Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

swanw-2494939_1280Write an acrostic poem to celebrate spring. Acrostic poems are great way to introduce poetry to kids since they don’t have to worry about rhyming. Last spring, I helped a group of elementary school children write a book of acrostic poems. One of my kids was part of the group and wrote about a sure sign of spring: Turkey vultures.

California has swallows, but here in the Midwest, we have turkey vultures. Or buzzards, as I like to call them. These birds return from South America during the last week of February or the first week of March. As soon as their big, black silhouettes appear in the sky, we know spring is one the way.

Below are my oldest’s vulture poem and mine for April. Please share your acrostic poem to spring in the comments.


Up in the sky.

Lots of vultures migrating on

The coast of South America. They come

Up from South America.



crocus-1753790_1280After Easter, being

Pelted with snow



Leave, winter!

Think spring!





Writing Tip — Writing in Time

forwardw-3181875_1280Looking over the calendar, I find April may be more boring than March this year. With its two major holidays, Easter and April Fool’s Day, coming on the first day, there’s not much to look forward to in the rest of the month. But my kids’ spring break occurs in this month, and the weather in April present possibilities.

April Fool’s Day: The holiday presents a great situation for humorous, middle grade fiction. Maybe a competition between kids to see who can fool the most people. Or maybe a family could be engaged in playing practical jokes on each other.

Spring Break: A trip always has a lot of potential for storytelling. Whether it’s a family trip, a mission trip, trip of college kids, or retirees, the process of traveling in the spring can be exploited for both comic and dramatic effect. This year, my kids and I are traveling with my sister and her kids in their van to visit another sister seven hours away. By the time we get back, I may have more inspiration than I can handle

Storms: Where I live, in a temperate climate, April is the first month of the year when we usually experience thunderstorms. Storms are a great plot twist or metaphor. As a metaphor, a storm can mirror dueling emotions, desires, or ambitions inside one character. It can also underline the conflict between two characters or more characters. The storm can be a twist to heighten the tension between characters or force them to survive and reveal their strength and weaknesses.

How would you use April as a setting?


Writing Tip

address-book-2246457_1280National Poetry Month

I forgot that April is national poetry month.  When I worked as a children’s librarian in public libraries, we tied our book displays and programming to the event.

Because I am not a poet, I write poetry when I want to have fun with words.  Maybe poets do the same thing with prose when they need a break from their serious writing.

I also like to write poetry because the only person I am trying to please is myself.  As I work on my novel, I have to keep in mind all the rules of good writing, the expectations of the audience I am writing for, and the requirement of agents and editors.  I am free with poetry.  If I share a poem, I hope others will like, but if they don’t, that’s fine.

The event began in 1996, created by the Academy of American Poets.  While there’s still time, check out 30 Ways to Celebrate on the Academy’s site.

Even though I write poetry just for fun, I learn techniques I can apply to my prose writing when I read it.  My background as a children’s librarian has led me to read children’s poetry more than any other kind.  But I think a skilled poet can appeal to kids and adults in different ways with the same poem.  I’ll talk about what I have learned from reading poetry next time.

Writing Tip

calendar-162126_1280Writing in Time — April

As with the other months of spring, I am not a huge fan of April.  The better weather and new growth means one thing to me: more work.

Luscious green grass means it will need to be mowed soon, and when you have acres to cut, it’s no small chore.  Soon we will be planting which means weeding can’t be far behind.

When I worked in the children’s department of public libraries, April meant more work because we were gearing up for our summer reading program, an enormous undertaking.  We had to get a lot done in April because in May we were busy with visiting schools to promote our program.  We would take a deep breath in April and not let it out until mid-July.

cherry-trees-1567310_1280So if I use April for a setting, I will use it for comic effect.  My main character is the one person in the story irritated with spring.  A lot can go wrong, in a humorous way, when working outside.

Speaking of humor, the month kicks off with April Fool’s Day.  I am not a big joker, but the holiday does have a lot of possibilities for storytelling — two or three characters spend the day tricking each other.  Or a joke has unexpected consequences.  I could turn the holiday serious – someone is accidentally killed by a April Fool’s Day joke.  Or was it an accident?

April also makes me think of storms, so I often see it in my head as a month of darkness.  In a temperate climate, it’s the first month of the year when you expect dangerous storms.  An April storm would be a great setting for a climax between two  competing characters locked into some kind of duel.  The month’s dark and stormy nature can be used as a metaphor for secrets.  I could write a story about long-held secrets that finally come to light at the height of a storm.

I know I have skipped over Easter, but I thought that holiday should have entry to itself, which I will write about next time.


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