Writing Prompt: Two Years in Review

About the writing prompts

In the beginning of 2022, we sent out fifty editions of writing prompt envelopes to our audience and members. Each envelope contained five randomly selected prompts from a pool of ten. We recycled seven prompts from our writing nights in the past two years and added three new prompts to the mix. Each prompt was written with love by writers and poets Alexis Almeida, Jesse Chun, C.A. Conrad, Lucy Ives, Sara Magenheimer, Stacy Szymaszek, Asiya Wadud; and our own Flo Li (Programs & Communications Fellow), Juwon Juon (Editorial Fellow) and Teline Trn (Membership and Community Engagement Coordinator). 

We plan to bring back our bi-weekly writing nights in hybrid-form (Zoom & limited seats in our space). Join us for writing night starting on May 5th, 2022 from 6:30pm–8:00pm. We’re looking forward to writing and reading with you.  


Mayra, Marian, and Teline from Wendy’s Subway

1. Collect a Color 

Several times in Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk, the clerk collects a color:

Lemon the clerk has collected: watch lemon, bay lemon, rare lemon, lemon distance, lemon steps, given lemon, lemon knot, lemon reach, lemon fast, lemon documents, lemon ethic, lemon funerals, lemon hold, taken lemon, lemon elegies, lemon summary, lemon pulley, lemon factors, lemon archives, what lemon, lemon acts, lemon nails, lemon steps, lemon crevasses, written lemon, lemon vanishing, lemon deposit, missing lemon, lemon contents, lemon debris, lemon gains, unassailed lemon, lemon sinew, uncertain lemon

Choose a color and trace it throughout your day. Record images you see it in, language you associate with it, take pictures. Now write a list poem where it appears in almost every phrase. You may want to rename the color before you start writing – also let it become adjectives, nouns, verbs, see where the associations take you. This may take several days or one sitting. Read it to a friend when you’re done. 


Alexis Almeida


on a piece of paper, write out a paragraph from the news -- any news article online of your choice will do.
cross out all the letters except the vowels.
read the remaining text (aloud or otherwise, your choice) three times.
now transcribe your thoughts into a poem.


Jesse Chun


Go into the bathroom, get naked, step into the shower.

Do not turn on the water; stand looking at your shampoo container, your dry rag that wipes away the filth of your life. Study these things you use to wash your body.

Close your eyes, imagine washing. Leave nothing out. Get between the toes and behind your ears. Imagine massaging your scalp and rinsing-rinsing, rinsing your filth away.

Step out of the shower and vigorously dry your body with a towel even though you are already dry.

Put on your clothes, look in the mirror and scream, then laugh.

Go into another room to take notes for your poem.


C.A. Conrad in Believer

4. Exercise for Writing from Memory


This exercise comes out of a class I’ve been teaching for several years now called “Memory Palaces.” I describe the class as “an introduction to the work of art as mnemonic device, or system to aid and deepen, and/or create, memory.” I’ve consistently found this to be one of the most generative and surprising exercises we do; many participants seem to discover a larger project they want to work on while completing it.


A note about the spirit in which you may wish to respond to the five instructions/prompts below: If you don’t remember or know something, that’s OK. Try to stick with that feeling rather than trying to work through it or against it. Devote 100 words to what you realize you don’t know or remember—or, more than that. You may discover something unexpected.


The exercise*:

1.        Describe your earliest memory.

2.        Describe something that happened yesterday.

3.        Describe something that happened a week ago yesterday.

4.        Describe something that happened five years ago yesterday.

5.        Describe something you have completely forgotten.


* I’d suggest writing at least 200 words in response to each instruction. If you are asking a question like, “But how can I describe something I’ve completely forgotten?!” you are on the right track.


—Lucy Ives


Write 25 lies. Write 25 truths. Braid them together. Add in anything else you want until it feels right.


—Sara Magenheimer

6. Writing prompts for those who resist instruction


1. Communicate (vibe) with your house plants, or if you don't have plants, the nearest tree (can you walk to it or is the communication through a window?) - then record that communication

2. Mysterious neighbor noises. Write about what you hear when you are home - what sound patterns emerge?

3. Write a one-word poem.

4. Write a poem called "don't tell me what to do."


Stacy Szymaszek


door         lake 

tangle        tangle


by Asiya Wadud


I teach poetry to young children. There is a game I like to play with the second and third graders, which I have named door lake tangle tangle. The idea of the game is to slowly move our minds to new associative places— we do it in a series of steps. Here is how it works. 


Write a list of 5 or 6 nouns. You decide the nouns on your own list. A nice list has nouns that feel a bit distant from each other— each noun has a bit of space, a little breathing room.


These are my five words…


Asiya Wadud


Choose a distillatory point from your body. This point can be your fingertips, toes, an elbow, or the top of your head—any area that can lead you. Let that point initiate your movement. How you move is determined by the whim of this point. Take note of how heavy, light, quick, or slow the movement ripples. Change to another point. Repeat.


Transcribe this dance.


Juwon Jun


Write a poem with a text you received today as the first line, and a text you sent today as the last line.


Flo Li

10. Pinky Promise

Step One: Read this poem, “Vow” by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Step Two: Log onto Random Street View

Step Three: Imagine making a vow to where you are, here


—Teline Trn

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