Tuesday, April 22, 2014


photo by Mike Carlson
by Lynn
Wood already touched by fire is not hard to set alight.  
- Ashanti proverb 

In the West African village of MPessoba, Mali, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, people rarely use matches to light the fires that cook their food. Matches cost money, and the fine folks of Mali don’t have a lot of cash.

Instead, they share fire.

This is how it works: you wake up, and check your fire pit to see if any coals survived the night. If not, you grab a piece of heavy cardboard and head to the neighbors. “Tasuma be?” you ask, after sharing the morning greetings—“Is there fire?” Your neighbor scoops up some live embers from their fire pit, and back home you go to light your kindling.

I think writing prompts are like that – embers that we writers share with each other. It’s a relief to me that somebody, somewhere always has a burning coal of an idea and I can take it, blow on it with my pen, and see what kind of flame rises up.

If you’re facing a cold page this morning, try one of these still-glowing embers:

MAP HAPPY: Make a pencil-drawn map of your neighborhood (one you live in now, or one from your past) and then write, explaining the important features to someone who doesn’t live there. Include the fine points, some gossip, and the don't-walk-on-his-lawn details.

LOAF AND JUG: Write a scene starting with this line: “I am fully aware that this convenience store clerk has seen a lot worse.”

CHAMBERLAIN’S HOUSE: Write about the house you envied when you were a kid.

RANDOMNESS: I'll wager that one of the following will send you down memory lane. Follow it for awhile:
- sleeping bags
- bell bottoms
- rusted barbed wire
- okra
- black nail polish
- iodine
- pork rinds
- snails
- communion wafers

There, are you feeling warmer? Good. Ray Bradbury once said to remember that the important thing is to get started and “it doesn’t have to be a big fire, a small blaze, candlelight perhaps…”

How about you? Do you have some fire to share with us?


  1. Every day this month, I've been borrowing fire from Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides. Each day, a new prompt is posted, and so far, I haven't missed a day yet, although I've had to play catch-up a few times. By the end of a month, I should have enough poems for a second chapbook. My first, That's Life: New and Selected Poems, will be published by Finishing Line Press.

    1. Congratulations on the first chapbook!

      It is amazing how writing consistently adds up fast.

  2. Lynn, I love this story. I thought about it for days after I first read it, and yes - it did make me feel warm! I'm excited to get together with my fellow villagers in Sheridan in a few weeks and see what we have to share.

  3. Thanks, Rebecca. Good to hear from you. And if any of you Sheridan folks want to share some fire, send a prompt our way! Maybe we'll meet at the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference, in your lovely town. Thanks for commenting.


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