Tune your ears to Hope

This video was just uploaded today, and brought back such wonderful memories, I thought it was worth re blogging this post. Enjoy!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1xX2hW3jOM&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3mRfMi3XEi4GLeNTIhNW1LYRPYqja64i8K4N0bIYy1ToqTCJoHH02P8ZE

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I performed this poem last night as part of a fantastic fundraising Christmas Concert by the choir I used to sing with, the fabulous http://www.gloriouschorus.co.uk , led by the amazing Helen Yeomans. Now I share it here for others to enjoy too…

Tune your ears to hope

and hear the real news,

seek the true news that lives

far beyond the front pages

for it is too wild, too bright,

to be trapped in black and white.

Cultivate neighbourhoods

of brotherhood, sisterhood,

lighting up your communities

like Christmas trees,

with evergreen kindness

that blooms with compassion,

whatever the season.

There is no room

for a fair-weather faith in humanity

we must believe in our capacity

to make choices that take down walls

instead of building them.

So practise “Welcome!” and “Come in!”

in as many languages

as there are places at your table

because home is simple –

It’s heads…

View original post 263 more words

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Writers’ Well – Favourite things

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soundofmusic-favorite things

A week ago, last Friday, I found myself humming this song from The Sound of Music, and as I always like to use what’s ‘alive’ in me when creating prompts, I decided to use it as our warm up that morning, Very simply, for three minutes, write about your favourite things. This is what I wrote:

Singing with friends, hugs that are meant, watching someone eagerly take seconds of something I’ve cooked. Fresh shortbread, being up before everyone else and watching the sky wake. Swimming, foxes, spring, long walks, books I get lost in, writing, words, writing, letters still handwritten and postmarked with a stamp – such precious, rare things in this instant, digital age. Dancing, but I don’t do it often enough. Travelling – this year will be full – and spontaneity; no plans, no intentions, just responding in the freedom of the moment to what wants to happen – now!

I was also asked to offer a few prompts at another writing group just this weekend, when a visiting guest wasn’t able to attend, and again took the theme of Favourite Things, but framed it differently. I asked people to make a list of ten. Unsurprisingly, some of the same things turned up in my list…but some others appeared too.

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Then, I asked everyone to pick one, or several, or expand on the theme however they chose….in a poem. Ten minutes.  This is what I wrote – unedited – in ten minutes:

 

Smells linger

on hands like traces

of a day you can

almost taste

before you’re told to wash

them for tea

 

in hair that’s

trapped layers of air

infused with scents that

stubbornly cling until

you shower them out with

unscented shampoo

which isn’t

 

my hands rarely smell

of horses these days

but if I chance upon one

and stroke its mane

rub its forehead

as it nudges my pockets

in search of

treats I’m not carrying

 

I shrink several inches

Loose thirty years in a blink

 

Then walk away

Back into today

And smell my hands

Which really ought to be

Washed before I eat

 

And I HAVE to finish with the video of the song, because this film is for sure one of my favourite things!

 

 

So, what are some of YOUR favourite things?

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – Who’s the Driver?

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There are many highlights and prompts I could share from the first two writing gatherings I’ve held so far this year. It’s been such a joy to return to the magic of collaborative creativity. The one I’ve chosen to share today brought much fun and laughter, and some very colourful stories.

Each writer was given a small blank piece of paper and asked to write the details of a car – any car – real or imagined. Specifically; the make, colour, number of miles on the clock, name (if it had one) and briefly, anything else notable about the inside or outside.

The giggles started even before these simple notes were complete. They were then placed face down in the centre of our circle for each of us to randomly choose one. Here’s the one I picked…

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Then, having read the description of the car, we wrote brief notes on the back about who we imagined drove that car. We invented a character…

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Finally, the preparation was done – it was time to write a story, any story, with this character – and, if you wished, their car – at the centre. This was my attempt. It’s unedited, written in ten minutes, and the tenses are mixed up, quite apart from other flaws, but I had a lot of fun with it, and may work on it further. For now, in all its glorious rawness – Enjoy!

 

Priscilla climbed into the front seat of her beloved Saab, and tapped the dashboard –

“Morning Rita love,” slotting her black coffee in its bamboo cup into the expandable drinks holder.

 

“What shall we listen to today?” she asked the car. “Shuffle All. Good choice!”

 

Her phone sat on the docking station, and Leonard Cohen was followed by Abba was followed by instrumental harp music.

 

“No! No, no No!” Priscilla cries, and presses next.

 

She pulls into the car park at the local community college, and opens the back door, and finds an empty back seat.

 

“Shit! Shit, shit Shit!”

 

She pictures her bag, beneath the coat hanger, full of lesson plans.

 

She laughs, taps the bonnet. “Good idea Rita!”

 

She plugs her phone into the wall of her classroom, and is swiping through her playlists as her adult conversation students, advanced, come in for their weekly English lesson.

 

Thirty minutes later the head of the college knocks on the door, with the open day visitors in tow.

 

“And this is…” His jaw drops, eyes widen, as the five women (including the teacher) and a young man who appeared to be leading the dance, sing along to Karma Chameleon.

 

The principal recovers. “ – the adult conversation class, advanced.”

Priscilla beams, “It was Rita’s idea.”

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

Writers’ Well – A Ripple Story

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joystorynew.jpg

Below is a link to a post from five years ago, when I wrote a ripple story of Joy for my mother, who was starting a new business.

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/a-ripple-of-joy/

 

As the final prompt for 2018, I’d like to introduce you to…The Ripple Story.

The Ripple Story is an idea I created more than five years ago, as a way of supporting my English Language students who were completing a month long residential intensive at the Findhorn Foundation Community, and who were about to go back out into ‘the real world’ and their ‘old lives’ wondering what littl’ ‘ole them could possibly do, how they could possibly use what they had learned, the qualities they had cultivated and grown during their time in community, to make a difference in the world.

We feel small. The world is big. We forget…

small things

And sometimes those little things done with great love, and conscious intention, ripple out into the ocean of life to result in consequences larger than we could ever have dreamed of. The idea of the ripple story is to dream big – really, really big –  but ground it, centre it, at the start, in a single, practical, doable action.

We warmed up to this prompt by completing the following half sentences, each five times, with whatever thought spontaneously came to us.

I want… (complete x 5)

I need… (complete x 5)

I give… (complete x 5)

Then I asked people to read back, just for themselves, those fifteen sentences they’d just written, and find a single quality, a word, a feeling, a gift they’d like to grow and ripple out into the world. That word would then be written in the small central circle in a series of four or five concentric circles, drawn on a blank page.

In the second circle out from the centre, I invited people to write a sentence describing an action they could take, or had taken, to share this quality.

In the next circle, they were to imagine a potential consequence of that first action, as huge, as wild, as outlandish and wonderful as they could possibly imagine, and on, until all the circles were filled.

I am thrilled to be able to share two of those stories here, written by a couple of writers from last week’s group. It’s hard to describe the feeling in the room after we’d all read our stories. There truly was an almost tangible magic in the air – so much hope, and positivity you could almost have bottled it and shared it to be swallowed whole and taken as the best anti-cynicism medicine on the planet. What we do does matter. Our actions do have consequences, even if we don’t meet them face to face.

So, here are a couple of examples, one in its original ripple, and the other typed out for ease of reading. Enjoy 🙂

hilary love ripple

 

 

Wendy ripple

And if you want another example of the potential of the ripple effect, you might enjoy this wonderful film Pay It Forward, based on a book of the same name. Here’s the trailer.

 

What would you like to ripple out into the world in 2019?

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

Tune your ears to Hope

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I performed this poem last night as part of a fantastic fundraising Christmas Concert by the choir I used to sing with, the fabulous http://www.gloriouschorus.co.uk , led by the amazing Helen Yeomans. Now I share it here for others to enjoy too…

 

Tune your ears to hope

and hear the real news,

seek the true news that lives

far beyond the front pages

for it is too wild, too bright,

to be trapped in black and white.

 

Cultivate neighbourhoods

of brotherhood, sisterhood,

lighting up your communities

like Christmas trees,

with evergreen kindness

that blooms with compassion,

whatever the season.

 

There is no room

for a fair-weather faith in humanity

we must believe in our capacity

to make choices that take down walls

instead of building them.

So practise “Welcome!” and “Come in!”

in as many languages

as there are places at your table

because home is simple –

 

It’s heads resting in safe beds,

all the children fed

and nothing said that could break

the invisible thread

of the web love has woven

because we will fall

but with love

none need fall through.

 

Feel the vibrant music of life

singing in your chest,

just like all the rest,

in tender, soulful harmony

with generations past

and those yet to be,

it calls from beyond time

“Create!

a world of love

for all our sakes.”

 

Love holds no nationality.

It travels freely,

with no concept of lack,

for it knows, when it’s given away

it just grows and grows,

pouring into every deep felt thirst for –

a sense of belonging

a chance to contribute

a need to be held,

and hear love say,

‘You’re safe. I’m here.

It’ll be ok.”

 

So look for the gold

in the souls you spend your days with,

and share in the pain

of revealing beauty again,

for we’ve all, at times,

tried to hide, tried to deny

we’re made of stardust.

 

Let’s help each other to reveal

what cynicism tried to steal –

we know the way home.

The way is freedom,

the way is wisdom,

the way is healing

until we are so much more,

as one whole,

than the pieces we were before.

 

Broken parts,

broken hearts,

must dine on hope

365 days of the year

to feed the flame of faith

that melts the edges

between what’s you and what’s me.

Peace can be

closer than your very next breath.

Just take this gift of hope

deeply in –

and let love win.

Writers’ Well – ‘It’s just…’

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TS eliot teach us to care

 

Have you ever been ‘justed‘ by anyone? Have you ever ‘justed‘ yourself?

 

This is perhaps a more personal post than usual, because this is a concept I find challenging to express, and one around which I feel fearful of being misunderstood. That said, when I read aloud what I wrote in response to this prompt, one of my fellow writers immediately shared that she had experienced something similar, so I’m hoping you’ll find resonance here.

The T S Eliot quote was one part of the genesis of this prompt, and the other was personal experience, both recent and historical.  What I was trying to explore is this feeling of caring deeply about something which, on the face of it, really isn’t that important, really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And yet…it does matter. We care, and we don’t care. We know logically that there are more important things, and yet emotionally we feel powerfully engaged with this apparently trivial thing.

I think this is a bit of a tight rope. On the one hand, it’s important to keep perspective, and sometimes being reminded that ‘it’s just…’ can therefore be useful. At other times however, such a comment can devastate our dream space. Sometimes it’s vital, informative and enlivening to defy logic utterly, and put all our care and passion into something utterly ‘frivolous’.

What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.

Elizabeth Gilbert – BIG MAGIC

 

We won’t stay there. We’ll come back. It’s a testament to the fact that we have time, any time, to focus on something other than immediate survival that we are living and not just surviving, and I believe that is gifting life back for all the magic it bestows on us.

So, that’s a little background. In terms of the prompt, this is how it worked. I placed a bowl with blank bits of paper in the centre of the circle and asked everyone to take three and write something beginning, “It’s just…” and lay each paper out for all to read.

 

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Then I asked each person to choose one of those, or indeed something else that now occurred to them, having brainstormed some ideas together, and write a story which included, somewhere within, the phrase, “It’s just…”

 

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This is what I wrote, in ten minutes, unedited:

 

She can’t sleep. She needs to sleep. She can’t sleep. She can’t stop telling herself off for getting in such knots. “It’s just a poem,” she tells herself repeatedly, when at that gone midnight moment it clearly isn’t. So what’s going on? When is a poem not just a poem?

As dryly and cruelly, in another unhelpful tirade, “But there are children starving in Yemen, whales dying with hundreds of pieces of plastic debris inside them.” And the list of recent headlines goes on. “For God’s sake, get some perspective! It’s – a – po – em!”

She’s no closer to sleep. and her inside’s beginning to feel a bit bruised. She feels herself inwardly soothing those tender spots, and a softness comes:

“If you’re not allowed to care about the little things, how will you build the strength to care for the big stuff?”

She laughs a little, moves her pillow. She feels the edge of sleep move closer, and imagines falling off it.

***

She wakes before her alarm, and before she’s even consciously awake, begins rehearsing the poem in her mind, until she catches herself, and there’s an inner slap of; it doesn’t matter!

She turns the other inside cheek, and declares everything will matter today. The poem will be part of that, but every moment, every person, it will all – it does all – matter. And if it all matters, then the caring never stops, and is never more or less, it’s just care. And if everything matters, the poem does too.

 

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – Beliefs

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Just another broad, easy (!) topic to word-explore on the blank page, with nothing but a pen and an open mind – Beliefs.

i believe

 

It’s a topic I’ve used as a prompt before, in different ways, but this week we started with these half sentences. to be completed three times each, for your eyes only, however you choose:-

I used to believe… (x 3)

I still believe... (x 3)

I want to believe… (x 3)

Now read through those spontaneously collected thoughts (which could be completely different on another day, or at another time…) and let them inspire a poem, to be written in ten minutes.

This is what I wrote, and please bear in mind that this is unedited and written in just ten minutes, so it’s raw and imperfect.

 

ask and

 

Ask and you shall receive –

is that something I believe?

it seems to play out

but I still doubt

 

because sometimes it’s scary

to ask for the stars

so we ask for something lesser

and when we receive it complain

that we didn’t get something better

 

What you believe, you can achieve –

is another cliche people keep up their sleeve

but without a picture

drawn or just in your mind

how can we possibly find

the way towards what we want to create?

 

The Universe is a playful thing

but we have to join in

 

Can I put those innocent truths

back together – what’s the glue?

They were so strong  but it was

so long ago, they got broken

I don’t know how

I can’t hope to find

all the pieces now

 

so perhaps I just need to recreate them

with some of the wisdom I’ve accrued

through the years and tears

and create a container for the pieces

and let them be a reminder

 

to be kinder to the beliefs of others

 

because there is so much more in this world

than I can ever be sure of

that’s a belief 

I’m glad to no longer keep

because believing I’m right

narrows my sight

and breaking that one opened my world

into something much wilder

and more beautiful than

‘I’m right’ could allow

 

so now

all I ask to believe 

is that the world knows

my needs and talents

and will feed the one

and nurture the other

if I can believe

there’s room enough for me to grow

without taking up space

to allow others the same chance

to stretch and thrive

 

I wish

the whole world 

would come fully

joyously

alive

 

***

 

So, what do you Believe?

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers’ Well – Stop/Start

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It began with a brainstorm of Stop and Start (one person wrote stop…(something) and then passed it on, for the other to write a start response) which I’d intended to leave as an exercise in itself…but the lists were so heartfelt, and the suggestion came to use it as inspiration for a story.

This is what I wrote. Please remember this was written in just ten minutes, and has not been edited. This felt like a huge topic for me and at the moment it’s a bit fragmented, as a piece of writing, but I wanted to share it exactly as I wrote it…thought I may play with it in future. This was inspired by:

Stop cruelty to animals, Start recognising the value and vulnerability of all life.

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It was small things. Pulling the legs off daddy long legs, frying ants with a magnifying glass, treading on a spider that was rushing for the safety of a dark corner. She didn’t like it, but that was just what boys did. She raised her eyebrows, but didn’t intervene. They’d only tease her, call her wet, a sissy, after all – these were just insects – there were millions of them, and surely, they were too tiny to feel.

*****

“The grass is made so green by the nitrates,” he explained. “Farmers add them to bulk the grass up so their cattle will produce higher milk yields.”

He continued, “but that grass is too tough for grasshoppers. They decrease in number, and the birds go hungry.”

*****

She took photos, that early morning, of the spider webs lining the hedgerows that had caught the morning dew and were sparkling like nets full of diamonds. She’d cupped a small spider in her hands once, felt it tickle her palms as she took it to the window, more scared now of squishing it than of this mini eight legged beast itself.

*****

The little things. Ants will sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole, build bridges of their own bodies for others to walk safely over.

*****

The web of cruelty was out of her hands, distanced from her supermarket cheddar wrapped in cling film and far from the green fields where grasshoppers no longer fed and birds went hungry. But she didn’t pull the legs off daddy long legs, or fry ants, or tread on spiders.

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 I found a couple of links you may be interested in reading as a follow up.

https://www.princeton.edu/news/2015/11/30/ants-build-living-bridges-their-bodies-speak-volumes-about-group-intelligence

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/17/where-have-insects-gone-climate-change-population-decline

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

Writers’ Well – Time

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A few questions for you. Well, not exactly questions, but, if I were to offer you this start to a sentence:

 

I spend too much time….

 

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how would you complete it? Five times?

 

And what about:

 

I spend too little time…

 

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And because the best things always come in threes…

 

I would like to create more time for/to…

 

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Well, this was one of the prompts we worked with last Friday – completing those three sentences, each one five times, leaving us with fifteen insights into out relationship with the resource of Time,  how we’re currently using it…and what we dream of using it for.

Next, we wrote a poem inspired by that exploration…in just ten minutes.

There were some stunning responses, but I can only share my own for now…so, this is what I wrote:

 

If time were banked

In a building

On the High Street

One where the money banks

Have made way

What would the cashiers say?

What would their job be?

 

Because we can’t pay-in time

We could only bank memories

But we’d never be able to know

How much we had left to spend

Only how freely we’ve been spending

 

For time capsules

Buried with ceremony

Intended for future folk

To dig up and discover

Don’t contain time –

They contain memories

Just memories

Memories…

 

Maybe I could set up

A memory bank!

People would be advised to

Deposit once a week

What have you made

With the last seven days?

 

Not how much did you earn

The things that you bought

The stuff others can see

That’s not why you’d come

to the memory bank…

 

You’d come to remember and record

The unexpected conversation

You had with a friend

Or the salmon you saw leaping

Because someone called you over

You’d never seen them

Leaping before

 

And maybe that morning

Like any other morning

On the outside

But inwardly somehow

It felt different

You felt excited about

The next twenty four hours

In a way you hadn’t…

 

My father shared

Part of his own story recently

And though there aren’t

Memory banks on the high street

They exist

 

In the hearts of those we love

But need reminding to ask,

 

“How have you

Spent your time?”

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/

 

 

Writers’ Well – Six word stories

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6 word story

 

The six word story was made famous by Ernest Hemingway, and I decided we’d use the idea as one of our playful prompts last Friday.

 

First, I gave the group Ernest’s example, along with a few others I’d found during a brief internet search (see Guardian article link below).

 

I then placed a pile of small blank pieces of paper in the centre, turned my three minute timer, and invited people to write as many six word stories as they wished, within that time, and place them in the centre to form a circle.

 

We read them aloud in awe…

 

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Then, I asked each writer to choose just one, which they would then explore and expand into a longer story, written in just ten minutes.

 

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Here are a few examples, made easier for you to read:

  • I’m waiting. He’s coming. I think.
  • Hundreds of people saw him fall.
  • Two drinks. Two chairs. One empty.
  • Why me? Why now? Burn it.
  • “I’m over here.” “Who said that?”
  • My favourite dress. Too big now

 

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The results were stunning. As I have often found to be the case, offering a very simple, playful prompt can be the most direct route to genuinely profound and moving pieces of writing.

As it is, I only have my own to share,  but the variety and vitality of the imaginative responses was breathtaking.

Written in just ten minutes, unedited, inspired by the six word story;

 

“Will it grow?” “No!” It grew.

 

“What are you doing?

“Planting.”

“Planting what?” He pushed her aside, “I don’t see anything?”

“That’s because it’s in the earth. Now we wait.”

“It won’t grow! No!”

 

She looked up at him , a stretch from her bent knees. The question was almost out, before she caught it. Just wait. Gardeners know all about patience.

 

He stamped his foot on the loosened earth, where the bulbs had just been nestled in. She stood, shocked.

“Stop it Shane!”

“It won’t grow. Nothing grows. Everything’s dead, dead, dead.”

He ran. She let him. She poured water over the footprint.

***

He had the photo in his cell. Bright yellow daffodils. He was allowed to receive post now, and she wrote to him often.

“It’s not a prison. It’s earth. You’ve been planted. Don’t be scared to grow.”

Her words journeyed him through the seasons he could barely see, let alone smell or touch. Seasons turned into years.

“The air tastes different,” he said, the day he was released.

 

 

This is an interesting article with other examples of six word stories, written by some contemporary authors, some of which I shared with the group as inspiration:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/mar/24/fiction.originalwriting

 

I’d love to read your own six word stories in the comments, if you’d like to have a go…

 

If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/upcoming-writing-workshops-and-some-prompts-for-you-to-play-with/

and here:

https://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/writing-prompts-the-elements/