Writing Prompt: Found Letter

Recently I started following the YA Muses blog, after I met Katy Longshore at a local get-together. The prompt is this: “At a used book sale, you purchase a leather-bound volume. At home, you thumb through the pages and an old letter tumbles out. What does it say? Write the letter.”

Here’s my response to the prompt.


I knew you would find this letter if I hid it here, among the books you call friends. You can’t look at a book without picking it up, thumbing through it, getting pulled into story.

You call these books “friends” and I imagine your surprise when one of them betrays you with this note.

Because the stories are the problem. A woman obsessed, you cannot stop. You paused briefly to give birth, but before your daughter was even weaned, already the pen, the paper, and the book were there, open before you while she slept at your breast.

No one needs to tell you these years are fleeting. You watch them scream past, measuring them in unsellable manuscripts, pausing to breathe and scream back only if something, or some little person, dares to disrupt your solitude, silence, sanctuary.

The guilt of the time you take for your failings is heavy indeed. No wonder you take photographs, evidence of what time you do spend with her, hoping that those frozen memories will be enough to convince her, when she’s older, that everything you did, you did for her. That it was always about her, never you.

Let me tell you a secret: the dedication at the beginning of your manuscript – published, unpublished – will never be a substitute for you.

Put down the pen, and play with your daughter.

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

The set-up: The set-up: High school soccer star Jake has to use his magic numbers to get through the week before the final soccer game of the year – the state championship.

Main character’s goals: Jake wants, no needs to win Saturday’s soccer game, because he believes if he does, he won’t need “the numbers” anymore.

My reaction: The whole time I was reading, I was worried. Would Jake help his team win the match? Would he beat the numbers? Would his secret come roaring out at the worst possible moment?

My other reaction: I used to make up equations (usually very simple) ones, for the numbers on digital clocks. Example: 11:24. 1 + 1 + 2 = 4. It would bother me if I couldn’t get them to work, and I’d toy with them, trying to square things if there was a 2, or do division or combine digits…luckily, my being “bothered” if it didn’t work didn’t translate into freaking out.

Of interest to writers: Study this for keeping the tension up in your writing. Look at how sections and chapters are ended, how there’s always something to worry about. I’m feeling tense just remembering Jake’s story. Study the first pages – that right there was tense. Even if I’d wanted to put the book aside to do something else, I couldn’t have.

Bottom line: Clear a day to read this one, you won’t want to put it down. You’ve gotta wait until tomorrow, May 3rd, though – that’s when it’s available for sale.

INTERVIEW WITH HEIDI AYARBE AND COMPULSION GIVE-AWAY COMING UP!!! This Friday or next! Stay tuned! Exciting! Lots of exclamation points!!!

To visit Heidi Ayarbe’s website, click here. To read my review of her previous book, Compromised, click here.

Reminds me of: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I’m going for the obvious connection, here. Boy protagonist, a little numbers-obsessed.

Diary Books I Have Known and Loved

The topic today is diaries. I have more books than I care to count, and most of them are full (although I just bought two new blank ones when I was picking up my copy of Mockingjay).

So here are photos of the book covers and some of the pages, in all their glory, spanning over ten years of writing. Except for one, every one of these has been filled up with my (often pointless, repetitive, self-obsessed) writing (something like this blog, actually).

By the way, I had quite a few extra “excerpt” photos, chosen for their bright, colorful pages and/or illustrations. Upon closer examination, though, I found either embarrassing confessions or cruel, vindictive entries (usually about ex-boyfriends. Sorry boys).

What makes a good diary? An accidentally pornographic cover is always a plus (see black & white photo diary, above). My preferences include plain, quality paper so I can use a variety of pens and they won’t bleed through. Spiral-bound is easier to write in. I prefer somewhere in the ballpark of 6 by 8 inches, although some of my favorites are 8.5 by 11.

If you have a favorite diary, or diary preferences, I’d love to hear about them.