Newspaper Blackout Poetry

February 24, 2010

I just heard about Austin Kleon, who creates “Newspaper Blackout” poetry by circling words in newspapers and blacking out the rest. It’s really neat to see what he comes up with. One of my favorites on his website is about marriage. It’s touching and sweet.

I also enjoyed his post about a workshop he gave at a university – where there was a group effort to create blackout poetry. Sounds very very cool!

He has a book coming out soon – entitled, of course,  Newspaper Blackout and you can learn more about how to create your own Blackout poetry at his website.

Cool stuff!

© 2010 writingreading

Inspiration from Public Transportation

April 23, 2009

I’ve started riding the bus over the past few months, and I find it has aided my creativity considerably. First, I have a bit of a walk to the bus stop, and I am pretty much on autopilot in the morning, so the two things together kind of combine to let ideas just kind of seep out from my semi-conscious state. Riding the bus also means I am free to observe – my surroundings, the street scenes as they go past, the people on the bus.

Here’s an example. Here’s some of the characters I “met” or invented, just from today’s trip, alone.

Smells: the man who gets on in the afternoon who smells like machine oil; the man who smells like beer even at 7 a.m., the woman with too much perfume and too much makeup who is beautiful but insecure and looks very afraid.

Conversations overheard: the woman who sits down and promptly picks up her Biblical debate where she left off yesterday. Yesterday’s lesson was “fossils”; today it is Native Americans and the tribes of Israel. Phone conversations overheard: The woman telling her son that he will be OK at school today. People on the bus: The large man who everyday greets each passenger loudly but pleasantly: “Good morning. How’re you today? That’s good.” He’s lonely but his bus-friendliness makes him feel useful and wanted.

Riding the bus beats old-fashioned “people-watching” by a long shot. I’ve been to some people watching spots – and you know, there’s not that much to it. People come, people go, or they talk in hushed tones, or they simply walk past. No good. Riding the bus, I’m with my fellow passengers for 20 minutes to an hour. That’s a lot of time. And because of the close-quarters of the bus, there is plenty of opportunity for observation.

Here’s a few more examples. Sort of “character sketches” – entirely made up, but based upon people and situations observed on trip.

The smooth-faced pasty slightly pudgy certainly-37-year-old-male-virgin who is reading a science fiction book with a barely clad woman and man with a flaming sword on the cover. And then she [another character] realized with horror that he must work at the XXX bookstore.

Young African-American male, 23, talking loud enough for the entire bus to hear, about how he beat charges on marijuana and cocaine possession and a weapons charges, and how he served a 9 mos. sentence and got out 3 months ago. A young African-American woman who is his bus-companion (but not his friend), tells him that he should be more concerned about his girlfriend, wants to know if that doesn’t bother him, tells him he should give it up, tells him Jesus can help him if he wants to start a new life.

A 60 year old man who sits and quivers from some disorder or disease, and is listening to his Ipod.

The young medical student, who is always exhausted and often falls asleep, nearly missing her stop. She has been working nights in the emergency room.

A geeky guy with a long droopy nose who wears an earring in a vain attempt to be cool. He looks ridiculous, especially because he is 48 and has more gray than black hair, all of it growing thin on top.

An 8-month-old boy who is unbelievably cute and adored by all. He is the darling of the bus – except on those occasions when he clears the 6 seats surrounding him because of his stinky diaper.

The Indian couple whose sing-song voices bring to mind curry, incense, and Vishnu.

There’s a few characters there. All based on people I saw or conversations overheard (sometimes not even people I could see), or other thoughts I had as I rode the bus to and from work today. I’m not saying all of these ideas are worth pursuing. Some characters are stronger than others. But the point is – I definitely wouldn’t be having any of these ideas or “meeting” any of these characters if I weren’t riding the bus.

Public transportation isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for your creativity, too!

© 2009 writingreading

Pictures, Poetry & Prose

February 16, 2009

Today a visual prompt I submitted was posted on Pictures, Poetry, & Prose! Even though it is out of the mainstream, in terms of the kinds of things she usually uses as prompts, it was very exciting to be accepted. It is really interesting to see how people are responding to it through their writing, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of what people write as the week progresses.

It’s not fair for me to post my own writing, there, in response to my own prompt, but I would like to take a stab at it, here.  I’m not going to post the visual, here, so that you will have to be sure and visit PP&P if you want to see it. Then, you can post your own writing in response to it there.

Here we go.


It was an erratic heartbeat. A kthump-kthump followed by a long pause, then an awkward kthump, and another long suspenseful pause.  She felt herself slipping, succumbing, gasping for breath but not knowing how. She was becoming light-headed. Nearing unconsciousness. And she wasn’t sure she wanted to continue the struggle. Suffocating, she felt so helpless, and she felt her strength draining away. She loosened her grip, dropped her hand at her side.

Then awakened.


This was totally spontaneous writing on my part. I created the visual about a week ago, just because it seemed to summarize how I was feeling at the time.  I haven’t thought much about it, or writing about it, since.

There were some other things that I had hoped would come out in my writing, above, but didn’t manage to find their way in there – maybe I should try again, in a completely new version, in a poem. The other images were more just about the visuals, anyway, so maybe I will try that just for grins on another day.  One of the recent Creative Every Day challenges was to write a poem. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, so maybe this will give me incentive to give it a try!

© writingreading, 2009

Creative Every Day – Key to Winter

February 2, 2009

Today is the first prompt for the month of February at Creative Every Day. This is a bonus day, because Leah (of CED) is sharing her artwork at Pictures, Poetry and Prose to use as a writing prompt!

I love this picture Leah has created, and although I have not really explored it, yet, I really like what I am seeing at PP&P, too! If you are ever in need of a writing prompt, take a look. And if you really want to put the Every Day into your Creative – that’s another reason to visit the PP&P site.

I posted my writing, there at PP&P, but I will post it here as well. It might be interesting to read the writing, first, and then go visit the site to see the image that inspired it. I’d be interested in hearing from you about what you think about what I’ve written, as it relates to the image.

I’m being a little more literal here than I would like, but I do like some of the turns of phrase and expressions that came out of this.

The lotus blossomed at her feet, and flowers surrounded her. Thistle, daisy, chrysanthemum. Tree branches stretched out their arms to envelope her, but she remained just out of their reach, pristine, cool, and dignified. Frozen sunlight danced through the morning air, splintering into prisms as she glided across the earth. A shadow-bird ruffled his feathers nearby, keeping watch over her shoulder. A woodland thrush chirrupped his perky greeting as he nestled in the loose leaves and twigs at her feet.

She was a striking image in the frozen landscape, bundled in her blue velvet bodice, warm beneath her long heavy wool skirt. Subdued, but festive, the blue-green accents on her charcoal skirt gave her a lively air, though her quiet respect for the land around her permeated her every step.

She breathed deeply of the morning air, letting its freshness fill the corners of her lungs. She exhaled, watching as the fog created by the warmth of her breath shone in the morning sun.

“The key to winter,” she had said to her husband, as she walked out the door, “is enjoying it while it is here.” She savored these days of brightness, of fresh snow and pastel twilight. She knew winter was a rare gift of sapphire, of frozen heat, and unacknowledged life.

© writingreading, 2009

Creative Every Day – February

January 25, 2009

I just recently discovered this site, but I like what I see. It is called Creative Every Day, by Leah Piken Kolidas and each month has a “theme.” Although her blog is more for visual art, she makes it clear that CED is for everyone – not just visual artists, but writers, creative homemakers, cooks, and anyone who wants to use, cultivate, or discover their creative gifts.

The upcoming theme for February is “Words” – so I think I’m going to sign up to join in. I’m not sure what I’m in for, or even how it will work – or if anything I post here will be related to prompts she posts there. But I’m going to give it a try. Maybe you should too! :-)

© writingreading, 2009

Random Writing Prompts

January 7, 2009

I came across a “blog game” or “tag you’re it” kind of thing, and unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the blog I originally found it on – but I followed a link from that one and ended up at Anna Nowicki’s blog, so you can see her results, there.

The “game” goes like this:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note in your BLOG.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual… Use the CLOSEST

Here’s what I got:
“And if you think the warrant isn’t true, you’ll deny that the reason supports the claim, because it’s irrelevant to it.”

(from Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers…etc.)

Yes, it grieves me that that is the closest book I have, but it is sitting right here next to the computer.

But, if I look around – for instance, on that same page, if the option was for sentence # 3 I would have:

“That might baffle you.”

And – it does. Because I have no idea what the first sentence I posted (which is actually sentence #5) means!

But I tried this with a couple of other books:

from: The Civil War in Louisiana

Well, OK. there’s not even 5 sentences on that page. But if I go w/#3 again, I get:

“Could he be trusted?”

And then in another book, I get:

“As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the surgeon ‘with the most solumn air said in broken English, ‘This is the first time that this man was buried in Virginia and D–n me (throwing in dirt) if I ever bury him again.”

I’m thinking – what a great writing prompt technique! Just open up a random book, pick a random page, and pick one – only one – sentence — then run with it.

The last example I gave above is actually from a Civil War book, too (Reid Mitchell’s Civil War Soldiers) – but if you ignore that fact – think about the different ways you could take that one sentence.

hmmmm… a surgeon burying someone. Odd.

And he’s saying he’s burying him for the first time – does he anticipate having to bury him again?

Wonder if the surgeon is the body’s estranged brother, and he’s burying him in Virginia but maybe later he’s going to come back, disinterr the body, and take it back with him to his homeland overseas? And where would that be?

And let’s work backwards. My 2nd example. Oooooh!!! Isn’t that sentence absolutely delicious for a starting point? “Could he be trusted?” Wow! Is it a crime drama, a rocky relationship, gambling, a compulsive liar? Goodness – so many things! What a great way to start some writing piece.

And OK, going back to my original. The one from Turabian. Well, good heavens, I certainly don’t know what to make of that one, but with some effort I could probably make it into something. A legal case or something.

Anyhow, I like this simple idea. And if I ever need a prompt – just grab a book and start with a single random sentence. Enjoy!

© writingreading, 2009

Secrets for the World to See

May 12, 2008

I’m sure this is all very old news, but in case there are other writers/readers out there with their noses in a book or notebook, instead of staring at the web, here’s a great site. It is called Post Secret. People mail in (the old-fashioned way) postcards with their secrets on them, and they are collected and some are posted online or even published in hard copy. I found the current collection in honor of Mother’s Day, especially intriguing. (Look fast – a new round of cards is posted every Sunday!)

More than all of that, however, as a writer, I see “prompts”. Not only do I imagine the “real life” stories behind all of the cards – but I can easily see how I could develop my own characters and plots based on these cards. I had seen some of the published books in a bookstore – and for some reason, the online version does more for me. But I hadn’t really consciously thought of these as writing prompts until now.

©2008 writingreading