Friday, November 23, 2012

thing collection

Many writers use prompts to get their writing started. It might be a word, a theme, a picture - any small thing to get the creative energies flowing, to use as a seed for story. Writer Kathleen Lane has a cool set of visual prompts over on the blog of her new website. She calls it a "thing collection" - and she has this to say about it...

An interesting thing happened when I tried writing off of a prompt from Kathleen's thing collection. This is the picture I chose:

But after a while of freewriting where nothing grabbed me, I gave that picture up and went back to her blog and found another.

It's not a pineapple, but it looked like a pineapple to me, and that's what I ran with. It took until I was halfway into the piece I was writing that I realized I was actually utilizing that first prompt after all. Here's the story that came out of the exercise.



You’re not going to believe me, but I can stick a whole pineapple up my nose.

I’m serious.

Shut up, I’m serious.

OK, it’s not like it’s a gigantic pineapple, like the size of my head or anything, it’s a small pineapple, but I bet you can’t fit anything up your nose, like probably not even a pea.

Shut up, I’m serious, I can do it, look.


OK, it’s not a real pineapple, it’s just a charm from my mom’s charm bracelet, but that doesn’t mean I lied, it just means there’s more to the story. That’s what makes a story interesting. That’s what Mom says.

Mom has all sorts of charms I can fit up my nose. This gold apple, this little shoe, this tiny rose. Not the one shaped like the Space Needle, I don’t stick that one up my nose, at least not very far.

Mom keeps her charm bracelet hidden in a box in the back of her closet inside the empty binoculars case, and she only wears it when Dad’s out of town. She doesn’t think I notice when she’s wearing it. She thinks that bracelet is her secret, but I have secrets too. How I stick her charms up my nose is my secret. Sometimes when I see that gold all sparkling on her wrist, my nose itches, and sometimes I sneeze, but I pretend it’s because I’m allergic to milk.

I always sneak into her closet to see if she got a new charm. After her thirtieth birthday, she got this tiny butterfly, see? Once when she had the flu so bad she got this little gold teddy bear. She got the Space Needle one after a trip she took where she said she was visiting Aunt Tammy but when she came home she acted all dreamy and I don’t think there are any Space Needles in Omaha.

Here’s a heart with an M on it, except Mom’s real name is Christy. It’s too big to fit up my nose and has a ruby in it and it’s probably fourteen carrots or eighteen carrots or even a hundred and fifty carrots. More carrots make your jewelry better. I learned that from Mom’s friend the jeweler who lives down the block and has a barbecue for neighborhood parties and a pool table.

One time, when I was home sick, he came to our house. When I went to the kitchen, they were there talking quiet at the table, and Mom had her charm bracelet on. He was holding her hand. As soon as he saw me, he pulled his hand away fast, but Mom said, “Oh, sweetie!” Like she was glad to see me. Like she’d forgot I was home. “Mike’s here to appraise my jewelry!”

She put her hand back out to him and he took it. “Twenty-four carrots,” he said. He looked at Mom, not her ring. “Beautiful,” he said.

Mom laughed.

He has black hair and a long nose and a face like a wiener dog, and I hate him. He smiled at me and said, “Hey, partner, did I ever tell you what carrots mean?”

Whenever Mike the jeweler calls me partner, Mom makes dreamy eyes at me like she always makes dreamy eyes at him. I went out into the hall where everyone takes off our shoes so we don’t track dirt all over Mom’s white carpets. I could tell which shoes were Mike’s because they were big and black and not Dad’s. Quick, I shoved his shoelace up my nose.

I don’t care how many times he calls me partner and tries to get me to sit on his lap—I’m not his partner.

Mom has so many charms that if Mike the jeweler keeps giving her more, she’ll need to get a new bracelet. Here’s one shaped like a tiny typewriter. Here’s one shaped like a miniature diamond ring. Here’s the one shaped like a baby. I don’t know where that one came from—Mom’s had it a long time. Plus, the only baby Mom ever had is me.


I'll be reading alongside Kathleen Lane and a whole host of great writers at Crush Bar on Saturday night. You can check out the event page for that here. And check out Kathleen's website and her thing collection here. If you write a story off of one of her prompts, let me know!

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