Archive for the ‘Writing Prompts’ Category

Improv Storytelling & Creative Writing Workshop, March 15, 2014

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Let's tell stories that won't be forgetten.

Let’s tell stories that won’t be forgetten.

Barbara Mayfield’s  Improv Storytelling & Creative Writing Workshop is coming to Santa Fe.

 A Day of Productive Play! Time to get out the way, tune in, and harvest the stories that are waiting to be told. Saturday. March 15th. 2014.

10am – 3:30pm. A creative lunch break from noon til 1:30.

Location: BadDog Design, 901 West San Mateo, Studio D, Santa Fe, New Mexico  87505

Barbara Mayfield:  505-231-4774 ph/txt and/or bmayfieldmedia@gmail.com

Improv storytelling is a way of accessing stories you didn’t even know where there.

Stories are upstream from everything. The Story is where all our joy, heart, power and successes, where all our creative projects, efforts, and enthusiasms originate. Mayfield has drawn from her years of training and experience working in the arts and put together a new workshop for Creatives and for those who think they are not. Barbara Mayfield is a multi-disciplinary award-winning author-actor-comedienne-storyteller-puppeteer. Visit http://ThePowerofPuppets.com.

Would you like to have a new workshop experience? Perfect for writers, storytellers, story-slammers, songwriters, screenwriters of any genre and level, wanna-be’s, and anyone who wants to experience the mystical power of the spontaneous. In a safe supportive environment, of course!

Peggy Pfeiffer, Creative Director of Bad Dog Design, is hosting this event in the Bad Dog Design studio. Some of you may be familiar with her gorgeous, rockin’ design space – an inspiring place in which to be creative.

About the workshop:

What won’t be happening: We won’t be doing any fixing, figuring it out, marketing, planning, publishing, worrying, fretting or struggling. We won’t be doing scary standing-in-front-of-an- audience solo public speaking (not this time anyway).

What will be happening: We’ll relax, listen, take fun and funny risks. Learn new ways to access stories you didn’t even know where there. Explore new creative territory. Work with fabulous prompts. Speak out loud a bit. Write to capture & harvest the goods. Let new stories float in. I’m bringing my bag of tricks from years of theater, improv storytelling and creative writing, to lead you in a creative process that I have found to be thrilling and unstoppable.

Cost is $55. Payment accepted by PayPal (I’ll email you a Paypal invoice). Credit card payments accepted by phone on my new fabulous Square account. Call me up. Or email me about sending a check.

To hold your place, please pay in full before Feb 28th. Space is limited. No refunds, but rain-checks will be issued.

On the Day: Bring a bag lunch and your beverage, or plan to eat at one of the great bistros in the neighborhood. You’ll have an hour and a half because art-making requires fuel, digestion and camaraderie as part of the day. Bring a notebook, and the writing instruments of your choice.

Wear comfy no-stress clothing that you feel good in. I’ll bring everything else.

Contact Barbara with questions, more details and to claim your seat.

bmayfieldmedia@gmail.com           http://ThePowerofPuppets.com

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Character: a prompt through example

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

 

When she got to where they were she turned her face on the bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy “good evenin’ ” and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to her gate. The porch couldn’t talk for looking.

The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grapefruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.
But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even
–Zora Neale Hurston, When Their Eyes Were Watching God thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.

“Won’t you come in?”  She led them into an immaculate sitting room, antimacassars set with grim purpose as though aligned and placed with a template. Everything was exactly as it should be–china lined up in the cabinet, dinner dishes all washed and put away, the faint whiff of lemon oil and disinfectant in the air. It was a space that seemed to Ward essentially and inordinately female, as though it had never been contaminated by a man’s presence. Everything reeked of cleanliness and decorum.

–Erin Hart, Lake of Sorrows

He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. There warn’t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl – a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. 

–Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

She had one of those guilty smiles, where the corners of the mouth turned upward just in time to keep the lips quiet — leaving a man to wonder if she’d wrecked his car, slept with his best friend, or given all his clothes to the Salvation Army.

She was the kind of woman who would have dated Lee Harvey Oswald in high school.

–Linda Bloodworth Thomason, lines from Designing Women, Dash Goff the Writer

The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began.
“Howdy, boys!” called the man all dressed in storm-colored clothes. “Folks home?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Got any money, yourselves?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Well –” The salesman walked about three feet, stopped and hunched his shoulders. Suddenly he seemed aware of house windows or the cold sky staring at his neck. He turned slowly, sniffing the air. Wind rattled the empty trees. Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves all gold. But the sun vanished, the coins were spent, the air blew gray; the salesman shook himself from the spell.
The salesman edged slowly up the lawn.
“Boy,” he said. “What’s your name?”
And the first boy, with hair as blond-white as milk thistle, shut up one eye, tilted his head, and looked at the salesman with a single eye as open, bright and clear as a drop of summer rain.
“Will,” he said. “William Halloway.”
The storm gentleman turned. “And you?”
The second boy did not move, but lay stomach down on the autumn grass, debating as if he might make up a name. His hair was wild, thick, and the glossy color of waxed chestnuts. His eyes, fixed to some distant point within himself, were mint rock-crystal green. At last he put a blade of dry grass in his casual mouth.
“Jim Nightshade,” he said.

–Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Tired Minstrel, by De Chirico

The Tired Minstrel, by De Chirico

Character description is so much richer if it includes something beyond the physical, that points to some hint of who that person is beyond hair, eyes or height. These are some of my favorites. Think of the interesting ways these descriptions work: third person observation, juxtaposition of words that give an opposite underlying meaning to what’s on the surface, the use of metaphors so unique they immediately become attached to the character and could never be used to describe someone else, and action as description. Bradbury goes full out and changes the weather, the setting and the entire feel of the day for the salesman when he first sees Jim Nightshade.

Some of these characters are protagonists, but not all. Rich character description, crafting even one devoted paragraph to a secondary character (like the above Erin Hart example), is a way of making flesh out of cardboard.  (These few lines were enough to put her on my personal list of bona fide suspects.)

Is there a secondary character (or two or three) that you need to flesh out? See if any of the above descriptions inspire you to richer characterizations.  (This is also a great starter prompt if you’re having a hard time getting going.)

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BLISS

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Prompt: Watch this short, hilarious video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8gJ0_9o4M

If you have any trouble this link, type: Norwegian cheesedoodles in youtube’s search window. Bet you never used those two words side by side before!

Now write about BLISS. Quiet bliss, big noisy bliss, your bliss, your character’s bliss, any bliss at all.

 

 

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The Dwelling Prompt

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Hi Gang,

We just finished up Writers Group and today was my turn to bring the Prompt. So we Skyped me in and here it is:

Location and dwellings can be important characters in a story.

Before looking at the list, choose a number from 1 to 10. Then look at your number and let that dwelling style inspire a new story or a new bit for the book you are working on. This prompt yielded fantastic writings today. Deb says she will post her piece very soon.

Ok, below this photo is the list. GO!

Casita by the River, mixed media dwelling painting by Barbara Mayfield. 2013

Casita by the River, mixed media dwelling painting by Barbara Mayfield. 2013

 

  1. cave
  2. teepee
  3. airstream mobile home
  4. treehouse
  5. gazebo
  6. yurt
  7. seashore bungalow
  8. condo
  9. palace
  10. apartment in Paris

Write a story we won’t forget.

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Twofer: Two Prompts

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Two prompt ideas to get the juices flowing:

 

Imagine you or your character winning an award or a prize. What would it be? What does it change? Or what if you or your character didn’t win a coveted prize?

 

OR

 

Think about the most interesting, intriguing, puzzling or mysterious person you have ever met in real life, either in passing or someone you know well. Write a short piece about that person or incorporate him/her into a scene or a character.

 

 

 

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Two thousand miles east

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Giganto yard sale was just part of the dismantling.

Giganto yard sale was just part of the dismantling.

This essay was written in response to Nadine’s most recent prompt: Treasures We Cannot Let Go:

Recently, I moved. Packed up and drove across Interstate 40, two thousand miles to the east.

I dismantled twenty years and twenty-two hundred square feet of house and belongings. Hint: I love my stuff. I do not have any Zen bones in my body. But for this move, I had to seriously let go of a lot of goods.

I sold two refrigerators, two wood stoves, an oven, a front-loading Sears washing machine that they don’t make anymore. Beds, cupboards and bookshelves, a vintage yellow kitchen table given to me by an old friend who had taste. Many rustic outdoor items – a Mexican table, an antique food warmer contraption, a heavy blue bench that has been in my studio since 1981. Four solid oak schoolroom chairs – antiques! -given to me by an old boyfriend in 1985.

I sold half-full gallon cans of my favorite colors of house paint – the colors in my adobe house in the Ponderosa woods, perched on the upward slope of the second largest mesa on earth.

I trimmed my holiday decorations from ten large boxes to six, and let go of my extra Christmas tree stand. Someday, I know I will need it because I have been wanting to have two trees for years. I sorted through my collection of rubberstamps and out of five thousand of them, I found twenty-five I didn’t need or want anymore.

I sold a blender and a juicer, and all my old sets of dishes and two tea kettles, and my five teapots.

I sold my 16’ ladder, my orange wheelbarrow, all my hoes and rakes – even the ones I’d painted in stripes and colors….and five boxes of tiles for mosaic-making. AAARRRGGHHH.

I sold off all my artist stretcher bars! My easel made in Italy that I bought in 1983 when I graduated from the Academy. I gave away and sold off oil paintings I’d done early in my career, that showed my first apartments and gardens, and paintings that featured my first tableware as a married woman. I have a thing for beautiful tableware.

I had a professional closet-raider come in. I traded her a vintage fiesta skirt that never fit me but was given to me by my dearest friend, who lives far away now. Ms. Closet-Raider insisted I consign and give away easily one-third to one-half of my clothing and about a dozen pairs of shoes I wish I’d kept to make shrines out of. And the hats! So many hats – feathers, straw, velvet  – from so many places I’ve been, and I look great in hats, and I looked really good in all of them.

The professional made me go through my cedar chest with the lifetime memory clothes in it, and this is where I drew the line in my own sandy mind. I pretended to agree with her advice and made piles to give away or sell. The satin maternity top my mother made me using a fabric printed with images of Chinese courtesans. All my cowgirl dresses –  small, flowery prints, long to the ankle –  that I bought when I first arrived in Santa Fe from the East. They haven’t fit me since 1997, so, of course, it would be best to let them go – what’s the point? My senior prom dress! White organza, made for me with hand-stitched pearls on the hem and the empire waistline, by a high school mentor (long story). My pink velvet junior prom dress! What’s the point of holding on to these things? They are not even costumes. They don’t fit now and they won’t ever fit me again!! She was so right.

Then we came to The Dress. The most important dress in the world, my world. The dress that is the color of the sea in Bora Bora. The dress I spent the most money on that I had spent on a garment, ever. The dress I bought in Italy, in Venice.

I would not even lie to the professional closet person about it. This dress stays with me. It fit me once; does not fit now; not likely that it will fit me ever again…I do not care!!

I was traveling alone in Europe and I had never travelled alone. I was there on the scholarship money I’d won upon graduation from the well-endowed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The only string on that prize was that I had to travel for ten weeks anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Everybody should be granted in this way, at least once in a lifetime.

At the time, I was the 31-year-old mother of two young sons. I dropped the boys off at their dad’s house on my way to the airport heading to Paris, first.

I was three weeks into my trip when I spotted the Aqua Dream in a tiny shop on Piazza San Marcos, Venezia, Italia. An angora knit, it fit me like a glove. Long sleeves, a double skirt just to the knees. So incredibly classy, sexy, Italian.

That I bought that dress – and I knew I would buy it the moment I saw it – so beautiful, so expensive, so sensuous – after years of shopping the racks at Goodwill Industries and “don’t be silly” and “where will you wear it” and “what do you need that for” and “later, later, maybe someday”…….. it was a turning point, a landmark.

I’ve worn it a few times. Mostly in the house alone. A few times with a lover. A few times out into the world when I felt very glad to be alive.  If I live long enough to get very frail and I die in one piece, perhaps I can be buried in it.

After the Closet Person left, I waited 3 days, then put all the other life memory clothes back into the cedar chest and the two strong mover guys easily carried it into the truck.

——end——-                                        Copyright 2012  Barbara Mayfield  All rights reserved.

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Precious Stuff

Monday, March 11th, 2013

My French teacher moves a lot. She grew up in a small Swiss town and has lived in Zurich, Geneva, Paris, Berlin, NYC, upstate NY, Colorado and Santa Fe. Most recently she moved to CA and as she was packing, she she found an old coat that she has followed her to many places despite the fact that she never wears it. As someone who who travels light she considered finally letting it go, but she could not.

 

The coat reminds her of the dream she once had to live in Manhattan. She saw herself in this camel hair, swinging a brief case while stepping to her job as a graphic designer. She full-filled that dream long ago and was glad to move on. Yet the coat remains.

 

My teacher inspired me to look around and see what I cannot part with:

 

  • ‘Tell Me, Cat’  an old picture book, it’s cover long torn off, that mesmerized me as a child, written and stitched by Ellen Fisher and Virginia Tiffany. It’s photographs of cats before stitchery backgrounds that suggest what adventures each feline might have. I think I loved it because each page was a prompt sending my imagination to work rather than doing it all for me.
  • 1967 edition of Hans Christian Andersen, my hero of fiction
  • a pink attaché case my older brother brought me from Harrods of London when I was an un-traveled 19 year old.

 

The prompt for today is:

 

From what is it that you/ someone you know/ your character will not or cannot part?

 

OR

2013-03-11 10.23.32

 

You or your character is leaving home and can take only what  fits in this pink attaché case. What is it?

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Letters Written, Not Sent

Friday, February 8th, 2013
Prudy about to smack Oscar

Prudy about to smack Oscar

Am Skyping into Writers Group right now, and secretly posting because I have finished writing my piece and am avoiding starting another one.

Hope has brought the Prompt and snacks today. Because of the Skype thing, I do not know what the snacks are, but here is the Prompt:

“Have your character write a letter (or email!!!) they would never send; or they write one not intending to send it, but it is sent. OR a letter that was intended to be sent, but was somehow waylaid and never received.”

Have we not all done that dangerous thing and vented into an email and somehow the send button is pushed??!!! Agony!!! And movies have been made about letters never received.

In my piece today, Prudy has written a letter she will not send to her dad, while sitting in the school cousleor’s office after she smacked Oscar in the head.

Ok. Write your letter now.

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First Person Story Museum

Friday, January 25th, 2013
The Glory of Green Glass

The Glory of Green Glass

Barbara here. I live in Philadelphia now, so I like to give my writer pals in Santa Fe a head’s up about my next prompt. Plus I am bursting with excitement about it:

The First Person Story Museum is here in Philly. It is an aspect of the dynamic First Person Arts organization. They believe in stories like we do, except bigger.

For our next prompt, we will go to the First Person Museum website, find out what type of object is the story prompt that week, each write a flash piece on it, and then submit it to the museum for exhibition on the website right then and there.

You can go right now to the site and read wonderful short -short stories inspired by personal objects. And/or you could write and submit a story about this week’s Featured Type of Object: “From the Kitchen”.

How great is this! And I am not even making it up.

 

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Spare Time

Friday, January 25th, 2013
Kitchen shelf at my friend Hillary's house. She is so into china.

Kitchen shelf at my friend Hillary’s house. She is so into china figurines.

Susan’s recent prompt at writing group was “SPARE TIME”. So I wrote a list of my characters in the Mrs. Iptweet book and what I imagine are their favorite spare time activities. I think Mrs. Smithee writes letters to her relatives to be opened upon her death.

Now I share one of my very own personal Spare Time things: I love to take pictures of any oddball thing I see. Somehow noticing the quirkiness that happens during the course of an “ordinary” day – as if such a thing existed – reminds me there is no such thing as an ordinary day.

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