Talented Brevity authors from across our twenty-two year history offer useful prompts to start the flashbulbs popping in the creative writing classroom:

Instructions to Somebody You Love: A Prompt: Inspired by the writing of Brenda Miller, a prompt as simple as this: “Give directions or instructions to somebody you know, somebody you love, about something that’s important to you.” (Dinah Lenney)

Of Mermaids and Seaweed: Writing “Rusalki”: What results from the twin prompts of writing “your grubbiest experience” and describing “the textures of your childhood” (Eliza Fogel)

The Opposite of the Composite: How One Girl Became a Thousand: Research an unknown ancestor (or walk around a cemetery to find the name of stranger) and then integrate what you find into an essay exploring a wider cultural or historic experience. (Sonja Livingston)

Of Unexpected Juxtapositions and Writing “Valentine”: A prompt that encourages students to “keep an eye on their own peripheral images and involuntary memories” in order to write an associative essay. With a nod to the boxes of Joseph Cornell. (Alison Townsend)

On Overheard Conversations and “Afternoon Affair”: A lyric essay prompt asking students to record one overheard snippet of conversation each day for a week, “more if something catches the ear,” and then transform their fragments into an experimental flash. (Sally Ashton)

Words as Image: How “Thank You” Originated: A prompt to “write a letter that you can never send or will never send—to someone with whom you are not in touch, or who has passed… A brief essay in the form of a letter, a direct address, a wish.” (Sejal Shah)