. Then pick it up again and try to make everything as concrete as possible, don’t name emotions, show them. Ruthlessly edit generalizations. Wait another two weeks, do it again.

Here’s my first-time results:

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 18 and I probably still wouldn’t have a driver’s license if  various members hadn’t taught/forced me to drive. One night in the summer, I was hanging out with a two of my cousins and a group of family friends around midnight, everyone decided that I needed a driving lesson and we went to the parking lot of a nearby middle school. My cousin, Amber* had her car, a Chevy Impala and her friend Lucy, had a blue Saturn. I started off with Amber in the Impala. She showed me stuff like how to change gears and how to put my foot on the pedals and stuff. I was puttering around the parking lot at about ten miles an hour, things were going pretty well, but I was still terrified. My other cousin Tim*, was driving Lucy’s Saturn. He was two years younger than me and had just gotten his license. He was showing off by driving circles around me, honking and flashing the lights.

Amber yelled at him out her window, “Stop it, jerkface, you’re scaring her!”

After a few more minutes of puttering, Amber thought I might do better if we switched cars, the Saturn was a lot smaller.

Riding in the Saturn felt much safer. The car was smaller and less powerful, so I felt less likely to crash into something. I could even accelerate to twenty miles an hour. After puttering around for a little bit Lucy said, “Ok let’s graduate from the parking lot. Turn onto this dirt road up here.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about, but I turned onto what looked like a dirt road.

Suddenly, the car thudded and the front end dropped several inches. I thought Lucy was going to yell at me but she didn’t. Her and our other friend, Sarah just busted out laughing at the same time.

Kelly said, “Lesson Three: How to back out of a ditch.”

So I got out of the ditch and drove around a little more, I did eventually venture onto the road. As I was confidently circling the middle school, we passed Amber and Tim who were stopped and standing beside the Impala.

The Impala was stuck. It had been a long, wet summer and the car sat up to it’s bumper in mud.

At first we all cheerily tried to help. Some pushed from the back, others pulled from the front and visa versa. The mud was slick and thick. It sucked out shoes off our feet as we tried to push the car. Then we tried digging it out, it took forever and our moods turned sour. We were all covered in mud, except for Amber who wouldn’t help us dig because she had worn her flip-flops with the big red flower. I wasn’t allowed to help dig, my cousins said if I came home with filthy clothes my mom might not ever let me see my cousins again. So I stood by a tree and tried to boost morale by commenting on the irony of the two licensed drivers getting the car stuck. Few were amused and Tim threw mud at me.

We called multiple people for back up. Amber’s brother came with a pull chain but no one had a hitch on the back of their vehicle. Sarah went back to her parents house and got a van which had a hitch, but the Impala was in too deep. Finally, it was like two in the morning by now, Amber called her friend Chelsea who had a big yellow F150 and rescued the Impala.

We were relieved, but tired and dirty. Amber took her car to an automated car wash. One of the ones with the hoses and washed her car again and again. Underneath and everything. Tim and I were quiet while we helped her. Then we went back to the apartment and everyone cleaned up. Stephanie’s bathroom was filthy by the time we were done, but no one cared. We were all happy to be clean and dry and we fell asleep eating Cheez-It’s and watching infomercials.

*Names changed to protect the guilty, but you know who you are. 🙂

Your turn, feel free to share your early drafts and how they progress!


Overextended Prompt February 8, 2010

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 9:03 am
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Here’s a prompt that most of the USA can identify with. I gleaned it from the current issue of Writer’s Digest.

Write an overextended poem. That is, write a poem about someone or something being stretched too thin. For instance a co-worker with too much work to do or a balloon being filled with air to the point that it is about to pop.

Being in the kitchen most of the day definitely influenced my attempt!

Like salad with too little dressing,

we make our lives unpalatable.

Like Saran wrap stretched too tightly

Ready to split at the next gentle tug.

Please let me know what you come up with!


Writing Prompt January 25, 2010

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:35 am
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Hi everyone!

I found a writing prompt that was so fun, I had to share!

This one is in The Pocket Muse published by Writer’s Digest Books.

Finish the following sentence in the voice of someone ten years older or ten years younger than you: The only thing I ever wanted was …

Here’s what I came up with:

The only thing I ever wanted was for someone to pay attention to me, to give me more than a passing glance. You know what I mean, the way people look at the ring pops and roses preserved in glass tubes displayed by a gas station checkout. No one ever takes me seriously because of my blonde curly hair and pink cheeks. How seriously would people take you if you looked like an overgrown four-year-old?

Looking back, setting Carol’s bug experiment on fire was probably a little much.

Happy Writing!


Writing Prompt: Naming the Diner, Naming the Diet, Naming the Dog December 9, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 2:56 pm
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Here’s a fun writing prompt to get your creative juices going! This is also from the book, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writer by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. My answers are in the non italicized font. The first name I list will be the sincere one and the second farcical.

In your notebook, keep a list of unusual names for potential characters. in fact, every writer should have a collection of old yearbooks, benefit programs, phone books and so forth to browse through when he needs to name a character. And don’t stop there. keep lists for things you might need to name in a story sometime.

Name the following things. Imagine stories they might go in. remember that tone is important, so choose both an earnest name and a farcical one

a desert town Daley, Dirt

a race horse Swifty, Thundering Steed

a literary magazine Emerging,  The Steven S. Nobs Literary Journal

a new disease, Hastings disease, Aggitator’s Rash

a rock band Tommy and Hearty Boys, The Shrieking Guitar

a summer cottage Cedar Lake, Inglewood

triplets Sandy, Mandy and Tammy,  Itsy, Bitsy and Tipsy

a liqueur Timberwood Wine, Drunk Skunk Beer

a football team The Hammers ,The Kelder Koalas

a diner The Meet n’ Eat, The Eat n’ Run

a new religion Breneanism, Prodism

a new planet Creed, Clean

a polluted river The Latney River, The Labor River

a poetry collection Needles in a Haystack,  Alberta and Scope of Dawn

a chihuahua Beanie, Bowzer

a burglar Aaron Reed, Rick Swipe

a beauty salon Timeless , The Set n’ Spray Beauty Parlor

a new diet The Metabolism Restoration Diet, (I couldn’t stop at just one farcical name, sorry.) The Suck It In and Win! Fitness Program, The Gag Reflex Restraining Diet, The Doom and Bloom Diet, The Slow Diet

a soap opera Delaney Court, Drama Days High

a bar The Lipstick Ladies Tavern, Chuggers

a lipstick color Strawberries and Cream, Blooming Roses

a yacht Swimming Beauty, Sink or Swim

I’d love to see what you come up with!


Christmas Music and Rule Breaking November 23, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:39 am
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I’m listening to Christmas music as I write this post. No, I’m not overlooking Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for Christmas music.

Sometimes, I get a little rush from breaking rules. Like my rule not to listen to Christmas music before thanksgiving, or to put garlic in meat for tacos. And (only occasionally) not making the bed.

I’m convinced you can get a creative rush from breaking “rules” too, at least in first drafts. One of the rules I’m most fanatic about is active voice. So for my writing prompt this week, I’m going to write something intentionally using passive voice.

Here’s what I have so far:

I was here and she stood there

a little grin played on the corners of her mouth.

She peeked at me from beneath the stairs.

Flecks of glitter sparkled on her hands and cheeks.

A piece of red garland hung in her hair.

The light glinted off tiny streaks of tinsel on her shoulder

and evergreen air-freshener drifted through the air.

“Look Mommy! I’ve been helping you decorate for Christmas!”

So I encourage you this week in writing or life to break one of your own rules, just a little one, and see what comes of it.

Oh yeah and if you’re a rebel like me, here’s one of my favorite Christmas carols.

Maybe I really do have Christmas on the brain…