About a month ago I wrote a short piece for The Writer’s Table about my introduction to writing prompts. I was in the eighth grade and ‘Dandruff’ Dan Hayden, my ogre of an English teacher, gave the class all of forty minutes to compose a piece of fiction that incorporated a . . . door knob. That’s all the instruction he gave us. A door knob. Can you imagine?
Now, I knew what a doorknob was all right, but as far as I was concerned ‘fiction’ only happened when something rubbed you the wrong way. I considered asking more questions, but the only thing Hayden hated more than eighth-graders, were eighth-graders who asked questions. So was born my first effort to write short fiction . . . about a door knob. Surprise of surprises, Hayden said I did pretty well. Ol’ Dandruff even refrained from calling me maggot for two whole days. Better than a Pulitzer—not that I knew a Pulitzer from a Wurlitzer at the time.
Eventually I would learn that Dandruff Dan’s door knob amounted to a writing aid called a ‘prompt’. Over the years, I’ve responded to thousands of writing prompts. Sometimes just for the fun of it, but other times because I needed the equivalent of a boot in the ass to get me writing again.
Now, prompts come with various degrees of instruction. Some are quite specific, while others—like Hayden’s door knob—are pretty open ended. I prefer the open-ended variety. After all, I’m looking for a simple boot in the ass, not a convoluted construction that requires an owner's manual to open the door.
Last month I challenged Page & Spine readers with a simple prompt of my own: Breakfast. Pretty simple, right? Open ended (or open-faced, if you will). I invited writers to submit their creations to me, care of P&S, and worked out a deal with our beloved N.K. Wagner to publish the winning submission right here (look for it in April).
Well, the entries came flooding in to Page & Spine International Headquarters and Gift Shop. Okay, flooding might be a little hyperbolic, but we did receive a gratifying number of qualifying entries. And they were good, too. And varied!—which is why I favor open-ended prompts.
Remember the prompt was simply: Breakfast.
My favorite entry was largely about no breakfast. Another raw and troubling tale hinged on cold ‘ah-beetz’ for breakfast. I was treated to an omelet cooking lesson in one entry. One funny writer featured a mix up at a local diner, while another described an early morning refridgerator raid gone terribly wrong. One author offered a compassionate coming-of-age story, while another cleverly solved a murder mystery while seated at the breakfast table.
The stories all had breakfast in common but, otherwise, they were as different as Lucky Charms are to Bangers and Mash.
I want to thank all the authors who provided me with such fine breakfast reading material over the past few weeks. Hell, I even want to thank ol’ Dandruff Dan Hayden for dropping the prompt of my life on me so many eons ago.
(What? Oh, yeah.) N.K. thinks this might be a good time to tell everyone who won. Actually, the stories were so good I didn't want to stop at just one, but the boss lady put her foot down when I tried to nominate everyone for a prize.
So here it is...
First Place, and winner of publication at P&S's standard rate and my five bucks, is:
I'm Here For You by Jeffrey Stone.
Runner up (I managed to sneak this one in), and winner of publication at P&S's standard rate, is:
Fred and June by Patricia Donovan.
If you enjoyed this prompt, or regret having missed it, stay tuned to The Writer’s Table. The rumors flying through the halls of Page & Spine International Headquarters and Gift Shop suggest another challenge prompt will be offered in in the April 11th edition. Just in time, too. I could use another good boot in the ass.
♦ Lee Allen Hill is just a leftover hippie with a penchant for word-slinging.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.