Thursday, October 2

According to Jewish law and tradition, this year, 5775, is a Shmita or Sabbatical year, when Jewish farmers are supposed to let the land rest. The idea of fallow fields got me thinking about what grows when you don’t actively plant seeds, either physically or metaphorically.

Prompt #1  Write about toiling, perseverance, stepping back, being receptive. Write for 15 minutes.

Prompt #2 Follow these steps to see what emerges.

  1. Write for 10 minutes inspired by the word “fallow.”
  2. Write for 5 minutes inspired by the word “follow.” Encourage connections with the “fallow” writing.
  3. Write for 5 minutes inspired by the word “fellow.” Again, look for connections, either thematically or aurally, with your “fallow” and “follow” writing.
  4. Look at all three samples. Circle phrases and words that stand out for you. Choose one word or phrase from each sample and write them on top of a new page. Write for 10 more minutes.


Childhood Toys

Saturday, August 16


Write a about a childhood toy or game.

Writing suggestions and inspirations:

1. Describe the game. What did it look like? How did it work? Did you play it with others or by yourself?

2. Do you associate any particular sounds or smells with this game? Was it a new or old game?

3. Was it a shared game? Did you own it or did it belong to a sibling, friend, or cousin?

4. Was there a time that your played with it regularly or did it disappear then reappear?

5. Describe a typical conversation between two people playing this game.

6. Did any frustrating moments arise from this game? Any tears? Any triumphs?

Sign Up

For Wednesday, August 13

  DSCN0249 DSCN3684 IMG_0899    IMG_0441IMG_2651DSCN1380

Write a poem or prose piece inspired by a sign.

Over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for unusual, playful, or cautionary signs. Then, incorporate one of them into a written work.


1. Write from the point-of-view of someone who passes the sign frequently. What goes through their head?

2. Write a short essay (first person) about your reaction to the sign. What stands out for you? Why?

3. If the sign is a warning, write from the point of view of someone who ignores its message. What happens next?

4. Try writing a poem that includes all the words in the sign, but reworks, remixes, or re-purposes them.

End of Day

For Thursday, August 7


Write a poem or flash fiction piece that includes a sunset.

Playing off of yesterday’s post, try incorporating yesterday’s suggestions or work with some of these.

1. Write from the point of view of someone on the boat or on the island in the photo. Imagine they are eager for the sun to set. Why?

2. Write about the most dramatic sunset you’ve ever seen.

3. Write about waiting in relation to the sunset.

4. Sunsets are often symbols of conclusion or contentment.  Try writing a piece in which a sunset conjures up opposite feelings, perhaps of new beginnings, agitation, or anticipation.


Interview With A Plant

curly cup gumweed

May 3, 2014  •  Exercise #2
15 to 20 minutes

Getting Started

I just got off the phone with a long-time writing friend who reminded me about this playful writing exercise: “Interview with a Plant.”

I first wrote from this prompt on a hike sponsored by Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. The instructions were to sit near a plant and “interview it,” posing questions in order to increase our awareness and appreciation. For instance, “Why do you grow in this particular place?” “Does any animal nibble on you?” etc.

After listening to the instructions, I asked, “And what if the plant answers?” The group laughed, but I decided to give voice to the plant — in this case, a Curly Cup Gumweed.

At the end of this post is my interview, which you can read before or after you write your own  interview. Choose whatever plant appeals to you — from a towering tree to creeping moss to an indoor spider plant.

Writing Tips:

  • Spending two minutes staring intently at the plant. Move around it. Look at it from above and below, if possible.
  • Make use of your senses. Touch its leaves, stem or branches. Listen with your eyes closed. Sniff.
  • Aim for six to ten questions.
  • Find an interview style that suits you. Need ideas? Imagine you are a reporter from the Washington Post or from a small town local news station or an elementary school newspaper. How would your questions differ if you were writing for the Sierra Club, Midwest Living, or Agriculture Week? What would Oprah ask this plant, what would Steven Colbert ask, what would you ask?

Again, if you are currently working on a book, you might pose your questions from the point of view of one of your characters or connect it to a theme you are already exploring.

How This Prompt Can Strengthen Your Writing

  1. It may help you break through writing resistance and start writing.
  2. It offers a point-of-view you might not have considered before.
  3. It’s a brain-stretcher!
  4. It encourages you to be outside and connect with nature, which, in my book, is always a good thing.


Take one of your interview questions and rewrite it at the top of a new page. Expanding upon it, write for 15 more minutes. Be fanciful, seek metaphors, incorporate it into a larger story or go off into a whole other direction.

Have fun and have at it. Ready, set, write!


Interview with a Curly Cup Gumweed
© Ellen Orleans 2009

Q. For the record, what is your official name?
A. Grindelia squarrosa. This is your language, not ours.

Q. Why are you gummy?
A. To trap aphids and weevils. To screen the ultra violet. To stick in your thoughts.

Q. Why are your petals yellow?
A. To entice the bees. To thank the sun.

Q. Why are your leaves serrated?
A. I once was in love with a plant named Holly.

Q. The scent of your resin reminds me of the Ponderosa Pine. Are you related?
A. She grows not far from here.

Q. Why do you have curly tendrils on your globe?
A. To spread the resin. To entrap our enemies. To honor our ancestors, the furled fern.

Q. But why are they so beautiful?
A. To whet your wonder. You marvel, don’t you?

Q. Yes.
A. Yes.

Q. How do you feel when children push your sticky cups together?
A. Their fingers will remember us all day.

Q. What’s inside your globe?
A. Milky stems. Pearl bulbs. My flesh. Fields to be.