She loved her baby for who she was now,
not for who she might become.
She’d love her in all her forms,
for every 7 years, she was a new being.
The long-awaited child was an unsolved crossword puzzle
without clues to fill in the boxes.
Love & care were the only answers.
her mother read her fairy tales,
& stories just-so;
every weekend morning,
it was poetry from Frost & Field,
the fables of Aesop,
& artful science articles;
but it was when she read to her Bible stories,
like a Prophetess—
a Prof & Poetess of Fire & Lit—
that her child’s universe was expanded,
& her little girl saw her place in it.
He was the key,
she, the lock,
& when they were
they unlocked that door
She was not unemployed,
but had been placed in a
permanent volunteer position, with a
job description that changed daily.
Alone she sits in her ivy-climbing ivory tower,
the princess of her castle somewhere in southern France,
the charm having rubbed off her prince—
like a gold-plated, plastic frog.
She is nothing but part of his menagerie,
like the Queen’s perfume bottle array—
the only piece of his princess collection—
a silver leaf in his family tree.
Her crown of jewels feels like a crown of thorns,
for twas when his father dropped the remaining glass slipper,
that the spell was broken,
for between the lines,
the light of knowledge
The prince had been tricked.
The stepsisters had wanted him—
not just a way out.
Ella’s barrenness haunts her,
as do the spirits of the children that will never be,
and she cries out to her fairy godmother,
who, unlike God,
answers prayers that should not be.
The fairy godmother appears,
like an angel of light,
and Ella cries out,
“Please, grant me a son,
and I will ask for nothing more.”
“Of course, dearie,” the old woman says,
and she finds the largest squash in the patch,
a pumpkin without blemish,
on whom the sun has shined all day.
Placing it in Ella’s arms,
she chants, “Cribbety-cribbety coo.
Be a boy with Ella’s sensitivities,
and his father’s proclivities,
so that there be no question
to whom he belongs”,
and the pumpkin, like the Popple,
turned inside itself and became an infant,
covered with the fibrous strands of the insides—
like a connective tissue that held him together
till he ripened.
And then the fairy godmother says,
“Before his eighteenth birthday,
he must find a mademoiselle
of royal blue blood to marry him or
he will turn back into a pumpkin,
and thus fertilize potential future generations.”
Despite this condition,
the Princess was happy, delighting in her only one,
and the Prince was likewise overjoyed that his wife—
like Bithiah, the adopted mother of Moses—
had kept this strange and beautiful secret.
When Prince Peter Pie found his mate,
seventeen years to the day of his maturation,
Princess Ella learned that the only seed her son possessed
was that of the pumpkin—
good for roasting,
and nothing more.
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
Writing for children has renewed my love for fairy tales, fables and fantasy (“The Wizard of Oz” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, to name a couple), and so, when I purchased a three-in-one picture frame, instead of filling the slots with the standard 8X10 enlargements, I decided to do something a little different, sort of a storyboard with illustrations (i.e. artsy photographs). I found a beautiful tablet of “fairy tale” scrapbooking paper at a craft store that was perfect for this project (and will be for others).
I decided to tell the story of the life of the Richards family in fairy tale form. This is what I came up with:
Once upon a time in a Floridian June, there was a woman named Sarah (which meant Princess), and a man named Brian (meaning high and noble).
A writer and a handyman, they were—each complementing the other.
Twas like at first sight, and the friendship flowered into love when this troubadour with a tool belt wrote a poem for this queen of drama writing, beginning in marriage with a rose gold ring.
Then what started with two became three, for along came Hannah Beth, born on Tuesday–gifted with twice the grace. Fearfully and wonderfully made was she, with eyes of cornflower-blue on a rainy day, and a crown of hair that was not blond, nor brown, nor red, but somewhere in between.
And so, this wee family of three still to grow, lives happily ever after still, in a cottage on a row.
So I’ve finished my poem based on the Lizzie Borden “nursery rhyme”.
The Ballad of Linsey Gordon
A Sunday school teacher was Linsey Gordon,
who ran her class like a prison warden.
Though she was filled with the unholy ghost,
she knew her Bible better than most.
Vanilla plain, she was, with a heart as black as coal,
and a hole where there should have been a soul.
Then one day,
feeling rather gray,
tired of her mother’s nitpickings,
she gave her fifty whippings.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her father fifty-one,
adding their remains to the wood chippings–
all with a ho and a hum.
Feeling better for the release,
this woman of candor and caprice,
she sought out her sister, Elise.
When she found her, forty lickings did she give,
and when she saw what she had done,
she gave her brother thirty-one,
while giving her lollipop forty-one.
with the taste of blood in her mouth,
she gave her puppy thirty kickings,
tired of his incessant yippings.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her kitty twenty-one,
annoyed with her yarn and knittings.
Having run out of live prey,
her gray mood turned black,
and she gave her dolly twenty stickings,
her mophead hair twenty snippings.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her teddy ten and one–
nothing left but but tattered rippings.
Last she came upon the grandfather clock,
chiming in the hall.
Deciding she’d had enough of its tickings,
she hacked it to pieces,
splinters bouncing off the wall.
And in this rhyme, we see a pattern
of Linsey Gordon mellowing,
yellowing as she ages backwards in time,
like a curious case of reverse progeria–
oh, happy day, bloody sublime!
And for those who are interested in the darker versions of popular tales, these links are for you: