Skip to content

7/16 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

Last week’s prompt — “My mother’s house” — was tough, but I’m so glad we used it, because otherwise I never would have read or seen the memorable work that came in, including Kelly Warren‘s stunningly beautiful submission. She literally gave me goosebumps and moved me to tears. Kelly is this week’s winner — congratulations, Kelly! Your $10 gift certificate is en route. Simply due to its length, Kelly’s piece appears last, after the jump. New prompt is after the jump too — a comparatively accessible theme that hopefully translates to visual artists and jewelry designers, too, at least in colors 🙂

Cathy Coley writes: “My mother’s house included my father’s gardens, and his love of that was indelibly passed to me. My main creative endeavor may be writing, but the first I took seriously was photography, and some of those first photos were of his garden. These are of my gardens. I’m a bit rusty and haven’t really gotten into playing around with digital photos yet. I do miss a dark room.”

Cathy's garden

Cathy's garden 2

From Cathy Jennings:

i sit in my mother’s house.
i am small
eating beef stroganoff or spaghetti or fried eggs.
she smells nice.
she knits me hats and sweaters.
she sews me dresses.
she gives me paint and paper.
did she know where this would lead?
i sit in a different house.
i am grown.
i miss the beef stroganoff but i can make the spaghetti and fried eggs.
sometimes my son smells nice.
i am learning how to knit so i can make him hats and socks and sweaters.
i give him paint, paper and clay.
my son helps me reach back to her house
while standing in my own.
loving my son shows me how much i was loved.
does he know where this will lead?

From me (Miranda): I started with a haiku, but immediately realized that the concise format was just too spare for what I wanted to write. So I moved to an old favorite, the ultra-challenging (for me) Spenserian Sonnet. I love the riddle of syllable count, a specific rhyming order, and iambic pentameter.  It’s kind of like a really hard crossword puzzle!

My Mother’s House
The pitted, dusty road that curves uphill
runs past the fallen beaver dam and pond
to where a sandy driveway follows still
and opens to my mother’s house beyond.
Red clapboards show behind each ferny frond
where gangly pines cast shade and dappled light;
indoors a barking poodle dog in blond
protects his mistress dear with ready bite.
For her, a life of solitude is right
and long defines the company she keeps
the dog and art and blooms are heart’s delight;
a multitude of cats in hairy heaps.
The house is strong, but not as strong as she,
who shares her heart and self and days with me.

From Kelly Warren (more about Kelly here):

My Mother’s House

Scattered memories… scattered phrases… memories… questions… answers… gifts.

17045 N.W. 11th Avenue, 305-620-0367. It must have been the very first address I memorized because I still remember it. We moved in that house when I was in second grade, and though I remember Tyrone Ellis, the cute little blonde-headed boy from first grade, I really don’t remember much before then. Flashbacks come from pictures. But 10745 N.W. 11th Avenue. I remember that house.

I remember watching TV one day while my dad was in the shower and my mom was still at work. I was seven. Some strange man came in the front door and said, “Hey, Kel Belle. Where’s your dad?” “Um…in the shower….who are you?” “Oh, okay, well just tell him Bill came by.” And he took the Sears catalog from my mother’s house and left. I told my dad when he got out of the shower. He will forever be known to me as “The Robber.” My dad’s best friend.

I remember that turtle. Timmy and I found him in the vacant lot at the end of the street. Big old box turtle. We carried him home, and I immediately brought him in the house. Mom said I couldn’t possibly keep him in the house. But I did. She let me. For a little while anyway. I guess she knew I’d grow tired of hearing him scratch around in his box all night long. And I did. Timmy and I took him back to the vacant lot and left him right where we found him. Outside my mother’s house. That started the bringing-home-stray-animals habit I still have today.

I remember falling off that bus. Mortifying. Roger, my fourth grade sweetheart, was still on the bus. I was wearing my Brownie uniform and was carrying a big box of Girl Scout cookies. I stumbled right down the school bus stairs and landed in my driveway in front of my mother’s house, face first. Cookies scattered everywhere. My face flushed with embarrassment. I wonder where Roger is now.

I remember leaving my mother’s house at 17045 N.W. 11th Avenue. I was in fifth grade and we moved to St. Petersburg. Funny how that address doesn’t stick with me. The memories are there, but they’re clouded. Shadowed. Playing in the clay caves and stream at the end of the street with Vicky, stopping with Dad to get Icees at the corner 7-Eleven on the way home. Though they change here. And I don’t remember my mother’s house.

But I remember the fighting. It wasn’t often but it was loud. I remember Dad moving out, then a few months later moving back in. I burned my hand on the light bulb trying to take it out and put butter on it to soothe it. More fighting. Then I remember Mom picking me up from school in the middle of the school day. I was 12. There were suitcases in the car. My baby sister Kim was strapped in the back seat. We left. I never got to say goodbye to my friends.

1909 Wells Road, Apt. 212. I remember that address. That’s where we moved after we stayed at Nana’s house for a little while. My mother’s house. Without my father. It was small and cramped but the complex had a very big playground with lots of other kids. John Riccardi lived next door. We were in the same grade and would graduate high school and even go to college together. But he wasn’t my boyfriend. Just my first kiss. Mom met another John R. and married him.

347 Dillon Drive. My mother’s house. The house that Mom and John bought together. Ninth grade. Happier times. I remember Mom standing in my bedroom doorway listening to me sing along with Michael Jackson blaring in my headphones. I was dancing. I didn’t see her until she started laughing. We both laughed. I remember her laughter. Beautiful laughter.

My house, away from my mother’s house. I’m away at college when John calls me. Mom’s left him. They need me to come home. I’m angry at her. Nana’s angry at her. John’s crying. Who’s this other man? Granddaddy dies. Mom marries that other man. Very bad timing. I miss John.

Scattered memories. Coming faster now. Reliving.

My mother’s house is no longer mine now. She’s creating a new life with this new man. I’m still in her life, but I no longer live there. We have holidays there. I come to visit but I rarely stay the night. They’re married for seven years.

My house now. Mom calls me. He’s left her for someone else. I go to my mother’s house to sit with her and try to dry her tears. And listen. And try not to say I told you so. But Nana does. Nana says what comes around goes around. And I pray it doesn’t. I pray it doesn’t.

My house. A nurse calls me. Mom’s in the hospital. She’s tried to kill herself. I go. She’s in the psych ward. She’s lethargic, but I think she realizes she did a very stupid thing. My husband comes. Like he always does, he tries to make her laugh, asking her why she did such a stupid thing. She knows she did a stupid thing. She’ll get better now, right?

My mother’s house. 11 months later in a rental. It’s Christmas. She’s decorated to the nines. She’s getting better. She’s moving on with her life. She’s making plans to build a new life. She tells us about the house she’s thinking about building as we talk over Christmas dinner. She’s going to have a special room just for the babies I’m carrying in my womb.

A month later. I’m in my mother’s house. Mom’s not there. It’s very quiet. Benny’s with me but he’s fallen asleep. I’m thumbing through paperwork, my old elementary school report cards, with boxes piled around me. “Kelly’s very bright, but she’s a very social girl. She needs to learn to pay attention better.” Old baby teeth in my mother’s jewelry box. Card and letters I sent her from college. Kim’s high school Raiderette pictures. All scattered on the floor. The babies are no longer in my womb. I lost them four days after Christmas.

Back now. Two days after Christmas. My house. I’m in the bathroom when I hear a knock on the door and hushed voices. I come out to see my husband standing stone faced with a police officer and a chaplain. My mother has done it. She’s taken her own life. It’s December 27, 1999.

My mother’s daughter’s house, my house, December 27, 2002. The nurse calls me. I’m nervous. I’m scared. Kelly. Things look good. You’re pregnant again. Looks like twins again. On your day, Mom. Thank you. Thank you for giving me a good memory in your daughter’s house, in my house, on that day. A gift. I hope you finally have peace now in God’s house, watching my daughters, your granddaughters, grow up in their mother’s house.


This week’s prompt: “The Chinese restaurant”

Use the prompt however you like. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 22. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    wow, kelly, thanks for sharing your incredibly personal essay. it makes me think about how i’ve moved my sons around a bit, and more.

    funny how the usual visual art submission cathy and the usual poetry submission cathy swished identities this week! i love cathy’s poem, how stanzas echo, esp smells nice lines.

    miranda, your poem is visceral. i find when i try to write forms like sonnets, they get hokey – kudos from the free verse gal. love the company she keeps/ cats in hairy heaps!

    next week’s prompt has me thinking in red. i’m usually more of a blue-green-purple thinker!

    July 16, 2008
  2. Goodness gracious, thank you! All the submissions are wonderful, and I’m honored to be selected as this week’s winner. My piece took on a life of its own and poured out of me in less than 30 minutes; I appreciate your taking the time to read it. It was very cathartic for me.

    Beautiful prose and poetry, Cathy and Miranda. And your garden pictures make me wish I could turn my brown thumb green, Cathy. My husband has that gift, so I’m thankful at least one of us does.

    This is such a wonderful venue. Again, thank you for asking me to participate.

    July 16, 2008
  3. cathy jennings #

    this was a very fertile prompt! i have enjoyed everyone’s submissions.

    cathy, great shots and i know how that garden is a work of creativity that you really enjoy.

    miranda, i loved your poem.

    wow, kelly. i want to give you a hug. your essay is so full of memory and emotion.

    July 16, 2008
  4. oh my gosh, kelly …. you are a very powerful writer!

    July 21, 2008

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: