Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Creative Writing Prompts

Happy Earth Day!

Below is last week's column from American Life in Poetry.  I chose Linda Hogan's poem "The Sandhills" for your enjoyment.  I hope you like the poem.

Creative Writing Prompts

Fiction:  Write a short story that starts with 2 characters watching sandhill cranes.  Where are the characters?  What are they talking about?  Note:  This can be written as drama, too. 

Poetry:  Write a poem with a bird in it.  10 lines or less.

Nonfiction:  Reflect on watching birds.  If you are fortunate to look out your window and see a bird, just observe for a few minutes, then reflect on life via a journal entry.

Free write prompt starters from Hogan's poem:

From the following lines, free-write for 3 minutes and see what you get!

1.  The wind is. . .

2.  The shine of water. . .

3.  Above strands of earth. . .

Commentary by Ted Kooser, from American Life in Poetry

This column originates in Nebraska, and our office is about two hours’ drive from that stretch of the Platte River where thousands of sandhill cranes stop for a few weeks each year. Linda Hogan, one of our most respected Native writers and Writer in Residence for The Chickasaw Nation, perfectly captures their magic and mystery in this fine poem. 

The Sandhills  by Linda Hogan

The language of cranes
we once were told
is the wind. The wind
is their method,
their current, the translated story
of life they write across the sky.
Millions of years
they have blown here
on ancestral longing,
their wings of wide arrival,
necks long, legs stretched out
above strands of earth
where they arrive
with the shine of water,
stories, interminable
language of exchanges
descended from the sky
and then they stand,
earth made only of crane
from bank to bank of the river
as far as you can see
the ancient story made new.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem reprinted from Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, Ed. by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, The Univ. of Arizona Press, 2011, by permission of Linda Hogan and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poetry Slam with Animals

Happy Poetry Month!

I got such a kick out of this cartoon that I asked the writer of the cartoon, poet Barbara Crooker, if she would mind if I shared it on the blog.  She graciously gave permission.

So, a chicken walks into a poetry slam. . . .

Your crazy prompt is to write a slam poem written by the animal of your choice.  Which animal will it be?  A cow?  A pig?  A dog?  A cat?  An elephant?  A dolphin?  ?????

As always, I would love to read what you come up with.  Please share in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hans Christian Andersen Writing Prompts

In honor of Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, I would like to offer up a special fairy tale prompt.  Did you know that Hans Christian Andersen wrote 175 fairy tales in his lifetime?  Among them are The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, and The Emperor's New Clothes.  The Writer's Almanac has a nice write-up about him today.

Well, if Hans Christian Andersen can write 175 fairy tales, we can at least attempt to write one.  Today's challenge is to write a fairy tale using something magical and follow the guidelines below:

1.  The protagonist is stuck in a situation he or she hates (school, job, family, etc.).  You pick the situation and give the protagonist character (sex, age, personality, motive, etc.)

2.  The magical element is some kind of a talking plant or flower or tree.

3.  Somehow, love must be involved.

4.  Develop a conflict around the situation the protagonist hates and the person he or she falls in love with.

5.  Use the following items in your story:  a coffee cup, a pebble, a stream, stars, and music.

Alternative Creative Writing Prompts:

Here are some lines from Hans' stories, and you can start free-writing from any one of them:

1.  For many heavy days and dark nights the heart must suffer to. . .
2.  The bird flutters round us. . .
3.  In the country, close by a high road, stood a. . .
4.  It was made of clay in the shape of a. . .

You can read fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen for free here: