I’ve used Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments a couple of times on this blog so I was overjoyed to discover that Drunken Boat is seeking submissions for a Bernadette Mayer Folio!  Sooo for the rest of the week I’m going to try to do one of her experiments every day. Here we go:

Write what is secret. Then write what is shared. Experiment with writing each in two different ways: veiled language, direct language.  (My own take on this would be to write in opposites. Write what is secret in direct language and write what is public in veiled language. Hence, the picture of a toothbrush being the exact opposite of what it should be.)

Do today’s experiment, do it well, and then submit it to Drunken Boat! More of Bernadette Mayer’s experiments can be found here.

And for further inspiration, this is one of my favorite passages from her book length poem, “Midwinter’s Day”.

“I’ve a wistful desire to stay outside

It’s not really cold,

And roll with the babies in the snow ’til I get older

Maybe we could be outside all the time like sex and lists

Of music to hear to remember to laugh at whatever’s forgotten

Doesn’t have to be gone out again for

Staying in

And sex is memory’s intensity

The year’s least day

Lost in the house of love’s safe locks,

Movements chance perfidy.


Artifice and More Maps

April 2, 2011


Artifice Magazine has a really cool “wish list” of things they’re looking for in submissions. The items on it serve as great exercises. Two of my favorites, (pretty much because they have to do with my last post/have to do with everything I’ve been thinking about this week) are:

  • A narrative in the form of a maze
  • A maze in the form of a narrative

Write that map. Go get published.

Here to There

March 30, 2011

Write about a place as if you are drawing a map of it with your words. Think about the position of places in terms of everything in your description. Where does that road begin and end? How does the position of your words reflect the content of the landscape? How does what happened in that place reflect the map of it?

The picture I found for this post makes me think about mapping characters. While I’m writing I’m going to think about where these people begin and end, not in terms of time or events, but with place.

More memories

March 29, 2011

When my father was a child he couldn’t understand how a camera could capture a person. He thought that every time someone took his picture he had to scrunch his body up really tiny so that he could fit inside of the tiny camera. This is him in action. Funny that he grew up to become a photographer, hm?

When photographer Larry Sultan’s father was forced to retire early from his job as a corporate executive, Sultan wanted to take a photograph that showed his father’s frustration and powerlessness in retirement. But, in fact, Sultan told his father not to smile. The photograph was posed. Sultan’s father told him,  “Any time you show that picture, tell people that that’s not me sitting on the bed looking all dressed up and nowhere to go, depressed. That’s you sitting on the bed, and I am happy to help you with the project, but let’s get things straight here.'”


Write about a time when you felt like you were a character in someone elses story. This could be based on a photo of you that tells a story using your image or someone talking about you. It could be over hearing someone talk about you, for example. Think about how their story compares to your own memory.

Wakey Wakey!

March 28, 2011

I missed you, Write Right Now! Last week I gave a presentation in one of my classes about Photography, Memory and Grief, and I ended it with an exercise.I gave a slide presentation of my father’s photographs and I figured I should share it here. As many of you know, my father is a professional photographer/photojournalist and he took pictures of my family almost every day of our lives. I used to resent him for this, in a way, thinking that he was exploiting us, using our private lives for his art. A lot of his pictures simply come off as sweet family photos that aren’t much different than the one’s you’d find in a normal family album, but others are clearly making statements outside of documenting family. Take this photograph of me  as a newborn, for example:

Then, when my mother  became ill, he, naturally, did not put down the camera.

When my mother passed away, and I began to write about her, I worried that my memories of her and of my own life, were only memories of photographs, memories that were only copies of memories. Later, I realized that all memories are copies, somehow. There is really no “pure” memory. As soon as we turn reality into a narrative, it’s already a copy, just like a photograph. I began to feel grateful for these images. All memories are acts of creation, of reassembling something. Photographs of my mother ruined the “pure” or “real” memory no more than a dress she used to wear or a song that reminded me of her.

Try to think about a memory that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or something you’ve written about before. Write about an object that reminds you of it. Think about how the object is a loyal representative of the thing or person or event you were remembering. How is it a symbol for your real, pure memory or how does it betray your memory? Try to write about it in a way you’ve never thought of it, as if it were unfamiliar or from someone elses perspective.

If you’d like to see more of my father’s photographs: http://www.davidhealeyphotography.com/

September 11, 2010

“There is what is drunk in the mornings, and for a long while that was beer. In Cannery Row a character who one could tell was a connoisseur professes that “there’s nothing like that first taste of beer.” But I have often needed, at the moment of waking, Russian vodka. There is what is drunk with meals, and in the afternoons that stretch between them. There is wine some nights, along with spirits, and after that beer is pleasant again — for then beer makes one thirsty. There is what is drunk at the end of the night, at the moment when the day begins anew. It is understood that all this has left me very little time for writing, and that is exactly as it should be: writing should remain a rare thing, since one must have drunk for a long time before finding excellence.”

– Guy Debord


August 20, 2010

Around one in two million lobsters are blue.

Do some research on your favorite color.  Find a fun fact or discover something about it you never knew. Then, write a story that’s drenched in your color.

For more inspiration: