Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #347, Theme: Preparation


The Changing of the Color Guard

Flip-flops and tank tops,
falling apart from use,
are thrown out,
and piles of scarves and sweaters,
fuzzy soft and in need of a freshening,
are brought out.
Thick, flannel sheets are substituted for thin cotton,
and Grandma’s denim and lace quilt is shaken,
stirring the dust of time.

She reclines on the white deck chair,
soaking up the last of the summer sun,
her iced tea glass below the slats
sweating on the grass.

The crepe myrtles will fall from branches
like colorful, spring snowflakes,
as the town approaches the threshold of autumn.
Like a woman’s body,
the Earth goes through phases.
Fall is the time for exfoliating.

The changing leaves are the
last moment of clarity,
before everything dies,
or is covered with white—
a sort of lacy shroud—
shielding the bones and
the rotting flesh beneath.

She closes her eyes, sighs,
dreaming of dancing barefoot
to the bands on the beach,
of garden parties in the gazebo,
of a lightness of being
in the heavy humidity.

She sees,
as if in a hypnotic state,
the froth of the ocean,
like the top of her daycap—
her daily coffee with the steamed milk on top.

She will be trading in her
hot, gingerbread latte for iced chai,
truffles for popsicles,
vine-ripened tomatoes for winter squash.
The house will be infused with the aromas
of nutmeg and sage,
rather than cilantro and dill.

Her smile is wistful,
for every day is a holiday in the summertime’
but Christmas and all its fancy trappings,
pierces the blues of winter,
and she turns over once more
to soak up the healthy yellow,
the wind at her back.

Fall is coming soon.



Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #346, Theme: Coordinated


Coordinating Couple

Jess and Kate McNally,
both living the Dream they did not share.

Every day, he’d wake up to ham on toast
wrapped in a napkin in the microwave
with a note that said,
“Have a good day.  Love you, K.”

Though she never forgot him in the morning,
she thought little of him in the afternoon,
so busy being productive—
“not merely busy”—
as she liked to say.

Ryan and Paige would be on their way to school,
in her shiny, candy-apple red Mini Coop,
and he would enjoy a few hours of solitude,
watching infotainment and luxuriating in a cup of “Average Joe”,
as Kate called it.
(Fourbucks was her thing.)
Then he’d be on his way to work his split,
so he would be there for the kids when they got home.

The evenings would come,
and they would cross paths;
she would be coming home to
help the children with their homework,
while he was going to work overtime—
a means without an end.

The kids needed them,
but Jess and Kate had their own lives—
lives that scarcely intersected.

Sometimes he would open up her strawberry shampoo,
just to remember what she smelled like,
for she was always asleep when he got home—
a stack of open books in a tower on the nightstand,
an empty glass,
hinting of Chardonnay,
beside it.

She would be laying on her stomach,
her chestnut hair covering most of her face,
and with one finger, he would draw back that silken curtain,
as if to peek at the sunshine behind it,
but the windows to her soul were shuttered
with lashes like fans.

He would gaze at her in the soft lamplight,
trying to remember the exact amber of her eyes,
and would often find himself going to her profile picture,
just to remember.

Late in the night, he would find himself scrolling down her wall,
learning about the promotion she had forgotten to tell him about,
or the latest memory of their children he was not there to share.

He would think about taking time off,
but they were building up their future, Kate would say,
by paying for their pasts.

He couldn’t remember when they began to have their own lives,
no longer sharing, no longer building something great together,
like that Lowe’s commercial,
but just fitting into each other’s schedules,
becoming strangers.

And it was when Elise Carpenter came to work alongside him,
so like it once was with Kate,
that he left early to find that which seemed lost and unfamiliar.

When he saw her at work,
in her element of gray suits and high heels,
made-up like a corporate wife,
he realized he didn’t know her anymore,
until she saw him and smiled.

The man beside her didn’t look happy,
but she went to him, giving him a hug, and said,
eyes shining wide open,
“Have I ever told you how much I’ve missed you?”.





Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #345, Theme: Lingering


Still There

Though doubts lingered in her mind,
littering her consciousness,
she loved him for the man he would be
when he repented of his
great, misplaced, confused love for their children,
who remain silent as lambs.

The marriage comes first,
their little white church says,
even as the mending of the marriage,
the constant tearing and re-stitching,
rend the children like rag dolls
at the feet of a hungry dog.

“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”  Luke 17:2


Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #344, Theme: Under the Weather


Under the Floridian Sun

She built a little house,
and a great big life.
She married well,
she married for life.
She’d found love,
but not a soul-mate,
for she, not the stars,
chose him.

They were child- and carefree
for he loved whom he had found,
not who he could have created.

Then the day came that she needed
a part of him he could live without.
She lived, but he did not.
The irony was metallic,

Under the Floridian sun,
he was buried–
the hurricanes with her wild horses came,
the rains turned the ground muddy,
and there was that thready blanket of snow
that came one winter.

Then long after she came to join him,
everyone who had memory of him,
was gone,
like ashes in the wind.

His mark,
like a childhood scar,
became lighter,
until it could no longer be seen.


Writing Prompt: On Memoir Writing, and Finding Their Voices

If you ever get writer’s block (which can happen if you’re just working on one project at a time; I tend to work on at least seven, and in a variety of forms and genres), writing prompts might help you get unblocked.  Even better, you might come up with a great, publishable piece that you otherwise would have never written. 

  • The Wife of Brian.  (About not losing your identity, but rather, becoming more of who are you through the marriage relationship.  This would definitely have a Christian chick-lit vibe, as I am not the queen of oversharing.)
  • Second to Fluff:  Growing Up with Pet Parents.  (My mom’s story of having to compete for affection from her mom and dad, who liked to say that “dogs were easier to raise than kids”.)
  • Life with Griff.  (Told from my P.O.V. about growing up with a dad who is an unintentional Lucy Ricardo.)
  • Twice Upon a Time in Pensacola.  (My husband’s story of us, and how we crossed paths before we knew each other.  Love and Serendipity.)
  • Hannah Banana of Florabama.  (Though I had already written this as a nursery rhyme about my daughter, I am going to write another in the form of a fairy tale.  It is easy to take any story, and turn it into a fairy-tale:  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-340-theme-finally-or-at-last/)


  • The Huntsman of Poplar Bluff.  (My Uncle Bill’s story of his “countrified” life, juxtaposed against the lives of his “citified” children.)
  • Jasper Vizsla:  The Hot Dog of New York.  (Based on Dana Perino’s dog of the same name.  A tale/tail? of New York Life, from a dog’s perspective.)
  • Santa Claus:  The Before.  (A fable or legend about how Santa Claus started his trade/calling.  Maybe this has already been done by L. Frank Baum, I don’t know, but I can have my own take.)
  • Before Laurie Nolan:  A Prequel.  (Laurie Nolan is a character in my book, “Because of Mindy Wiley”.  https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/)   Mine your writings for characters who still have their own story to tell.  You may even end up with a series of short stories to promote your primary work.
  • Lila Caddy’s Second Family.  A poignant narrative (from the P.O.V. of a twenty-five year old Cadillac named Lila).  Lila was my and Brian’s first car together.  She was more than just transportation–she was our freedom to go wherever we wanted.
  • House on Cottage Row.  The story of a house with heartwarming and heartbreaking secrets.  (Think of all the stories Tara, from “Gone with the Wind”, could tell.)
  • Pensacola:  The Dark Paradise.  Think “City Confidential”.  Every town has a story to tell.  I told mine in “The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery” (which was published in an anthology sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post, and was based on a true story).  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/06/more-good-news/

I believe these prompts will also help you to write in other “voices”.  I have found that almost all of my main characters are extensions of myself, and so I am in bad need of an “out-of-body” experience.

A persona poem is another great exercise in this:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-many-faces-of-persona-poems

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #343, Theme: Poem about a Book

A Paper Existence, 1957-1960

Like flowers in the attic,
the four, Dollangangers—
Christopher, the doctor,
Cathy, the dancer,
and the twins,
Cory and Carrie—
wither like blooms over their own graves,
like petals long forgotten after a wedding,
like flowers pressed into a book.

To them, hope was colored yellow,
like the sun they seldom saw,
like the daffodils that grew in their backyard
in Gladstone, Pennsylvania,
like their mother’s hair that fell around her face
as she kissed them good-night.

It is in the wee hours of a morning
on an indeterminate date,
they are whisked away to Foxworth Hall,
where “The Grandmother” lives.
It is the goodliest of good golly days,
that Cathy imagines milk and cookies,
of a kitchen that smell of cinnamon,
and a parlor that smells of potpourri,
of knitting needles and kitten paws,
of shawls over rocking chairs.
Oh, but the mansion appears haggard
in the moonlight,
its windows blacked,
like eyes without a soul.

Years later, Cathy will wonder
if the bus driver,
whose name they never knew,
whose face they cannot remember,
remembers the four, golden-haired children
who rode his bus that night.
She will wonder if anyone who had
memories of her father,
ever wonders what became of the Dresden dolls.

Their mother Corrine, like Christopher,
is whipped for the sins of their father—
sins she shared in the marriage bed—
and they, these beautiful children,
are the spawn of that sin.
By Grandmother Olivia’s hand,
the sins of her daughter
is being passed on the second generation.

Locked away in an upstairs room,
they explore their small world,
and find the attic—
like a dusty, forgotten heaven—
turning it into a paper Garden of Eden.
The grandmother is like the snake who
slithers below—
tempting them by telling them of the sins
they must be committing.
It is the lie that will become a truth.

Christopher and Cathy are innocents,
as Adam and Eve once were,
Cory and Carrie their children,
as the memory of their father becomes vague
in their minds—
their father, whose death brought them here.
Their mother has become like Lilith—
Christopher’s first love—
even as Cathy was her father’s first love.

Cathy blossoms like a calla lily in an alley,
and Christopher is entranced by his sister,
who is blossoming into womanhood.
He sees in her the mother he used to know,
and loved without reason.
When Grandmother sees Christopher gazing upon her,
she pours tar on Cathy’s hair;
unlike Samson, it is not her strength she diminishes,
but her beauty.
Christopher saves her crown of glory,
seeing beyond the hair
to the flesh that is as close to him now
as his mother’s breast once was.

Even as Cathy bleeds for the sins of Eve,
Christopher bleeds for the sins of his mother,
feeding his siblings the life of his body.
It was love that saved Cathy’s hair,
love that built the swing in the attic,
love that fed them now.

When Cory, the little mouse who didn’t make it,
lies in repose in the basement—
the hell of Foxworth Hall—
Cathy breaks out,
only to come upon her mother’s new husband
in his sleep.
Like a fairy in a dream,
she kisses him,
sealing a promise that she will return.

Christopher, his eyes turning from blue to green,
takes his sister as Amnon took his half-sister Tamar,
and then begs forgiveness from the sister
he never would have looked at had she not been the only one.

Then these remaining children,
malnourished and unloved,
except by each other,
escape through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,
to redefine what makes a family.



Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #342, Theme: (Blank) Ways to (Blank)

This is what I call a “hybrid poem”.  This is my short list of what has worked (for me) to achieve more joy in my life, and even helped me become a better writer.

Happiness Tips

Marry for love, knowing that everything else could change.
Make your children laugh; find relaxation in play.
If a friend doesn’t reciprocate, let that friendship go. (Sometimes that means unfriending; keep it real.)
Seek out face-time.
Eat less, drink more…water.
Don’t feel guilty for needing help, for everyone born into this world has needed help at one time or another.
Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Drive with the sunroof open or the windows down on a beautiful day.
Open your windows, pull back the curtains, and let the outside in.
Go barefoot once in awhile.
Appreciate each season, literally and metaphorically, for what it has to offer.
If you can’t find meaning in every trial, make something meaningful come from it.
Know that it’s okay to not be okay.
Pay it back, and pay it forward.
Learn from the mistakes of others.
Live for experiences, not things.
Listen, and you might learn something.
Know that even the cashier is worthy of your attention.
Do what you love, if you can, or find love in what you do (while you work towards the former), knowing that no job is forever.
Don’t try so hard to like foods you don’t, but be willing to try them in a different way.
Keep your eyes on your own plate.
Make learning lifelong.
Seek to outpace yourself, not others.
Help others, but never promise more than you can do.
Share useful information.
Watch less news.
Embrace minimalism.
Make time for coffee in the morning.
Know that you have value, and that no one can take that away. Your worth is not in your “usefulness,” but in the price Someone paid for you.
Find solace in spirituality.

Cheek to cheek