Play With Your Words #85: More Fortune Cookie Writers’ Prompts

searchToday my husband and I had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, “China Faith.” If you live in Salem, Oregon, or visit Salem, Oregon, it’s the best! It’s located on North Lancaster.

As usual, when done (and the servings are so large I brought some home to take to work for lunch tomorrow) I eagerly waited for our bill and fortune cookies. Why? Because fortune cookies provide great writing prompts.

Here is mine for today: “An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!” (The exclamation point came with the fortune.) Hmmm. Do a smell a science fiction or fantasy story brewing here?

My husbands: “Be generous, and the favor will be returned within the week.” Again, oodles of story possibilities.

Try one of these out and enter your title and a short summary of your story in the comments. I’d love to see what these prompts inspire.


Play With Your Words Writing Prompt 82: Fortune Cookie Writing Prompts

Fortune Cookie Writing PromptsPlay With Your Words Writing Prompts

This afternoon, as usual on a Sunday after church, we went out to lunch. Today, it was Chinese food, and my husband did what he always does after eating Chinese food out–he cracked open his fortune cookie and handed his fortune to me. You see, we have both come to realize that fortune cookie fortunes make great writing prompts.

How to use them?

You can craft a story where the fortune predicted occurs to the main character. What does this character want? How could this fortune come true for her? How would it impact his life? How would it impact the lives of those around her?

You can “dream journal”– How could this fortune come true for you? How would it impact your life? How would it impact the lives of those around you?


Take a few minutes and list or web ideas.


Choose one idea from your list and write.

Writing fiction? Then write at least one scene showing the character before the fulfillment of the fortune, at the moment of fulfillment, and at least one of the impacts of that change.

Writing your dreams? Write how the fulfillment of the “fortune” would come about, its impact your life, and its impact the lives of those you care about.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners.

This Week’s Fortunes

Mine: “An unexpected windfall will be yours.”

My husband’s: “Your choices at the moment will be good ones. Trust yourself.”

SCBWI First Ever, Salem, Oregon Schmooze

friends w starLast week, writers and illustrators for children and teens from Salem, Oregon and the surrounding area met at the Salem Public Library for a first ever “SCBWI Schmooze.”

What, you may ask, is a “schmooze?”

It is a get-together for the purpose of learning, socializing, playing, or any mix of the three.

Oregon C0-Regional Adviser, Judi Gardner, and Oregon Schmooze Organizer, Ellen Bloeman joined us to share what SCBWI is and what both the international organization and state chapter have to offer. (SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and includes writers and illustrators for audiences just months old, all the way through their teens.)

We got a sneak preview of the upcoming Spring Conference, and the Fall retreat. We learned the state organization could help us get speakers to Salem to assist and inspire us in building our careers, instructing on topics anywhere from the writing craft, to making social media part of your professional persona.

Pat Knight agreed to be our point person for orchestrating future events.

For the second half of our time together, we had a prompt party. Everyone brought a writing prompt, some were written prompts and some were in the form of images. We randomly drew the prompts, one at a time, and all of us wrote for 5 minutes on the prompt then shared our results.

It was so fun to listen to the variety of styles and perspectives around the table. I was even able to use a couple of the prompts to develop ideas for scenes in a novel I am in the process of revising!

Pat’s prompt came from her experience as part of the Oregon Writing Project. We were instructed to take the first line of a poem as our starting point and write either prose or a poem in response. Pat supplied us with the first lines from several Jack Prelutsky poems.

With a tip of my hat to Mr. Prelutsky, here is what I wrote:

I wonder why Dad is so thoroughly mad.
I only wanted a drink.
I don’t know why Dad ‘s so thoroughly mad.
I couldn’t reach the sink.
I don’t understand why he huffs and puffs,
And blows steam from his nose.
The sink’s too high, so what choice had I?
I brought in the garden hose.

I enjoyed getting together with my fellow Salem-Keizer-Corvallis children’s writers and look forward to another fun event.

So Many Books, So Little Time

One thing is consistent in life and likewise with this blog—change. This month the big change in my life is I have finally landed a job I love. I am working three days a week teaching writing to GED students, and two days managing a middle school/high school library. I love both jobs and the variety they weave into my workweek.

However, my writing and blogging time are now greatly diminished. Like most otherwise employed writers, I squeeze in time to write before work, during lunch, and on the weekends.

Blogging time and reading time has been a little tougher to keep up with. This month I finished reading just one book. (No Mom, I’m not sick; there is no need to come over and take my temperature.) This was the result of a combination of forces—first a number of commitments on my calendar based on the assumption I would not be employed this month—including a one-day writing conference, a writing retreat, and a church women’s retreat. (Whew! It makes me tired just listing them.) All were great experiences, but the combination, along with my new job, left me exhausted. Therefore…I went to bed each night solely to sleep, and not, as is my habit, to read then sleep.

However, I can wholeheartedly recommend the one book I did finish reading—it was a revisit with an old friend: Elizabeth Goudge’s Gentian Hill. It is always interesting to come back to a novel you read long ago. There are several storylines in Gentian Hill, and the only one I had any recollection of was that of the young people. However, as a no-longer-so-young person myself, I was deeply drawn to the older characters and their equally significant roles in the novel. Read it if you can find it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

As November rolls in, my personal calendar is beginning to look a lot less tiring. However, to keep it manageable, I am revising my blog schedule.

As a writer, the “Play With Your Words” writing prompts are one of my favorite parts of the Literate Lives blog and will continue in their weekend-kick-off position, Friday.

Mondays will be the grab-bag day. Best Books of the Month, Wonderful Words, Teachers’ File Drawer, Websites to Check Out, Reading Response Exercises and random posts will appear here.

Lastly, I am deeply committed to the Greek and Latin Roots Spelling and Vocabulary Program. Therefore new root and word lists (every other week during the school year) and tips and strategies for helping students learn their roots will appear on Wednesdays of each week.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming month. And I can hardly wait to begin reading some of the many books that have been placed in my care. I love reading; I love writing; I love books. As writer, reader, writing teacher, and librarian, I am one happy lady.

Pessimism vs. Optimism: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #75


Read the following quote.

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.  ~Helen Keller

Get out a piece of paper. Think about what Keller said and jot down any ideas her quote inspires.

Consider the following questions (choose one or all to answer, it’s your choice):

  • Do you agree or disagree with Keller?
  • Are there some benefits to pessimism Keller neglected to mention?
  • What about optimism? What are its benefits and drawbacks?
  • Compare and Contrast pessimism and optimism.
  • Which way of looking at the world makes more sense to you? Do you already look at the world this way?
  • What changes would you need to make in your life in order to view the world in the way that seems best to you?


Choose the ideas that most inspire you from your notes. Arrange them in the order that makes the most sense for the thesis you wish to explore and write a mini-essay.

Revise and edit as needed.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment here on the blog. Compliment one another on the strengths of each essay. Consider:

  • How clearly did each of you state your ideas?
  • How specific are the words used.
  • How vivid are any images described. Is there a clear sense of purpose to each essay?

Try to sum up what you think is the main idea of each essay and ask its writer if you are correct.

I’d love to see samples of what you or your students have done. Please use the comment box to share and to discuss how the exercise worked for you.

Crazy Summer

This has been a crazy summer for my family and me. We are working through some major transitions in our lives, needing to spend much time in research, deal with accumulated things, and make new decisions.

The process feels like it has taken over my life. There is so much I need to do that has to wait while we deal with more important matters. It seems like there is always more work than there is time.

For this reason, I am planning to take Wednesdays off until Fall. Some weeks you may see a Wednesday post—when inspiration strikes and I can carve out a few minutes for you, my literate friends.

Do not fear, however. New writing prompts and reading reflections will continue be posted Mondays and Fridays. They provide good practice for skills our kids left behind in the classroom in June.

So, enjoy this season of freedom and cherish the time you and your family have this summer to read, write, and pursue literate lives.

Does it Matter “Where You Are?” Persuasive, Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #64


Consider the following quote:

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.”     ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

What do you think Holmes meant when he wrote this?

Do you agree with him or disagree?

Make a “T” chart labeling one side agree and the other disagree.


Jot down ideas supporting each viewpoint in the appropriate column.

Look over your notes and decide which position you want to take.

Highlight the key points you wish to use in your essay and number them in the order in which you wish to use them.



Write an essay explaining whether or not you agree or disagree with Holmes’ quote, and explain why. When finished read it over and edit or revise as necessary.


Read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment here on the blog. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each person’s arguments. As a group, brainstorm ways to make each person’s essay stronger.

The Measure of Wealth: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #63

“Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.”

I find that a pretty powerful quote, and wanting to attribute it properly did a web search to see who first said this. While I didn’t ever find a source for the quote beyond “Unknown” and “Anonymous,” it was interesting to encounter the variety of titles that had utilized these words: Lifestyles of the Rich and Idle, Obstacles to Living Life Fully: Possessions, Where is Your Value? and even the header of the agenda for the Hermosa Beach City Council meeting of May 2, 2012.


Think about this quote and the titles of the websites and articles that used it. Why do you think the writers of any of those articles found the quote appropriate to their subject?

  • What do you think about the quote?
  • Do you agree?
  • Disagree?


  • How do you measure your wealth?
  • What do you value?
  • Is there anything for which you would not take money?


Write an expository essay exploring one of your strands of thought. Remember to include an introduction and conclusion, book-ending a body that is rich with examples and detail.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment here. Compliment one another on the clarity of the writing. Consider:

  • Is the topic introduced in an interesting manner?
  • Does the body of the essay contain examples and descriptive detail?
  • Does the conclusion leave the reader feeling that this piece of writing is complete.

Enjoy one another’s variety of perspectives!

Preschool Literacy:


Gather paper and writing materials.

Ask your preschooler, “What is something you love?” The answer could be a person, a thing, or an activity. Follow up by asking him to describe it.


Write down everything she tells you.


When you are done, read back what he  said, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word. Find some clip art, pictures from magazines, or stickers to illustrate it, and post the writing where it can be shared with others.

Expository “Play With Your Words” Writing Prompt #62: What Feeds or Destroys Your Soul?

What feeds your soul? What sets your spirit free? What fills you with joy like an overflowing glass of lemonade?

What sucks the life out of you? What destroys your soul? What leaves you feeling like shriveled piece of seaweed overbaked on a sandy beach?


Make two lists. One answering the first set of questions, and one answering the second. Look over your list and choose a topic to write about.


Write an expository essay describing one thing that feeds or destroys your soul. Is it an activity, a situation, a person? What do you feel like in the grip of it? How can you minimize or maximize your encounters with it? What would your life be like without it?


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share as a comment. Compliment one another on the strengths/likes.

Preschool Literacy:


Sit down with your preschooler and ask him and her what she likes to do. Write down her answers in the form of a list. Read the list back to her, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word. Ask her what she would like to “write” about.


On a fresh piece of paper write down everything the child tells you about his favorite activity. When he runs out things to say, ask questions:

  • Who do you like to  do this with?
  • How do you feel when you are doing this?
  • How often would you like to do this?
  • For how long?…


When you are done, read back what he or she has said, again pointing to the words as you say them. Using crayons, stickers, clip-art or collage decorate this piece of “writing” and post it where family members can enjoy it.

Defend an Epigram: Persuasive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #60

I received the following epigram in the wrapping of a chocolate bar:

“Expect the best, and you may get it.”

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Prepare to write about it.


On a piece of scratch paper, draw a “t” chart. Label the top left section of the chart, “Agree,” and the top right, “Disagree.” Brainstorms the reasons you might agree or disagree with the epigram in the columns under the appropriate headings.

Now, look over what you have written and decide which perspective for which you would like to craft an argument.


Open your persuasive essay with an introductory paragraph that includes the epigram and your thesis (theory) describing in simple terms your agreement or disagreement with it.

In the body paragraphs of your essay use ideas from your “t” chart to support your point-of-view.

For an even stronger essay, state ideas from the other side of the “t” chart and demonstrate how they are not true.

When done, wrap it up with a snappy concluding paragraph that ties all your ideas together.

(If you are pressed for time, just write the introductory or concluding paragraphs and list the ideas you would use in the body of your essay to support your argument.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share it as a comment here on the blog. Compliment one another on the strengths of your arguments, the clarity of your examples, and the vividness of your descriptions. In the end, will any of you change someone in your group’s mind?