Word-icise – A Word Workout and Writing Exercise!

The Passing Song, Catherine Widgery, 1992 Musée Plein Air de Lachine

“The Passing Song”
Catherine Widgery

Today’s writing prompt will be an end-of-summer word workout!

1. Start by exercising your fast-twitch word muscles. List all the words you can find within the word given below!  For example: if the word were “greatness”: great, eat, teen, neat, greet, gnat, rent, rest, ten….

2. Then we move to the slow-twitch/endurance word muscles. When you have found all you can, find at least four more. (And then four more?) Go on, are you sure there aren’t more?

3. Worn out? Add in some words which use any letter as many times as you like: trea(t), sten(t). Use real names: Tess, Stan

4. Now the pay off! Start writing, incorporating ALL the words in your list in the order in which they appeared.

The prompt word is:


Have fun!


Playing With Words: Sentence Experiments – Writing Exercise

Shadows II by Jaume Plensa MMBA on loan from Georges Marciano

Shadows II by Jaume Plensa
MMBA on loan from Georges Marciano

Nothing perks up a piece of prose – and a writer – more than playing around with sentence structures.

A fun exercise I especially enjoy is to take a sentence that feels totally alien and try to write my own sentence in exactly that same style. Why? To surprise myself. To kick myself out of my same old same old ho-hum sentence habits. To discover new rhythms.

“I’m playing with words” Virginia Woolf

The Exercise Continue reading

One Core Essential Of Narrative Energy, And A Writing Exercise

man dancing with feathersYesterday, at the National Arts Gallery in Ottawa, we were walking up the ramp along the glass wall to the galleries behind two young boys with their mother.

An elderly, very smartly dressed couple started down the ramp. The man stopped as he and his wife were about to pass the boys. He leaned towards them. Pursing his lips, he started to Continue reading

Narrative Energy Tip #1: Chameleon Sentence


A chameleon sentence begins with one energy and ends with another.

Usually it starts off positive with maybe even suggestions of light-heartedness, but then turns into something more ominous. But there’s no reason why one shouldn’t try the reverse.

While chameleon sentences make for terrific beginning sentences, they can shift the narrative, and surprise and engage writer and reader at any time.

Two Examples

  • “It was a summer’s night and they were talking, in the big room with the windows open to the garden, about the cesspool.” (opening sentence of Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf) A pleasant gathering on a summer’s evening …changes to… something dirty and stinky and underground
  • “Edna and I had started down from Kalispell headed for Tampa-St. Pete where I still had some friends from the old glory days who wouldn’t turn me in to the police.” (Rock Springs, Richard Ford) A trip down south to old friends …changes to… on the run?

The Exercise

Write 6 chameleon sentences – each one beginning a new story. Surprise the sentence. Surprise yourself.

What chameleon sentences have you come across in your readings or writings? Please share them in the Comments Box.

Write in the Moment – A Writing Prompt

fireworks, Montreal Nuit BlancheGot half-an-hour to treat yourself to a fun writing pick-me-up?

Try this writing prompt that Stephanie Ein* gave to my writing group this week. It’s very energizing – has roughly the same effect as a couple of very strong cups of coffee. No choice but to write in the moment.

  • Write for 30 minutes using the following structure: The first sentence begins with A, the second with B, the third with C… and so on through the alphabet. When you get to Z, start all over again with A. Write fast. No pauses. Do not break the sequence.

Let me know how it goes.

*Stephanie Ein is a teacher, writer and part-time comedian who has performed at numerous comedy clubs around Montreal and beyond. In November 2011, she founded “Love 2 Laugh Montreal,” a group of volunteer stand-up comedians.

A “Real” Writing Prompt

Flipping though some of my old journals the other day, looking for inspiration, a paper napkin fell out. The words scribbled on it were in the handwriting and distinctive blue ink of my Advisor in the Lesley University MFA in Creative Writing, Brian Bouldrey (The Sorrow of the Elves, The Honorable Bandit). I can’t actually remember what we were talking about when he wrote those words down, but three or four years later, I found them a fun writing prompt and thought you might enjoy them too.

Once you start, don’t stop for twenty-five minutes, using the following however you like:

  • real eyes
  • realize
  • real lies

Let me know how it goes!

It’s All In The Metaphor

rose as metaphor

Love is…

I found Jane Hirshfield’s delicious lesson on The Art of the Metaphor, together with the animation by Ben Pearce, really brought home the immediacy and physicality a metaphor can have. Very inspiring. The door image at the end is fantastic and so evocative that I started writing on the spot. No brilliant metaphors at my fingertips, sadly. But I did find some great metaphors by famous authors here.

Do you think one has to work at creating a terrific metaphor? Or does it arrive on a thunderbolt of inspiration?

Have you tried using a metaphor – for example, one from the link above –  as a prompt for a writing exercise? How about Bob Dylan’s “Chaos is a friend of mine”? Imagine yourself arm in arm or drinking beer or on a road trip with your friend Chaos, I mean Charles, or setting him up with a date, or waiting for him to turn up at your wedding as best man…

Breathing to Write – writing prompt

bubbling stream and iciclesAs always with my workshops, I started last week’s session for the Montreal Branch of Canadian Authors Association with some somatic exercises. I enjoy how the exercises energize and relax, and especially how they shift attention from the ever-present lists of ‘must-do’, ‘mustn’t forget’ and ‘what time is it?’ of everyday life to the here and now of simply being in the moment – perfect preparation for writing.

Today I thought I’d use one of my favorite somatic exercises as a writing prompt. Continue reading