The Talking Stick Blog

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Writing Workshop: Only Three Hours

Writing Workshop

Only Three Hours

There are a few striking and consistent elements to our writing workshop. One main element is that no matter what prompt or exercise I present, the group approaches it thoughtfully and vibrantly. The other is that we never seem to have enough time. Three hours of writing and sharing our work is not enough! I feel very fortunate to work with a group so dedicated to and enthusiastic about the written word.

It is hard to capture the richness of the writing, conversation, and interaction in our writing workshop. We spend a lot of time sharing our work aloud, whether it is sharing our individual responses to a prompt or sharing the unfolding progress of our long-term independent writing projects. Just as it is clear to me how much each writer has absorbed qualities of good writing from reading excellent books, it is clear that they all learn so much from hearing each other’s choice of words, phrasing, and subject matter.

What follows is an overview of the main prompts and exercises we have tried in the past few weeks.

Several members of writing workshop have recently completed short stories. I shared examples from flash fiction and Pixar’s tips for great storytelling to provide inspiration (

We warmed up one day with an exercise in Rip the Page exploring different combinations of shape, movement, and color words. This yielded phrases such as: waddling globular salmon, skipping scalloped snow, staggered clustered mustard, and darting oval sky.

Another day, we opened the workshop by writing descriptions of one event that had happened in the previous 72 hours. Events included: attending the final show of Mary Poppins on Broadway, getting the mail, being too busy to remember to check the days off the calendar, and participating in a choir performance.

In another prompt from Rip the Page, called “Imagination’s World Record,” we completed sentences which began “The truest thing…,” “The hardest thing…,” etc. One person created this list:

The truest thing is death.

The hardest thing is life.

The flattest thing is the world we perceive.

The deepest thing is a small drop of blood.

The most difficult thing is listening.

The kindest thing is letting go.

The slowest thing is the hour before.

The happiest thing is the freest.

The stickiest thing is the loneliest.

The softest things are baby's fingers.

The noisiest thing is silence.

The friendliest thing is a hand.

The saddest thing is continuing when others are lost.

The highest thing is whatever you see.

The bumpiest thing is a wave.

The roundest thing is a hug.

The funniest thing is how hard you laugh.

The easiest thing is to hope.

I shared poems from Georgia Heard’s The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems and challenged everyone to find some text around Talking Stick to turn into a poem.

Last week, we listened to clips of people speaking in different languages and “translated” what we heard. We listened to Arabic, Old English, Finnish, Vietnamese, Wit (a language of Ghana), and Spanish. Here are a few “translations”:

Old English

No, you old man, give me noodle! I have a butterfly. Yes not poo gala. You walk your llama. Zeep go now. Cha the red wood, we must die. Sin."


A Persian pear. We're finally there again! Feel my head. Oh boy. The interior is still dirty. Come on Carmen, grab the suitcase. I know you can't eat soy on bison. We are on land. I must listen to Splitstream.

Old English

We are going to die, darling. Poor Eros. Her fru-fru gown. Gone is Hilda. You know I like those islands, the ones with the lumps and chinchillas. We wade through endless streams.


I have a beak and my name is Luna. Pancake. Bathroom! Bathroom! Kumquat. Kenya! Bass guitar. Come on. All these people. I like karate. La la la la la. Cocoa. Hey guy! John Adams. Lulu. Your grandmother can jump the language real high.


I'm out of the woods. With Stevenson. Checking up on him. It's not mine. Where's Nala? I had feet, but the individual llamas killed them. My gonads saw. I ate some ham with antihistamine. Motel-go. I got a piece. Kangarooo! Jalapeño peppers. I'll share some with you. Kangaroo with a kazoo! I love some paninis. Charlotte is eating hamburger buns. A deck in the latrine. Ow! The kangaroo!

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