writing prompts

Day 14 – 2018 AWAC

The 2018 August Write Away Challenge

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  • The prompt is to use or ignore as you wish;
  • Absolutely any form of the written word is allowed;
  • All participation will be on the honor system, though sharing is strongly encouraged;
  • Participants will be asked to let me know each week that they’ve written daily;
  • Those who do write daily for the week will have their name entered into a drawing at the end of the month for a $25 Amazon Gift Card;
  • Any blogger who participates and writes every day for the month will receive a badge for your blog.
  • Please send me an email or contact me to let me know you’re participating!

Tue, Aug. 14 – What one thing caught you off guard this week?


I owed Stephen (with a “ph,” not a “v”) a… a something. We have been exchanging notes and words for some while now. It has been one of the best steps I’ve taken as a writer. It’s difficult for an insecure writer to share her writing with a better writer, to be willing for him to challenge and correct and suggest ways to improve her skill; it’s even more difficult for that writer to read his writing with the same constructive critique that might add anything of value to his writing.

It’s particularly difficult, also, because I love Stephen’s poetry. He is a master of free verse, and he is tucked away in some rinky-dink town (rinky-dinkier than my own) in Upper Michigan where he changes lives every day as a teacher. I’ve urged him to publish a book of poetry; I’ve yet to see that (and so, yes, I’ll keep asking). When he sends me his poetry, though, I struggle to read it critically because I’m so enamored with his work. I get wrapped up in this poem, pulled into a world of images and sounds and moments and emotions captured in words (or maybe they are set free in words?), and I don’t remember it’s “only a poem” until I finish. By then, it’s too late. And so, sadly, most of my “feedback” on his writing looks something like, “Wow!” and, “OMG – that’s amazing!” and, “Don’t change a thing!” and, “I love this!” It is precisely the kind of feedback that may encourage the insecurities of a writer, but does not actually help fine-tune the work of writing.

In contrast, Stephen responds to my writing with feedback that challenges me to be more precise with my words, or to lose things that just truly stink. I have come to expect and appreciate autopsy notes as he works through my words.

Sharing work as a writer encourages the writer, the reader, and the writing.  I highly recommend that every writer find a more skilled and experienced writer with whom to exchange work. Writing promotes writing. Art inspires art.

But I digress.

Stephen is an excellent writer, so when I send him something for feedback, I expect (and want) a certain degree of red-penning. I have to seal the envelope and mail it before I can second-guess myself. I most recently sent Stephen a copy of Ferry to Ohr, with two post-it notes that read:

A little something different, if you’re interested! Not sure I’ll keep it, but… I do kind of like this encounter. But… I think I depend too much on dialogue… how can I improve the scene itself?




(What I should’ve written was: I depend too much on ‘buts’ and ellipses.) So insecure writer Sarah waited with a bit of gut-dread, expecting lots of what should’ve been obvious moments where the scene could be improved. What insecure writer Sarah received was her post-it notes returned and the word “sucky” crossed out, and two words added to the bottom:


I won’t lie to you — he did have other remarks for me, which were very encouraging. And I’m not sure if I’m just reverting back to the days when I was his student at the high school, but I feel like I just got my exam back and it has a big, red, A+ with a circle around it! That’s a good feeling, folks.

I did decide to keep that scene, for the record. At least… for this draft, I’m keeping it! I can’t make any promises about the revision stage.

The exchange with Stephen deeply encouraged me. It surprised me. It gave me a tiny little boost to be less insecure and just write.

That’s what it’s about, right? Just write.

Just… write.

From the shores of Wicket Lake,



16 thoughts on “Day 14 – 2018 AWAC”

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