Favorite Place

Write about your favorite place.

There’s a reason they call it Pure Michigan. There is a vast sea of endless trees. The nights are quiet, where nothing can be heard but the sound of crickets or frogs. Farmland stretches for miles and miles, giving a chance for children to shout “There’s a horse! There’s a cow!” while driving down the highway. The waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula flow without ceasing. Deer roam freely in the woods, coming out to peak at you when the firelight is dim. The Great Lakes caress the shores on almost every side of the mitten-shaped state. 

Nature at its best.

Through the trees, the lakes, the busy cities, the endless highways, and the number of creatures that roam the woods, I have a spot.

My spot is on the edge of a dock, near the smallest of lakes, where the fish come to bite and the waters are as still as can be. It is where the sun begins to sink under the horizon leaving an orange picture painted on the surface of the water. It is where the fish swim beneath my bare feet, close enough to bite but ready to swim away if I move too quickly.

Jean legs are rolled up mid-calf. Shoes are lying somewhere on the other end of the dock with socks shoved inside them. The smell of a distant campfire lingers in the air. The promise of s’mores or popcorn waits for me, to help fix the hunger the day’s activities left. The mosquitos thirst for the moisturized air as well as for my blood. Bug repellent has become my scent to wear for the summer. 

Beside me sits a girl I’ve known my entire life. A girl that knows me better than almost anyone. Her feet dangle beside mine off the dock. The wind brushes her hair out of her face. She leans back on her hands to hold herself up. She stares off across the water and says, “I love it here.”

“Me too,” I reply. “For a moment, we can leave the world behind and focus on the present. Focus on what matters: family.”

The sun continues to set and stars appear. The stars normally hide behind bright city lights, where no one cares they are there. The Big Dipper makes itself known to me, dancing brightly in the endless combination of blue and black. 

We pull our feet from the cooling water, lying on the deck to search for the stars. “It’s so peaceful,” I tell her.

“I could stay here forever and just forget the world,” she replies.

We know it isn’t possible. On the other side of the lake, people, animals, trees, and every form of life are waiting for us to return to reality. As we lose ourselves in nature, our family is checking their watches, wondering when we would return to sit beside a blazing fire and tell stories of our past. 

When it’s late enough and we know our parents are worried, we rise to our feet and brush off our sandy jeans. We pick up our shoes and walk back to camp barefoot. The stones on the gravel path don’t bother us because we are used to spending our summers without shoes. 

When camp is close enough, the gentle glow of the fire illuminates the darkness that covers everything. The song of the crickets emerges from within that darkness. Stories, laughter, and, in time, the faint glow of embers trying to breathe under the smoldering logs bring the day to a close. 

The anticipation of morning sits with me as I climb into my sleeping bag. I anticipate walking through the woods, taking a paddle boat across the lake, riding a bike, and building enough sand castles on the beach to create a sand city. The greatest assurance I have is knowing that the boards of wood stuck together at the end of the lake, where the fish come to bite and the waters are as still as can be, would still be there. 

Quiet. Beautiful. Pure.

Worst Critic

What are ways that you can stop yourself from being your own worst critic?

You can’t. You are always going to be your own worst critic. That being said, you need to accept that and to learn how to write despite that. I came across someone in a poetry workshop today who hated his poem before he even started writing it. Because he went into it with that attitude, he decided the poem wasn’t going to be good enough. He assumed everyone in the workshop would only say negative things. I gave him the advice not to doom his poem before it was finished.

We’re all guilty of quitting a piece because we don’t think it’s good enough. We’re all guilty of saying, “No one wants to read this.” Several years ago, that was my life motto. I never wanted to finish anything because I would ask myself, “What’s the point?”

You don’t have to write to please people. You need to write because you want to. You need to feel that writing with everything you have. But most importantly, you need to keep the voice in your head away from your work. Let the words write themselves. Don’t listen to the voice in your head because it’s wrong. It’s going to bug you nonstop until you quit writing, and you can’t let it do that. Your writing is worth something when you place your heart in it, not your head.

You also need to believe in your work and believe in yourself. That’s the part I had the most difficult time with. I didn’t believe in my writing for a long time, and it’s why I didn’t think anyone else could believe in it either. It wasn’t until I started sharing my writing with others, because I believed in it, that others started believing in it too. Even now, I sometimes doubt the things I write, but I do it anyway. Every piece of writing needs work. Nothing is ever perfect. But with the dedication and the belief that we can accomplish something, we can.

There is no way to stop being your own worst critic. But there is a way to stop writing with your head and start writing with your heart. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t worry. Just write until you’ve created something.

Games

Write a poem about a childhood memory

Fortress

 

You could not get in without a password.

Words muttered that parents never heard.

 

A guard was always at the door.

Unable to open for many to explore.

 

It took skill to reach the entrance,

Where you were welcomed or sentenced.

 

For only the strongest were allowed,

To sit above the rest and stare at the clouds.

 

The floor decorated in leaves and small twigs.

A dungeon below for the prisoners to dig.

 

Plastic tables and chairs were easy to place.

The finest mac and cheese served on a paper plate.

 

The soldier’s greatest weapons were water balloons.

Tree branches used to escape enemy harpoons.

 

Six feet from the ground, sat treacherous and high,

A safe place from everything, a fortress in the sky.

 

At the end of the day, when the enemy was gone,

It was time to leave the fortress and return to home.

 

A good night sleep needed after a long fight.

The fortress would be waiting for another day’s light.

Helping Hand

Write about a time you helped someone. How did it make you feel?

I once sat next to a girl on an airplane that was afraid of turbulence. Before the plane even took off, she had told me that she was nervous about flying. I was so used to flying that turbulence no longer bothered me. But I could remember a time when it did make me nervous, and it was always helpful to have a hand to hold. When we took off, she started gripping the arms of her seat and I offered her my hand for comfort. She willingly took it. Once we reached our altitude, she was okay. During the times that our flight got bumpy, she would automatically reach for my hand and grab it. I half-expected it, so I was always ready, holding it out to her.  By the time there was an announcement that we were beginning our descent, she reached for my hand and held it for the remainder of the flight. I didn’t mind because I know that the landing can sometimes be rough.

When the plane landed, the girl let go of my hand and said, “Thank you so much for helping me. I wish you were going to be on my next flight. We go good together.” We then parted ways and I never saw her again.

I think one of the most wonderful things about interacting with strangers is that we have these brief connections with people somewhere in the world that we don’t even know. Some of those connections we hold on to. I’ll never forget that moment, because I knew that I had helped that girl during a time when she was afraid. I knew that simply by having a hand to hold, even a hand of a stranger, she received comfort. I made that flight easier for her.

When we can turn to others in a. time of need, even when we don’t know them, it’s a moment of real human connection. In the same way people run to the aid of others when they witness something bad happening. We have a natural instinct to help one another when it matters, and that is a beautiful thing about humanity.

Sure, it was only a flight and it was a small action, but it mattered to her. It mattered to me.

Creed

Write a creed poem about the things you believe in.

I Believe

I believe the sun radiates warmth to the earth. 

I believe rain makes the flowers grow. 

I believe there is nothing more satisfying 

Than dancing in a rain storm 

With my tongue stretched ready to catch 

The drops of water leaking from the sky. 

I believe in the sound of thunder, 

And when I was a child I believed

God was rearranging his furniture, 

Like my mother said to keep my fear away.

I believe in God and his goodness. 

I believe in the goodness of people. 

I believe that “please” and “thank you” 

Can go a long way.

 I believe in complaining less and smiling more.

I believe conversations with strangers 

Are a way to have a connection

With someone we’ll never see again.

I believe in telling stories over and over

Until we’re tired of hearing them.

 I believe in putting pen to paper. 

Write everything down. 

I believe in capturing memories with pictures, 

I believe in vacation, of seeing every place 

From the sandy beaches of California

To the concrete walls of New York. 

I believe in spending time with loved ones. 

I believe in loving animals like they are family.

I believe in laughter and in heartfelt conversation. 

I believe in silence and I believe in being loud.

I believe music speaks to the soul. 

I believe the soul moves on when we die.

 I believe that time matters. 

Life is too short to waste that time. 

I believe in Daylight Savings 

And in long, warm summer nights. 

I believe in cold winters and 

Curling up with a book and hot chocolate 

Is perfect in a snow storm. 

I believe everything we do matters. 

Life shouldn’t be taken for granted. 

I believe that life has endless possibilities 

And a chance to learn something new every day. 

I believe I don’t know much of anything 

And that there are many things 

I still have yet to find to believe in.

Encounter

Did you ever meet a famous person?

I’ve actually met several, but I’ll tell you about one of the most meaningful experiences for me. I’ve met Chris Colfer on multiple occasions, but there is one time in particular that stands out to me.

I attended every book signing on his The Land Of Stories tours. Although I often felt like one of the oldest people there, I didn’t mind because he had been a huge influence to me. I also really enjoyed his books, despite the fact that they’re written for kids. I’ve always loved fairy tales and I’ve enjoyed stories that involve rewriting them to make it something new. (Like Once Upon A Time)

Anyway, I was too starstruck to make sense of my words the first time I met him. So the second time I did, I felt more composed. As a result, I was able to ask him about his writing process. As a writer, I kept trying to find ways to attempt writing books that never worked for me. So when I had the chance to talk to one of my favorite people, who happened to be an author, I figured I would ask him. He gave me really good advice: No matter how much you tell yourself it’s not good enough, just keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t go back and edit anything until you’re done. Because once you do, you won’t finish.

And I found that advice really helpful. Ever since I had that conversation with Chris, I found myself doing what he said. By doing so, I was able to finish more pieces. I was able to realize that I would always be my own worst critic, which he also told me.  I couldn’t let that stop me from writing. I couldn’t let that stop me from finishing anything.

It’s one thing to hear that advice from every day people, but getting real advice like that from someone I admire put things into perspective to me. I’ll always hold that advice in my heart, and I’ll always be thankful to Chris for helping me overcome one of my biggest struggles as a writer.

One Line

Open a book and use a line from that book to start a story.

Departure

As she placed her shoes in a bin and stepped into the scanner, she felt as though the security guard was going to see right through her and find out her secret.  “You’re all set,” the man said, as she stepped out of the machine.

Trying to stop her hands from trembling, she took her shoes and suitcase off the counter and waited for her companion to finish. Watching him step through the scanner, she took several deep breaths, telling herself that nothing bad was going to happen. She avoided his gaze when he joined her at the end of the hallway to the gates. Neither of them spoke, as they travelled down the long hall.

The boarding process had already begun when they reached the gate to Phoenix. He pulled her aside and set his bag on the ground. Before he could even speak, she blurted out, “You shouldn’t have done it – you shouldn’t have doubted me – we’re leaving a trail of mistakes,” she said. “They’re going to find us.”

‘No one is going to find us,” he told her, taking her hands in his. “It’s better that we leave before the police find out what we did.” His final words of comfort did nothing to calm her nerves. She was in full panic mode, and he seemed so calm as he picked up his duffel bag off the ground. “Call me when you land in Seattle.”

An announcement for the final boarding call to Phoenix meant their time was up. Tears formed in her eyes, as he took a step toward the gate. She grabbed his arm and said, “This isn’t a good idea. We’re making a huge mistake.”

“We’ve already made a huge mistake,” he said, pulling his arm out of her grasp. “Stay calm. The more you bring attention to yourself, the more guilty you’re going to look.” All of the passengers had boarded the aircraft by the time he reached the gate. He turned to face her and gave one final wave, before disappearing down the jet bridge. 

Dragging her suitcase by the handle, she walked several gates down and sat in a seat near the back wall. She still had an hour before her flight took off. Few passengers walked by, as she sat in the corner, arms protectively crossed over her chest. 

Isolated from the rest of the world, she couldn’t stop the negative thoughts from entering her mind. This was the end of her life in her hometown, and the end of her friendship with him. One moment in her life had changed everything. She was living on borrowed time.

She wanted to turn back time, return to that moment, and do things differently. She wanted to leave the airport and drive until she couldn’t anymore. She wanted to hop on the plane to Phoenix and go with him. She wanted to do anything that would change her fate.

But there was nothing she could do. It was already done. Calls were already coming across police radios, and any one of those calls could change her future. He was taxiing to the runway on his way to Phoenix. She sat, hopelessly, at the gate to Seattle, counting the seconds on her watch.

At eight o’clock in the evening, the Baltimore airport was nearly deserted.

Love And Respect

Would you rather be loved or respected? Why?

This is a difficult question. The answer most people want to give is love. “All you need is love.” Right? It’s the easy answer. We all want to feel loved. We all want to spend every day knowing that someone thought about us or someone missed us. It’s an essential part of our existence. That is exactly why I’m going to argue for the word respect.

That’s a term we hear all the time. “Respect your elders. Respect your peers. Show some respect.” But do we spend every day thinking, “I really wish someone respected me?” We do more than we realize. As an aunt, I know that I want my nieces and nephews to respect me as their elder. As a sister, I know that I want my siblings to take me seriously, and not only view me as their little sister. As a daughter, I want my parents to respect the person I’ve gown into, because I want them to be proud of me. I want my peers to respect me, because if they don’t, I become a joke to them. We look for respect all the time, we just don’t see it that way because we’re blinded by the word love.

We can have someone tell us that they love us, but if they don’t respect us, they aren’t going to treat us right. Even with my nieces and nephews, I’ve seen it happen. I know that they love me with all their hearts, but they don’t execute those feelings well, because sometimes they say things that hurt my feelings. I know that my siblings love me, but sometimes I feel like they take advantage of that, because they only need me when it’s convenient for them. I know that I’m loved, but I don’t always know that I’m respected.

If I could only choose being loved or respected, I think I’d want to choose respected. People can’t show you respect unless they care to some degree, even a stranger has to be kind in order to show respect. But you can love someone without always showing them respect. In a world that exists on human interaction, and a world that doesn’t consistently show love enough, I want to choose respect. I want to choose it, because on a day to day basis, it makes me feel better knowing someone respects me simply be being kind. I don’t hear the words “I love you” twenty times a day, although I know someone out there does. But I do interact with people on a smaller level every day, and I still want to be treated kindly when that happens.

Lucky for us, we live in a world where we don’t have to choose between love and respect. We should show both all the time.

 

In Her Shoes

This prompt comes from dailyteachingtools.com  If you could be a character in any book, TV show, or movie, who would you be and why?

The character I have always related to the most is Hermione Granger. I grew up wishing I could be her. I have always felt a connection to that character. She’s a girl who understands the desire to read and learn, like the Ravenclaw that I am. She believes in friendship, goodness, helping others even when she shouldn’t. I feel like I could put myself in her shoes, and if I were to enter a book, I’d want to be comfortable as that character. She’s strong and fights for what she believes in, and I value those characteristics. I may not be as brave as her, but I think it’s all the more reason I’d want to be her. A person has to live by experience, and she does, and I try to.  I’ve always admired her character and felt like I could relate to her, so why wouldn’t I want to be her?

Also, it’s the only way I’d ever get to attend Hogwarts.

Repetition

This prompt comes from someone I know. Write a poem that uses repetition.

Ease

Take the time to learn.

There is always something new.

 

Take the time to travel. This is your world. 

Go see its beauty.

 

Take the time to speak to your loved ones. 

Don’t wait to hear from them.

They’re waiting for you.

 

Take the time to set your phone down. 

 

Take the time to get more sleep.

Take the time to drink enough water.

Take the time to exercise. 

This is your body. 

Care for it the way it cares for you.

 

Take the time to eat chocolate cake. 

You deserve to be spoiled sometimes.

 

Take the time to fall in love. Don’t rush it.

Make sure he’s the one.

 

Take the time to braid your hair

even if you’re thirty.

 

Take the time to reflect in the mirror. Compliment yourself 

even when it’s hard to do.

 

Take the time to mourn your losses, but don’t forget

there is good in the world.

 

Take the time to do what makes you happy. 

Go shopping. Sing in the shower.

Write a poem. 

 

Take the time to be alone.

 

Take the time to smile at strangers. 

They need it more than you know. 

 

Take the time to walk your dog. 

 

Take the time to care for your mental health.

If you just focus on the outside,

You’ll only look complete.