“13 Ways of Looking at a Writing Prompt”

Club Prompts

Print Art Ink Drawing Sketch Mixed Media Collage Raven Crow Painting Illustration Gift Autographed Signed Emanuel M. Ologeanu

Warm-Up Writing: You may have heard of the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Check it out. Then… brainstorm some of your own titles – with fewer numbers, maybe. Examples:

  • “6 Reasons to Sleep In.” or “5 Ways to dump your romantic partner.”
  • Or make it a process: “6 Steps to Changing Your Life,” or “5 Steps to Lose a Friend.”
  • Or you could use a more generic/abstract one, like “7 Ways I Could_____” or “6 Things I Need to_____” or “5 People I’d Like to _____”– and you could leave the blank for you (the writer) to decide.

Longer Writing Prompt: Choose one of your titles from the pre-writing, and go with it. It could come out as a poem, story, monologue, creative non-fiction, or who knows?

What’s the Point? What we’re really working with here is a clear structure – something for the reader’s (or – more to the point – the listener’s) mind to track – especially for someone hearing it for the first time, like at a Spoken Word Open Mic.

Share Your Work in the comments below…

(and here’s a link to that great image…)


Flash Fiction 24!

Club Prompts, Flash Fiction

Last week, we had our Twenty-Fourth Flash-Fiction contest here at Holyoke Community College. Everyone met in a computer room. We gave them 30 minutes to write a piece of fiction based on the following 3 prompts…

Prompt #1: Interpret this picture in any way you choose (it’s by HCC alum Aliea Wallace)…


Prompt #2: Your story must have multiple parts to it (at least 2 parts – indicated by a space-break, a “chapter title” – or some other clear way that fits your story).

Prompt #3: The different parts of your story must work with point of view in some way – as a change of narrator, change of past-to-present – or whatever way fits your story.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share the entries we got in the comments below – starting with the winners. Feel free to add your own flash fiction there, too. We’d love to see what you come up with…

Flash Fiction-tick tick tick

Announcements, etc., Flash Fiction


Alex pops the watch open, and then closes it. Open close. Open close. click click. click click.

It had been a surprise when he saw it today, sitting there innocently on his way out. He thought it had been lost in the move to his new apartment but there it was on his dresser. He had grabbed it without a second thought, running his thumb over it in his pocket as he walked down the street.

Now here he is, absently mindedly opening and closing it as he sits on the train. The battery died at some point and now the hands have stopped ticking. 1:45 it reads, forever 1:45. He snaps it closed one last time as his stop approaches.

The hospital room smells like old people and death when he enters. Unsurprising since that’s what’s in it.  His grandfather lays there, tubes in his nose and I.V. in his arm. His chin is held high, and Alex can tell that he’s holding onto the last shred of his pride.

The watch feels heavy in his pocket.


“Wow, really?” he says, eyes wide as he holds the small box.  His grandfather smiles at him from where he sits in his chair; back straight and chin high as always. Alex sits on the ground in front of him, taking the pocket watch out of its box.

“Well that’s what you asked for, isn’t it?” he replies.

“I mean yeah but I didn’t think you’d actually get it. Usually you get me socks or something.”  Alex tells him, eyes still locked on the watch as he continuously opens and closes it. Open close. Open close. click click. click click.

“I thought I’d get you something special, since you’re going to high school now.” His grandfather leans down briefly to ruffle his hair and Alex finally looks away from the watch.

“Thank you so much Grandad! I’ll cherish it forever. I promise.”   

His grandfather doesn’t reply, he just keeps smiling as Alex lifts the watch up to his ear hearing the tick tick tick of time moving forward.

Flash Fiction-Who Are You?

Announcements, etc., Flash Fiction

Who Are You?


The echo of your laughter is getting further and further away. I remember a time when your eyes sparkled with joy and your smile eased the pain of an unforgiving day. You were mother, father and best friend. You were my sanctuary. Today, I search for the woman you once were and in her place is damaged shell overflowing with fear, pain and bitterness. It is hard to meet your eyes when it causes insurmountable pain in my chest.


Who are you woman, the one who has replaced my mother? What have you done to her? I don’t recognize this person in front of me. Her eyes look at me with suspicion. “Why are you trying to poison me?” My mother would never ask me such a question. She knows my love for her is immeasurable and I’d never hurt her. Who is this imposter?


There was a time when she would walk for hours on end, breathing in the oxygen from the trees surrounding her. She’d lift her face to the sun and let it give her a gentle kiss upon her face. Now, she is suffocating in a tiny room with trash bags covering the windows, curled in a corner scarred for her life.


“They’re trying to kill me!” She looks like a caged animal.


“Who, Ma? Who’s trying to kill you?” She can’t hear me. Her mind is trapped in a Hell of her own making.


How do I get her back, the mother I once knew?


Can I ever get her back?


Why Have You Forsaken Me?


Where are you Father? Why have you abandoned me? Have I not served you faithfully for all of my days? There is no end to the pain. You said no weapon formed against me shall prosper, but it feels like everyone around has a weapon pointed at me, stabbing me from every direction. My shields are gone, corroded by time. Each new day, piece by piece my armor falls away.


I have never known innocence. It was viciously ripped from me when I was naught but a child. I trusted him because my father trusted him. That was a mistake.


I spent the nights drinking away my pain. I did any drug put before me, hoping to forget, but my memories only got stronger.


Forgive me Father, for I have wavered in my faith.


They won’t leave me alone.

“Dead or in Jail. Choose.” This is what the man told me. I was too close. I saw too much. I wish I was blind, then maybe I wouldn’t see the treachery around me. I would be at peace with my own mind. But I am cursed. There is no happy ending for me.


Death. I choose death.


Forgive me.

Flash Fiction-The Watch

Announcements, etc., Flash Fiction

It was 1945 at the tail end of World War II. Pvt. McGinley was doing a routine sweep at a farmhouse at the edge of the small German town his company was occupying. His knocks went unanswered, so he opened the door. Even though most of the fighting was well north of the town, he still kept his guard up. The farmhouse was deserted. The cabinets were barren with little food left in the pantry. McGinley surmised that they left when word spread that the Americans were coming. He made his way through the house until he reached the master bedroom. The only furniture that was still in tact was a small vanity piece with a small velvet-covered box. McGinley opened it up. Inside was a small pocket watch with a navy blue face.

Beautiful, he thought to himself. He took it out of the box and admired it in his hands. It glimmered in the sunlight that reflected off the mirror. Satisfied with his treasure, he left the farmhouse otherwise untouched. His unit was waiting for him at the train depot a mile up the road.

“Find anything good, McGinley?” asked Sergeant Jones, McGinley’s commanding officer.

McGinley felt the hard metal timepiece in the pocket of his coat, but shook his head. He wasn’t necessarily afraid of reprimand. A wristwatch wasn’t the most expensive thing he’s seen taken from the Germans, but he felt as if it was a secret and that he must take it with him if he was to keep the watch.


“Hey Gramps?” I asked, holding a small metal tin I had found in one of the many cardboard boxes in my grandfather’s storage room. “What’s in this?”

Gramps slowly got to his knees and shook off the dust off his green trousers. He slowly made his way over to where I was standing.

“My, My.” he said. “I was looking for this very tin twenty years ago. Go ahead, kid. Open it.”

I undid the latch and slowly lifted the lid to reveal an old blue pocket watch. I wiped its dirty glass face and held it too my ear.

“Still ticking.”

“It should. That’s a top quality German watchmaking. I found it during the war.”

“‘Found it,’” I said sarcastically.

Gramps blushed.

“Hey I once saw a man take an entire silver candelabra from a French chateau. I didn’t think anyone was gonna miss a small wristwatch.”

“I guess so,” I said, moving the watch around in my hand.

Gramps moved away from me, rubbing his hands.

“I was going to give it to your father as a wedding present,” he said. “But I lost it when I had to put all my stuff in this goddamn foot locker after the divorce.” He waved his hands over the sea of cardboard around him.

“Well, at least we found it now,” I said, putting it back into the tin. “You could still give it to Dad if you want.”

Gramps shook his head.

“I want you to have it. Not that you care about knowing the time. But it would be a nice thing to display in your apartment.”

“We’ll see. Katy is usually the one who decorates.”

I paused for a moment.

“But thanks. It means a lot.”

Gramps turned around, revealing a smile.

“You’re welcome, kid.”

He put his hands on my shoulder, and, together, we walked out of the storage room and headed downstairs to eat lunch that Katy and my grandmother had prepared.

Flash Fiction-Time

Announcements, etc.



They were running out of time.


He rushed along the train platform towards the exit gate. He pushed past people, spouting quick ‘sorry!’s and ‘pardon!’s without so much as a quick glance.


They were running out of time. He checked the pocket watch.


30 minutes.


He started running even faster. Only 30 minutes. Only 30 minutes to save the world.


As he darted out of the train station doors and waved down a cab, he thought of all the things one could do in 30 minutes. One could make some custard. One could write a poem. One could get a job. One could propose to their true love. One could save a life.


There were so many things one could do in 30 minutes, but as he sat on the edge of his seat and urged the driver to drive as fast as he could, he knew right now if he wasn’t there in time, no one might be able to do any of those things.




He checked the pocket watch again. Its silver numbers and hands gestured urgently to him. 25 minutes.


He pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket. “I’ll pay you an extra 100 if you can get me there in five!”


The driver widened his eyes and floored the gas pedal. That cab driver probably broke several traffic laws, all for an extra one hundred bucks. The man must have been desparate.


He was desparate too, though for something considerably more important that money.


The cab had barely stopped before he tossed the bill on the dash, opened the door, and nearly leapt out of the cab in one fluid motion. As the cab drove away, he ran up to the door of the ran down building and pulled repeatedly and frantically on the handle. It wouldn’t budge. Thinking quickly, he ran around to the back alley. He climbed some crates stacked up near an open window and climbed in. Inside the dimly lit hallway, he checked the pocket watch. As he opened it’s silver shell, the watch almost seemed to screamed at him ‘20 minutes!’


He knew there wasn’t any time to lose. He ran up the stairs, which spiraled around and around, like hands on a clock. As he reached the top landing, he sprinted down the hall, checked the handle of the apartment door, before kicking it down.

He searched the dingy apartment desperately. Where is it, he thought, where is it!


A low hum began to fill the air.


5 minutes.


He was tossing open cabinets, kicking up rugs, ripping open drawers. The hum was rising in pitch.


Around the edges of his vision, dark yet iridescent, sparkling cracks appeared and slowly but surely started to widen.


He checked under the bed, eyes wide.


There it was. He wondered how something so small and almost innocuous looking could cause so much trouble.


As he reached, the hum became and deafening and the holes started to quickly consume everything.


He pulled it out and fumbled desperately to-





They were running out of time.


He rushed along the train platform towards the exit gate. He pushed past people, spouting quick ‘sorry!’s and ‘pardon!’s without so much as a quick glance.


They were running out of time. He checked the pocket watch.


30 minutes.

Flash Fiction-The Girl/ The Man

Announcements, etc., Flash Fiction

The Girl:

I watch him linger in the shadows around the room, and every time he goes to take a step towards me I flinch, causing the ropes on my wrists to burn and itchy with every little movement. I look towards him and try to make eye contact, but it’s so dark i can’t even see the whites. “Why.. why are you doing this..?” I plead, i have been asking for the past four days, maybe it’s been a week i haven’t seen an inch of sunlight since i was taken here. He hasn’t said a word to me, he just keeps pacing. My voice is so sore i think it’s best to just stay quiet. When i used to watch those crime TV shows i would always yell at the victim to fight back, scream for help. Even if you die you’ll still have tried, and yet now that i am faced with the situation all i can think of is sleeping and waiting for him to kill me, how he is going to do it. Even though it is dark i know we’re in a basement, the floor is hard and cold my knees are so raw from being on them for so long. i hear something that of metal, my mind flashes to images of this man cutting my throat, or gutting me and feasting on my insides. I have tears streaming down my face and the snot in my nasal passages come running out my nose like a train getting to the end of a tunnel. “PLEASE PLEASE DON’T!!” I scream, making my throat feel like i have been trying to push out razor blades. He stops pacing, this is it the end is coming i know it. “Those things you said before… if i let you go.. You won’t tell anyone?” he mutters.. I can hear every breath he takes in between his words, is he crying? I don’t know whether this is some sick game or if he will really let me go, but those memories of me screaming at the victim to fight are rushing inside of me now. Suddenly my body is pulsing and everything that hurt before has turned into angry. I’m ready to fight. I try collecting myself but all i manage to get out is “No police. I just want to go home.” Rage is fueling inside of me, did he take me here just to fuck with me?! My thoughts are racing a million miles a second but my eyes and body are focused on him. “I’m going to untie you…” Why is he so hesitant, is he just trying to get my guard down so he can kill me?! The more and more i think the less patient i get. He walks away from me and turns on a light, it is blinding, tears flood over my eyes. While my eyes are closed i hear him coming near and i wait until i can see to make any moves. I feel him grab my forearm and begin cutting the rope, it’s getting looser and closer to being completely off. I keep my body still until they release, i open my eyes and they dart towards the blade, i go it but my legs are weak. “Stop! Please! I want to let you go!” He shouts his voice cracking, as my chest lay on the ground i look up at him, tears streaming down his face. I sit up and begin hitting him over and over until i’m standing and i’m hitting him my eyes are closed and i’m hitting him, and my neck feels warm… my body is going limp there’s fire ants in my blood. I open my eyes tears flooding and think that at least i tried… he was never going to let me go

The Man:

I’ve been watching for three days now, and i can’t even get through my head how she got here. My legs are sore from pacing and i’m tired from thinking of how to handle this situation. How did she get here… Did i black out again.. It’s never this bad.. I look towards her and every time she begs or pleads my heart breaks. I know i’m sorry i don’t want this either… I put my hand in my pocket and i fidget with my switch blade… I’m going to cut her out i have too.. I stop and pull out my switch blade and look towards her and begin to speak but she’s screaming, asking me not too.. I’m not going to kill her i’m not that kind of person, it’s a misunderstanding… I wait for her to stop screaming and ask her   “Those things you said before… if i let you go.. You won’t tell anyone?” i watch her body, she’s almost shaking… i’m not going to hurt her, i’ll let her go.. I’m so wrapped up in my own head i barely even hear her agree.. I stay still and prepare her, i don’t want her to be nervous.. It was a misunderstanding.. “I’m going to untie you…” I spin on my heel and turn on the lights.. My eyes are glistening, i’ve been down here for hours so it hurts to keep them open, but i do and walk towards her, there are tear drops dripping from her closed eyes and i begin cutting her ropes, she reaches for my knife and i back up watching her drop to the ground “Stop! Please! I want to let you go!” she doesn’t stop though she keeps hitting me and hitting me, she gets up on her knees and i just… just… I open my eyes.. Im sitting on a park bench my clothes covered in her blood, it’s cold almost frozen in my shirt, and i hear sirens coming towards me.. Oh god i killed her.. It’s just a misunderstanding.. What have i done.


Spoken Word Event

Announcements, etc.

Last week we held out Spoken Word event in the Black Box theater, and it was a huge success! We had a great turn-out with members from the Creative Writing Club as well as other HCC students. We had over fifteen people perform their pieces, with lots of variety between poetry, monologues, and everything in between! Thanks again!

During the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting the flash fiction entries as well as other submitted works that didn’t get selected for the print magazine. We had so many great works, and we felt they deserve some recognition. The next Creative Writing Club meeting will be tomorrow, April 12 at 11a.m. in Don 360. See you there!

Sentence Building & Spoken Word

Announcements, etc., Club Prompts

Last week’s meeting was pleasantly filled with lots of eager writers, both regulars and newcomers. Our prompt was Sentence-Building, a creative exercise getting us geared up for the Spoken Word event.

To start with, we write a base-sentence, such as The fire alarm went off. For a periodic, you add to the beginning: While we were eating lunch, the fire alarm went off. For a cumulative sentence, you add to the ending: The fire alarm went off, making a loud clanging noise, startling everyone, and causing some people to knock over their chairs. There is also the ‘big finish’ where you can add both clauses, creating one long, but coherent sentence.

This activity was taken further by picking a topic then writing 5-6 basic-sentences about said topic. After this was complete, we went back and built on each one, writing one elaborate paragraph/story. It was a lot of fun hearing how people were able to expand on their work.

Tomorrow April 5th is the Spoken Word/ Open Mic event in the Black Box theater in the FPA Building at 11 am. (FPA 111) You can read your own work or just listen to other students’ poetry, raps, rants, monologues, or anything else that can be read aloud. Hope to see you there!

Back From Break

Announcements, etc., Club Prompts

The return from break had everyone refreshed and excited for the second half of the semester. With the beginning of Spring and warmer weather (hopefully) in sight, we began preparations for the upcoming Spoken Word on Wednesday April 12th.

Inspired by “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, the group thought of a prompt similar in nature. We ended up writing about “Five Pros or Cons about the Superpower of Shapeshifting. ” Everyone went straight to work drafting prose poems that explored the various facets of shapeshifting. Afterwards, we had a lively discussion of both the practical and philosophical merits and implications of shapeshifting.

Next week’s meeting will be in our usual spot in Don 360. We’ll write some more poetry/spoken word pieces, and perhaps even a practice Spoken Word.

Exquisite Corpse

Club Prompts, Poetry

At the last meeting before break, the club did some Exquisite Corpse poetry. Each line was written by a different person, who only saw the line before it. It was a fun and creative way to get everyone involved! We hope everyone has a great Spring Break, and see you on the Wednesday after!

Here are the Exquisite Corpse poems that we wrote


The sparrow lands lightly

Upon the rocky cliff.

The waves crashed and fell.

All the surfers’ bones crunches and comically yell

“Yo dudes, look @ that mermaid’s tail.

It’s wicked cool, so colorful.”

There’s an autumn forest in my mind,

the leaves fall to the ground- the stars shine happily through the trees!

The night of autumn touches me,

Slowly caressing as I fall like leaves.

They’re holding me in their arms.

“Please!” I said. “I mean you no harm.”


The fire burned with unholy rage.

The blazing priestess turns off the torch.

Nothing in the room now but dark and deathless deities.

The shadows draw closer, her life-light flickers out.

But he lights it back.

Smooth as a fox, sly as a rock,

and with the subtlety of a whale,

I am almost done with my tale.

But I still have to kill that one juror

if I want the decision I desire.

Sit around a smoking bonfire,

Together until all the smoke clears from the trees.


Once upon a time, although its cliche,

a princess born in the month of May,

only a barrel of wine to her name, a haystack throne.

She looks and sees, sadly, she’s all alone.

Feeling the cold touch of the air,

my mind fell down the stairs.

Broken, fallen, and scarred,

I crawled on my own two legs,

searching for treasured golden eggs

with my best friend Megan, we call her Megs.

And drink life up, split over like medieval kegs.

Enjoy the good parts, but pour out the dregs.


Witness the man who buys pencils,


Singing the words to his least favorite song.

da-da da-da, ding-dong, ding-dong.

Singing my happy song.

This all feels very wrong.

I’ve never got it wrong before.

How could I have been so brash.

Now I bear my one regret

like a bouquet of thistles and nettle.

My heart sings of flowers and metal,

a delicate beauty, a weapon lethal.


Drama & Flash Fiction Contest

Announcements, etc.

Today’s meeting was slightly atypical with some students working on a prompt while the Pulp City editors discussed the print magazine. We’ve had so many great works submitted, making it a difficult but exciting task. The list will be finalized before Spring Break and then sent off to the Art Department for publication. Submissions that didn’t make it to print may still appear on the blog, so keep an eye out for that as well!

The prompt this week centered around creating a three to four person play. Some of us went with this prompt, and one student even wrote a short scene about a diner that served hot dog pot pie! This prompt ties in with the No-Shame Theater that was put on by the HCC Players, which the Creative Writing club attended after our meeting.

We have a winner for last week’s flash fiction contest, who wishes to remain anonymous (for now). His/her piece will be published in the print magazine while the other entries will be posted here on the blog soon! Next week’s meeting will be held in the usual place, Don 360, where we may do some Exquisite Corpse or other group-writing exercises. And even though the magazine deadline has passed, the blog will continue to accept submissions for publication on this site. Keep ’em coming!

Pulp City Submissions, Yesterday’s Meeting, Social Media, and more!

Announcements, etc.


Our last day for submissions of Pulp City (the print magazine) is next Wednesday, February 22nd! Send your poems, monologues, short fiction to dchampoux@hcc.edu to be considered for print publication! Don’t miss out!

We held our meeting yesterday in our normal meeting space in Don 360 as the Black History Month Spoken Word event had unfortunately been canceled. Nevertheless, we went right into writing with the prompt: “You stop taking pills you’ve been taking since birth, only to discover you now have super-powers because of it.”

Some people worked with the prompt in a flash fiction style while others filled out a ‘Heuristics’ sheet based on the prompt. There were various responses including stories about super-strength, popping into other universes at random, even superpowers that existed only in the character’s mind. Lots of good stuff!

We are also excited to announce that Pulp City now has an Instagram account! Check us out at @pulpcityofficial to find picture prompts and other news concerning the literary magazine and blog.

Next week is our Flash Fiction Contest! Write a short story in 30 mins, and it could win you a $100 tuition grant and guaranteed publication in Pulp City! Hope to see you next Wednesday, February 22nd in Kittredge Center, room 418 at 11am!