A one word prompt from a fellow writer, with the aim to write a piece to read aloud. And for no good reason except a concurrent prompt to my students, it’s single syllable. Except for “husband.” I thought about using “man” instead. Couldn’t do it.

Her Dark Eyes Go Light

I am on my back when my girl is born and then she is on my chest and I lift my head, say her name. She turns to my voice. I say I love you. She cries. She is wild and new, loud and pink. I say I love you. I am weak from birth but I make my arms work. I hold her and look. She has dark eyes.

A nurse takes her a few steps from me, to weigh, mark length. I can hear her cry. I am so weak from birth I shake like I am cold. I turn my head but can’t see my girl. My husband comes to me. His eyes are blue and they speak before he does. He has tears on his face. He smiles down at me. I close my eyes.

A nurse helps me sit. The room spins. My girl is in my arms. The room will not stop. I look at my girl. She looks at me. Her eyes are dark blue. I can see that now. She has no hair. The room is too bright for us. I put her to my breast to see how and she knows how.

For a year I hold her like that, at my breast. I look down and smile. She looks up, blinks. We sit like this. We stand like this. We lay like this. Her eyes go light blue. Her hair comes in like sun. She grows long in my arms. She tugs my shirt, my hair. She looks for more. She sighs and sleeps. She cries. She laughs. For a year I hold her like that and learn how.

Knee Deep In Narrative

Timing is everything. At school we’ve left poetry for fiction. Today I introduced one of my favorite flash fiction prompts (more below). And at home I’m taking an online creative nonfiction workshop through Stanford Continuing Studies. This week I’m working on a personal essay for workshop, but the flash fiction prompt is too tempting to skip, one I return to each semester and still love.

The prompt from What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter:

Write five mini-stories (limit: 200 words each) to account for a single event or circumstance, such as a man and woman standing on a city sidewalk, hailing a cab. Each story should be different – in characters, plot, and theme – from the others.

So this time I’ve asked my students to use this exercise to explore narrative choices: first/ second/ third person; limited or omniscient narrator; past or present tense. Since we have five (super short, nonthreatening) stories to write, we can play with the choices we make as authors. Play along at home!

If you’re looking for a situation or circumstance to get you started, here are some we came up with in class today:

A father and son at a football match

A young woman steps onstage

Two friends at lunch

The power goes out

The phone rings but no one answers it

I like the idea of this prompt generating a finished piece, either as a longer story born of an itty bitty draft; or as a series whose parts stand alone but, when purposefully ordered, create a stronger whole.