Writing Practice Guidelines

Your Muse (your own inspiration) knows best what you need to write at any one moment.

Each invitation to write is a suggestion, a prompt and your pen may have its own ideas. Go with what wants to be written, in the voice of who wants to speak and in the form that wants to emerge.

The purpose of all the exercises is to facilitate the process, to enable you to gather material and then craft and revise afterward.

The Critic is not allowed—not in the gathering or the creating raw material. SO, write fast first drafts, without censor or worries about grammar, spelling, or exact accuracy in each word. This can come later.


Black Stone on Top of a White Stone
by César Vallejo (Peruvian poet born in 1892)

I shall die in Paris, in a rainstorm,
On a day I already remember.
I shall die in Paris-- it does not bother me--
Doubtless on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.

It shall be a Thursday, because today, Thursday
As I put down these lines, I have set my shoulders
To the evil. Never like today have I turned,
And headed my whole journey to the ways where I am alone.

Csar Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads...

From Poemhunter.com

Here's what Francie did:

I Shall Die in Paris
After Black Stone on Top of a White Stone by César Vallejo

I shall die in Paris
in the arms of my lover
over and over with the taste
of fois gras and champagne
on my lips.

I shall die in Paris
at the Louvre as I journey
through time in every painting,
live the lives of the artists, turpentine
crackling paint: Blue Boy, Mona Lisa
her sly smile, dying again.

Little deaths, petits morts,
soft, vulnerable, step through the alleys
where revolutions were born
to the Left Bank where music leaks
from an old, dusty piano shop.

I shall die in Paris
with the sound of a whispering
language, eloquent and foreign
in my ears.

Here's what Jacquelyn did:

This Cannot Be Me
After Black Stone on Top of a White Stone by César Vallejo

I shall probably be surprised the day I die short sense of, "Oh, no, this cannot be me." I still have things to do: The laundry's not done; nor are the dishes. Novels I finally started will lay unfinished at my feet, the one I am writing and the other ones I'm reading. My latest play will be opening on Broadway, and I won't see it. I will probably be out of the country whose country I'll be in, I don't know. I will be old and wrinkled; though, proudly, in my hair, a few strands of brown will stand out amongst the gray. My skin underneath my clothes will be surprisingly supple. My muscles will still be strong. Hearing all the little noises in the night will no longer be a burden. I will have my teeth, well most of them. My organs will be efficiently humming along, so it will be an unbalancing moment for me a little shock. I won't have thought it would happen then. I will have had a good life and long, very long by most standards, though short by my own, because each new growth step seems to take me longer to conquer. I'd like to think I would be ready, that I would have everything in order, but I'm sure there will be lots left on my list of things to do.



On a lovely note card I received from my sister a while back, I found the following poem, which I used as a prompt in our writing practice groups:

by Janien Koconis of KOCO New York

april, avril, abril.

Umbrellas and rainbows. She has translucent feelings. April loves the Blues. She loves the mood of Spring. April loves to get [her] feet wet. She sits by the river. April has a poster of "The Water Lilies" in [her] bathroom. She understands the clouds. April gets thank you' cards from May. She dances with the wind. April lives in the spaces between being and becoming. She watches the birds return. April loves to tease the weathermen. She takes long walks in the rain. Aprils wears a moodstone. She can experience things emotionally. April always springs forward. She has thoughts that turn into poetry.

What about your birth month or another month in "your" season?
Melissa and Jacquelyn, both with November birthdays chose to write about November:

Jacquelyn wrote:


November is nasty, at times, like a bear roused from slumber. November is not October with her golden eyes and luminous lips. Nor is he December with white hair and ruby cheeks. November borrows from October and December. He stands strong in between the two, a crispy leaf in one hand and a snowball in the other. November is navy skies over indigo mountains sporting slate tree shards. November has fringe and cold fingers. He strokes your skin with razor sharpness, groans fire in your gut, and builds strong feet to wander streams. November dances with the moon, he glides silently past skaters in the dark. November loves the dark. He stashes jewels in burrows, in knots of trees; and deep in the red heart of the earth, he buries next year's sorrows. He wants to stand elegantly in black tie and tails, but his cuffs are frayed. November hunts for secrets in nests fallen from Douglas firs, in woodpecker holes in redwoods, he scans the dirt for holy writings, and looks into the cold sand for hidden treasure. November passes his time on the beach and cries when no one is looking. November is a solitary guy in a black raincoat hunting for keystrokes in rocks. He searches among the seaweed for flesh. November is gaunt; he is tall, tough, sinewy and strong. You would fear him if you were evil, and be not quite sure about him if you were good, but know you would want him at your side in the night.

Melissa wrote:

Sweet November

November is a blustery girl.
She has chameleon feelings.

She moves
to jazzy riffs, bouncing
with the beats of the wind.

November loves
watching breezes blow, leaves
rustling and crackling
when they fall.

November understands

She is energized
by tumultuous times,
fortified by fire.

November lives
in reckless spaces.

She craves
the sharp, dry
tang of ambiguity.

It makes her feel alive.
She won't admit this. Instead,

November speaks
of peaceful days
and happy endings,
of clear solutions
and well-wrapped packages.

November blusters,
and we all are fooled.

Choose a month of your own and write about him or her.


Look in a magazine or a newspaper. Cut out a photo to which you are drawn for one reason or another. Write a dialogue between you and this person OR write an interior monologue from the point of view of this person.

Rachel's Favorite Reference Books:

The American Heritage Dictionary: Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2001
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Synonym Finder
By J.I. Rodale
Copyright © 1978
Rodale Press Inc., Emmaus, PA.

Word Menu: The Revolutionary, All-in-One Dictionary/Thesaurus/Almanac
By Stephen Glazier
Copyright © 1998
Random House, New York, NY.

Simon and Schuster's Field Guides
Nature Guide Series
Birds, Plants and Flowers, Trees, and more.

In Other Words: A Language Lover's Guide
to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World
By Christopher Moore
Copyright © 2004
Walker and Company, New York, NY.

A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
By Noah Lukeman
Copyright © 2006
W. W. Norton and Company

Flip Dictionary
By Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2000
F. W. Publications, Inc.