Tuesday, 18 June 2019

*Every*thing is a writing prompt

Absolutely anything can work as a writing prompt.

Grind Writer, Malcolm van Delst
(DoThe Wrong Thing) proved this at our last meeting. 
In a box of writing prompts she found an old bottle of Beaver® brand sweet hot mustard full of sand. It was a jury-rigged thing I had made to weigh down the bottle which in turn held a sign at the writing table, and it got left in the prompts box.

Intrigued by this anomalous 3D object, she chose it as a writing prompt. And look what she created out of that! It goes to show that when you allow yourself to just write, when you let your mind free-wheel and say its piece through your pen, you always come up with creative stuff.

If you want to hear this piece below in her voice, watch this video of Malcolm reading at her Do The Wrong Thing book launch first.


Cat Litter in a Beaver Brand Sweet Hot Mustard/Moutard Sucree Forte Bottle, Gold Medal Winner, 360 ml
A free-wheeling free-write by Malcolm van Delst
All right, it’s poem time! Poem, pome, mome. Mome-me. I can bring my mother into anything.
All right, it’s poem time! Let’s get rid of her—the Mother, I mean—or, I don’t mean—literally, I mean—Jesus Christ, can you not bring her into something just this once?
She didn’t like mustard or cats. She holds more than 360 ml of anything. She IS red and yellow—oh, damn, look—I said I wasn’t going to bring her into this and here she is: The Mother. All Hail the Red and Yellow Mother!
Gold. Medal. Winner. Every mother is a Gold Medal Winner, it’s baked into the role. To every child, their mother is the absolute best, the center, the beginning the life force the giver the taker the One and Only.
Yeah, it’s happening: Mom took this over. Whatever, Ma, you can have me. You got me. You ol’ goat.

There. I insulted her and now, a short reprieve, reader, which I’ve indicated with a double space.
Gold. Medal. Winner. Ma. Mom. Monster. That movie starring Charlize Theron. There’s a mother if ever there was one! “Mother.” In the sense of “heavy,” “large,” “deserving of respect,” even if not love or admiration. Respect for the audacity and evil. What kind of mother makes a mother like Elaine W—I’ll have to look up her name afterwards, the real woman Charlize’s character is based on in the movie, Monster?
There are ways to win medals—scratch that—there are ways to win fame that aren’t based on being liked. Take this cat litter in the mustard bottle. Weird, singular—what if the person who made this bottle left the remaining mustard in before pouring in the litter? That would add to the je ne sais quoi.
What if a monster mother was thrown into this bottle, where she couldn’t mother monster, monster mother? Bottled. Jailed—that would be it: what we do to our criminals.
I like to think of a tiny monster mother bottled in the Beaver Brand Sweet Hot Mustard bottle with the “Gold Medal Winner” sash on the bottom. I bet the monster mother would like that, too. The sash, I mean, she wouldn’t like being bottled, though really, that she is: bottled up—all that hate, anger and anguish with nowhere to go, exploding. Like yellow mustard in a bottle on a hot window ledge in the sun.

©2019 Malcolm van Delst

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Interactive Writing from WriteOn Vancouver, The Grind Writers

Grind Writer Elizabeth McLean holding up
the cover of  Swallows Uncaged,
her book of historical fiction.
The Grind Writers Group was invited to host a table at an a daylong writing and publishing event, WriteOn Vancouver, produced by the Vancouver Public Library at their iconic downtown location on May 11th

We accepted and everybody pitched in to copy handouts (Margo, Glenn, Lorna); Glenn made a sign which was vital because otherwise we would have been invisible in that lofty-ceilinged Promenade. And numerous Grind Writers manned our table and participated in a Pop-up Writing Group that we hosted that day ... Beth Brooks who got the interactive Poetry and Story rolls rolling ... Glenn Mori who made our sign and copied handouts and donated the Web-press paper rolls ... Lorna Blake... Carol Flynn... Isabella Mori (A Bagful of Haiku: 87 Imperfections)... Gillian Krantz... Karen Shauber... Malcolm van Delst (Do The Wrong Thing)... Elizabeth McLean (Swallows Uncaged); and Mark Plimley -- all of whom who either manned the table, participated in our pop-up writing group at the event, or both.

The Promenade at the central branch
of the Vancouver Public Library downtown
l to r: Isabella, Carol; Lorna standing.

We originally proposed holding our writing group meeting at the WriteOn Vancouver table so people unfamiliar with how a writing group goes could watch us, or join in and write with us. Because of space issues on the Promenade and the fact that we’d have needed 12 chairs at least, the Library proposed that we host a Pop-up Writing Group instead. They’d provide us the room with tables and chairs, pens and paper, and we would provide the prompts. So that was our other interactive activity, along with the table and the two collaborative-writing rolls. 

Round Robin writing can be quite fun. You never know what’s going to happen—whether the collective output will be inane or profound.

Grind Writer Lorna Blake and the
interactive Story and Poetry rolls.

The paper looped over the table, and people could add to the story in different coloured felt pens. 

We decided to use that venerable and well-loved story opener It was a dark and stormy night as the prompt. Here’s what people going by stopped and wrote:

It was a dark and stormy night
and the leaves on the tree branches were shielding me from the cold wind (Anastasia)
Two hawks flew out of their nets ad screetched: Danger!!!
“Danger?!” a mocking voice cackled from the rose bushes
A crowd had gathered at the meeting place, nervously fidgeting in silence.
As is customary in such scenes, nothing happened, until it did. No one expected… a 6 foot tall crow! A talking crow. A sarcastic crow. “I have loved you all my life,” cawed the crow. “Give me warm. Give me soft.”
The crowd roared, its collective sound very much  resembling the squawks of a murder of crows….
“Murder?!” said the head crow. “I have some details……..”
“It is three days from now, the aliens from the ‘Egoland’ are visiting here.”
“You’re losing it, ma. Back to Earth. We’ve enough problems without that kind of company…”
So of he went, back to where he came from, but more humble.

The prompt was Like wigs that birds live in. If that seems a bit obscure, it is. Talking with Beth Brooks one day I used the phrase (in another context, about how complicated some things are) and she said, “There’s the prompt.” So we went with it. It seemed mysterious enough to launch poetic images. Maybe.

Like wigs that birds live in
my hair also carries the blossoms of life  (Anastasia)
These blossoms give birth to the next life  (Harinder)
The next life… will it be my last?
If it is, what do you plan to do with it?  (Gillian)
Eat chocolate, drink wine, and dance  (Bonnie)
Libraries—the people’s university!!
Truly liberating
Liberating like the energizing warmth of the May sun  (Janna)
Digging … surfacing the depth of emotions
Plumbing our feelings and reactions, hoping somehow,
some way, to make sense of
the incomprehensible 
The bang was given
The Trudeau was forgiven
We all hope health will
Be intro------ (?)
Spring by Hongyun Chen
Spring can never go far
The earth and the sun
are in a lifetime of courtship
The entanglement of one warm gaze
is enough to all over again
trap the heart.


Our third interactive activity at our WriteOn Vancouver table was issuing a Free-write Challenge to attendees. Depending on the kind of event, you can get a big response to this, or a little. In this case, not too many people wanted to go off and do a 10-minute timed free-write to a prompt we provided. But we are grateful for those who did. Even in this small sample, genres ranged from poetry to sci-fi, social essay, existential prose-poetry.


A blade of grass with dewdrops on it.  – Dr. Idrenne Lim Alparaque

Those green people? Are you shitting me?! I mean they’re a few scales and a tail away from literally being lizard-people! Don’t you guys read sci-fi? you really think all of sci-fi is made up? no, don’t give me that look! I saw that flying saucer with my own eyes. I saw that secret meeting of those so-called benevolent green-see-ers.

They see more than they want you to think, for sure. But surely they ain’t benevolent. I don’t believe a word they say. Curing addiction? Cleaning up tent-cities? 


I’m sure they’re up to no good. I don’t know where they’re taking all those poor people. Maybe they’re harvesting them. And you know what?--when they run out of those, you and I are next. ’Cause they can never get enough. Look!--there’s more and more of them each week! They’re up in very corner! Where are all of these freaky monsters coming from? Where have they been all this time? Oh, don’t tell me you actually believe their stories of rebirth and being visited by the Great Green-Seer. These people are not of this Earth.

I don’t remember any of their faces. I mean, come on, this is a small town! It’s not like there are so many strangers. How come none of us, or no-one we know has ever had a visit from this Green-Seer dude?

You wanna keep waiting? Or you wanna give yourself up like these poor folks? None have come back yet, you know. this whole green-hub mumbo-jumbo is a sham. They’ve started with them ’cause no-one’s gonna care I they go missing. No-one’s gonna get worried, start asking questions. Well, I’m afraid, if we don’t start asking questions now, soon it’ll be too late. – Kasra Hassani

Upside down… and mirrored.
Is it real? What is reality? Maybe that’s too much to think about. Just take a look and let the light bounce off of the water, the trees, the moss growing in the shade.
Take it all in without a thought of doubt.
Do you feel it? This moment is real.   –Luyi Wang


Prompt: write a story or poem about someone struggling with insomnia.

White Nights
Rain and wind
Outside the window
In my heart
Sleepless nights
Nuits blanches
What will I be
Doors closed
Eyes shut
Soul’s a desert
Waiting for another soul
to come in
Et maintenant
Nuits Blanches.  – Minh Karlsson



Feelings are the sort of thing that keeps an economy moving. Without feelings it would be utterly impossible for CocaCola® to market their fizzy drinks to teenagers by handing out free pops outside high school back doors on a hot summer day when good-looking groups of teenagers hanging by. Unbeknownst to the potential customers, as soon as the get hooked on it, as soon as they associate a hot summer day with the pleasure of a gulp of a can of ice-cold Coke®, then they will forever be loyal customers to the Soda Empire.

Without the feeling of fear and uncertainty, home security system companies would not be able to scare single women with the possibility of being attacked by a stranger, by their ex, by the coworker who flirted with them at work, so as to sell them security cameras and charge a hefty subscription fee.

Feelngs are what makes the economy go around. Without the feeling of the need to be loved, admired, and recognized, why would be need social networks and why would we be constantly checking our phones? We check our iPhones®, and realize that no-one has called, messaged, posted to our Facebook wall, the feeling of emptiness and anxiety is unbearable. That’s what’s driving the social networking and smartphone market.  – Jon


The free-write rules --Set a timer for 10 minutes.

--Start writing as soon as you’ve read the prompt; don’t overthink.

--Don’t lift your pen from the paper (or fingers from the keyboard) for the 10 minutes. 

-- Just keep writing whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly or irrelevant it might sound to you; and

--No editing while you write.

--Repeat every day, develop a writing practice. You can find writing prompts elsewhere in this blog.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Grind Writers on Facebook


Updated meetings schedule

Please email grindwriters at gmail.com 

before you attend for the first time.

Grind Writers Dates 2019
·  Sun Apr 28
Elizabeth McLean: "She's Terrible, and I Love Her:  'Unlikable' Female Characters."
·Sun July 21
·Sun Aug 11  
·Sun Aug 25
·  Sun May 5  date changed to:
·Sun Sept 08
·  Sat May 11
We’re at WriteOn Vancouver Fest,  VPL downtown 11-4
·Sun Sept 22
·Sun Oct 06
·  Sun May 26       
·Sun Oct 20
·  Sun June 09
Susan L Greig, Journal Lady  
·Sun Nov 03  DST ends
·  Sun June 23
Karen Schauber - "The Marvels of Flash Fiction"
·Sun Nov 17
·  Sun July 7
Elizabeth McLean: “Interiority in Fiction - How to balance internal narrative with action
·Sun Dec 01
·Sun Dec 15, 2019

Monday, 18 February 2019

Ke Tou: The Ancient Sound of Respect

Several years ago, Bonnie Nish the long-time executive director of Pandora’s (literary art) Collective came to The Grind Writers Group to do a mini-workshop with us. She brought along her Pandora’s Box full of 3D writing prompts. I had also attended a regular evening her co-ED Sita Carboni hosted called Word Whips* where people got together and wrote to a prompt she brought. Sita set the timer for 15 mins. and gave us a prompt (a coat-hanger).

She explained to us a Pandora's tradition that, since these were free-writes we were welcome to read our output but we would not be getting feedback on what was read, since it was material we had just written – or, what local writing coach Sylvia Taylor amusingly calls a “barf draft” or a “shaggy first draft.” Anne Lammot (Bird By Bird)  calls first output “shitty first drafts.

It’s important that distinction be made.

So many non-writers (including some friends and family 
members) seem to think that the Writing Greats just sat down and poured out War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, or The Grapes of Wrath in one go. And the first thing most of those people ask even a fledgling writer is, “So, have you published anything?” as if good writing just rolls out like sheets on a roll of paper towels.
Sita explained at Word Whips that night that when someone finished reading we would just tap the table with two fingers (softly, because we were meeting in the library) to indicate our support and admiration for one of us having had the courage to share their first-output material to a bunch of strangers. And that’s what we did. In turn, we have carried on that fine tradition at The Grind Writers Group.
Nothing new here. Except today I was reading a book, All the Tea in China: History, Methods and Musings (Wang Jian). And I came across this “lovely ancient Chinese Tea Story” Jian recounts:  
One day, the emperor Qianlong visited the Dragon Well tea area in disguise and took tea in a small tea-house where the attendant, unaware of the emperor’s identity, gave him the tea-pot and asked him to serve his entourage.
Unwilling to divulge his identity the emperor poured tea for his followers. This frightened his entourage out of their wits and, in their anxiety they began to tap on the table with their fingers bent to show that they were “kneeling on both knees ke tou continuously” (ke tou—to knock one’s head on the ground in obeisance).  
This story later became wide-spread and “tapping the table in respect” became part of the etiquette of drinking tea even up to the present day. When the host presents his guest with a tea bowl and pours water for him the guest slowly and rhythmically taps the table with the bent middle and fore fingers of the right hand in a gesture of respect to the host for having been served tea.

I don’t know if Sita or Bonnie had ever heard this ancient story. But now we’ve got a name for the tapping and I am totally down for giving ke tou to people who’ve had the courage to share what has just rolled out of their pens.

*Word Whips carries on to this day meeting regularly at various locations

©2019 Margo Lamont


Goodreads review:I love tea and bought this small book while at the Ai Weiwei According to What? exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario today. The book was written in China and translated and beautifully presents the history of the use of tea in China through a long list of dynasties, describes the different types of tea, where they are from, when they are picked, how tea is prepared, the tea rituals and spiritual significance of drinking tea - even recommending with how many people tea should be enjoyed. Poetry, brushing drawings and stories tell the story.”—Nancy

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Schedule 2019

Please write to (grindwriters at gmail dot com) before attending your first meeting. Thanks.

Grind Writers Dates 2019

Sun Jan 06
Sun June 23
Sun Jan 20
Sun July 7
Sun Feb 03
Sun July 21
Sun Feb 17
Sun Aug 11
Sun Mar 03
Sun Aug 25
Sun Mar 17
Sun Sept 08
Sun Mar 31
Sun Sept 22
Sun Apr 14
Sun Oct 06
Sun Apr 28
Sun Oct 20
Sun May 5 (gap)
Sun Nov 03  (DST Ends)
Sun May 26
Sun Nov 17
Sun June 09
Sun Dec 01

Sun Dec 15, 2019