Archive | December, 2014

All-Time Favorite Writing Prompts

18 Dec

My sixteenth set of writing prompts for Ploughshares, and the last post in this series, compiles 29 all-time favorite prompts from writers and writing teachers across the internet. Here’s how it begins:

To round out this year of blogging about writing prompts, I polled writers and writing teachers for their favorite writing prompts–generally, simple prompts that have been useful to them as writers, students, and teachers. One such prompt that I found extremely useful in my early days of writing was, “Write about an obsession.” From this straightforward suggestion, I learned a lot about what can drive a compelling story.

Some of these prompts are accessible and instructive; others offer wonderfully evocative images and ideas. For ease of reference, I’ve grouped the prompts into several categories, but certainly some would fit into multiple boxes. It is my hope that these twenty-nine prompts–some specific, some quite open-ended–will help you jump-start any stalled works-in-progress and generate lots and lots of new material.

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The prompt I mentioned as one of my favorites encountered as a writing student, “write about an obsession,” resulted in my story “Go East,” published in Pindeldyboz back in 2006. It’s about one of the most addictive computer games ever. Guess which one!

Baby Kentagyi

2 Dec
A new kind of reading list.

A new kind of reading list.

Now here is a blog post that is most personal. My husband and I are adopting a baby. It’s an exciting time, to say the least. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary in May with brunch at a Basque restaurant and an information session at the Wallingford branch of the library, with an organization called Families Like Ours. There, we learned about types of adoption and agencies in the area that were especially recommended. We jotted down the names of three in particular: WACAP, Amara, and Open Adoption & Family Services (OA&FS). Then we spent the summer going to information sessions for each of those agencies.

After some follow up questions and spreadsheets and pros/cons lists, we decided OA&FS was our best bet because we want to adopt an infant and 88% of their adoptions are newborns. We also appreciated their emphasis on openness and communication and their thorough process. We feel like we’re in great hands.

The first step in OA&FS’s process is a 12-hour pre-adoption seminar. This class just scratches the surface of the many things we need to think about: the emotional, legal, and logistical aspects of open adoption. We talked about grieving infertility in all its guises (they define infertility broadly as the inability to have children for whatever biological reason–in my case, a primary immunodeficiency that could put me and potential offspring at risk, as pregnancy would require getting off my medication, and I’ve done so well on my medication); we talked about the grieving experienced by birth parents. Two birth mothers came in and told us their stories; later two adoptive parents did the same. We talked about the hurdles and ultimately the great benefit of adoptive children knowing their birth parents–always knowing the unique story of who they are and that both their adoptive and birth parents love them. We felt further confirmed that we’re in the right place.

In October, we submitted the first round of paper work, the application, and had our 2.5 hour intake meeting with our case manager. As I predicted to Mike beforehand, I cried. But who wouldn’t well up at such a conversation? Mike, wonderful Mike, and our case manager, who is everything we could hope for–smart, funny, kind–helped me through. We left feeling even more excited than before. The next week, our application was approved.

Now we are getting deep into the real deal paperwork, home study preparation: background and credit checks, reference letters, autobiographies, doctors’ reports, and some very difficult self-assessments that will require further reading on topics such as attachment, transracial adoption, infants exposed to substances in utero. Our case manager will come inspect our house and interview us; then we each get interviewed separately; then she returns to our house a second time and interviews us together again. Then she writes a 15-20 page report. All in all, this part of the process can take up to six months. And then we’re in the pool: we write an introductory letter to birth parents, make a book about who we are, and wait to get picked. There’s no waiting list; it’s up to the birth parents to pick us. It could happen right away or it could take three years. More happens once we’re picked of course: we meet the birth parent and make sure it’s a right fit, and, if it is, we plan the adoption. On average, the whole process takes 18-24 months.

We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign, because adoption is expensive–nearly $30,000. We’ve been blown away by the generosity and love family and friends have shown us thus far. In a little over three weeks, we raised 17% of what we need. If we meet our goal by Indiegogo’s deadline, which is January 14, we only pay 4% to Indiegogo. If we don’t meet our goal, we still get to keep the funds raised, but pay 9%. If we exceed our goal, all funds will go to Baby Kentagyi’s college fund! (Baby Kentagyi is the portmanteau of Kent and Szilagyi….I’ve assured my parents that we will not be making the child’s legal name Kentagyi.) I hope you’ll check out our Indiegogo campaign, consider donating if you can, and help us spread the word. We can’t wait to share with our little one the love so many have shown us.

Triangular Relationships

1 Dec

My 15th set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog explores triangular relationships in fiction, with discussions of Mavis Gallant’s “Lena”, Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum, and Peter Mountford’s The Dismal Science, and featuring Kathleen Skeels’ wonderfully suggestive drawings. Here’s how it begins:

In a previous blog post, I mentioned my difficulty with conflict and tension.  For this reason, I love triangular relationships, which bring up conflicting desires, competing loyalties, and dilemmas. All the things that make a juicy story go. When I was just starting out writing fiction, when my writing tended to be a formless blob and I learned that good writing needs a shape, a design, I turned to the idea of things happening in threes, and then I turned to triangles. As I learned along the way, there are many, many ways you might use triangles in your fiction.

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