Exercises to help your students find inspiration for their work.

In the essay, “Writing Good Bad Poetry” (Poets & Writers Magazine, page 39), Mike Chasar describes the challenges of writing timely, news-inspired poetry. Choose a recent news story and write a poem about it. Be prepared to discuss the ease and difficulty of such an assignment as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the poem.

In “These United States” (page 10), Joe Woodward’s article about the publication of two literary anthologies, Woodward writes that “the contributors to State by State share both current facts and cultural history related to their state while also telling a personal story.” Try your hand at this: Write a story that weaves some current facts and cultural history about your home state with a personal incident from your life.

In “Censored Stories” (page 23), a report from the literary life of Myanmar, Stephen Morison Jr. writes, “Everybody is scared of the authorities, but to be a writer is to actively invite attention. The state censors must approve all printed matter….Writers who attempt to subvert the system and hide message in their work risk arrest.” Is there ever a form of self-censorship in your writing—topics, events or experiences that you avoid? Write a three-page essay or story about a personal experience that you have never fully explored or a secret you have never revealed.

In Morison’s essay, he interviews an author, Chit Oo Nyo, who describes how he writes—no schedule, no computer. “I write with my own hand on blank paper—I don’t want to confine my words even between two lines,” said Nyo. How do you write? Try to write a poem or a two-page sketch for a story using a method different from how you usually write. If you compose on a computer, try writing long-hand or vice versa. Or use Chit Oo Nyo’s method of writing on blank paper. Be prepared to discuss how the practice affected the product.

Professional Practice

Check out this issue’s “Deadlines” section (page 115). Target three listings for submissions, prepare your entries according to the guidelines for each, and send your entries.

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