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Writing Prompts: Whispering Pines and Talking Shoes

If you're wondering what to write about, start with a tree. Or a car. Or a pair of blue jeans. Any object, of any size or shape, that means something to you. A ring, a piggy bank, a key, a bicycle, a violin. Lots of people write about favorite trees. My mother wrote about the pine tree that stood between the house and the road on the farm where she grew up.

Writing tip: Objects tell stories.

The Exercise

  1. Start by visualizing an object that holds meaning for you. Recall it in detail using all of your senses. Recall, for example, the smell of the pine tree on dry and wet days, the creak of its branches in the wind, the feel of the sticky sap on your fingers, the carpet of needles under your bare feet. Put yourself there, with that tree.

  2. Start writing. Tell us about the object. Keep your fingers moving. Don't censor. Rely on sense-memory to guide you.

  3. Think about the object's significance. Why is it important? What is it telling you?

  4. Tell us a story in which that object plays a role.

Shirly Hook is a founding member of the Korongo Writers Studio and the author of My Bring Up, a memoir set in Chelsea, Vermont. Shirly used objects over and over to inspire the stories in My Bring Up. The drawings by Amy Hook-Therrien (above), Shirly's daughter, include a clothesline, a bicycle, a junkyard, a weather balloon, a house, a quilt, and a magazine cover.

The central character in many of Shirly's stories is a plucky little girl who doesn't realize that her family is poor until she enters school and encounters children who have store-bought bread and store-bought toys and clothes that are not hand-me-downs. In Shirly's story "The Magic Shoes," the little girl receives a pair of tap shoes as a Christmas present from a local charity. There is no money for dance lessons, nor is there a dance school. What is she going to do with a pair of tap shoes?

She is going to dance. In public. No matter what. And she is going to sparkle.


Above: A little tap dancer who became a YouTube star when the video of her dance recital went viral.


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