Flex Your Writing Muscles - Childhood Memories (Penny Rader)


Since we've been discussing the impact our childhood might or might not have had on our writing, I thought it could be fun to use writing prompts to delve into our childhoods.  Might give us great fodder for stories.  I hope you'll join in.  Feel free to share.

Free Creative Writing Prompts: Childhood  (Bryan Cohen)

  • How did the following things affect you during your childhood: music, books, the weather, money, love. You can combine them all into one story or do separate entries on each.
  • Write a poem about [y]our earliest childhood memory.
  • You have been given the opportunity to go backwards. You can pick an age and start over again from that age. Do you pick one or not? What age would you go to? Describe your first week with your "old person" memories in your younger body.

How to Write about Your Childhood — Autobiographical Writing (John Hewitt)

"Autobiographical Writing is an excellent way to work on your descriptive skills. When you describe items or memories from your past, you are able to provide details that are often lacking in more purely imaginative exercises. With autobiographical writing you learn how to describe what was rather than what isn’t."

Here a few examples of prompts given by John:

  • What was family life like as a child? How did you feel you fit into your family?
  • Write about your best friend as a child and the experiences you had together. What has happened to that friendship since childhood?
  • Describe your nemesis growing up. Who made your life miserable and what did they do to make it so rough?
  • What was the biggest trouble you got into as a child? Describe what you did or didn’t do to deserve what happened to you.

Reawaken Your Creativity By Revisiting Your Childhood Pleasures (Aileen McCabe-Maucher)

  • This week, honor the small child within yourself by revisiting the activities that brought you the most pleasure as a child. In your journal, make a list of all of the activities that you delighted in when you were a youngster. Think of the things that you used to do that made you lose track of time.
  • This week, spend at least thirty minutes doing the activity that brought you the most pleasure in your childhood. Give yourself permission to be silly and spontaneous.

What do you remember from your childhood? (Jo Middleton)

"I’ve always thought of myself as a person with a fairly poor long-term memory, but one exercise we did on my recent Arvon course made me realise that there are actually a lot of interesting sounds, sights and smells buried in the murky depths of my brain, if only I can dig around enough and find them under the layers of daily life."


"... exercise was based on an extract of a book called I Remember by Joe Brainard. We were asked to close our eyes and imagine being ten. We then wrote down everything we could remember about how being ten tasted, how it smelt, how it sounded and how it felt. It was amazing how easily one memory triggered another, and before long we were all reciting the most amazingly evocative childhood memories. You should give it a go, see what you come up with."

Writing Triggers for Family Memories (Virginia Allain)

Virginia provides "a fresh memory prompt or writing trigger each week here. Use it to prod your memory, then write down what you discover. Your memory writing may be just a paragraph or it could be five or six pages. As you find the memories flowing again, take advantage and get it into written form. ... You don't have to write about every aspect suggested. Choose a part that interests or inspires you and start writing the memories from your childhood."

Here’s one of her triggers:

Remember Something Precious to You

Think back to some object that was important or precious to you as a child. Describe it. Do you still have it or was it lost or broken or given away? Tell why you considered it special. Who gave it to you or how did you get it? Where did you keep it?

This could be something simple like a feather you found or something valuable like a ring given to you by your grandmother. Think back to something you treasured.



What do you think?  Care to share a memory or fictionalize a memory?  Do you have any prompts or exercises to creatively mine your memories?

Events that kicked my writing bum (Melissa Robbins)

Merry Christmas Eve to you all!

I've been a writer since childhood, but when this month's topic came up, four events stuck out in my mind. In college, I took three English classes. My first two teachers hated my work. I learned the concept of subjectiveness early on and the fact that I'm not a non-fiction writer. Although my third English teacher didn't like my writing either, he called me into his office and said I should try this, this, and this. For the life of me, I can't remember what he said or even his name, but the fact that my teacher took the time to help me did wonders for my passion to write.

Fast forward to almost a decade later. My son, Duncan was born with heart defects and remained in the NICU for five weeks. With a new baby and a two year old, writing was put on the back burner, but now I had plenty of time to write. After spending a vacation in Scotland the year before, a story and characters started forming. While my mom watched Emma in the afternoons, I sat in Duncan's hospital room and wrote about a WAAF in WW2. Her background and name are different than the Wren in my stories today, but Jack, my cheeky fighter pilot, never changed his ways, much to the delight of the rest of us.

A couple of years later, my writing had stalled again. My story was going nowhere and I gave up on it. Not my characters, though. Finding the time to write seemed impossible. Then one day after starting a new plot with the same characters, I discovered Fran, a fellow Irish dancer was also a writer. I hadn't found anyone to share my story with that I wasn't related or married to before. I was thrilled. We exchanged first chapters and Fran gave me that kick in the pants I needed to start writing again.

I can't remember how long after that that my computer died and I lost everything I wrote. I know. I learned my lesson. As Fran can attest to, the loss was probably a blessing in disguise. My story was in third person, but since I had to start all over again, I tried first person and found my voice.

My fourth event, fifth if you count the computer crashing, was when I joined Sisters in Crime and WARA. I decided that year I wanted to be a serious writer. I finished that story I spent years working on. Writing is a pretty solitary life. The critiques and encouragement I receive from fellow writers help me immensely both with my writing and in life in general.

Childhood + ? = Writing Career (Penny Rader)

My brain froze when I saw the topic for this month's blog.  I'm not one of those writers who has written since childhood...except for a couple failed attempts to keep a journal (which I stopped after someone read it and repeated the info in front of me).

For weeks now I've been trying to decide what could've possibly happened during my growing-up years that molded me as a writer.  I considered accidentally-on-purpose forgetting to write my post, but then I came up with two things:

My love of reading.  When Sister Mary Renee told my first-grade self I was going to learn to read, well, panic surged. I thought she was going to give me a huge, thick red book and expect me to know what all those squiggles meant.  Once I learned what they meant I was happily hooked and I never stopped reading...which many moons later led to writing.

Playing.  When I was a kid (way back in the Dark Ages) we didn't have cable TV or computers or gaming systems.  We played outside.  A lot.  And used our imagination.One of my favorite things to do was play on the swing set and pretend I was being carried away by a bad guy (though what the 'bad guy' might actually do never occurred to me) and was then rescued by one of the current hotties of the day.

I know, not very heroine-like, waiting to be rescued, but as a kid who was bullied I needed to pretend that Bobby Sherman or Michael Landon rushed to protect me, to save me.


Did a specific event during your childhood inspire you to become a writer?

    A Nest of Songbirds

    While we look back on what inspires us, I wanted to take a moment to include the members of WARA.

    For me, members of WARA are like songbirds. Each has a different song to sing, but together they are a symphony of support, encouragement, and most of all actually wish each of us well. Do you know how rare that really is? I'm not saying that jealousy doesn't burn my buttons, but it is a good kind. The kind that says I get to talk to genius because I am a part of our group. I get to mine their brains for knowledge. I get to ask questions and because of who they are as people, their kindness overflows and I am bathed in truth.

    Truth has many facets, like the faces of WARA. Each with their own tale of work, worth, and wisdom. Each voice raised, sometimes in dissent, but often in assent, is a part of the whole. Without the occasional dissent, there is no truth.

    There is an incredible volume of talent and kindness in all of WARA members.

    WARA is exactly what I need to inspire me forward. They always have been. As writers they seem to understand exactly when my writerly brain needs a new battery. Sometimes I am pitiful. A helping arm comes around my shoulders via e-mail or phone. Sometimes I run forward full tilt, full of so much enthusiasm that I have been advised to consider toning it down a bit. The writing world isn't one to conquer, but to enchant. When I try to enchant and miss. I'm told not to worry, but to try again.

    Try thinking a different way.

    But always try again.

    Always I listen to our nest of songbirds.

    How lucky I am to be a part, however minor, of such a talented group.

    Thank you.

    The Gift of My Dad

    I wasn't sure what to write in response to this month's topic: What one event in your childhood had the greatest affect on your writing career? Then I read all of the other great posts, most talking about memories of their fathers or family and their support.

    There wasn't "one event" that affected me and led to my writing career. But there was a man. I was blessed with the gift of being the daughter of Jack Linus Tolliver. He was interested in anything and everything. And seeing the "what ifs" about so many things in turn allowed me to see them as well.

    He was never afraid to try something that most people would think a bit odd...okay, borderline nuts. One of my favorite memories comes from the time when he was focused on the "magical" abilities of pyramids. He made a small pyramid to put his razor blades under so they would re-sharpen themselves. Bizarrely, they actually did. Then he made a pyramid big enough to set on his head like a hat, this was supposed to make him smarter (or something, I can't remember the outcome he actually wanted). He was always smart to me, so I don't know if that changed at all. But the picture of him wearing the hat is a family favorite.

    My imagination runs wild at times and always has. From the childhood days of covering a table or a group of chairs with a blanket, then sitting underneath it and being in a world of my own making. To wearing a ruffly slip over my head, so that I could become a beautiful young woman with long hair. To spending time on my back, staring up at the ceiling, and imagining a whole different setting to the world around me.

    Those childhood experiences have only allowed my imagination to continue running along the "what ifs." After all I have published 41 novels and novellas and 6 anthologies. I've created all kinds of settings and more characters than I can even remember. And, most imaginatively, I've created a romantic/daring cow (Blossom) with a bullfriend (Ferdinand).

    Thanks for sharing your gift of a wild imagination, Dad. Your memory will stay with me always.

    Nope, Nada, Nothing....

    Writing? Childhood event? Nope. Nada. Nothing. There was nothing in my childhood as any kind of event that precipitated a writer such as me. Then I realized. Maybe.

    Would reading the science fiction section in it's entirety when I was about fifteen fit the bill? Because all of that futuristic reading, as well as other novels had me thinking. It was obvious to me that we needed to find a way to limit human population before we turned the planet into a giant feedlot, like we have for cattle. But who do we trust the decisions to? Hitler had a final solution and no one trusts him anymore. No kidding. But all that shows is that man has his own agenda at who is more fit to procreate than others. Fortunately for man, mother nature and luck has been in charge of who survives and who does not for most of our human history. They need to stay in charge.

    Since I'm scientific by nature, and influenced by the power of love, I found a solution and wondered how it could ever be implemented.

    Only a handful of years ago, it became a story. Or rather the result of my internal ruminations became a story. The Proving Zone: Tory's Story. And then another, her brother's story--In the Zone: Pitin's Problem.

    What are these stories about? How to survive the Proving Zone where you have to walk a thousand miles and survive before you're allowed to have children. You also have to survive your preconceived ideas of love, other people, your own abilities as well as primitive conditions. Each story has a happy, satisfying ending. Why? Because the real world can kick you in the head enough. Everyone deserves their stories to work out--we call that hope in action. We ought to be able to rely on that in our fiction.

    Romance means hope. The world is a better place for it.

    Thank You, Daddy

    It wasn't an event that affected my future and what has become my writing career.  It was a person.

    My dad was one of the wisest and kindest people I've ever known, in spite of having only a 7th grade education.  When he was ten years old (in 1920), his father died, and he stepped up to help his mother and younger brother by working odd jobs.  Over a lifetime his work involved selling magazines door to door, as an usher at the Orpheum Theater (where he met and obtained autographs from many famous people), as a soda jerk, and other jobs.  Later on he worked at Fox-Vliet Drug Company and at Boeing Aircraft, where he was a supervisor in the purchasing department and retired after almost 25 years.  Not bad for a man who never attended high school, much less college!  And throughout working all those jobs, he read.

    While on vacations that took us through 48 states, my souvenirs were always books, usually Little Golden Books.  I even have a book we bought in Havana, Cuba, when I was three.  Before I was able to make out the letters and words, my dad would read to me.  But even that wasn't always enough, and I'd read them by the light of my nightlight. It's no wonder I wore glasses by the time I was six!

    National Geographic Magazine was a favorite source of reading to my dad.  He liked to keep up with what was going on in the world...and in space.  Being a part of Boeing meant being a part of building rockets to the moon, and his interest turned to the stars.  The wonderful thing was that he never pushed the knowledge reading gave him on anyone, but if asked, he always had an educated answer.  He never limited his interests or his reading to one or two things, and he continued to read and learn until his death at the age of 76 in 1987.

    There's no way I could ever be able to thank my dad for the gift of reading he gave me.  If it hadn't been for all the time he spent reading to me and the quiet encouragement he always gave, I wouldn't be here sharing this today.  He was gone before I began to write seriously.  But I know that he's watching over me, smiling and proud.  Thank you, Daddy, for the gift of reading, because without it, I never would have written.

    Cataclysmic Event Led to Writing? No! by J Vincent

    “What one event in your childhood had the greatest effect on your writing career?” is this month’s topic. If it had been cataclysmic I’m certain I would have remembered it. Unfortunately it was not. After much consideration I’ve come up with one thing.
    It’s not really an event; I’m not even certain it happened as I think it did.

    But there came a day in my in my childhood when one of my younger brothers or sister asked me to tell them a story. I don’t recall if it was to make up a tale about the clouds which I know became a favorite of theirs. Or was I asked to make up a saga about the stars! Perhaps they asked for an adventure using the articles and maps found in the Reader’s Digest.

    We had chicken houses and a tool garage north of our house. A single lane size track circled these and connected to the road. Across the road was a milk barn, a sheds for the cattle and huge hay and equipment storage shed. There were wonderful maps to be found in the Reader’s Digest about ancient Egypt for example. Various buildings around the farm would become Thebes, Giza, or Alexandria. The Red Flyer wagon mom used to pull the laundry baskets to the wash line so she could hang up the laundry became our papyrus boats or a dahabeya, a luxury pleasure boat for the Nile. The calves in the calf pen were camels. A side benefit to this was that we knew any country we “explored” better than any of the kids we knew.

    So I was asked to tell stories. I found I enjoyed doing so. I still do. Merry Christmas!


    Unlike Miss Pat, I wasn’t raised on a farm with a lot of animals. My entertainment came from my older sister (not the least bit animal-like) and a brain that operated like a runaway train. Back then, I drove my parents and my sister crazy with my colorful imagination and nonstop energy. Probably still do, but they’ve gotten used to me by now. I hope.

    Anyway, there were two events in my childhood that fed my writing dream. Both were followed with huge doses of encouragement that I gathered up close to my heart for safekeeping. You see, as aspiring novelists, we hold our dreams together with these threads of encouragement.

    I must have been about eight or nine when I wrote this silly poem about our toilet. This is where the crazy part sneaks into the picture. My folks thought it was so good, so creative and entertaining, they scotch-taped it to the shiny tile above the roll of two-ply Charmin. You couldn’t help but see it when you finished your business. I was so proud. For the first time in my life, I felt like a real writer. No one bothered to tell us how weird it was or how their second born daughter might need special care some day. Seriously, what kind of child writes about their bathroom? I’ll bet my dear mom still has it saved it in her scrapbook. Now, that’s pride.

    The other memory comes from this story I wrote a few years later about this young family who is waiting dinner on a loved one when they get a call from the police. You see, the roads were icy. And there was an accident and their beloved is missing. The family, of course, is distraught beyond words. They fear the worst. Then the dearly deceased man turns into an angel, says his goodbyes through a frost covered window and goes to heaven. The end. Pretty morbid stuff for a child—I know. But, the point of this is, my folks had me read it to everyone who stepped foot in our home. I remember handling those pages of notebook paper so much they started to get thin around the edges. Again, the pride my family felt in me was enough to keep me going. And it still is. I only wish my dad could have lived long enough to see my first novel on the shelves when it does happen.



    What one event in your childhood had the greatest affect on your writing career

    Pat Davids here.

    This is the topic for December. First and foremost, I had a great childhood. I lived on a farm. I was the only girl with four brothers. Okay, that part wasn't so great but I learned not to throw a softball like girl. We had chickens, as you can see, but best of all, I had my own horses. Three of them, Tammy, Trixie and Shawnee. I had great friends in school and I learned that books could take me anywhere.

    I think the single event that had the most influence in all of my life, not just my writing, had nothing to do with books. It had to do with horses. My father had agreed to bring the neighbor's stud to our farm to breed to my first mare, Trixie. Since we didn't have a horse trailer and it was only a few miles away, we just drove over. I had learned to ride without a saddle and by that time I thought I was skilled at staying on the back of any horse. My big failure was being unable to stand on the back of a galloping horse. I was twelve and it was heartbreaking.

    When we arrived at our neighbors to collect the stallion, I stood beside my dad holding a bridle while he did the talking. The neighbor frowned as he looked down at me. He asked my dad, "Who is going to ride this horse to your place?"

    Dad pointed at me. "She is."

    The man leaned close. "Clarence, I wouldn't let a little girl like her on this stallion. He's wild and he has a bad temper."

    My dad's eyebrows shot up. "If she can't ride him, I'm sure as hell not going to get on him!"

    Oh, I was so proud. My father thought I could handle a horse that he couldn't. From that moment on, I knew that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to because Dad believed in me. (Okay, I never learned to ride standing up, but it wasn't for lack of trying.)

    Our neighbor didn't have the same confidence in me. His eighteen-year-old son rode the horse to our place while we followed him. As soon as we got home, Dad looked at me and said, "You are not to ride this horse. He is dangerous."

    Yeah, right. I could do anything I set my mind to, remember? No way was I going to pass up the chance to ride a flashy stallion like him. The first time my parents left together, I caught the big pinto, climbed on his back and discovered that some horses have a terrible and uncomfortable gait. Riding him was like sitting on a jackhammer, plus, he seemed intent on biting me. No fun at all. I never rode him again. His colt, however, was an adorable brown and white pinto filly who grew up to have a much smoother gait than her papa.

    So, that is the event that shaped my writing life. I learned to believe I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish. And, I learned that sometimes, what I thought I wanted wasn't the best, after all. That made me flexible. If it doesn't work, don't beat a dead horse, just find another horse to ride.

    Riding stories anyone? What is your favorite or least favorite horse story, real or fiction?

    By the way, I want to wish my grandson a happy 18th birthday.