quaranTEEN voices Writing Prompt: ‘Personal Narratives’
Special guest author Mariama Lockington joins us for the first quaranTEEN voices gathering of the fall! Mariama is a novelist, poet, educator, and former 826NYC Director of Education. Released in 2019, her debut middle grade novel For Black Girls Like Me — a coming-of-age tale about adoption, family, and music — has earned high praise. Her debut YA novel and next middle grade novel are both forthcoming. Mariama has called many places home, but currently resides in Kentucky.
Writing personal narrative or memoir can be a powerful way to excavate truth and build connection. It requires, however, that you face the page with courage and vulnerability, that you be willing to dig back through your memories— good and bad— and share your heart and life story with others. When most people think of a memoir or personal narrative, they often think of a book that’s written in prose, but personal narratives can take many forms: poems, graphic novels, or traditional prose. A wise teacher of mine once said: Let your story take whatever form it needs. Keeping this in mind, use the following prompts to create a personal narrative of your own— in whatever form is most inspiring to you.
Identify an object that brings you joy. For example, maybe it is a bike, favorite book or special blanket, etc. Now, think of a memory you have that includes this object and write/draw a snapshot of this memory, using as many details as you can.
· What is your object?
· How does your object provide adventure, bring your joy, or keep you safe?
· What do you remember seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling when you first came into contact with this object?
· Why is this object important to you?
· Do you still have the object?
· If you don’t still have it, what happened to it?
· If this object could speak to you, what would it say
· What do you want to say to your object?
Painting a picture of the environment and landscape can be a really powerful way to start to tell a story about yourself. For example, in the graphic novel linked above, the memoir begins with a journey to a cemetery to visit a family grave. What places in your life hold significance? Think about a time you embarked on some kind of journey: a road trip, a walk in the park, a train ride to a part of the city you’d never been to, a sleepover at a friends house, a visit to a museum, etc. Start your narrative by describing the physical landscape and identifying markers you remember, and then think about what sounds, smells, and feelings this journey brings up for you.
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