Four Writing Prompts from Queen of Cups

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One feature of my mini lit mag Queen of Cups is a weekly writing prompt. Sometimes I base the prompt on the week’s tarot card, other times I’m inspired by the featured writer, or I come up with something out of left field. As a poet, I’ve found prompts invaluable in generating new material. Here are four of my favorite from Queen of Cups back issues, all are accessible to poets and prose writers alike.

 

1. Write a piece that takes place in a structure, dwelling, or shelter. Think of Shirley Jackson who suffered from agoraphobia and wrote ghost stories and psychological thrillers where houses are not only haunted but become malevolent main characters imprisoning their inhabitants. Conversely, look to Rumer Godden who wrote at least five novels with the word ‘House’ appearing in the title. Godden’s dwellings also rise to character status but are more benevolent, becoming meaningful because of the accrual of inhabitants over the course of history. Like a beloved and ancient oak, Godden’s houses take on personalities of their own and tend to stand both within the passage of time and beyond it. Houses symbolize safety, nurture, and personal and family identity, but can also work in the opposite direction and quickly convey danger, imprisonment, and stultification. Your job is to write something with a physical structure in it, see where it takes you and what your structure reveals to you through the writing of your piece.

 

2. Write a piece titled “Grief Hallucinations” which incorporates the sentence: “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.” (Epictetus)

 

3. The tradition of lachrymatory dates to Greek and Roman times, but was popular around the Civil War. Wives and sweethearts would collect their tears in small vials, called lachrymatories, in hopes of showing their returning soldiers how much they were missed. Lachrymatory was a common ritual in the elaborate Victorian mourning process which also included: ‘deep mourning’, ‘half mourning’, and, my favorite, ‘slighting the mourning’ the moment when scratchy crepe dress trimming could be removed. Mourning in dress was observed right down to the smallest detail: I own a small box of antique stick pins with black heads labelled ‘Mourning Pins’. Women collected tears shed over death into lachrymatory and would leave the uncorked vials on loved ones’ graves; uncorked so the tears would evaporate over time. Write a poem or prose piece where lachrymatory (or ritualistic mourning) appear.

 

4. Write a micro essay/story (about 500 words), or a prose poem about consciously throwing something special away, or about getting rid of something in a bizarre or unique way.

 

 

 

Page of Wands for Writers and Artists

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Every Wednesday in Queen of Cups I pull a tarot card of the week and give both a general reading and one tailored to artists and writers. This week’s card is Page of Wands. I’ve included the reading for artists and writers below. But, you can read the whole issue and subscribe all for free!

 

 

Page of Wands for Writers and Artists: This card is pure creativity for creativity’s sake, it’s experimentation, play, making without judgement, spending the day not only painting but dwelling in your imagination the way children do in imaginative play. As adults we don’t marvel enough at the ability of children to imagine worlds, sustain them, and then act within the worlds they’re imagining. I can see my boys at seven-years-old, wandering around the yard holding some kind of prop: lego creation, deflated beanie baby, stick, (maybe a beanie baby on a stick) or whatever was at hand, sometimes mumbling quietly, other times running, crouching, jumping off of rocks and stumps, or striking odd poses, all happening in a world that was a mix of the physical one in front of them and some other imaginary world being created on the spot. Think of the creative stamina and power in that! The same behavior in an adult is bound to be labeled eccentricity, escapism, or delusion. But for an artist, that ability is pure gold, and I don’t mean the monetary kind. I’d argue that the ability to create worlds and then act in them, a kind of wakeful lucid dream, is true magic, the vestigial whispers of which writers tap into and readers respond to in such works as The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter books and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, among others. This was a magical power we once wielded with complete confidence and faith and have all but lost with maturity. It’s heartbreaking for a parent to witness the first falterings of imaginative magic in their children. The day comes when your child goes through the motions with legos and beanie babies, makes the sound effects, imagines the storyline, but can’t seem to fully enter the imaginative world. You see him sitting on the bedroom floor surrounded by the props and realize he knows he’s just sitting on the bedroom floor with a clutter of toys. I guess it boils down to a growing consciousness that comes with maturity, but from the outside looks like loss, a death. I can barely remember what it feels like on the inside. Without the intrusion of consciousness and the loss of our early imaginative magic, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter, because that series is both a striving back for its author and the fulfillment of a deep need for its readers. Our imaginations and creative abilities do come back, just in a more refined, mature, productive, some might argue less potent, form. We naturally move away from the desire to swing sticks at imaginary monsters, to less pure, often more creatively ambitious, forms of imaginative play. Those years of possessing magical creativity can never be fully retrieved, but we couldn’t be adult artists without that apprenticeship and without the loss. That emptiness makes us yearn and work to restore something of our former abilities, resulting in art. Page of Wands reminds us that every human has artistic potential in any given moment, as a birthright, that creativity and connecting through creativity are soul-healing, dignifying acts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen of Cups’ First Issue on Wednesday

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Wow, what a whirlwind week for my little lit mag. It all started exactly a week ago today with one of those lightning bolt ideas, a few days of indecision followed, culminating in a ‘what the hell this just might work’ mumbled declaration that had my family wondering what I was up to.  Last Wednesday, I launched  Queen of Cups, a mini lit mag delivered to subscribers’ inboxes via the TinyLetter platform. This Wednesday the first issue, featuring poet Kimberly Burwick, goes out to 242 (and growing) subscribers! I’m floored by the positive, kind, enthusiastic, even ecstatic, responses I’ve gotten, and stunned by the growing number of subscribers. Last Wednesday I had an idea and a handful of accounts (FB, TinyLetter, etc) proclaiming that my idea was an actual thing, and then some wonderful, talented writers responded to my shameless solicitations, submissions poured in and, surprise of surprises, subscribers got on board too! I think we now have all the necessary components in place. And….Queen of Cups’ publication schedule is booked through June with new work from Jeannine Hall Gailey, Shaindel Beers, Carol Edelstein and Kelle Groom, among others. I’m still happily accepting submissions, so keep them coming please: queenofcupsmag@gmail.com To clarify, for anyone who hasn’t heard of my quirky idea: you must subscribe  to receive weekly issues of Queen of Cups in your inbox. Each issue features the work of one contemporary writer. Subscription is free and you may unsubscribe (easily) at any time. I’m what you might call an ‘idea man’, and this venture truly started with what I thought was a cool idea: to deliver strong, unique contemporary literature directly into the inboxes of subscribers, and for that content to be digestible in one or two sittings. I’m not sending an entire literary journal to your inbox, just a few pieces to fuel you through your day in the messy world. Amen!

I first met Kimberly Burwick a few weeks back at a reading in Amherst, MA, though I’ve been familiar with Kim’s poetry, and we’ve been FB friends, for a while. Kim and poet husband Kevin Goodan are a kind of literary power couple and the reading was a joint one in support of Kevin’s just-released collection and Kim’s forthcoming one. They had a little help from their four year old son Levi, who gave me a real arms-around-the-neck- hug as I arrived at the reading, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since my own boys were small.  At one point, Levi was fiddling with the magazines behind his mom as she read from her new collection. Kim paused and said ‘Levi you can’t tickle mommy right now’. She went on to give a steady reading of some pretty dark material about infant abduction. Kim and Kevin lived in the town I now live in, but moved out west about 7 years ago just as I got to town. Bad luck! I wish we had crossed paths sooner. Kim was one of my first ‘yes’s’ for Queen of Cups (thank you Kim!) and I’m thrilled to share two new prose poetry/micro non-fiction pieces by her in the first issue. You’ll find as we go along, as I have, that the line between prose poetry, micro fiction, and micro non fiction blur. Genres? We don’t need no stinkin’ genres. I’m including Kim’s bio. so you can get to know  her before Wednesday. And again, thank you thank you for being such an enthusiastic, optimistic, literature-loving bunch!

Kimberly Burwick was born and raised in Massachusetts. Burwick earned her BA in literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her MFA in poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Has No Kinsmen (Red Hen Press, 2006), Horses in the Cathedral, winner of the Robert Dana Prize (Anhinga Press, 2011), Good Night Brother, winner of the Burnside Review Prize, (Burnside Review Press, 2014) and Custody of the Eyes (forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017).  She is currently Clinical Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Washington State University.