Prompts from the Interwebs

Writing is hard. As Ta-Nehisi Coates said in an interview for Atlantic Video’s Creative Breakthroughs series, “It’s as though you have a certain music in your head, and trying to get that music out on the page is absolute hell. But what you have to do is give yourself a day, go back, revise, over and over and over again.”

Regardless of politics and all the other craziness consuming us right now, the Internet is still an amazing source of inspiration for writers. If you find yourself without ideas, consider these prompts, culled just for you.

Also, don’t forget to send in your short essay on love to our Modern Love challenge!

Giving Back: Shalom Community Center

About two years ago, I met a man in Bloomington experiencing homelessness. He had moved here to take care of a sick relative and had fallen on hard times. He spoke to a group of us about the struggles he faces that many folks don’t even think about. For instance, when trying to get a job, he has to list an address. At many places, shelter addresses—all he has to list—are blacklisted, and people are turned away before they are even allowed to interview. Similarly, it is hard to receive mail if you don’t have a permanent address. Fortunately, we have a place here in town that not only provides shelter and food for folks like this man but also advocates on his behalf. 

Since 2000, Shalom Community Center has been an amazing resource for people in Bloomington, Indiana, who are experiencing homelessness, hunger, and poverty. As a low-barrier shelter, they ensure that “hospitality, dignity, empowerment, and hope define all that we do.”

According to Shalom, the organization

provides hunger relief, day and overnight shelter, housing, social services, financial support, life essentials (like laundry, showers, and mail), and other related health and human services to hundreds of people each day and thousands of people each year. Ninety-six percent of our guests have incomes at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI), which is considered extreme poverty. Sixty percent of our guests are women and children. Eleven percent are veterans.

When we started Inkblot, one goal was to give back to our amazing community. Each quarter, we donate to a local organization, and this past quarter, we have chosen to thank Shalom Community Center. They do such important work in our community, and we’re honored to be able to donate to their cause.

If you find yourself in the position to give, consider Shalom Community Center or the many other worthy organizations in your community.

Thanks, Obama

Eight years ago, my dear friend Decker was kind enough to bring me to Obama’s first inauguration. I’d never been in a crowd so big and so excited. There were people climbing trees and standing on port-o-potties to get a better look. The energy was incredible.

Rachel at Obama’s first inauguration

Today, we at Inkblot strive to keep that hope alive in our own lives, in our community, and in the world. #ThanksObama

Travel Journals

In 2005, I spent most of a summer in Austria, taking a medieval lit course and a travel writing course. During the travel writing course, we each kept a journal that we not only wrote in but also pasted items in. Mine is full of ticket stubs from ballet performances, coasters from cool restaurants, and pamphlets from random tourist attractions. It is, hands down, my best souvenir. From our journals, we then built more polished pieces of writing.

Cortona, Italy, by Rachel Rosolina

In two and a half months, my husband and I will be trekking through Torres del Paine in Patagonia. A goal of mine is to record this trip in journal form. I love taking photos (ask anyone who has ever had to endure a hike with me), but I also want to remember the things photos can’t capture—the scent of the air, the feeling of sore muscles, the nooks and crannies I find in Punta Arenas or our eco camp. Journaling was a huge part of my childhood. In fact, I have nearly daily journal entries from the fall of 1993 through my high school graduation in 2002. I’ve slacked off in that area as an adult, and this seems to be the perfect time to jump-start it!

Here are some tips if you’d also like to begin travel writing:

  • Research where you’re going. Knowing a bit of history will not only give you more context while you’re there, but it will also help you frame the location in a better way.
  • Pay attention to sensory details. As mentioned, photos only capture the visual. Describe the food, the sounds at night, the cadence of people’s speech—all the things that are easy to forget.
  • Include dialogue. Yes, this is a journal entry, but it’s also creative writing. This will help you later if you decide to take your travel journal and create a shaped piece out of it.
  • Note lessons learned. If you have any personal revelations while traveling—which traveling is great for—this is the place to record them. Try to capture not only the cause of the revelation but also the feeling of it. Again, noting it while it’s fresh will help you later on if you expand the journal into a more polished piece of writing.
  • Try not to judge your writing. See the journal not as a finished piece of work that has to be perfect, but rather the note-taking stage. In Europe, I found myself trying to sound too writerly when completing my daily journal entry, which just made it sound stilted. Allow yourself to play!
  • Most importantly, have fun! You are on an adventure! Soak up every moment of it!

Here is an example of travel writing—culled from a journal—about my trip to Australia and New Zealand in high school.

Are any of you planning adventures at the moment? Do you have any travel writing tips you’d like to share?

Also, don’t forget to write about your experiences with love for our Modern Love challenge! What we’ve already gotten in is amazing, and we can’t wait to share it.


Sources: The WriterWanderlustGlobeJotting

Modern Love: A Challenge

One of our all-time favorite columns to read is Modern Love from the New York Times. It is “a series of weekly reader-submitted essays that explore the joys and tribulations of love.” These nonfiction gems explore every facet of love imaginable, from romantic love to watching a parent grow old to giving up a baby for adoption to welcoming refugee families to a community. This collection of work gives love a shape that might surprise you.

Our challenge for you as we begin a new year and look toward Valentine’s Day is this: read a few of these essays (here are their top 10) and write your own. Who have you loved? Who have you lost? Tell us your stories!

So, here’s the deal:

  • Write an essay about love (be sure it is nonfiction) in under 1500 words.
  • Send your essay to rachel@inkblotediting.com.
  • We’ll post it on the site!
  • Feel free to send as many as you like.

Vacation Reading

Over Christmas, my husband and I joined my parents in South Carolina for a holiday vacation. Of course the top item on my to-do list prior to leaving was picking out a suitable book to read. I settled on an old favorite: A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt.

This may not seem like a laid-back beach read; after all, it’s about a seven-year-old boy whose mother abandons him. Yet, this book opens itself up and invites you into the story—pain and all—for a grounded experience that’s hard to walk away from. This is a book you choose when you have the time to read all day.

It is a solid novel with a wide range of emotions and deep characters, some of whom you’ll like, some of whom you won’t, and most of whom you’ll change your mind about. If you like the Tillerman family from other books in this series, you’ll be happy to see them reappear in this title as well.

One thing I didn’t consider when choosing this book was the setting. I read about Jeff waiting on his mother to pick him up from the Charleston airport while waiting on my mother to pick us up from the Charleston airport. I read about his island of safe space, with its crabs and herons, while sitting on a beach I’ve grown up visiting. I could literally taste the salt on the South Carolina breeze as I read the words.

For all the deliberation in front of my bookshelf the night before our flight, I picked right.

What did you read over the holiday?


Stay tuned this week for the first Inkblot writing challenge of 2017! It’s one we’re really excited about!