Van Gogh and the Moon

One of the many things I love about writing clubs, such as the Write Group, is the surprise writing exercises we do in them. Today, two of my students — not already members — joined the Write Group and I prepared tic-tac-write prompts to inspire our creative juices.

This was the perfect exercise to entice my students and draw them in. They enjoyed themselves, which really is the point, and one even overcame his shyness and read his response plus a few other works aloud.

Prompt: Tic-Tac-Write

The tic-tac-write board is a 3×3 grid with nine prompts in it. These prompts have setting, character, plot, event, perspective, atmosphere, starters, object and random slants to them. They are arranged so that prompts along a single line — either row, column or main diagonal — could form a story with some creative thought.

These combinations are not so obvious that a story can be written without some thinking, and the writer need only pick any three prompts on the board, rather than only those in a line. This arrangement ensures that the writer has plenty of story prompt options to choose from.

In today’s meeting, I handed out four unique prompts (given below), which increased the variety of story writing that the group shared afterward. The group loved them and the stories they produced.

Board 1

Humour Write a letter to yourself. Was it my fault the doorbell rang?
House in the middle of the block This morning, in my garden, I had a conversation with a little bird. He told me everything! About time I got out of that cookie.
Someone dies. Give your favourite item baggage using anthropomorphism. Solve a mystery using clues left behind.

Board 2

Rewrite a nursery rhyme from a character’s point of view. You got laid off today. Caramels
Smelly as a skunk Van Gogh Shut up and deal!
Procrastination Raisin pie Let us go then, you and I.

Board 3

Easter without eggs Write a palindromic piece. Sisters
I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was I meant to be. Baby blankets Minor character takes over scene, then leaves.
Beer, book, bed Promises made Bumblebees

Board 4

Your car shutters. Straight, crooked Drawing straws
The train whistle blew. Stop scratching! A banana, marbles and a bag
Orange The wind picks up. What’s that?

Van Gogh and the Moon

I picked Nursery rhyme — Character POV; Van Gogh; and Let us go then, you and I from Board 2, and worked in Procrastination and Caramels from the same board. Here is my response.

Van Gogh and the Moon
© Shawn Urban

Let us go then, you and I,
over the moon and across the sky.
No there is no time to paint.
The sun comes up,
then it will be too late.

Yes, the stars are beautiful tonight.
And the sickle of the moon is great.
But look there now,
the moon nigh fades.
Let us go then, you and I.

Van Gogh, Van Gogh,
why do you procrastinate,
admiring the dish and the spoon?

The cat on his fiddle
will play all night,
though that will end soon.

Van Gogh, Van Gogh,
chewing on your caramel,
with sugar rotting your teeth,
the dog is not barking to play with you,
but to tell you that time will not wait.

Let us go then, you and I,
Van Gogh, before the moon disappears.
Look already your stars are gone.
There is nothing left for you to paint.

Van Gogh, spit out that caramel.
We must jump and leap over the moon.
And look here what you have done.
The sun is up, the moon is gone
and you have ruined this nursery rhyme.

I wish you all a great today and a creative tomorrow.

Prompt Sources

@djeurope

This morning, in my garden, I had a conversation with a little bird. He told me everything!

Figment Daily Themes

Write a letter to yourself. — January 5

Give your favourite item baggage using anthropomorphism. — January 6

Solve a mystery using clues left behind. — January 24

Weird Fortune Cookies

About time I got out of that cookie.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock — C.S. Lewis

Let us go then, you and I.

I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was I meant to be.

All other prompts were supplied by members of the Write Group or me. (Just in case some of these come from elsewhere, let me know and give me a reference and I will check it out and credit the source here.)

Story of My Name

This post is inspired by Gail de Vos who teaches Storytelling at the University of Alberta. The assignment below is from Gail’s classes and Telling Tales: Storytelling in the Family.

Your First Real Life-story, the Story of Your Name

Describe your name in a story which will entertain your audience and you, and tell them and yourself about you. Ask and answer questions like these (not all questions need to be answered) to help you tell your name’s story.

What is your name? What does it mean? How did you get it and who gave it to you? If you were named after some one or some place or some thing, what is that person, place or thing’s story? Do you like your name? Why or why not? If not, what would you like to be named and why? What does your name mean to others? Who and why?

Plunge: The Story of My Name

© Shawn Urban

My name is Shawn Travis Urban, but I have not always been so.

I am adopted, so I have two names. My initial name, given to me by my birth mother, is David. It comes from the Hebrew Dod, which means “beloved”. This, and the fact that I am alive, and have lived an incredible life raised by a wonderful family, says a lot about my original mother.

 

David = Dod

 

My Mom and Dad named me Shawn Travis. They chose Shawn Travis because its cadence is appealing, particularly when combined with my family name, Urban.

 

cadence

 

The name Shawn has a long history behind it. My parents wanted Shawn to reflect my Canadian origin, so they chose its spelling carefully. S-H-A-W-N, as my name is spelled, is a North Americanized version of Irish S-E-A-N. S-E-A-N, in turn, is the Irish version of John, in turn an English version of Johannes, which is a Latin version of Ioannes. Ioannes is the Greek version of Yochanan, which is Hebrew for “Yahweh is gracious”. Given my adoption, I think this rather fitting.

 

Shawn = Yochanan

 

My middle name, Travis, is also interesting. Travis comes from Old English traverse, which means “to cross”. It was a name given to a toll collector. In medieval times when you wanted to cross one of the King’s bridges, and they all were the King’s bridges, you had to pay a toll. The title of the toll and the toll collector came to be travis, so occasionally you might hear the saying, “pay the travis”, which could mean “pay the crossing”, “pay the toll” or “pay the toll collector”.

 

Travis = cross,toll
Stefras' Bridge

 

Combined, Shawn Travis literally says, “Yahweh is gracious. Pay the toll.” I’m not so sure whether my parents or I get the short end of that derivation.

 

irony

 

My family name is Urban, which means “city” or “city dweller”. However, it started out as Urbanoski. My father’s side of the family is Galician (Polish, Ukrainian, Austrian or German, depending on who conquered whom in this part of the Ukraine). My great-great-grandfather was the mayor of a manor town, which unlike elected mayors today, was a position of nobility in my great-great-grandfather’s time. Urbanoski was changed to Urban in my father’s time by his father. So my father was born an Urbanoski and is now an Urban.

 

Urban = city dweller

 

And that is who I am, except that the story of my name would be incomplete without some mention of my initials. Through no intention on my parents’ part, my initials correspond to three consecutive letters in the English alphabet, S-T-U, and they form a name in themselves, Stu, short for Stuart, S-T-U-A-R-T, the French form for Old English Stewart, S-T-E-W-A-R-T, meaning “keeper of the estate”.

 

Stuart = Stewart

 

So I am “toll collector”, “city dweller”, “keeper of the estate”, “beloved” and . . .

 
. . . “Yahweh is gracious”.

This post is inspired by Gail de Vos who teaches Storytelling at the University of Alberta. The assignment above is from Gail’s classes and Telling Tales: Storytelling in the Family.

First Prompt: What if you came across a magic gate?

@djeurope: This morning, in my garden, I had a conversation with a little bird.
He told me everything!

 

 

The Bench in the Field

Perhaps it is the lure of the strange sign that propels you. Perhaps it is the lone bench in the center of the wild flowered meadow. Or perhaps you just wanted to see where this direction would take you.

 

 

As you approach the worn wooden bench and equally weathered sign, a chickadee lands on the back of the bench and begins bee-baying. It watches as you get closer, then hops up onto the sign. The sign has a picture of wood pieces on it instead of words. The picture seems scrambled and missing a square piece. You touch the picture and you notice you can move its pieces.

 

 

Through the Gate

You try to unscramble it. As you do so, an image emerges of a round moongate set in a muraled wall. Through the moongate is a bright garden with twisting paths and zig-zagging hedges. Benches adorn the garden. On one of them sits a man sipping some clear beverage. He notices you and walks through the garden to the gate. He steps through and smiles.

With that you notice that the wall and moongate are standing in the middle of the meadow beside the weathered bench. The sign is gone. Through the gate is the garden; on the wall are hilly forests and fields; around both of them is the meadow.

Choices: What Beyond the Horizon

Which path do you explore? Which direction do you turn? Through the moongate? Into the muraled wall? Within the meadow? In another direction? Or beyond? What do you encounter?