IMPROMPTU: a Daily Blog of Writing Prompts, Exercises, and Inspiration


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I once played a game with some friends where we named every island we could think of, back and forth, until one of us stalled. It went on for a while.

I have never lived on an island longterm, but I get a magic poem feeling in my heart when I think about the islands I've visited and loved (or did not love, as the case may be).

I've known many poets to be inspired by islands. My dear friend Joelle Barron has two heartbreakingly beautiful companion poems about Galiano Island (you will be able to read them soon in Joelle's firecracker debut poetry collection Ritual Lights, March 2018).

Another dear friend, Alessandra Naccarato's award-winning poem "Re-Origin of Species" begins with the lines "On our island, nothing / eats us but the rifle."

For my part, I've been unable to stop writing poems about the Big Island in Hawaii. 

Write your island. A poem or story; an ode; a longing; a home; a journey; a childhood; a claustrophobic nightmare; a lake; an ocean; a heartbreak. 

For further inspiration, read this poem by Roo Borson. 


IMPROMPTU: a Daily Blog of Writing Prompts, Exercises, and Inspiration


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I just went on a dark and curious walk through the Internet woods, and got lost in Craigslist Missed Connections (does anyone ever get found there?). 

Let's do a variation on a word pool. These are words and phrases lifted from the titles of Missed Connections postings. Use them all; let's see where they lead you.

green timbers

black car to black car back seat

funny beauty

I was going to say

twin flame

sacred geometry tattoos

a fox indeed

the heel of your shoe

it's just Freud

coffee at shell


just so you know

re: love

IMPROMPTU: a Daily Blog of Writing Prompts, Exercises, and Inspiration


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Today's prompt comes from this book, but I discovered it via Rachel McKibbens' blog. She calls it the "Russian Nesting Doll Exercise, only the things don't have to get smaller." It's a poem where you open something to reveal something else. 

Here's the example from Rachel's exercise:

I opened You fat bitch and out fell his teeth.
I opened his teeth and inside was a door.
I opened the door and inside was his bed.
I opened the bed and inside was a small boy.
I opened the boy and inside was a pool of sharks.
I opened the sharks and inside was silence.
I opened the silence and inside was a window.
I opened the window and inside were a row of sleeping pills.
I opened the sleeping pills and inside was his mother.
I opened the mother and inside was a dream.

I used this exercise to write a poem recently, but in mine, I changed the word "opened" in each following line to a more descriptive verb, so that might be something you want to play with. (For example: I opened the forest and out came a memory, I questioned the memory and out came a witch. I followed the witch and out came a sister...etc.)


IMPROMPTU: a Daily Blog of Writing Prompts, Exercises, and Inspiration


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IMPROMPTU #2 is brought to you by Hera Lindsay Bird. Read the poem "Ways of making love" on The Pantograph Punch, and write a list poem (or story) titled "Ways of ______" — you fill in the blank. "Ways of fighting"? "Ways of drinking coffee"? "Ways of making money when you're a poet"? Make it weird. "Like watching porn through a kaleidoscope." 


IMPROMPTU: a Daily Blog of Writing Prompts, Exercises, & Inspiration


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Welcome to the very first instalment of IMPROMPTU, a daily blog of prompts, provocations, and incantations for your writing practice.

I’ve found prompts to be very useful in my own writing. From the prompt comes a little orb of an idea that begins to roll, gathering snow or heat.

Here’s an excerpt from a Wikipedia post I stumbled across for impromptu (noun), as it relates to music:

An impromptu (/ɪmˈprɒmptjuː/, French: [ɛ̃prɔ̃pty], loosely meaning "offhand") is a free-form musical composition with the character of an ex tempore improvisation as if prompted by the spirit of the moment, usually for a solo instrument, such as piano.

Generating material offhand, following the “spirit of the moment” in writing—that’s what this blog is about.

Two years ago, I took a writing workshop with the late great Richard Wagamese, and he talked about the importance of spontaneity and improvisation in writing. One of the exercises we did in the workshop involved Richard pointing randomly at someone, and giving them a word. From that one word, the person had to tell a story on the spot. It was TERRIFYING. But a really important exercise, and an experience that has stuck with me.

Setting an intention for myself to write freely, to say YES, and to follow the spirit of the moment is so important for me. Otherwise I get stuck, I tell myself my ideas are no good, I give up. I know I’m not alone in this.

I tend to use prompts to write poems, but these can be used/interpreted however you choose (obvs, I’m not the boss of you). Some of them will be simple—one line, maybe even one word. Some of them will be more structured. (I personally love word pools, so that’s something you can expect.) Take what works for you—leave what doesn’t.

So, without further ado, here is prompt #1:

In the afterlife, someone asks you about your time on earth. Begin with this line: "What kept me up at night"

Read my interview with untethered magazine!

untethered interviewed me for their Author Interview Series, about my story "Retreat", which was published in their current Spring 2017 issue. I love looking back on the pieces I've written, thinking about how they first came to me and how they came to life. Big thanks to Matthew Walsh for the thoughtful questions. Read the interview here. And to read the story, buy a copy of the issue here. is live!

And kicking off with some exciting announcements.

On September 17th, I will be performing as the Poet Invited in Advance at Chicken Session #21. The last Chicken Session took place back in May as the final event of Verses Festival of Words. It was the first one I had attended, and it was pure magic. Here's a borrowed description from the Verses 2016 program: 

“Inspired by Mike McGee’s Kitchen Sessions, and the local Under the Bed series run by RC Weslowski and Wilhelmina Salmi, Chicken Sessions is a house concert, a poetry and story performance space, a potluck, a party, a salon with some Louisiana hospitality tossed together and served up by host and instigator Pamela Bentley in a big, beautiful East Van heritage house.” 


I was thrilled and honoured to be invited to perform, and I’m really looking forward to it. Mutya Macatumpag will be performing as the Musician Invited in Advance, and there will be 12 open mic performers throughout the day. I’ll post more details on my Events page once the Facebook event goes up.

I have a few upcoming publications as well! I have a story forthcoming in SAD Mag, and another (about honey bees and ghosts) coming out in September in Room’s Canadian Gothic issue, in the brilliant company of Aislinn Hunter, Amber Dawn, and so many others whose work I can’t wait to read. Here’s a sneak peak of the front and back cover:


You can pre-order this issue here. Only $12!

So, to wrap up, I’m enjoying summer, stoked to have my website up and running, and looking forward to the exciting things September has to bring!