Teachers Write! 6/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

It’s time for Thursday’s Quick-Write.  Before we get to the prompt, let’s have a virtual round of applause for the authors who answered questions during Wednesday Q and A.  (Woo-hoo!!) If you’d take a few minutes to look up those authors who made time to answer your questions, that would be great – their responses will mean more if you learn about their books. And if those books sound like something your readers would enjoy, please consider adding them to your IndieBound wish-lists or GoodReads to-read lists.

Today’s Thursday Quick-Write is courtesy of guest author Pam Bachorz!  (Bio courtesy of Pam’s website & photo by Louis Torres)  Pam grew up in a small town in the Adirondack foothills, where she participated in every possible performance group and assiduously avoided any threat of athletic activity, unless it involved wearing sequined headpieces and treading water. With a little persuasion she will belt out tunes from “The Music Man” and “The Fantasticks”, but she knows better than to play cello in public anymore. Pam attended college in Boston and finally decided she was finished after earning four degrees: a BS in Journalism, a BA in Environmental Science, a Masters in Library Science and an MBA. Her mother is not happy that Pam’s degrees are stored under her bed.  Pam draws inspiration from the places she knows best: she wrote CANDOR while living in a Florida planned community, and set DROUGHT in the woods where she spent her summers as a child. She currently lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and their son.

Ready to write?

Think of the place that is home for you. It might be where you live today, or perhaps where you grew up. Wherever you choose, be sure to pick a place that you know well. Take one minute to write down every detail about this place that you can think of.

Done with the first part? Now we’re going to twist it around. Take the rest of your time to write about three changes that would make this place utterly altered for you–changes that would mean it was no longer home.

What sort of changes? That’s entirely up to you. Perhaps you’ll change how home looks, or smells, or  where it’s located. Or maybe it’s the people there who make it home.

This prompt aims to help you draw rich details from familiar settings into your fiction, and to also see how they can be altered to be something entirely different for your stories. Think of it as taking a favorite pair of pants to the tailor and coming home with a pencil skirt!

Note from Kate: If you have a work-in-progress, you can also feel free to write this from your character’s point of view. It may teach you something about him or her that you didn’t know before.

Feel free to share a snippet (no more than a paragraph or two, please!) of what you wrote today in the comments if you’d like – and thanks for the support you’re giving one another by responding to those comments! You’re making this a really fun place to be a writer.


110 Replies on “Teachers Write! 6/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

  1. It use to be white. The fence has changed, too. A bird bath? Jason put the car in park. His hand couldn’t decided if the keys should turn the car off, so it lingered while his mind raced. The driveway was cluttered with kid toys. The new wood fence kept him from seeing the backyard. But the memories rushed him. Football, jumping the metal fence when playing tag. Why did they paint it pink? With a smile, “Little Pink Houses” started to play in his head. He turned the car off.

    1. I love the instant discomfort Jason feel as he puts the car in park – and what a great starting place this is. So often as authors (and I am guilty of this), we love our characters so much that we want to protect them from discomfort, and really, that’s so often the seed of both growth and story. I love this prompt from Pam, as it really pushes that issue – taking the ultimate comfort-place and changing it to see what happens.

    2. I struggled getting started with this prompt because I wanted to do it “right” but then I just let go and got it out…
      My new house is brown outside with black shutters.  The bottom of the house has bricks that are different shades of brown and gray.  Jamey has planted beautiful trees and flowering bushes up front along the house- sky pencils, hostas, Japanese maple tree, a hydrangea bush. The first room you see when you enter our house is my reading room. I wanted to room to show a little bit of me and Jamey.  On the shelves of the bookcase are books, pictures of family and friends and items that represent who we are.  I put thought into every thing I put on those shelves.  I made sure that every person who is important to us can be seen in pictures the moment someone walks through the door. Having a passion for literature, I chose books that represent different topics that interest me- poetry, classics, art. The objects on the shelves of the bookcase also show bits of who we are and where we’ve been. For example, a lot of the objects are keepsakes of places Jamey and I have been too- in a mason jar I have sea glass we used as decoration for our wedding in Maui, on another shelf is a bowl I painted while we were traveling in Mexico.       I want our guests to get a sense of who we are as they visit our home, to be able to see “us” in our living spaces. 

  2. To call it ramshackle would be apt. Coming from a northern New Jersey suburb of close quarters to this was quite an adjustment, an opening, or a molting, if you will. There were weeds in glory in the back field when we first arrived, joined by red vein-like roots running along the ground, huge, like hoses. After a controlled burning, this became “property,” and made the place desirable in someone’s mind. But it also opened up possibilities for a ten year old. Room to play, and pretend, and hide, and seek. During a Luther Burbank fascination came the discovery of sassafras ( or was it poison oak?), and wild morning glory, cattails and crab apples (very bitter as it turned out). Many wanderings mapped a thoroughfare to a boat works, and to the river. The terms “dry dock,” and “barnacles” came into the lexicon. Another new world to explore.

    1. I like the quick juxtaposition of two settings, NJ and this, and all the potential entailed for the character. You lay out a lot very economically, and the idea of “property” resonated. That captures the feeling I have when, passing through some out of the way patch or other, I wonder, “Who would live HERE?”

    2. I love all of this, but especially the word “molting” – it feels like a metaphor that might return if this is to be part of a larger piece. But either way – it’s really lovely.

  3. The classroom is spotless. Its cement floor gleams a polished smile. The boards are whiter than our baseball team’s new jerseys, not a stray mark anywhere. Thirty desks, each on four sturdy legs, stand solidly two by two; at the end of each row, matching stacks of green plastic chairs wait for orders. One chair is blue and has become inexplicably popular, students racing to class to claim this special perch. Empty bookshelves line the room’s perimeter; they are disinfected and free of dust. In the corner farthest from the door, the teacher’s desk hunkers. A computer monitor and keyboard, set at precise 45-degree angles, are the only two things on the surface. No books or catalogs, no stacks of disheveled papers, no apparent clutter of any kind. These are not the signs of custodial care and the good intentions of August. It’s February.

    1. Well, heck… I got a chill at the end of this. I was all ready for the students to arrive – and I was appreciating the calm before the storm (the clean before the mess, too) until that sucker-punch at the end. I want to know more! (And also…I love the blue chair. Such a delicious, real detail!)

    2. It was such an optimistic piece, and as a teacher, I was relishing the quiet cleanliness, like a clean white board, ready to be written upon. Your surprise ending both intrigued me and made me terribly sad. This would be a terrific writing prompt to give students or teachers alike and ask them to complete the story.

      Way to throw us for a loop! I love the unexpectedness of it!

    3. I was loving this and wanting more long before I reached the intriguing ending–“gleams like a polished smile”? “green plastic chairs wait for orders”? Your diction here is fantastic, and the February bit most definitely has me wondering…

    4. I loved this. I was totally surprised but also couldn’t stop thinking of vast white spaces of snow in February and wondering what happened to this classroom? Teacher? Well done.

  4. The thing that stayed: butterflies. The thing that went: that aftershave smell. Actually, the rooms were practically bare except for those veiny, creepy butterflies on the wall. Mom wouldn’t part with those, no matter what. We sold about every stick of furniture to make ends meet. Our home has no cooking smells, no animal smells, nothing. There is that empty house smell, like no one lives here. Mom doesn’t count as a person, she’s barely there anymore. Yeah, you can see her sitting there, going through the motions, but I don’t even know who she is now. It’s like I’m living here all by myself, and I’m only 11.

    1. I’ve decided that Pam is a genius, and so are all of you.

      My heart is breaking for this kid – and I love that the only thing left are the butterflies, which are so fragile in the best of circumstances.

    2. You might be the first person that ever made me feel creeped out by butterflies. That’s some talent! I already want to hug the little eleven year old (girl?). Way to keep it simple and pack a wallop.

    3. Oh I want to know what will happen to those butterflies. I long for them to come to life and be freed, just like this child wants to be! Awesome use of setting to convey an aspect of character.

  5. It’s amazing how one little change in your surroundings can throw you off. My house itself is not changing at all; it still has my husband and son, my two energetic dogs, all my possessions. It looks exactly the same, yet suddenly it feels different. My neighbors are what’s changing. After six years of being next door neighbors they are moving on due to a job change. I feel a little bit sick. I have seen their oldest grow up from a baby to a first grader. Elle is smart and a perfectionist. I have seen their second daughter, our godchild, growing up into an energetic, talkative three year old. Adi is feisty, but so joyful and loving. Being an only child, my son has totally bonded with their little girls; he is like a cousin to them. Despite the age difference (he is 13) they play together in the yard regularly. The for sale sign in the yard is a daily reminder of the looming move. Part of home has come to mean living next door to them. Our dogs play together, we have impromptu potluck meals on lazy days at home, we swim together in our pool. We are like the old time neighbors who actually do lend each other a cup of sugar when cooking. We stand in our side yards talking way too long about not much at all. We provide each other with therapy after family gatherings! Friends are the family you choose, and part of my family is leaving home.

    1. This cut me deep, and rang very true, although my family is always the one leaving our adopted families behind. Love how you show that someone LEAVING a setting, even peripherally, can change it so significantly.

  6. Kate, one of the things I do when you introduce us to a guest author, is I vista their site. Now I am not only intrigued to read Candor but am inspired to use my her “trailer” as a model for taking “book talks” to the next level. In doing so, children will be plummeted to the the top of Blooms taxonomy in creating a visual teaser and genuinely encouraging their peers to read!

    1. Thanks so much for checking it out, Linda! You might want to send your kids to see the videos I made for the “real” website for the town of CANDOR (www.candorfl.com), too!

  7. Margo and the rest of my comrades at summer writing camp,
    The following are the first attempts at writing since camp began. Although neither answer the given prompts, I don’t think you’ll judge me for that. However I am still open to honest feedback none-the-less. As you might be able to tell,these e-mail experts that I sent to colleagues inspired and modeled after the letter Jack writes to Mr. Walter Dean Meyers in the beloved book, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

    I hope he might be willing
    to give me some pointers
    if he’s not too terribly busy with school
    and work
    and dates
    and sleep
    and school
    and all the other things that a young man might do.
    I will understand if he is too busy
    with work
    and sleep
    and dates
    and school
    and tests to study for. I really hope he does well on the test he studying for.
    So what I am wondering if he has the time from his very busy life of working and sleeping and studying, so very much studying into the long hours of the night,
    if he might want to think about giving me some pointers.
    I would be very grateful for his help.

    You are probably very busy with work
    and I don’t want to take up to much of your busy time away from your very business of work of things
    like packing,
    and filling out papers,
    oh so many papers and answering e-mails
    and shelving books
    and filing very important lesson plans
    that you have worked so hard on
    the phone is ringing
    and your daughter is texting
    I hope she is OK
    and appointments are being scheduled
    but what I am wondering
    is when you are done with your very very busy job of teaching
    and you at home doing the things that teachers do during summers
    when they are not teaching
    like reading books, so many many books to read.
    And going to sleeping late. I hope you get to sleep late.
    And lounging by the pool or going to the beach.
    Maybe you can do some reading while you are lounging by the pool or going to the beach.
    Would you maybe be interested in
    eating some pancakes that the Grassfield Marching Band will be making and serving
    as a fund raiser
    so they can travel to Atlanta to compete in a very important competition that
    they will practice very hard for.
    I will understand if you do not want to pay the $5.00
    and eat a lll the pancake you can eat on July 21st
    because you are so very busy
    relaxing, and lounging and reading
    and maybe3 you don’t even eat pancakes.
    And so I just want to thank you for taking some of your very busy school day
    to read my letter and now I will let you get back to your shelving and filing and packing.

    Linda J. Winokur

    1. These made me smile – and what a worthy mentor text from which to learn, too. LOVE THAT DOG is one of my favorites. I’m glad you decided to share today!

    2. You totally made me smile with this. You captured the hesitancy and innocence and yearning for attention just perfectly. I love the effective repetition at the beginning. I’m still smiling even as I write this. My favorite lines:

      “And going to sleep late. I hope you get to sleep late.”
      “Maybe you don’t even eat pancakes.”

  8. My haven, my classroom, is no longer the organized, comfortable learning space that I have come to love. The children have gone for the summer, the desks are pushed to the center of the room, and the chairs are stacked in a corner. Boxes of materials line two walls, and everything is covered in plastic, ready for the summer maintenance work to begin. I look around, smile to think of the memories made this year, and then, sadly, I close and lock the door, knowing that, for the next two months, I am homeless, but also knowing that I will be back, ready to make new memories with a whole new group of children, eager to learn and grow.

    1. Oh, this speaks to me as a former middle school teacher, Shyrl. I think we all know that feeling of the comfortable space being swept from under us for the summer, and you’ve captured that sense of displacement so well here.

    2. Oh, I loved this. It really brought me back to the days of helping my Mom pack up her 4th grade classroom. It always felt so lonely when we were done. I couldn’t wait to leave it behind–and couldn’t wait for it to come alive again in the fall.

  9. Before:
    We’re about 20 miles away from my grandparents house, and this is my favorite part of the drive. I put my book down and press my face to the window. After being on the interstate, the small two-lane road seems dangerously small, like you might swipe the edge of a passing car. The trees that line both sides of the road form a canopy over the road, and we drive along under the mottled sunlight that makes its way through the leaves. All you can see of the small country store on the side of the road is the dirt driveway that leads up to it. If you didn’t know it was there, you would miss it. I close my eyes and feel the muted flashes of sun on my face as we glide through the tunnel of trees.

    As we turn off the interstate, a new road stretches before us, and the smell hits me. Not the fresh country smell, but the smell of wood and gasoline. Where is my small two-lane road? Why are there cones and construction barrels everywhere? Big trucks are moving through the grass on the side of the road. I look ahead, confused. Where is my tunnel of trees? We all stare out of our windows. A construction worker flags us down and holds up a STOP sign. We wait as a semi pulls across the road in front of us and heads toward us. Its long trailer is loaded down with long pine trees. I catch my dad’s eyes in the mirror as we’re waved on to continue down the road, and his eyes look as sad as mine feel. Gone is the peaceful tree tunnel that hid us from the sky as we drove. It is replaced by a road being broadened and stretched, the harsh sunlight beating down unforgivingly. The small country store stands exposed on the side of the road. I pick up my book and tuck my head as the sunlight streams unchecked through my window.

    1. This is such a great contrast – somehow, it reminds me of a logging project that changed the face of one of our favorite hiking mountains a couple years ago. I was sadder than I thought I would be….and this piece you’ve written reminded me so much of that feeling.

    2. Great application of the prompt! it made me think of all those naked little country stores you see on the side of the road in New England. I never thought that once perhaps they were tucked away.

  10. Home is a comfortable, safe place where I can sink into the deep wrinkles of a microfiber couch and surround myself in a nest of brightly colored pillows. Burrowed in fluff, I admire the accent walls my husband and I painted almost a year ago. The mini-blinds need dusted and the cords running along my spotted carpet remind me that I have a lot of baby-proofing to do in the next four months. It’s not perfect here, but it’s my safe place.

    What is that noise? The apartment is vibrating under a crushing wave of sound. I am powerless to stop it. And it seems so dark in here. I flip on every light in my apartment, but it is a weak sort of light that doesn’t comfort me. I am fumbling for a flame, something bright to assure my spirits, when glass bursts through my window, shattered around my feet. I am filled with despair and fear. Where is my husband?

    1. Yep – amazing contrast. (And a really good reminder for any of us working on thrillers that creating a sense of coziness right before the glass smashes can really heighten that tension!)

  11. It’s just always been my house. I’ve never paid attention to all the pieces that make the picture whole. I’ve walked in and out of it so many times, I hardly notice it anymore. Until today. Today when I came home from school, I saw the brick on the driveway—the one that’s slightly cracked. I noticed that the third rosebush in the front planter is shorter than all the rest. And it’s pink. I saw the spot of grass that’s starting to die and the little cluster of dandelions that’s growing right next to the maple tree in the middle of the lawn. The gray of the house seemed grayer, contrasting even more with the white trim, and the windows seemed wider, as if they, too, could not believe what had appeared right next to our mailbox—the crazy one with bricks sticking out of its top.

    It was just a for sale sign. But somehow it changed everything.

    1. The details in this piece are so very specific and concrete that they really bring the place to life. And it’s so true…that sign changes everything.

    2. Boy is this true. You put that For Sale sign up and your entire perspective shifts. I love how you illustrated that with your specific examples.

    3. A friend just put her house up for sale & we were just talking about the things one notices that didn’t happen before. You’ve written it exactly right, the little nuances of change.

  12. I PROMISE my post is shorter today. I totally facepalmed on Tuesday when I realized that I had posted the ENTIRE scene and not just the excerpt and link I thought I had. I couldn’t go back and remove it either. So, I owe everyone a big Space Hog Apology. Sorry about that.

    Anyways…I chose to write about my best friend, Gayle’s, kitchen table. She’s had it since she was a little kid. It’s been in whatever kitchen she had ever since we became friends, nearly twenty years ago. I tried to imagine what it would feel like if she ever ditched that table for a newer model.

    The new table was technically, almost coldly, beautiful – black painted faux-aged pine with a modern twist – a glass inset. It could seat six in her small kitchen comfortably. There were a few touches that she had allowed to stay the same: the stone napkin holder with the metal boulder fit more nicely with this fashionable piece than it had the last table, and our two coffee mugs were the same. Still, it was an awkward attempt at change. I removed my elbows from the table, not wanting to leave prints on the glass, and ran my hands along its edges. It was too sharp. The corners, the color, the glaring reflection from the overhead light on the glass inset. It’s very modernity had sharp, hurtful edges.

    Our two mugs, hers big, mine little, hers Edward Hopper, mine Auguste Renoir, sat in our places at the ready. But setting them down on the glass clanged rudely to our ears and we ended up cupping them in our hands instead. Nothing like the formica-topped particle board of the Original Kitchen Table. It had accepted all comers, making things easy to our ears, or just…easy. Yes, it had looked cheap. Yes, it had been forty years old, but I missed its rounded edges and shiny, everyday usefulness under my arms. It had looked just right with a stack of interesting catalogs on it, waiting for us to sit and thumb through them. It had never been hard on your elbows; it wanted us to lean forward and share secrets. It had held our mugs so we could gesticulate wildly while telling our stories and lean back to laugh until our bellies hurt from it.

    Changing the kitchen table felt like she wanted to change our friendship to something more formal, less everyday. Had that really happened?

    1. No worries about the other day – we’re all learning together here! And I love this description – it reminds me of how important kitchen tables are to people (and should be to characters, too!)

    2. I enjoyed sinking into the detail of your piece. And I especially liked how you tied the change of the table into the narrator’s possibly changing friendship with the table’s owner. Great illustration of making setting matter.

  13. Two weeks ago his mom’s suggestion he go play in the creek would have made Chance laugh. He’d have stuffed his backpack full of cardboard, pinecones, masking tape and secreted away a pair of scissors. Racing down the path into the woods, he’d have jumped past the rocks sticking out of the ground in a rush. It was fifty points if he only hit two of them, three hundred if he got to the bridge clear. He’d never made a three hundred, but his time points helped. Chance would claim the middle of the bridge, scatter his gear and start on his ninja armor. Once armed, he’d dust the pine cones in glitter so it’d be obvious when he tagged someone. Then he’d hop about the end of the bridge impatiently. Paying attention was the tricky part because he never knew when a parent would arrive and the battle would begin. Lately it had almost always been mom, but it was the most fun when… Chance shook his head hard.

    The bridge meant family. Ice cream had dripped over the sides and into the water on birthdays. Knees bled when obstacle courses and races went wrong. It was jogging alongside longer legs. It was following tracks in winter and making snow angels. It was a place to go when school was too hard or when life just hurt. At least it had been. Now the bridge made his nose all the redder and his heart all the smaller. His mom and dad may have proposed here, may have built a world of happy memories there but now all the bridge could do was remind Chance that he’d never his dad there again. He sat down on the wooden edge, his legs hanging over the side, his arms wrapped in sweatshirt sleeves much too big for him, and cried.

    *I posted a different bridge scene from Chance’s life over on my blog

      1. It isn’t from a longer piece, but it is a character that appears in two novels I have in draft form. I’ve written a number of short scenes from his life over the years to get to know him better, including at least three that use or mention this bridge. I enjoyed visiting him at younger age during today’s article. In most of what I’ve written he appears as a high schooler. There are pieces, though, where he is three, eight (like this one), ten, etc. Writing the background pieces help me figure out how he ticks.

    1. Oh, Chance, you’re breaking my heart. Nice job showing how an offstage event can fundamentally change how a character interacts with a familiar setting.

  14. What is up Teachers Write?

    My parents have lived in the same house since they were married in 1979. They bought the small house from my great-grandfather on a land contract. I now live 9 miles away. I love the tiny house. My parents were able to raise 7 children in the small house with one bathroom. The entire backyard is filled with kids toys. The barn, that I watched my dad build, always looks like it is throwing up toys. They are spew out everywhere. I still have 4 brothers at home (ages 9-21), and visiting is one of my favorite things in the entire world.

    3 Changes:

    I cannot imagine my parents getting another bathroom or a lock on the bathroom door. It would totally change the dynamics of the place. When you grow up with 6 siblings (5 brothers – 1 sister), the one bathroom thing, gives the place character. You have no privacy or peace and quiet. It’s awesome (I say that now that I don’t live their). If you are taking a shower, you just come to expect one or two brothers will use the bathroom while you cleaning up. We have gotten very good at not flushing while someone is in the shower. It has been fun watching my own children learn how the bathroom rules at grandma’s house are different from anywhere else in the world they go. Fun times!

    Hanging outside on the old barn is a basketball hoop that I got 25 years ago for Christmas. It wouldn’t be my parents backyard without that basketball hoop. The square on the backboard faded away long ago, and the backboard contains its fair share of dings and dents, but I can’t imagine a new backboard with a perfectly painted square target ever entering my parents backyard.

    My father says that one of the saddest day of his life will be when he can grow grass in the front yard. With all the foot traffic going in there, he hasn’t had a nice front yard since the early 80s. He loves it. I can’t imagine that he will ever have to experience a grass-covered front yard.

    1. There are so, so many great little details here, Colby – it strikes me that when you decide to write fiction, a small house like this one (with the one bathroom and a no-flushing-during-showers rule!) would be such a fun, wonderful setting. Love the barn throwing up toys, too – that conjures such a great image!

  15. Memories of twenty years before come back into my mind as the car pulls up the driveway. The tree, which once had matchbox car roads looping around it, is gone, the pool disappeared, and the dog (My sister and I thought Mom was deathly afraid of dogs?) that we always wanted is now barking at me, the visitor. My mind is completely flooded with the images and sounds of long ago, children playing basketball or riding their bikes on the street, and Mom and Dad watching from the kitchen. Walking up the narrow driveway (I have cut those hedges over fifty times), I hear familiar little voices laughing in the backyard, and Grandma is watching from the deck, which was built when I moved out, with a grin on her face. Grandpa is leading the kickball game, with his four energetic grandchildren at his feet, in the same exact location that we used to swim. The yellow Labrador, Alex, is chasing the giggling toddler (my baby) around the yard. My home has changed, and people tend to fear change, but change is an important part of life and a part that I embrace. This is finally when I realize that the word home means more than just the house you live in, home is where you create memories, old and new.

    Thanks, Pam! I have been pondering this prompt all day and finally got it on paper.:)

      1. Sarah, thank you! I love your blog. I noticed Mockingbird is on your top checkout list – My class and I are Skyping with Kathryn Erskine on Monday and I can’t wait.

        1. Andy, I hope your class enjoys their skype visit. Connecting with authors is so amazing for students! I hope you all have a great discussion about Mockingbird. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

    1. This made me smile, Andy, and you included such vivid, specific details – love the Matchbox road that winds around the tree. We laugh because my in-laws have really nice furniture now…that they never had when the kids were growing up! The changes in “home” have been so interesting to read about.

  16. I love my home with a love that is irrational for an inanimate object. Upon returning after vacations I have been known to hug the walls of the house. For my quick write I thought of three items that could be changed in my home, but that I would hate to loose because of the stories they tell.


    Walking up the back stairs to reach the kitchen landing you can’t help but glance at the thick molding around the door. Three sides are painted a pristine white; the fourth has hash marks running up the length of it, stopping just shy of five feet. The initials LWS and LRS dot the frame along with dates running back nine years. The frame tells a story of childhood. Without those marks the frame would appear perfect, but empty.

    Winding your way through the kitchen to the dinning room you reach the stairs to the second floor. The caramel colored walls are filled with picture frames. Boys in super hero capes, wearing clown noses, a mom and dad smiling, laughing, kids shooting baskets, a dog following the people she adores. Glancing towards the bottom of the wall you notice a hole, plaster spilling out of it, and more spots that appear to have been patched. Pausing you can visualize the items tumbling down the stairs and bouncing off the wall. If you are quiet enough you might hear the ghost of hoots of boys “sledding” down these very stairs, the carpet helping to build speed as they go.

    Holding on to the banister as you climb the stairs you slowly move up until you reach the top. Looking at the top of the landing you see three bedrooms and a bathroom. Your eyes travel down to the floor and you see wood: aged and stained. There is evidence of where walls once were are . At the door to the bathroom the floor raises, you can count the layers of tile: one, two, maybe three? Reaching the master bedroom you notice new construction. The floor here is shiny, new.

    Examining this home closely and you can see the history, it has lived. And the blemishes, the imperfections, are what make it whole. It would not grace the cover of an interior design magazine but this house loves it’s inhabitants, and they love it.

  17. The pine smell wafting through the branches…the whisper of the wind moving across the tops of the trees…the spots of sunlight on the peeling grey paint…my Grandmother’s porch in northern New Hampshire is where my mind retreats. L-shaped and huge, it was completely enclosed with trees. I’m sure she sent us out to play there to relieve the noise, little did she know we went willingly. It was like a cave without the dark and dank creepiness. Big enough for all but kickball games, this was where our trolls had their village, our Barbies dated, and friendships and familial ties bloomed. I want to go there now!

    3 changes:
    1. If the trees were gone, it would just be a porch. The joy of the ‘secret’ place would be lost and it would not be nearly as special. Which leads to change 2 – no trees means none of that whispering sound from the wind that kept us rooted to the outdoors. You can’t create that sound anywhere else. Also change 3 – the smell of pine that permeated all of our play – again kept us bound to nature and was such a lovely and gentle fragrance that time spent on that porch meant more, was more, to us.

    1. Imagining a younger you in this place made me smile – that outdoor play is so magical. I love this part, especially: “Big enough for all but kickball games, this was where our trolls had their village, our Barbies dated, and friendships and familial ties bloomed.” Is there a beginning of a longer piece here?

    2. I could imagine a gaggle of kids gathered in the porch, half-hoping the grown-ups would forget, even, that they’d been sent out there. What a nice spot this could be to set a story in…

  18. That door key never works, you have twist and pull it ever so slightly and then “quick! turn it fast! before you lose that little groove. Phew! Huh! That hasn’t changed, We’re safe. But something has changed. Stepping into the living room you can feel it immediately. Before you even close the door behind you, you know it feels strange. My body feels softer,there is a sound missing, it’s not a big sound, but it definitely gone. It is really a creepy feeling. Moving forward,one more step, then another,that sound is not there. OH NO! it can’t be. It’s Carpet! Someone has laid carpet in the house. no more hard wood floors.I knew every sound that floor made. No more sliding in our socks, no more tap dancing. No more Murphy’s oil. No more dust bunnies hiding under the radiator.CARPET! I will miss you my dear friend and the memories we shared.

    My mother would threated me with getting carpet “one of these days” and I told her that our home would not be the same if the floors could’t talk.

    1. What an interesting change to write about! I love the details you chose…and I can’t help wondering… I bet it would smell different, too.

    2. This made me laugh in appreciation. Not the dreaded carpet on beautiful hardwood! I never understood why my mother did that either! I also had to smile… our key does the same exact thing. Our poor house guests can never unlock the place!

  19. First time I’ve been able to post– I know it doesn’t follow the prompt exactly.

    The crunch of the gravel driveway rumbles in my ears. From the outside, nothing seems to have changed… It is the inside that will forever haunt me in my dreams. I don’t want to be here.

    The door squeals loudly as I enter the house, and slowly climb the dark wooden stairs. They remain dust covered, and cluttered with piles of old magazines and newspapers.
    As I reach the top of the landing the living room comes into view.

    Dark paneled walls and dingy orange carpet, riddled with stains, it hasn’t changed one bit. My eyes glance across the room and come to rest on the old recliner. My heart starts to race, my chest tightens, I want to run from this place—I need to run from this place!
    All the memories come rushing over me, threatening to drown me in sadness and despair. This is when I see “him” again, as clear as the day it happened.
    My Dad, with his ashen face contorted in pain, gripping his chest in agony. This is where I watch him take his last breath…

    1. Mary,
      This brought back so many memories of returning to my childhood home after my mother died. I love your description of the aged condition of the house. I really felt your anguish about entering this space, and I wanted to read on to know what caused such anxiety. The chair.

    2. This is so gripping – with such great details. And it’s fine, by the way, that it doesn’t follow the prompt exactly. These are meant to inspire – they’re to be nudges rather than recipes.

    3. What? You didn’t follow the prompt exactly? I’m SO offended. No, not really, not at all. Like Kate said it’s just a starting point. And I like where you went with it. I really felt your dread.

  20. This prompt is a reaction to the advice of a real estate agent who told my friend how to “stage” her home for today’s buyer… I imagined being asked to do this in my own home.

    De-clutter! Strip the walls of the artwork done by my husband and children and take all the framed photographs and stash them away in a box. Take away the evidence of who they are as artists; their core, their dreams, their talent, their history. The photographs of family and friends make this place our home. Take away all the memories of who made us, who sustain us, who love us and whom we love. Our home speaks loudly of the persons who have lived here.
    If we spent our money on replacing the cracked driveway and the painted-over wooden siding, our house would lose it’s character. It would look like all the other houses on the block. It would lose it’s story of being one of the first homes built here 80 years ago. Our home mirrors us – not perfect, but good enough. We are comfortable living with our imperfections. Having the time and money to do things that really count- things that are important to us; time with family, friends, having fun, creating moments memories to cherish. Spending time and money on education, weddings, grandchildren, vacations and travel. Contributing to causes that we believe will make a difference in other people’s lives, not simply feeding our needs, but considering the needs of those less fortunate than us. It’s comfortable. It’s home. It’s us.

    1. Love this: “Our home speaks loudly of the persons who have lived here.” And I love how specific those speaking details are. It’s a great reminder to me as a novelist, too, that characters’ homes should speak as well. Thank you!

    2. I like how you show that the choices you’ve made in this setting–what to fix, what to leave–both reflect AND loop back to further build/reinforce your characters.

  21. Trying to flesh some details out in the WIP I’m writing, changing from the big houses I grew up with to something both different and the same. This is not easy to make it real, but different from my own knowledge. Thank you all for doing. I’ll try to read this evening and pay back some other writers.
    Our house, Grandy’s house, feels like a doll’s house sometimes. I guess it was good for Grandy, but now that I’m here and growing, sometimes it feels too tight, like it might squeeze the breath out of me if I don’t escape. I don’t though, just take a deep breath or two and say thanks for a roof and a bed. There is a nice porch, with just enough room for two old rockers on an equally old braided rug. Inside the house you step right into the living room, clock over the mantle on the right, while straight back is the kitchen, table in the corner. Go through the living room on the left and there’s the bath and two bedrooms. One is mine. The telling about that comes later.
    Back of the kitchen there’s a food pantry big enough for a grandmother (Grandy), a little girl (used to be anyway) and a long work table to make the breads and cookies. Grandy bends over it with her rolling pin, red handles sticking out, bump, woosh, bump, woosh, roll left, roll right. When I was smaller, I had a step stool so I could sit up high and watch. Close your eyes and you can smell a pantry: cinnamon, cloves, dry musky air with no windows open (might blow things around). And this is where Grandy keeps two important jars, one for cookies and one for money. The money one’s hiding way up high, and I’m the only other one in the world besides Grandy that knows it’s there. Grandy also keeps a tin there with the bills in it. It’s handy, because she needs to look at it a lot. Some nights Grandy takes out the tin at the table while I do my homework. It’s a square table, and keeps us together in a friendly way. The cookie jar, always filled, sits on the end of the work table and if I’m real good, I can have two after dinner, and maybe in the evening too if I’m also real lucky.

    1. I’m enchanted with the details of this place, Linda – but even more so with the character’s voice. I’m so glad she’s part of a larger piece!

    2. I enjoyed all of the details… they pulled me into this place. And I liked the push-and-pull of how it used to feel so cozy, so just-right in size… but now, as an adult, it’s suffocating.

  22. I love the high ceiling and the light flooding the top floor of our home. Many people say that they would put up blinds or curtains, but the light airy living room is part of why it is my favorite place. It’s peaceful here. A beautiful rug from my mother-in-laws’ trip to Mexico stretches across one wall, a cuckoo clock that was a wedding gift hangs on another. The room is open and from my chair in the living room I can see straight into the kitchen to watch my son as he is preparing dinner. This isn’t a typical activity for him. He’s practicing for this fall when he goes away to college. I love watching him work. He’s whistling while he chops onions and is chatting all the while. He has such excitement as he looks forward to stepping out on his own. His conversation is littered with comments about what he will eat at college, what he needs to buy, career choices and his future. Seeing him become a young man is really amazing, but our home will not be the same without his music, his laugh, his singing or even his laundry on the bathroom floor. Life is going to change drastically and I just don’t think I’m prepared.

    1. I liked reading how such a big life change will also change your setting (home), just by your son’s absence. Don’t you wish sometimes you could bottle up their essence to release at any time when you miss them?

  23. Welcome to country livin’. My two-story snow white county house comes with a wrap around porch. Hanging ferns sway in the breeze made by circling ceiling fans. There are rockers and swings and a tiny table with checker games to win. It’s dark-thirty and everyone hears the silent call of the porch. Even Duke, joins the group after his day of dog work. Mother opens the screen door and steps out onto the porch with cool tart lemonade. Everyone is safe and accounted for on this evening. The fragrance of the honeysuckle is sweet, the laughter is gentle, and the livin’ is easy on the county porch.

  24. June 14, 2012, at 4:30p.m., and I’m cruising down 91S toward home, having just stopped at the Whippi Dip for a medium-sized Muddy LL Bean Boot Cone. Well, that’s what it was called last time I got it, I noticed someone took the LL out today – probably some kind of copyright issue. It’s one of those glorious days with a blazing blue sky and temperatures edging up into the 80s. It was sweltering when I first got out of school so I drove for a ways with the windows down, but now I’ve got the AC blasting to delay the thawing of my cone. I know I shouldn’t be dripping and driving, so I’m trying to lick the vanilla and caramel goodness as fast as I can. The highway this time of day is a wide-open space that I’m rushing headlong into, escaping from my last day of school. Yippeee! I’m still 20 miles from my destination, and dreaming about the shorter commute in my future when we go ahead with our dream of building a log cabin in the town neighboring my school.
    I casually flip on the radio and am rudely reminded that I loaned the car to my redneck brother, Greg, the night before, as the raucous voice of Rush Limbaugh interrupts my dream. Ugh! I push a button and then another only to find he has programmed Rush’s show on every channel. Funny, Greg, funny. I angrily turn the radio off, returning to my cabin-in-the-glen dream, but I’m interrupted again as I notice something is going wrong with the AC. It has gotten downright sultry in the car, and despite my quick-fire licking it’s beginning to look as though the LL Bean Boot Cone has traipsed all over my hand, leaving a trail of muddy footprints from the brownie bits hidden in the ice cream. What the heck? I grab for a few napkins as I check my dials, but they are definitely showing that the AC is on. Oh man! Even the heated seats are firing up. If this is another of Greg’s pranks, he’s going to regret…but there’s no time to finish that thought. “Eeeerrrrrr, eeeeerrrrrrr….” I hear blaring from behind me, blue lights surrounding my car. I instantly look at my speedometer. 91 and that’s not the highway number.

    1. I loved your voice in this piece. It made me laugh and it tied up so well (yet left me wanting more). I think I will think of “dripping and driving” every time we have cones in the car now! Great unusual choice of a familiar setting too…


    Geechie/ Gullah Culture Crabbing Houses with docks
    Seafood Crab Cracks
    Colorful homes Front Porches Beach with shelly shores
    Dirt roads Tourists Marsh
    Mosquitoes Wildlife like snakes, lizards, alligators


    1. All of my relatives moved off Edisto Island; they all lived on the mainland like Hollywood, Ravenel or Charleston.

    2. A sociology or history professor told me that by a certain year, due to global warming, beach front property would be found in Columbia, SC. What would not make my home home would be it totally under water.

    3. All the seafood disappeared or died.

    I actually heard it two places: a biology class and then I made a point in my history class during some type of debate. I actually let the words come out of my mouth that pretty much stated that my home will no longer be my home. As I let the words slip, my professor confirmed it and a classmate cried out in agony, playfully of course, that we shouldn’t talk about his home anymore. Due to global warming, the ice is melting in the poles, which is causing the sea and ocean levels to rise. As a result certain places like New Orleans and Charleston would be under water. The professor said, “Get ready to buy your beach front property in Columbia.” We all laughed. If it was going to happen, it would happen maybe during our children’s children’s children’s time. We are making efforts to conserve the environment. Right?

    I guess we waited too late because I am overlooking the ocean from Williams-Brice stadium. The nearest body of water was a man made lake now there is an ocean that man somewhat created with its selfishness. There used to be trees and buildings. Now I see condos and beach houses the color of a pastel rainbow posing as a guardian of the city. No waves will rise higher to wash my home state completely out. At least, we are all hoping so . . .

    1. Because I like world disaster books, this made me begin thinking about the migration of so many, which would impact those inland in addition to those inland now living by water, etc., etc. Would make an interesting plot.

  26. We pulled up to the house. It was so beautiful and since it was right on the water, it looked like a painting. What you noticed first was that it was wide and flat. There were two stories, but the space was wide open and inviting. I think I would have liked it more if my mom had been there. I just didn’t want to be with my father and step-mother. I didn’t want to figure out everyone again. I saw them all mostly every other weekend, but staying in this house for two weeks was different. At least there’d be books. Most of them inappropriate for children by my mother’s standards, but they didn’t watch me much here. They loved me for sure, but they didn’t take the time to know me. They made jokes about how much I ate or that I always had my nose in a book. I guess they thought that was knowing me.

    I grabbed my duffle bag and brought it up the three stairs to the front screen door. The back porch had a pool table and some chairs. We kids spent a lot of time out there. then I opened the real door to the house. It was a huge room. First the dining room area with a round table big enough to seat all 8 of use when we were all together. That was on the right. If you kept moving that way you’d go through a doorway into a kitchen and another little room. I think it was an office or maybe a maid’s room, but we used it as a tv room. Nobody watched much tv during the summer except maybe sports or the two movies my dad had. The three of us had been left alone so much when we were there and we spent the majority of that time watching either Steve Martin’s The Jerk or Bill Murray’s Caddy Shack. We watched it so much that sometimes we would turn the sound down and each become a character to voice as the movie played on. Coming out of the kitchen and going through the dining area, there was a small table and a phone on the left, if you kept going through the doorway you’d find two bedrooms on the right and left as well as a bathroom in front. Everything was Hamptons beach house-y. It felt like the furniture was old, but old like from a yard sale not an antique store. It was nice. I’d love it now as an adult, but it didn’t feel like home to me. I spent so much time missing my mother and home that it was hard to notice anything. On the other side of the dining area, walking straight through the house from door to door there was a living room. On the left was a sofa and two chairs on a grass rug. On the right was my fathers huge 8 foot by 3 foot desk. It was covered with turtles. He collected them. They were made of glass and brass. I loved them. There was another porch just through the next door to the outside overlooking the water. But if you take a right next to the desk, and wind your way up the wide bleached plank stairs there are two more rooms and another bathroom at the end of the hall. I slept up there next door to my dad and stepmother. I was not down with the other kids. I felt that too.

    Years later I came back to that house and saw it with my grown up eyes. No loneliness could hurt me anymore and I saw how pretty it was. A real beach house. But the relationships are all gone. The marriage ended badly. The kids, though step siblings for nearly 20 years were distanced from each other. The house had nothing to do with me anymore. Nothing. I turned my heel and walked back outside.

    1. So many believe that houses are meaningful, but it isn’t them at all is it, it’s the people & the circumstances. Gorgeous surroundings here that mean so little & you showed us that so beautifully in this description. I liked the line “The house had nothing to do with me anymore”.

  27. All is plain around. Lots of apple trees. Fields of sunflowers and wheat grow up every spring. Thousands colours and smells. Everywhere you look you can see such beauty; you can feel the real connection with nature, real connection with the world.

    No fields. No colours at all. Everything is dry. New buildings built being rude and destroying the territory.

  28. Here’s the first few paragraphs from my response, which grew and GREW! The rest is on my blog:

    “C’mon in! You’re gonna love what I’ve done with the place!”

    My father grins at me, wiping sweat from his dirt-smudged forehead. The Florida heat is stifling today, and it’s difficult to know if my breath is so shallow from the blanket of humidity or my rattled nerves.

    I follow, through the garage that remains stacked with boxes of Grandma’s old fabric, and down the hallways that lead to the living room. White squares of paint blink at me from the otherwise cream-colored walls, reminding me that old family portraits and my grandmother’s paintings once hung here. These halls are nothing more than an empty graveyard now. Little puffs of sawdust escape from beneath my feet with each step I take. I feel my stomach begin to tug itself inside-out, as if warning me to turn and run. But it’s too late. I step into what once was my grandparent’s relaxed sitting room and survey the damage.