Creative Writing Exercises: Teaching from Image

In addition to my regular course load at my community college, I am a faculty advisor for our student run creative writing group, The Blank Page. I started the group when I was still an adjunct and students approached me looking for another venue in which they could share and improve upon their own work.

At today’s meeting I brought a series of images that I discovered via a link on the Paris Review’s Facebook page. The link contained images of haunted houses from Corrine Botz’s photography exhibition. Botz writes on her blog:

Haunted Houses provides a unique way of understanding our relationship to the spaces we inhabit, and reflects romantic and dystopian notions of the domestic realm. The notion of hauntedness activates and highlights the home, revealing the hidden narratives and possibilities of everyday life.

Botz went about taking photographs and collecting oral recitations of the ghost stories that go along with some of the photographs. You can listen to the stories here. The photographs are gorgeous and the stories are very interesting. I was even more intrigued by this project when I learned that one of the locations and stories took place in Girard, PA which is about ten minutes from Fairview, PA where my parents still live. This is the photograph from Girard:

“Farmhouse, Girard, Pennsylvania” from the series Haunted Houses, 2010

Anyway. When I looked through the pictures, I thought they would make great prompts for my Blank Page students, so this afternoon we spent about half an hour free writing over selected images from Botz’s project. After we had finished writing, we debriefed a bit and the student response seemed positive. The general consensus seemed to be that the images provided specific details that the students could latch onto and use as a starting place for a poem or piece of prose. I’ve done this exercise for units on character, setting and story and I think Botz’s photographs are perfect inspirations for writers.

Also received word last night that three of my poems will be appearing in Rust + Moth.

Wednesday (neglected blog) Musings

Yes, I have been neglecting my blog. Yes, I am insanely busy. Yes, I have been at school until 5 almost every day this week. No, that may not seem like a long time except I usually get there between 6:30-7 in the morning.


Your weekly fall poem that is woefully late. All apologies…

Autumn Birds

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught.
The flopping crows on weary wings go by
And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.
The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by,
And darken like a clod the evening sky.
The larks like thunder rise and suthy round,
Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.
The wild swan hurries hight and noises loud
With white neck peering to the evening clowd.
The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on
To neighbouring tree, and leaves the distant crow
While small birds nestle in the edge below.

John Clare


I’ve introduced my creative writers to flash fiction and they’re taking to it like ducks water. I think they’re intrigued by the compression of language and ideas required in flash fiction. Also, let’s face it, flash fiction is cool. In order to give them a wide variety of examples, I bought Flash Fiction edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas & Tom Hazuka. They compiled flash fiction from the likes of Raymond Carver, Julia Alvarex, Joyce Carol Oates, David Foster Wallace, and John Updike just to name a few. I’ve been reading all night an pulling examples I think my class will like. I’m looking forward to class tomorrow.

I met with the blank page again today, but our group was a bit small. We’re received the go ahead from the library for our National Novel Writing Month project, but I might have to tweak it a bit in order to get in done in a time frame that is realistic for our members.


My department chair gave me this Salvador Dali print to help me battle aganist my depressing white walls. Gotta love Dali…