healing haven

Story Circle Prompts

This page will be where Story Circle Prompts and publications will reside. 



August e-circle prompt   (08/09/08)


I always enjoyed writing through-out school, and got very good grades for my writing.  Now I realize that it may have been probably more because I wrote what teachers wanted rather than I was a very good writer.  So much depends on the person reading, whether it was a teacher in 3rd grade or now an editor screening for publication.  What strikes them as good that day?  What happened to them that day?  The likes and dislikes of the person evaluating determines what is picked or rated well.


That is why over recent years I have come to enjoy writing for myself—writing what I want to read.  If it pans out for others—fine.  And if not—fine, too. 


A writing group at the library was my first involvement actively sharing with others.  It went very well as the purpose of the facilitator was to encourage rather than to edit the heck out of the piece.   A group of 3 friends and myself then started to meet for a time, and that was fun.  With the encouragement of my partner, I started to send things out to publishers and had pieces accepted for various written and online magazines.  Interesting and fun, but very time consuming.


Getting involved with Story Circle Network also added to my sending stories for publishing, particularly after reading the great stories of others.  Memoir was my principal genre with a few fiction pieces thrown in here and there. 


Then I came across the Artella online site, the Soul Collage book and the Kaleideosoul online site.  Words and art—what a bonus!  I loved the combination since the words were where most of my energy went but I love color even if I have never pursued art much.  Dad was an artist and allowed me to use many of his art supplies, but perfection was the focus.  Nothing less than perfection, so I stopped after the coloring with crayons stage and some doodling and making cutouts.  But I see the world in pictures and color, so the unsatisfied urge was always there—hidden and waiting for a opportunity.  Collage gave me that chance to use the pictures of others and recombine them to make my own story, and then to reveal to me things I hadn’t realized when I put it all together.  A scanner further allowed me to play with my collages.  Then I added my own drawings to collages.


The beginning of this year (2008) I happened upon Soul Food Café, an online group founded by Heather Blakey promoting daily writing, recombining fantasy and words and art in an incredible mix of food for the soul—for my soul at least.  I have been writing and branching out with my art, combining it all, technically learning how to make a creative blog (https://healinghaven.wordpress.com) and adding to it in a manner that satisfies me.  I have very slowly been sharing its existence with others since it is so rewarding, just the way it is, for me.  I much prefer it to writing to send out to see if anyone else likes it.  I like it and enjoy it and have expanded my writing and art greatly.  Sending things to be published was fun, but too much time went into the logistics of having someone else appreciate what you have done rather than appreciating your own creative process and the creation itself. 


Now I write a mix of fantasy fiction and memoir, with the freedom to say things since no one else knows what is fiction and what is memoir.  Combining the two has given me a greater freedom to express myself and who I really am.  Yet I am grateful for all the avenues that got me to this point.





(added here 06/29/08)


Originally, I started writing to uncover what lay buried in the mud within me.  As a child, there were things I could write about that I wouldn’t dare say out loud, things needing to be brought out into the open so as not to fester deep inside me, developing into a volcano.  My diary was my best friend for many years.  I would write as I huddled in my cubbyhole in the attic eaves, a place designed for storage but used as a private space for me.  Flashlight in hand, a book to read and a diary to write in—all comprised my comfort area.  Perhaps, sometimes, I would be lucky enough to have an Army-green can of cinnamon swirled pound cake, rations left over from World War II that my father acquired years later. Reading, writing, eating—all the comforts for a shy young girl needing an outlet for her emotions and a safe haven. 


One day, in the eighth grade, the assignment was to write about a hobby we enjoyed and how we became involved in that hobby.  I wrote all about being in my grandparents’ very old, rambling house, with the rickety staircase going up into the musty attic.  On one rainy day I was continuing my exploration of the house.  While rummaging in the attic, I discovered a collection of coins in an old, tea-colored and stained box, tucked away in a hidden nook.  When I brought them downstairs and questioned my grandfather, I found out the assorted coins belonged to his grandfather.  My grandfather added a few more when he found them as a boy, but then the collection was once again hidden away.  We looked at the coin collection together and, as he told me about the individual coins, I became interested not only in the history revealed about the coins themselves but also about the history of my ancestors.  So I continued collecting coins and relished the feeling of being part of a long line of people who engaged in this hobby. 


I finished writing just as the teacher called for the papers to be handed in.  I felt good about what I had written. 


However, I couldn’t sleep at all that night.  I tossed and turned so much I gave myself a headache.  I agonized.  How terrible!  How could I have done that?  Thoughts raced through my head and collided with each other, creating pain in my head.  What is wrong with me?   None of what I wrote was true.  I made up the whole story about collecting coins, and I had no idea why I did.  I didn’t remember reading something similar in any of the many books I read.  How could I have written such a lie?  Why did I?  By the next morning I was a wreck and my stomach was in knots.  I couldn’t eat breakfast and dreaded going to school yet I also couldn’t wait to get to school to admit to the English teacher it was all a lie.  With many false starts and gulps, sweaty hands and a flushed face, I finally told her.  None of what I had written was true.  I was sure I would at least wind up with a detention and my parents would be told. 


Much to my surprise, my usually extremely strict and exacting English teacher said it was perfectly all right.  She read the stories and found mine to be well-written so I received an ‘A.’ The fact I lied made no difference—it was the use of grammar and the way the story was told that was important.  She said the story was a far more interesting way to start a hobby than the other students’ stories were.  And she appreciated why I felt I had to tell her the truth.


Since then, the many kernels of writing excitement have popped open to reveal a poem, a memoir, a story, a book.  As I delve into memoir writing, I still agonize over trying to dig out the truth rather than use a fabrication.  I read of getting to the emotional truth rather than necessarily the factual truth.  Does it really matter if the curtains were white or yellow that day 50 years ago or is the important memory the feel and smell of the starched curtain (white or yellow) to remind you of your Grandmother’s living room?  William Zinsser speaks of “inventing the truth,” of acknowledging we write of the truth as we know it, not necessarily as anyone else knows it.   Bill Roorbach says, “The reader also comes expecting that the writer is operating in good faith, that is, doing her best to get the facts right.”  And, of course, the recent controversy about James Frey’s work continues. 


Over the years, writing has become a connector, a healer, a transmission, a memory organizer, a revealer, a storyteller.  Writing allows for patterns to be discovered, for healing threads to be woven into a wondrous tapestry with loose ends reconnected, for stories and ideas to be passed on to future generations, for the awareness of not only who, what, when and where but also why and how and what were the feelings and the lessons learned.  Writing has revealed preciously hidden meanings and patterns in a tapestry much richer that I could ever imagine.


I have written enough now to realize I am the pot of gold buried at the end of the rainbow, with each memoir or story or poem an antique gold coin, worth more in the present because it is based on an experience from the past.  Added together, these gold pieces provide a treasure for my future as well as for those of my children, grandchildren and others.  If I hadn’t dug up these memories and experiences, I would have lost them forever.  They may be covered with the remains of dirt, and some may be a little discolored and faded, but the glint of gold still peeks through.  After a little polishing and cleaning up, these antique gold coins will be worth a fortune.

              – published in Story Circle Journal – 2007 –



The Beach


            I created a microcosm of the beach because of my love of the ocean shore macrocosm.  I lined the bottom of a 4-by-4 by 2-inch clear plastic lidded-box with sea-blue velvet material.  In one back corner, I placed a small blue ocean-scented candle to prop up a large sand dollar discovered on a San Diego beach when my son was married there at sunset in 1996, complete with musical ocean waves and a seabird choir.

            A few pieces of coral, jagged edges smoothed from my touch since acquired in Panama in 1961, reside near the long-pointed shell added two years ago from a California beach.  A smooth black rock with narrow white lines from Tintagel on England’s Atlantic shore, a small purple and white rock from the Arabian Sea beach at Bombay, India, a maroon rock from an English Channel beach, shells from the Atlantic Jones Beach, New York where I grew up, and a tiny shell from the Gulf Coast Florida beach all flow together to form my microcosm of where the ocean and the beaches of the world mingle. 

A tiny carved purple-stone turtle basks on a shell, representing turtles befriended over the years, from painted Red-Ear Sliders of childhood to recent box turtles.  Two small seahorses nestle among the treasures, reminding me of the three-inch dried seahorse found at Jones Beach when I was engaged in 1960, and of visiting the San Diego Aquarium with my infant granddaughter in 2004.

            Sprinkled over all is sand collected from many beaches.  The grains of sand flow together, just as all of my memories and experiences of beaches flow together in a collage of love: each distinct yet part of the whole.

            Two crystals from Arkansas remind me of the beauty which comes from beneath the earth, far from any beaches now.  That even here, when life feels confined to an office in Arkansas, far from any beach, I can lift the lid, inhale the scent of ocean, salt and sand; my imagination provide a magic carpet ride to the beach. 

                  – published in Story Circle Journal –




It was a great gardening summer with just the right amounts of heat and rain.  Our double-dug, French-Intensive raised beds were producing abundantly.  I was also sweating abundantly as I canned dozens of quarts of long-simmered tomato sauce, quarts of dill pickles and bread-and-butter pickles, pints of relish, quarts of peaches, pints of various jellies.  All went onto my groaning shelves, much better than “money in the bank.”

It was steaming hot as I picked and blanched bushels of beans and corn to freeze along with freezer-strawberry jam, quarts of blueberries, vegetable soup, zucchini parmesan casseroles, frozen tomato juice to make into tomato sauce in the cooler fall weather.  The hard work was worth it as “the harvest” cornucopia was overflowing. 

What satisfaction to raise the lid of the large freezer chest in the workshop and see all the fruits and veggies.  Nothing enhances a Thanksgiving meal more than the fragrance of fresh green beans wafting through the house as they are being prepared.  Or peach jam on toast in January when icy blasts coat the trees.

In October, my husband was busy outside in the workshop as I canned.  The following day I concentrated on more freezing.  Hours later, I was ready to deposit my precious cargo in the freezer.

As I opened the door to the workshop, I was assailed by a horrible smell.  Did an animal get in and die?  I couldn’t see anything.  I raised the freezer lid, and was horrified.  Everything was in various stages of defrosting, floating in a murky sea.

My husband had disconnected the freezer to use another tool, and then forgot to re-plug the freezer.  Our harvest of fresh fruit and veggies had turned to a harvest of garbage.  More work as everything needed to be set up for composting, and the liquid goo needed to be hand-dipped out.

We did not receive the benefits of the harvest that summer – the good earth received the benefits in the form of compost and extra liquid.  Perhaps next year we would enjoy the harvest.


– published in Story Circle Journal –


  1. Hello Thalia,

    I read your first post and then continued on to the “gold coins”. You’ve really shared the secret joy of writing in both. It’s a shame so many people are afraid the only way their writing has worth is through publication. I love Soul Food and Heather’s marvelous prompts, but I also love to write “long” and have one finished manuscript and two others started. It’s extremely unlikely any of them will be published but, my ultimate goal is to enjoy the writing process and finish them to my satisfaction. I hope your post is read by many who feel themselves a failure. There’s a lot to be said for “Keep your day job” while you follow your heart in writing.

    Comment by porchsitter — September 2, 2008 @ 8:21 am |Reply

  2. What a rich and insightful post Thalia. Your sharing has a ripple effect and will, in turn, influence the writing of others.

    Comment by Heather Blakey — September 2, 2008 @ 4:32 pm |Reply

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