Begin at the End

During the four years I’ve been leading writing workshops, perhaps no other prompt has been as effective as this one: giving participants a printed out list of evocative first sentences from published novels or short stories and inviting them to begin a piece of writing with one of these sentences. In fact, it’s been so […]

Before Your Time

Yesterday morning, which was Christmas morning, I came across a short story by the Brooklyn-born poet and writer Delmore Schwartz called “In Dreams Begin Responsibility.” The story is collected in a volume of great American short stories called You’ve Got to Read This (a book I’ve had on loan from a friend for some time and […]

See, Don’t Think

Last week, on The New York Times website, I came across a beautiful and heartbreaking five-minute documentary called “Solo, Piano – N.Y.C.” The film, which I can’t recommend strongly enough, follows “a lone piano standing curbside in New York City” and “chronicles the interactions of passers-by as the piano awaits its fate.” The film was […]

A Drastic Break

Have you ever wondered what would happen if, instead of getting off at your designated subway stop in the morning, the subway stop you’ve been getting off at each morning for the past seventeen years on your way to work at job you’ve been working at for the past seventeen years, you kept riding the […]

Lives of Streets

A few months ago I posted a prompt inviting writers to write from the point of view of a plant, tree, flower, or bush. Today’s prompt is somewhat similar, but instead of plant life, the focus is on street life. That is, I invite you to begin to write a piece of prose or poetry […]

Wild Noses

The current issue of The Believer includes one of the last interviews with Maurice Sendak, the late, great writer and illustrator behind such iconic titles as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. Sendak died last year at the age of 83, and, up until his passing, he was still writing, illustrating, […]

Here I Am

Last week I came across an excellent essay by Stephen King about the use of imagery in writing called “Imagery and the Third Eye.” The essay–in which King writes that all 407 of his rules of writing  “will take care of themselves almost automatically if you will, from this point on, take two pledges: First, […]

Writing Blind

Yesterday, for perhaps the seventh or eighth time, I read Raymond Carver’s masterful story “Cathedral,” one of whose main characters is a blind man. This blind man, early on in the story, is an object of scorn to the story’s narrator. And the blind man’s blindness is an object of mockery. The reason for this […]

What Matters

Given that tens of thousands of residents of New York and New Jersey are still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy* and that an incredibly important election is being held in a handful of hours, today my mind landed on a prompt I used a few weeks ago (in a workshop) that resulted in […]

Storm Stories

Last night, while Hurricane Sandy* ripped through the East Coast, causing massive flooding and blackouts (but luckily didn’t do much in my neighborhood–Fort Greene, Brooklyn–other than cause an Internet outage and the lights to flicker on and off a few times) I pulled out Ron Hansen’s excellent story collection Nebraska and began to read, for […]