I’m fascinated by the process of writing prompts, how there are things lurking inside us, just below the surface, that we have no knowledge of until we are prompted. Sometimes, it’s a character, sometimes, an emotion or an experience we had forgotten (or, perhaps repressed). And at the bidding of a writing coach, or a book, we heed the prompt, and away we go. Before we know it, these things hidden inside us dive out before we have a chance to stop them.
Thursday night’s RACWI (Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators) meeting was all about writing prompts. As one who gives writing prompts for a living, I can spot a dud a mile away. Fortunately, Sibby Falk, our fearless leader, had chosen some good ones. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been slaving away the past couple of weeks trying to get my school’s god-foresaken yearbook to the presses in something resembling on time that I was just STARVING for an outlet of writing. We did about five prompts, and by the third or fourth, I was getting just plain wacky tobaccy. Fortunately, before I reached that point, I turned out something I was actually pleased with. So I thought I would share. I think I might tuck this away for something else down the road. The prompt was, “Use these five words in your writing: paper clips, principal, lunch box, swing, girl with a pink ribbon.” I used one. See – I follow directions 🙂
I see her first on the playground, April breeze snatching the pink ribbon from her hair and sending it skipping across the open space between us until it curls against my shoe like a stray cat. She approaches me hesitantly. I twirl the soft fabric around my finger. Then, three years swoop down unbidden and engulf me.
I think of swimming pools in June, Tiffany’s cool feet slapping the deck. I hear her before I see her. She holds her hands above my face, letting the water drip on me. Then, the memory is gone, shredded in two, and I see on the other side, staring through, a thin white sheet pulled over her face: an angel on another April day, gone to heaven.
“I think you have my ribbon.”
I peer down at her , honey-blonde hair flitting about her cheeks as she waits for me, quiet as an altar girl. Behind her, a mother waits anxiously.
Hug her, a voice inside commands me to tell the woman. Treasure the moment. I bend and hand this artifact of childhood to her …
(And time’s up).