Monday, October 03, 2016

Writing prompts: an outing with Mommy, and choosing baby names

As I've already said before on this blog, when my writers' group meets every second Monday evening, we often do a freewriting exercise with a short phrase or word to prompt us. We set a timer for ten minutes and just write, going wherever that prompt takes us. Reading our freewrites aloud afterward is the best part, because we inevitably end up marveling at how different our approaches to the same prompt can be. 

In this post I've reproduced a couple of the pieces I've done recently. (I only edited two, uh, choice words -- this is a family blog, after all...) They're not too profound, but they're fun; I hope you enjoy them!

(And if you'd like to read some of my past efforts, you can do so at the following links:
"Empty pockets; park bench" 
"Cats and phones"
"Hardware store; train station" )


The prompt was "It was over in seconds."

I think my mother is lying to me.

She told me we're taking a ride in the car to see a nice lady who might give me a Dora the Explorer sticker. She said there's a place to play with toys and look at books and we can go up in an elevator. "Won't that be fun??!!" she said with an extra cheerful voice.

I'm starting to get very suspicious.

"Here's the elevator, sweetie!" she says. "Look, I'm going to press the number four."

She presses it and the big doors swoop shut. My tummy turns over as we start moving. What is this place? What terrible thing does my mommy have in store for me?

We stop at a desk and talk to a grumpy looking lady behind a glass. Then we go to a room where there is just one dollhouse but no dolls, and a couple of colouring books with ripped pages.

Another lady calls my name. "Kaitlyn?" My mother takes me into a little room and the lady says, "So you're here for a little shot, are you, Kaitlyn?"

WHAT? I think. I realize I have been tricked. I knew it all along. I look at the door, but I can't get to it because my mother is holding me tightly on her lap.

The lady grabs my arm and wipes it with a little wet pad. "This'll be over in just a second," she said.

I have heard those words before:
-  as my mother made me swallow yucky medicine
- as my mother ripped a bandage off my knee

Every instance of these words has had to do with my mother.

The lady sticks in the needle.


The prompt was "phobia."

I'm riding the bus home one night, and the couple across from me is discussing baby names. The woman is using her phone to come up with names online.

"How about Ivy?" the woman says.

"Nah. She'll get called Poison Ivy," says the man.

"Violet?" the woman says.

The man says, "That sounds like somebody's grandmother. I still think Jennifer would be nice."

"But there are a million Jennifers out there," says the woman. "I want something unique -- special."

The man grunts.

The woman says, "How about this?"

The man looks at the screen. "Phobia? Who the heck names a baby Phobia?"

"That's PHOEBE, not Phobia. You know, Phoebe like on Friends."

"What's Friends?" the man says.

"That TV show. One of the women on that show was named Phoebe."

"Was that the one played by Jennifer Aniston?" he asks.

"No, Lisa Kudrow. Lisa Kudrow played Phoebe."

"How about Lisa?" the guy says.

"I hate Lisa," she says. "I used to know a Lisa and I hated her. She was a b---h."

"Do you have a Lisa phobia?" he asks.

I had to reach up and ring the bell for my stop at that point. When I got off, she was no longer speaking to him.



  1. Oh that bus conversation! Hilarious! You are so talented, Jeannie.

    1. Thanks, Betsy! I had a lot of fun with it. (What's really funny is that another woman in my writing group also riffed on the words Phoebe/phobia in her free-writing piece, but in a totally different way.) Glad you enjoyed reading this.

  2. The over in seconds post made me cringe, not because I don't like shots - they don't bother me at all - but because parenting it fraught with pitfalls and I could see the one that mom was about to fall into from a long way off.

    The phobia post made me laugh. "How about Lisa?" What a hoot!

    1. Interesting you should say that about the "over in seconds" one, Tim -- when I wrote it I was thinking of it in a humorous way, but someone else also mentioned that it's kind of serious, too. I can see how for a child that could be just one of many betrayals, and for a parent it could be just plain old survival! Thanks for reading and commenting; it's kind of fun sharing these to show what a single small phrase can lead to.


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