Teachers Write 7.26.16 Tuesday Quick-Write with Madelyn Rosenberg

Happy Tuesday! Guest author Madelyn Rosenberg joins us for today’s quick-write. Madelyn is the author of the Nanny X books, HOW TO BEHAVE AT A TEA PARTY, and HOW TO BEHAVE AT A DOG SHOW. Her quick-write today is about postcards!


Last summer I came up with a new writing prompt and I had so much fun with it, I did it all summer long. I’m calling it “Postcard.” When I have students do the prompt in a classroom, I pass out index cards. When I’m doing it myself, I just scrawl on a page of my writing notebook.

The rules are simple: Describe the scene around you, using only 10 words or short phrases. Put one word or phrase on each line, so you’re laying it out like a poem. Think about your different senses as you study your scene and write it out. It’s a good way to practice working varied senses into whatever you write. Especially smell – I hate how often we leave out the sense of smell when it is so evocative/linked with memory. I like to include scraps of dialogue in my postcards, too.

You can use this exercise not just to write about the world around you, but to write about a scene in your current work in progress.

A few examples are below. Sometimes it’s more fun to put the title at the end, especially if you’re sharing with others.




Non-greasy UV protection










“Drink or snack?”

“We are experiencing turbulence”

A carpet of clouds

Recycled air

Gingerale and tea

Angry stomach

Look for the exit over the wings

Books, kenken, in-flight magazines, barf bags

“Adjust your seatback position”

Map of the world


And here’s one from my daughter:


San Francisco Streetcar

“Three rights make a left”

Roller coaster

“Don’t block the exit!”




“Hold on!”


“Just sayin’”

Slow. Fast. Slow.


Today’s Assignment: Write your postcard! Describe the scene around you, using only 10 words or short phrases. Put one word or phrase on each line, so you’re laying it out like a poem. Think about your different senses as you study your scene and write it out. And feel free to share your ten lines in the comments today!


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  1. Martha Willey
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Dear Madelyn, thanks for sharing. What a cool idea. I think my students will enjoy this. Here is mine:

    I hope that’s ten I couldn’t get my cursor to scroll up. My next postcard should be on frustration.
    Thanks again for this terrific prompt.

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      As someone who often wakes up at 4 a.m, I got this. (Or this got me?)

  2. Erika Victor
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    This was perfect for me tonight as I made my overnight oatmeal inspired by a friend far away!

  3. Gloria Jeanne Johnso
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Pink with green stripes
    Wobbly table
    Windowsill full
    Spice, just right!

  4. Posted July 26, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I love seeing/hearing these! And I do think it helps you strain words the words for a scene to find the right ones when you go back to your WIP. (Also,perhaps oatmeal for breakfast.)

  5. Allison Burgeson
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink


    Fuzzy poodle
    Fluffy kitties
    Blocks and toddler toys
    Barney and Elsa
    Uh Oh stinky diaper
    Comfy Couch
    Clinking wind chimes
    Dancing blue eyed little girl

  6. Kate Schoedinger
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Madelyn! What a terrific exercise that I will surely use myself and with my students. Here is my Postcard:

    Summer Camp Bliss
    Breezy zephyr through doors and windows
    Two hummingbirds flitting
    Motor boats zipping after, “Hit it!”
    Snoring lab
    Campers cheering sailing by
    Lake, waves unfolding
    Mountains cloaked in blue
    Swinging birdhouse
    Kayaks in color
    Dirt road is our highway

    • Kate Schoedinger
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      I’d like to change the title from Summer Camp Bliss to Memories for January

  7. Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Madelyn, what a great challenge to start my morning! I wrote my Postcard on my blog, but did not include a title as I wanted people to guess my location based on the descriptive words. Can you guess where I am? Let me know what you think! Here’s my blog post: http://bit.ly/postcard16

  8. Susan MacKay-Logue
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Madelyn, this was a fun exercise. My fifth graders create postcards that they send to other fifth graders across the country, so this is a great activity to help them internalize the power of a few words. I really enjoyed it and will use it this year. Thank you. Here is my attempt:

  9. Angela Berent
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    What a fun start today!



  10. Teresa
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Partly cloudy
    Slight breeze
    Scent of fresh air
    Slices of sunshine
    Steaming cup of coffee
    Word clouds
    “To Do” list
    A good book
    Summer Mornings

    • Teresa
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Oops erase that first line….I am not sure where that came from?

  11. Rachel McRoberts
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Infamous Southern heat
    Salty swimsuit
    Heat waves rising
    Flipping and flopping
    Soft towel
    Blinding sun
    Squeaky plastic float
    Sweet relief

  12. Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Salty swimsuit says so much!

  13. Andy Starowicz
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Madelyn,

    I was poolside this afternoon, so my “postcard” is a lot like yours. I really enjoyed this activity and plan to use it with my sixth graders when we are working on descriptive writing. We write a descriptive piece about our Thanksgiving dinners, so this is the perfect pre-writing activity to get the creative juices (and the descriptive words) flowing. Thank you.


    Hum of a distant lawnmower
    Scent of sunscreen
    “Fish out of water”
    Moms staring at phones
    Comfy beach chair

  14. Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Excited kids
    Shelves of books
    Clicking computers
    Comfy chairs
    Beeping self-checks
    Reading eyes
    Lit windows
    Pattering rain
    Musty carpet
    Informative displays

    Do you know where we are? Yep, the library! I took my four nieces and nephews today.

  15. Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    On the deck

    Hawk screams

    Slight breeze

    Wind chimes sound

  16. Andrea Clark
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Kitchen table

    Salt and pepper shakers
    Black chairs
    Pink napkins
    White tablecloth
    Tervis tumbler
    Beige walls
    Square table
    Apartment living

  17. Posted July 26, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Madelyn, I am SO ridiculously in love with this writing exercise. Have been using it with credit to you!) in my in person writing workshops today — so wonderful to adapt to solving story problems or getting to know characters better. Describing a character’s bedroom or school, dialogue between characters! My teens are LOVING it tonight!! They’re writing away as I type this! Writing forward in their manuscripts based on their postcard poems. THANK YOU!

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Wow, thank you so much for sharing that! Am so glad it is working for them! You totally made my night!

  18. Posted July 26, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing quick write!

    I spent a great day at the Library of Congress and was perusing some awesome activities of found poetry with primary source documents. Led me to think of my 10 words/phrases.

    My Day as an Imperfect Reverso

    Fragment of history
    Lost map
    Covered knowledge
    Reverent learning
    Learning reverently
    Knowledge revealed
    Maps charted
    Past of stories
    Each piece

    • Susan MacKay-Logue
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Very clever. Love this <3

    • Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Love the way you did this. (Also, my husband works at the LOC!)

  19. Posted July 26, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I just traveled from Washington state to new york today with a 2 year old so I think this is a perfect day for a 10 word poem!


    Lack of Personal Space

  20. Beth
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I’m a little late to the party, but thank you for the prompt! Here is my ten-line poem. It took several tries to get it ordered correctly to tell the story.

    Fluorescent Lights
    Hard chairs
    Carousel of Computers
    Goosebumps under a sweater
    Cold Coffee
    Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.
    A late arrival

    “Teaching Summer School”

  21. Aliza Werner
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Thank you Madelyn for this wonderful exercise. I took a recent memory (last week) of a trip I took to Maine to visit three dear college girlfriends. One friend’s dad lives there on a beautiful peninsula, a small finger of land surrounded on three sides by the sea, and hosted the four “girls”, our hubbies, and babies. One night, after the babies were in bed, we gathered around the dinner table to a big feast of lobsters, mussels, corn on the cob, blueberry pie, and good wine. We got messy, told stories, and breathed in the moment of being together…a rarity for all of us, living scattered around the world. This writing prompt helped me record those memories. Thank you!

    Dinner Table at The Walker House in Maine

    Scarlet, steaming lobsters
    Slick fingers
    Shells cracking
    Zip of lemon
    Briny bites
    Splash of wine, splash of wine, splash of wine
    Legendary stories spun
    Belly laughs. No, souls in stitches!
    Old friends gathered to break claws
    A punctuation of voices, surrounded by the silent sea

    • Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing this, Aliza. I try to record memories this way, too. I hope you send it to your college friends!

      • Aliza Werner
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Thanks so much for the feedback, especially as I was a day late posting! I will definitely send it on to them. Being there is a place of peace, deep friendship and love, and memories.

  22. Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Super late to this, because I just found out about the project. Mine comes from a float trip a friend took my family on the other day.
    Daughter’s weight against my chest
    Hawk circles in the brilliant blue sky

  23. Posted July 28, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    What makes my parent’s house in Louisiana “home”?

    *The marble board made by a a great great great on the table ready for a game between me and Mom
    *The plants….so many plants (and they’re ALIVE!!)
    *Mom and Dad
    *Going to the gun range with Dad
    *Sleeping in
    *A calm and relaxed, stress-free feeling
    *Cooking, sewing, shopping with Mom.
    *My fur sister, Callie

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