A Writing Prompt from Neela Vaswani, author of YOU HAVE GIVEN ME A COUNTRY

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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 Friday Writing Prompt comes from Neela Vaswani, author of You Have Given Me a Country (2010).

First Love

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Write about your first love. This could be a book, a song, a parent, sibling, lover, etc. I gave this assignment to a fiction workshop and did the assignment along with them. 

A Writing Prompt from Rick Barot, author of Chord

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 Friday Writing Prompt comes from Rick Barot, author of Chord (2015)

Syntax

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Because I’m a teacher of writing, I sometimes catch myself saying grandly irresponsible things like: “If you don’t care about how syntax works, or how syntax works in your writing, you’re never going to be a good writer.” Which is only to say that I think syntax is a crucial thing for a writer. In my own writing, I’m always challenging myself to create sentence constructions—from the most simple to the most ornate—that dramatize the content and meaning of each poem I’m writing. One of the most challenging poems in the book for me to write was “Syntax,” because I gave myself the task of writing a poem that was one long continuous sentence, even if I knew that the grammar would get funky along the way. So here’s the prompt: write a poem that’s one continuous sentence. Don’t cheat by using semi-colons!

A Writing Prompt from Amelia Martens, author of THE SPOONS IN THE GRASS ARE THERE TO DIG A MOAT

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 Amelia Martens, author of The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat (2016).

Apologies

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Think of a situation in which you should have apologized but didn’t or couldn’t in the moment (maybe the person you were arguing left the house to go get more mousetraps). Now list 3 items that you would put into an apology if you were going to build one. Consider the apology as more of a collage of physical objects, a sculpture, or a recipe. Write an apology poem that is built instead of spoken. End the poem as the situation ended in realty (or in your reality) 

A Writing Prompt from Kiki Petrosino, author of forthcoming WITCH WIFE

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!

Today's writing prompt comes from Kiki Petrosino, author of the forthcoming Witch Wife (2017), Fort Red Border (2009), and Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013).

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White Whale

Think about a word, image, or setting that you often mention in your own poems. [Ex., Do you always seem to write about the beach? Does the color blue show up a lot?] Spend 10-15 minutes doing some focused writing, in any form, about that item. Next, swap notebooks with a partner. Look at what they’ve written about their “obsession.” Spend a further 10-15 minutes writing about your partner’s topic from your own perspective [Yes, you will write in their notebook!]. Now retrieve your own notebook & read through your partner’s thoughts on your topic. Are you surprised by any of the language your partner used to talk about the beach or the color blue? How does it feel to have someone else write about your favorite obsession? The goal of this exercise is to break any old habits or “go-to” phrases you might use in your poems. Your partner’s phrasing may inspire you to hunt your “white whale” in a different way.

A Writing Prompt from Elena Passarello, author of ANIMALS STRIKE CURIOUS POSES

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!

Today's writing prompt comes from Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat (2012) and the forthcoming Animals Strike Curious Poses (2017). 

Devised Monologues

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Think of a friend or colleague with a compact story to tell (nothing too epic). Instead of writing a series of interview questions, devise a few (3-4) loaded and open-ended questions that will get them “monologue-ing.” An example might be: “Tell me the whole story of the concert, from when you got the tickets to when you went home” or “Describe the whole process of becoming a contestant on Jeopardy.” You should prepare a few follow-ups or supporting questions if the monologue wanes (and anticipate generating a supplemental question on the fly, just in case.) 

Get your subject in a room (or on a phone—no emailing or chatting!) and set them up to answer your questions in a short space of time—30 minutes, tops. While they speak, let them know that you’re listening to and enjoying them. Either take furious notes or record them to capture their speech idiosyncrasies. 

Then, when you are back at your desk, whittle their transcript into a one-page “monologue” with a beginning, middle, and end. Force yourself to keep things compact—300 words, tops. Make sure you highlight the phrases and details that best capture the music of this particular speaker. You might have to re-arrange the order of text a little, which is fine, but use the transcript as the sole material for the monologue.

You’ll know you’re finished when you can see the piece as a self-standing document that an actor or a stand-up comedian might perform—a real “character” built into the nuts and bolts of the prose speech.