As an English teacher of creative writing and a mentor of an after-school writers group for many years, we did a lot of writing together. Some of my own poetry is based on my experiences at school. I made up this prompt for my young creative writers. I’ve also used it with adults. It’s amazing how many really diverse poems and stories have come from this. Most people enjoy this. One of the things I really like about this prompt is its potential for a writer to produce a collection of related pieces. The prompt is called Keep Your Ears Open. The poems I use as examples are mentioned in the prompt. They are all about students. They are all real. I’m going to post them separately. They are Cheerleader, Any More?, and Don’t Tell.
Keep your ears open
Poetry and stories, fiction or nonfiction, are all around us. Many times, ideas for these come from something we have overheard, a conversation or even a short sentence. It might also be a noise that we respond strongly to because it startles us or causes us to think about something. You have several possibilities to write a piece about something brief you have overheard. Here are several ideas.
Find a public place—for example, a street corner, a crosswalk waiting for the light to change, a coffee shop, a school classroom or hallway, a flea market, the line at Kennywood Park. There are many opportunities. Listen to the people around you. Choose one quote or conversation, and use it in a piece.
Think of a conversation that you have heard sometime in the past that struck you, made you think. One possibility would be a school setting, like a hallway, classroom, or cafeteria. Use a part of what you heard as a beginning for a piece. If these happen to be personal, be sure that the person cannot be identified in any way. This would include any identifying information such as physical description and an actual place so obviously described that the reader would know precisely the actual setting.
Cheerleader and Don’t Tell