Tuesday, March 29, 2011


(photo from a strip mall in Dallas)

It never ceases to amaze me.
Week after week, after month, after year - seven of them now, from when I started part part time to full time and then some.

I write these prompts, and the students respond. And inevitably, most of the students will say:
"I can't believe you knew I needed to write about this."
"I wasn't even thinking about this, where did it come from?"
"Why are you making me write about this?"

The thing is, the prompts are vague/open enough that they can be interpreted lots of different ways. One student last week was sure I was demanding that she/they write about writing their own memoirs - it's the part of the prompt she could not ignore, that would not go away from her. Ditto for others that they had to talk about parts of their lives that haven't happened yet, or their favorite childhood book, or what they are reading - or not reading - right now.

Our inner impetuses, impulses, are so powerful, they take on the face of the current circumstance and recommend or reinforce what we need to hear or don't want to hear or both.
Or neither - what we don't need and don't want but won't go away.

Here is the prompt from this last week, with a follow-up list with questions that came out of students' answers. These ideas are a whole other 5 or 6 prompts in themselves.

Enjoy. See what arises for you. See if you can "blame" it on me. I'll take the blame, no problem.
So long as I get to read the results.


The original prompt

Writing and Reading

Imagine a book in front of you.

Flip through the pages, hear the sound of paper, and notice if it has a scent.

Look at the front cover, Index, Table of Contents, spine.

What is the title?

Is this book fictional or non-fictional?

A kid’s book or an adult book?

Maybe it doesn’t exist yet – it’s the book you are writing or have always wanted to read.

Perhaps you read it when you were young and no longer recall the title –

but you can remember how your heart felt when you finished it.

Take yourself to the place(s) that reading takes you, and write from there.

If you don’t enjoy reading, go into that resistance.

Feel yourself come full circle as you write, using words, to describe reading words.

I’ll let you know when your twenty minutes are up.

-Miriam Hall

If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it. ~Oscar Wilde

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. ~Jessamyn West

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
~Benjamin Franklin


The questions that arose out of student answers - either they gave me these questions or I derived them from their answers...

Were you read to as a child?

Were there books in your home?

Could you buy any book you wanted?

Were you dis/encouraged to read?

Were you ashamed to read?

Were books your only friends?

Did you leave books behind for boys?

Did High School, College, family life kill your love of the written and read word?

Are you still close to books?

Do you know/can you imagine what the "book of you" would look like? Written in code, plain English or Spanish, Russian?

Are you an open or closed book?

What is covered or uncovered in you?

Where does your mind go when its pages are let loose?

Does reading amazing books please you or make you angry or jealous that someone else wrote it first?

If you are writing a book, do you know what the cover would/will be?

Is a Kindle, Nook, or digital reader the same as a book?

Do you read to read?

Do you want to be read?

Do you write to have something to read or to share?

Or are reading/writing separate for you - one an affair that discounts the other?

Or in an entirely different family altogether?


  1. I love all of this post, Miriam. Thought-provoking prompt and insightful responses to it. And I enjoy your insight as the author of the prompts and guide to these students. Rich and vital.

  2. Funny how that works... I understand the basic psychology of the vagueness of the prompts - but I think there is something deeper at work, especially when this sort of thing is being done in a spiritual setting...