Instant Book Workshop (using writing and drawing)




Instant Book/Poem Workshop

I saw a presentation at AWP last year in which the presenter discussed a workshop activity that I’m somewhat basing this on. The presenter’s activity wasn’t quite like this, but it involved using many steps, writing, drawing, and folding the 8-page book. The photographs here show a book written/drawn by Kelly McQuain.

When trying this out with friends, I introduced the idea that the writing would involve writing and drawing and involve writing about place.

Before the first drawing step, we discussed “outside/inside” places we remembered from childhood

The writing/drawing process went roughly like this:

1. Draw an outside/inside place (using half the paper).
(Using nice paper is fun; and providing colored pencils, markers, etc. is good, too)
2. Draw things in boxes (using other half of paper).
3. On a different piece of paper, write. Consider these quotations from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space:

“The tick tock of our watches is so mechanically jerky that we no longer have ears subtle enough to hear the passage of time.”

“From being imagined, calm becomes an emergence of being.”

4. Fold the paper with drawing into an eight-page book.
Here are the best/easiest directions I have found for this folding process–

5. Going back to the drawing, write a poem (thinking about as story is okay too) about how we inhabit and interpret space. Use the drawing, writing, and quotation.


Some poetry prompts at The Found Poetry Review:

“Every day this April, nearly 80 poets will write one poem per day by applying constrained writing techniques sourced from the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle — or “workshop of potential literature”) group.”

(It’s a bit late to join officially, but the blog posts are great prompts.)

Here is the first post: Oulipost #1: Quote Cento.

Today’s (#24): Homosyntaxism.

Here is the blog feed for all posts.

And! Here is a wonderful article about Oulipo, in the Believer: Oulipo Ends Where the Work Begins: A Weekend in Four Constraints.


Poetry Prompt (At Found Poetry)

Here’s a prompt I saw recently that I liked. It combines three things I love: Twitter, visual art, and poetry (not necessarily in that order):

“ART/140 a joint effort between the creative agency POSSIBLE and the Museum of Modern Art, asks web viewers to “share what you think about art.” The ART/140 website instructs users to choose one of the listed works of art and tweet what they think about it. Comments on Painterly Architectonic by Lyubov Popova range from simply “linoleum” to “Pile of Broken Glass in a Sunset on Mars.” I think you now know where I’m going with this.

Your task:

Peruse the lists of tweets for each work of art listed on the website. Remix into a poem. Share the poem in the comments here. Also, why not join the experiment? (Do so by following the ART/140 instructions and tweeting).”

Go here, for a full explanation.

In general the Found Poetry blog is full of interesting prompts and other stuff. Check it out!

popova                                            TWEET #ART140 #POPOVA

Fortune Cookie Refrain Line Prompt (by Lynn Levin)

Lynn Levin
Lynn Levin

If you break open enough fortune cookies, pretty soon you’ll find a fortune with enough mystery, pithiness, and flexibility to serve as a refrain line in a villanelle or pantoum.  So have dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and you just might find that your dessert brings you a great line for a poem.

The fortune-cookie-refrain-line prompt is very effective in class. I sometimes buy a quantity of fortune cookies and hand them out in class, usually two to a student. Chances are at least one of the fortunes will work as a refrain line…and the students enjoy the snack.

Some of my students have written amazing poems with fortune cookie refrain lines.

–Lynn Levin

Writing Prompt: Spirit of Place

Writing Prompt–Spirit of Place (by Valerie Fox)

Here’s an exercise for writing about a place. Choose a place that’s important to you (emotionally resonant) or simply very memorable.

Step 1
Make a list of questions (10 plus) about each of the following:

Your town or hometown
One or more houses you have lived in
One room in the house (or each of the houses) you have lived in)

Answer these questions in detail.

Step 2
Locate one or more artifacts relating to your writing.
Include words and descriptions based on this in your next draft of your poem.

Step 3
After some time has passed, return to your writing. Try to convey the sense of the place through the language and syntax of your poem. Try to reorganize the ideas, stanzas, or images. (Try something completely different from the original order.)

For discussion–
How is the spirit of place being hinted at or pictured?
Are you using place names and other proper nouns? If so, how and why?

Here’s a phenomenal resource, the Poetry Atlas, for writers and teachers:

Writing Prompt: Thanksgiving Rituals

We thought you might use this prompt over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The prompt is based on an idea suggested by Don Riggs.

Take some field-notes on your holiday experiences. Describe in detail your Thanksgiving day rituals. Write from the perspective of a specific type of scholar. For instance, you might use the voice of an anthropologist. As preparation, read one or both of the following:

“‘We Gather Together’: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day” by Melanie Wallendorf and Eric J. Arnould, from The Journal of Consumer Research,  Vol. 18, No. 1 (June 1991).

For a view from 1952, “Thanksgiving Is Worldwide” by Horace Loftin, from The Science News-Letter,  Vol. 62, No. 21 (Nov. 22, 1952).

You can find the Loftin here:

As an alternative style, write a flash fiction piece based on your field-notes.

Naturally, you might substitute other occasions or holidays for Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Don!