March Prompt

During this month, we celebrate March Madness, that time of the year when the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing.

This March of 2020 feels mad, of course, for many other reasons, ones much more serious than the outcome of a tournament. We’re facing a pandemic, an unstable and agitated economy, and other national and international concerns.

I took this particular photograph one day when my nephew and I were shooting some hoops in the local park. Looking at it now, I’m reminded of those times when things hang in the balance . . . and when someone tall enough and reaching high enough can tap the ball in.

The prompt, then: Tell us about a time when someone with spiritual, physical, or emotional height changed the nature of a situation that hung in the balance. Or perhaps you would like to write about a time when no one showed up.

You could also write about a time when a few inches determined the outcome of an event.  

If all of this seems just way too intense for you right now, tell us about a sporting event in your life or in the life of a loved one. What was unusual about it? Was there a hero? An anti-hero? An odd occurrence? A wacky play? A type of madness?

Remember to be gentle with yourself as you write. I’ll see you in April, when I hope the madness has been replaced by tulips and snapdragons.

February Prompt

February, 2020

We took a break in January, but are back now for the new year. Thank you for joining us.


I’m sitting in my home and watching the snow come down outside my window. Normally by February, I might be tired of the snow, but here in Western North Carolina, we’ve had very little snow this winter. Last night, I watched the full Snow Moon rise over the mountain. You might remember that we referred to the cold Frosty Moon in the November prompt, but the Snow Moon is also known as the Hunger Moon because the depth of winter makes hunting and gathering food more difficult this time of year. The Indigenous people of North America referred to this moon as the Little Famine Moon or Bony Moon.

Two days ago, a tornado hit the town where my sister and her family live, so I have weather on my mind.

The Prompt:  Tell us about a time when weather led to your hunger (emotionally or physically) or led to your fear or despair or perhaps to your complete and unadulterated joy.

Maybe you remember a sled or that first summer day of running barefoot or a picnic by the sea. Or maybe you remember the storm. This prompt is one you could write on every day this month.

Remember to be gentle with yourself as you write. And I’ll see you in March Madness.

December Prompt

A few days ago, I was reminded of Dylan Thomas’ beautiful and nostalgic prose writing “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Thomas’ 1952 recording of it has been given credit for launching the audiobook industry in the United States. On its website, the Library of Congress describes how two young business partners and graduates of Hunter College—Barbara (Cohen) Holdridge and Marianne (Roney) Mantell—approached Thomas and asked him to record for their newly-launched Caedmon Records. We (and Thomas) owe much to their talent and perseverance in this matter. You can read their story at the link below.


The Prompt: Thomas writes this line in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”: “And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn’t the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets.” In fact, the entire piece of writing is presented as memory.


With your experience of a holiday in mind, tell us what you remember. You can isolate one experience or, like Thomas, you can give us an overview of that time and place.


You might like to read a copy of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” as a source of inspiration. It’s maybe six or seven pages long.


Be gentle with yourself as you write and, if appropriate, be gentle with others. Author G. Lynn Nelson speaks of using “soft eyes.” Try it, if it seems right this month.'S%20CHRISTMAS--FINAL.pdf


See you in the New Year.

October Prompt

Recently, I was visiting some friends and happened to notice a bust of the Greek goddess Aphrodite on one of their bookshelves. Like so many Classical statues, this one was missing part of its nose. I had always assumed that the damage done to these statues had been caused by the wear and tear of age, but after seeing this one of Aphrodite, I decided to do a little research on the matter. I discovered that this damage to the statues had less to do with age and more to do with vandalism. In ancient times, people believed that the spirit of a person or supernatural figure could inhabit the statue. By destroying the nose, vandals intended to destroy the spirit's ability to breathe and, therefore, its ability to survive. For this prompt, tell us about an object that you own—or perhaps one you know of—that seems to hold, at least in some small way, the spirit of a person.

November Prompt

September Prompt

It is September, and school is back in session. Using words, paint a portrait of one of your memorable teachers. Close in tight for the details—the way she pronounced Faulkner with a lisp, the way he pulled his comb from his pocket and ran it through his hair in the middle of lectures, or the way they were always quoting Saturday Night Live to lighten the mood before a test. Let the details of your portrait show us why you vividly remember this teacher.

In our freewriting workshops, we normally set the timer for 10 minutes, but you may wish to set yours for 15, 20, or 30—whatever feels comfortable to you.

As always, be kind to yourself as you write.

I’ve had the moon on my mind, this month of the Frosty Moon. I love that name, and I love looking at the moon and thinking about its landscape—the highlands and valleys, the craters and maria. Though maria are plains made by volcanic eruptions, we often know them by names like Sea of Tranquility, Sea of Fertility, Sea of Serenity, Sea of Clouds, and so forth.

When I was a young girl, I heard people say they could see the Man on the Moon or even a rabbit. I was frustrated because I couldn’t see them, but as I grew older, I realized that once I was able to see them, I wouldn’t then be able to un-see them, that they would always overwhelm my vision of the moon. So I counted myself fortunate and continued to enjoy the glow of the landscape. Alas, one night I did see the Man on the Moon when I wasn’t looking for it. Some years later, I saw the Rabbit.

The Prompt:  You might want to write about those stories you made under the light of the moon. You might, though, tell us about those things you have seen or heard that you cannot un-see or un-hear.


At the Family Narrative Project, we normally set the timer to ten minutes for our freewrites, but use whatever time block you feel comfortable with. Be kind to yourself as you write. This particular prompt may stir up old and difficult memories. 

August Prompt

Summer is waning now. Where I live in the mountains of North Carolina, I can see the faint shift in light, a few more shadows across the landscape that hint of the coming fall.


For this month's prompt, reflect on this summer. Did you learn anything that you didn't know in May? Did you do anything you had never done before? If so, can you tell us about the experience, put us in your shoes as you lived it? I'm not necessarily referring to that overseas trip you always wanted to make, although that certainly works, too. Your experience, though, could be as simple as taking your first bite of a new food, visiting a local art museum and being blown away by the artist's night sky. It could be hitting your first tennis ball or catching your first foul ball at a baseball game.

You might think about why this particular experience sticks out to you. Maybe you want to give us some context for it, focusing on the environment or the surrounding culture. If other people were involved, maybe they are your focus. Maybe your personal history that brought you to this new experience is what you'd like to explore. 

In our Freewriting workshops, we normally set the timer for 10 minutes, but you may wish to set it for 15 or 20 or whatever time feels comfortable to you.

Go deep . . . and be kind to yourself.