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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also participate on Instagram by tagging your writing/art with:
Elsa Park is a particle physicist working in Antarctica, trying to uncover the mysteries of the universe – but when she sees her imaginary childhood friend on the snow-white continent, she knows the ghosts of her past have caught up with her, and she must separate the past from the present and walk the line between what’s real and what’s imagined. Angela Mi Young Hur’s Folklorn is a beautiful meditation on childhood trauma as well as an exploration into Korean heritage; it’s also a gorgeous journey into the intersection of science and myth and how our past traumas shape us – but how they need not define us.— Swapna Krishna, pop culture writer
Freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s one of the lessons from Leila Slimani’s latest family epic; her characters are desperate to forge lives of their own, but as they do, they learn that the trade-off for their independence is security, community, even happiness. The story takes place in Morocco in the 1940s and 1950s, during the fight for independence from France. It’s a beautifully written portrait of both a country and a family trying to establish their identities in the midst of immense turmoil.— Leah Donnella, supervising editor, Code Switch
Claire Vaye Watkins may be our greatest living chronicler of the American West, showing how everything from geology to poverty to Charles Manson has shaped it. Hers are always stories of place first, and then the people who find themselves in that place – by choice sometimes, by circumstance often. She writes about the people broken by the land and those who have come to it in an attempt at healing. Darkness focuses on a writer named Claire Vaye Watkins who abandoned her husband and newborn back East by coming out for a book event in Reno and simply … not going home. There’s fun to be had in trying to parse the real Watkins from the made-up one, but the novel itself takes the form of a sex, drugs and Oregon Trail revisitation of all the lovely and horrible things that make us who we are.— Jason Sheehan, author and book critic
You know the saying, “If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”? In this book, every problem looks like a slasher movie to 17-year-old Jade Daniels. She sees the world through the lens of doomed towns and sinners, masked killers and final girls. But behind Jade’s dramatic interpretation of events is a more mundane type of horror: the loneliness of a girl with next-to-no community, the isolation of living in a small rural town, the specter of wealthy newcomers who treat Proofrock, Idaho, as a new world to be conquered. Despite all the doom and gloom and bodies piling up, My Heart Is a Chainsaw still manages to be just as hilarious as it is human.— Leah Donnella, supervising editor, Code Switch
More than just a book about increasing conflicts as the number of these enormous and still widely misunderstood animals has quadrupled in and around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks since the 1970s. Meticulous new research methods reveal fascinating insights into bear behavior. Author Robert Cheney has spent decades observing human-grizzly encounters and challenges traditional thinking about conservation and preserving the wild. A good journalist, he doesn’t neglect Indigenous perspectives.— Eric Whitney, Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief
This Thing Between Us is a creepy novel about grief that will change the way you look at smart speakers forever. At once an exploration of the supernatural and a study of the ways in which a terrible loss can affect the psyche, this dark tale – which is packed with tips of the hat to its genre – announces the arrival of an exciting new voice in horror fiction.— Gabino Iglesias, book critic and author of Coyote Songs
No Gods, No Monsters opens with police shooting and killing an unarmed Black man. Lincoln had been addicted to drugs, estranged from his family, living on the street. Not the sort of man the community rallies around, Caldwell Turnbull tells us. But when Lincoln’s sister, Laina, is mysteriously offered a copy of suppressed police bodycam footage of the shooting, it becomes a whole different kind of story. Because Lincoln is a werewolf. The footage proves it. And from that shocking start, Turnbull builds a world where monsters and magic are real and exist within a world like ours, already grappling with issues of race and sexuality and class and collectivism. There’s the overarching idea of othering those who do not look like us or live like us or love like us, and the terrible consequences of both hiding our secrets and revealing them.— Jason Sheehan, author and book critic