Silver Birch press just published my short essay "World Traveler," which I wrote in response to their prompt "Me, in a Hat." The prompt asked writers to think of a time they wore a hat and write about it. They asked that writers contribute pictures of themselves in the hat, or failing that, pictures of a similar hat. This picture and this hat immediately came to mind.
This essay is a rare piece of mine that was sparked by a prompt. The press put out their call for submissions, and I immediately knew what I would write and how I would write it. For me, prompts usually work that way: either I get something right away, or I get nothing.
I have a few pieces in my portfolio that also came from prompts. For example, I wrote "They Call Me Lucky" in answer to prompt asking for submissions about your name or nickname ("Hello, my name is..."). The prompt came from a reading series, so I read that piece in a gallery in San Francisco.
However, some other pieces could easily have come from standard prompts that I and other writing teachers give. My essay "No Choice" fits the prompt to write about a favorite article of clothing. My essay "Valuables" is an outgrowth of the prompt to write about a prized possession. That essay describes the experience of having a prized possession, my wedding ring, stolen. By the way, if you look closely at the picture above, you can see the wedding ring that the thieves took.
Publishers and writings teachers give out prompts because they work. But in my experience, you have to have the right prompt to inspire you. If I'm stuck and want a prompt, I go through a list of them until I find just the right prompt that fits me like the perfect hat.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
© Ann Hillesland 2015-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ann Hillesland with specific direction to the original content.