A WRITING PROMPT FROM JULIE MARIE WADE

Each Friday we post one new writing prompt created by a Sarabande author. Prompts like this one are included in our online Reader's Guides along with discussion questions and suggested reading to accompany each title. So if you can't wait a week for the next prompt, visit our Reader's Guide page to find them all in one place!

This week's prompt comes from Julie Marie Wade, author of Small Fires.

THE EXERCISE: THE CHILDHOOD WE CHOSE

In 1998, when I took my first nonfiction class as a sophomore, the professor introduced us to a book by James Hillman called The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. Early in this book, the author writes: “Our lives may be determined less by our childhoods than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods.” Hillman goes on to recount Plato’s Myth of Er and proposes that “we elected the body, the parents, the place, and the circumstances that suited the soul and that, as the myth says, belong to its necessity.” My professor, David Seal, asked us to freewrite about why we had chosen our parents—an idea I found absolutely shocking at the time. However, I have used this free-write since and found it incredibly helpful to students. “Why did you require your particular body, family, place, and life-circumstances in order to become who you are?” Then, from what is generated in the free-write and discussed in class, students often find a new “triggering town” (to use Richard Hugo’s phrase) that doesn’t appear explicitly in the text but helps them write about family less as “victims” and more as empowered co-writers of their histories.

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