Week Three: Great Reads Creativity Prompt Challenge

My apologies that I fallen so far behind in posting my Great Reads Creativity prompts and responding to your submissions- I spent most of January knocked on my ass with the flu (thankfully NOT covid), migraines, and a fibromyalgia flare-up. The combination of the holidays and Winter weather are really brutal for those of us living with chronic illness. Fingers crossed, I will be able to fully catch up by the end of this month.

My current prompts are drawn from the books on NPR’s most recent list of Great Reads.  Sometimes it was the title that drew my eye (how could I resist the creative lure of The Book of Difficult Fruit?!), sometimes it was the book description (All That She Carried, for example). I hope to accomplish two goals: to inspire you creatively and to encourage you to add at least one of these titles to your reading list for the upcoming year.

There is only one rule to my prompt challenge: the poem or book title should serve as the title of your piece OR all the words of the title should be integrated into your piece somehow.   

I LOVE posting your prompt responses on Brave & Reckless.  I welcome your poetry, prose, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, essay, and art.  I will accept responses to any of Great Read’s prompts on any day before February 28th.

Email your prompt responses with a short bio (if you have not recently submitted to me) and a suggested image to her.red.pen.wordsmithing@gmail.com.

You can also participate on Instagram by tagging your writing/art with:

  • #GreatReadsPromptChallenge
  • #dailyprompt
  • @stitchypoet
Names for Light

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint – born in Myanmar (formerly Burma) – was raised in Thailand until age 8, when her family immigrated to San Jose, Calif., which she describes as “a place with strip malls, ranch-style houses, and foothills in every direction,” a place she still has “no name for.” Composed in compressed, laser-sharp interrogations of immigration and prejudice, colonialism and inheritance, Names for Light reads like poetry. Language – and its absence – are central to Myint’s narrative. Pages contain blocks of empty space, signifying memory/ies lost to geographic displacement. In its power, intensity and visual presentation, Names for Light evokes recent works of Claudia Rankine.— Martha Anne Toll, book critic



Certain and Impossible Events

When Candace Jane Opper was 13, a boy she had a crush on died by suicide. She has never been able to stop thinking about it – about the boy himself, what she knew about him and all that she didn’t know about him, and also about the way he died and the nature of suicide. This beautiful and tender memoir spans the years of her obsession, which matured along with her even as the boy she once liked stayed stuck in time.— Ilana Masad, book critic

Night Came With Many Stars

“In 1933, Carol’s daddy, Clay, wagers her in a game of poker and loses. In 1986, Carol’s grandson Samuel gets a nail in his eye while messing around with his best friend during shop class. These two points – fixed in history, set on the page – are the moments upon which everything else hangs. Simon Van Booy’s Night is a book about generations. It’s about crossroads and choices, the poisoned well of memory. It is a heartbreaking, gorgeous book, told in the native tongue and tempos of paint factory employees and domestics and diner waitresses, of the guys working 20 years on the line at the Ford plant and those walking dazedly out into the light after 10 spent in prison. An ordinary world that Van Booy sketches with sharp clarity and a softness that borders on magical, finding the weakness, grace and beauty of common lives fully lived.— Jason Sheehan, author and book critic


A Ghost in the Throat

“We cannot know from whose mouths the echoes of our lives will chime,” the Irish poet and translator Ní Ghríofa writes in this gorgeous memoir about mothering, love and literary excavation. During her third child’s nursing days, the young writer embarked on a furious quest to put flesh on the ignored bones of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, whose long lament for her murdered husband, “The Keen for Art Ó Laoughaire” Ní Ghríofa first read in grade school. Virtually nothing is known about the woman who wrote what’s considered the greatest poem of Ireland’s 18th century, and as Ní Ghríofa enters the bog of that silencing, she excavates hidden elements of her own voice. Intensely poetic and freewheeling and connecting the bodily details of mothering and erotic love – “female texts” – to linguistic hierarchies and erasures, this book creates its own form: a critical biography of the body, of bloodshed and babies born, of the word made flesh.— Ann Powers, critic and correspondent, NPR Music


What Storm, What Thunder

We know, in a general, macro-level sense, what happened after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people died. Governments failed. Companies profited. But in What Storm, What Thunder, Myriam J.A. Chancy brings us the vivid, micro-level details of the lives of survivors. Her characters are stratified by class and country, but connected by guilt and grief. That we know another massive earthquake isn’t too far in their future only adds to the weight of Chancy’s writing.— Andrew Limbong, reporter, Culture Desk





A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure

In this poetry collection, Hoa Nguyen writes about her relationship with her mother, who used to be a proud stunt motorcyclist in an all-women Vietnamese circus troupe. Nguyen’s poems are intimate ones, in which form and language crash into each other. Fragments of sentences spread across the page, and nothing is directly explained, as the poet is more focused on interacting with ghosts – of displacement, of poverty, of the Vietnam War – than translating her Vietnamese heritage to readers. And where language is not enough, we get actual images: The book comes with a postcard with a picture of the poet’s mother on a motorcycle driving down a dirt road. More such images don the last pages of this National Book Award finalist, accompanying what can only be described as a very moving biography written in verse.— Jeevika Verma, assistant producer, Morning Edition

A Town Called Solace

A Town Called Solace charts an unfolding mystery through three principal characters: Mrs. Olsen, her former (now adult) neighbor Liam, and her current neighbor, 8-year-old Clara. Through their different narratives of past, present and future, a mystery unfolds that is both compelling and weirdly mundane. This novel alchemizes grief and remorse, revealing the interesting bonds that connect us. Lawson’s writing is effortless, and the novel is both a gripping mystery and a lovely slice of emotional storytelling.— Catherine Whelan, editor, Morning Edition

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