Original Stories, Photographs and Artwork by Molly Anderson-Childers

Guest Starring...

This page is a showcase of new work by guest contributors.  Interested in submitting a photo, essay, story or guest blog?  I'd love to hear from you. Please email your ideas to

What's on the menu? 

 Today's special is photography, with a side of writing by the brilliant and always-inspiring Cynthia Staples.  Just scroll down for a sample of her musings, and some lovely photos taken near the Charles River.  Can't get enough of that juicy stuff?  Visit her blog, Words and Images by Cynthia, for a heaping helping of inspiration.

Feather by the Charles River
Photograph by Cynthia Staples

Our newest fiction offering is a story by author Jessica Goody.  Jessica connected with me earlier this summer, to let me know that a story-starter  featured in my Creativity Portal article, From Sirens to Selkies: Mermaids as Muses, inspired her to write "The Story of a Selkie Wife."  I loved the tale, and thought you'd enjoy it too, so I decided to publish it here.  Hungry for more?  Visit her blog, Much Magic, for a further sampling of her work.

Here's the story-starter that got Jessica's pen moving...submitted here, for your inspiration!  Please see my articles at Creativity Portal for a continuous transfusion of muse-cells.

Once upon a time, but not so very long ago, a man was out walking by the river late at night with his dog. They came upon a strange scene-seven lovely women, dancing naked near the shore. The man was too shocked to speak or make a sound, but the dog began to bark. Quick as winking, the seven women dressed themselves in magical sealskin cloaks and were transformed into seals. They slipped into the water and swam away. The man could not believe his eyes, and vowed to return the next night, hoping to find the Selkies dancing beneath the moon…

This page features the amazing photographs of noted photographer, writer, and educator Hank Kellner.  He's crafted several essays to accompany his photos, and is currently working on a series of articles on photoelicitation- writing inspired by photography- for this site.  Exciting stuff!  The first one is already live, and he's promised nine more.  Please visit his blog, English Education, for a daily dose of inspiration!

I'm also pleased to offer an online mini-workshop in two parts, "Plunge Into Poetry," written by poet Penny MacPherson.  This is an excellent resource for teachers or parents who are homeschooling.  It's also an inspirational little pick-me-up for your Inner Poet.  You can see more of Ms. MacPherson's work online at Poetry Patch 416.

Along the Charles River

Written by Cynthia Staples

When I walk along the Charles River with camera in-hand, I never truly know what I am going to find or what will catch my attention. Though my walks tend to take me past the esteemed architecture of universities like Boston University, Harvard and MIT, it is nature that holds my gaze. In the past I have been stopped in my tracks by rosy clouds in the sky, leafy silhouettes on the ground, and swirling eddies in the river as speed boats zip by. My favorite times to explore are early morning and late evening because there is just something to the angle of light settling upon the earth at those times of day. It illuminates in a way that even the most mundane of objects glows magically. This phenomenon especially holds true in autumn when the days are warm and the nights are chill resulting in dew covering every leaf and rock and flower. Students often pass me by as I work, looking at me so quizzically. What must they think as I stare down at the ground and wade into bristly patches of tall grasses and wild flowers with my camera held high? On occasion I have been tempted to invite them to put down their books and to join me. Oh, the wonders they’d see!

Grass by the Charles River
Photograph by Cynthia Staples

Author Bio: Cynthia Staples is a writer and photographer. Originally from Virginia, she credits the light dancing on the Charles River as one of the reasons she has stayed in New England so long. Her writing and photography has appeared in several online and print publications including African Voices, Creativity Portal, Flashquake, F-Stop, the Seattle Times and more. Follow her musings at Words and Images by Cynthia  and view more of her photography on Photos by Cynthia.

Yellow Flowers
Photograph by Cynthia Staples

The Story of a Selkie Wife

by Jessica Goody

Once upon a time, but not so very long ago, a man was out walking by the river late at night with his dog. They came upon a strange scene-seven lovely women, dancing naked near the shore. The man was too shocked to speak or make a sound, but the dog began to bark. Quick as winking, the seven women dressed themselves in magical sealskin cloaks and were transformed into seals. They slipped into the water and swam away. The man could not believe his eyes, and vowed to return the next night, hoping to find the Selkies dancing beneath the moon…

I wormed my way up onto the sandbar, by the jetty, and out of the ocean. I joined the other members of my rookery as we removed our pelts. The sight of my friends in their human forms was always an unbelievable sight, though we met every year to do so. I stared at my own body. I looked just like the human women I'd seen on the beach. My skin was almost hairless, and pale. My nose, mouth, and ears were that of a human. I had long waving hair, as thick and dark as my seal-coat. I had arms and legs, with human fingers and toes, instead of flippers, human breasts and a rump. I looked around. My friends were inspecting their human selves, and each other's. We were accustomed to our human bodies, but as we only transformed every year, the results were stunning, until we reacclimated ourselves and remembered that we'd done this before.

Rhiannon, one of our rookery mates, lit a fire in a circle surrounded by stones. Our pelts cast off into a pile on the sand, we began to dance to our music, the various songs of the sea, punctuated by the crash of the waves. Meara, Calla's girl, was unsteady on her legs and had to be caught by Ruby and Elisa. Uneasy at the idea that she might fall into the fire, she began wading in the whitecapped foam as it frothed onto the beach.

As Calla turned to watch her daughter, I did as well. Meara's eyes widened in fear.

"Human!" she cried. Her voice was breathy from fright, but Calla heard, and frantically issued warnings. We rushed to retrieve our pelts as we cried out in horror and fought over pelts, taking which we could find and running into the water so as to return to our true forms and be safe underwater.  I could not find mine. The small stretch of beach we had occupied was pale in the dusk, and no sealskin was in sight.

The man approached me, illuminating me with the lantern he carried.

"Are you all right?" he asked. I folded my human arms around my chest, and tried to scrunch myself into invisibility, to hide my nude body. My mouth fished. I wasn't sure how to respond. Then human words came out of my mouth, instead of the barks and grunts I was afraid to say.

"I...I-I'm all right," I said, then got scared when I remembered I wasn't. "I...can't find my...coat," I finished, remembering not to say 'pelt' just before the word came from my mouth.

"You can't find any clothes," he answered, stating the obvious. "What happened?"

I didn't know what to answer. I couldn't tell him the truth, but I couldn't think of a lie.

Before I could speak, he removed a leather jacket and draped it over my body. It covered my shoulders, chest, down to my thighs.

"We're you shipwrecked?"

Not knowing what else to say, I nodded. I understood shipwrecked. I'd seen boats so many times before.

"I'm sorry," he said. "What ship were you on?"

I didn't know any ships' names. "I don't remember," I said slowly.

"Where are the others?"

"I don't know."
"Follow me," he said, and guiding me along, he scanned the shoreline for bodies, broken wood, and the like. Of course there were none.
"Why don't you come home with me?" You can have a bath, and something to eat."
Something to eat sounded good. I'd never had a bath.
Together we reached a wooden shack higher up on the beach. It looked poorly built, but it seemed to have been able to endure squalls, and all the other weather hazards one finds at a beach. Inside, a tin tub was filled with hot water. I was used to chilling water, which was comfortable, as my seal blubber kept me warm, but as a human I was thoroughly chilled, and soothed by the unfamiliar warmth. As I bathed, a little boy kept watching me. James, the son of Patrick, the man who had taken me to his home. He was thirteen, but he seemed younger. He looked like his father. They had the same sandy blond hair, sticking-out ears, and long features, though his eyes were brown and Patrick's pale blue.
I was given a nightshirt, robe and slippers to wear, much too big. The human garb felt odd, particularly the slippers, as I was not accustomed to anything but bare feet or flippers. They made me stumble. Dinner was a halibut. When I saw the stove I became excited at the familiar smell, but when the fish was served, I was shocked to find it was not alive. I inquired how they could eat this way. It was not fresh. I received strange glances from both Patrick and his son.
The other things about the house intrigued me. The stove, and the forks we ate with. When I tried my fish, I picked it up to eat it with my hands, and received another look.

Patrick reminded me, "You have a fork." James had to show me how to use it.
Later I went about the house looking at things. I'd heard of many of the items I found, but had never seen them before. Humans seem to need so many possessions. Beautiful things. Lamps, bowls...I sat in each chair, then made my way around the dining table. I studied the clock on the mantel, the many books and newspapers. I tried a pen, and was pleased to see I could make it work. I could speak, but did not how to spell, so I could not read the books, which was a disappointment to me. I knew you could learn a lot of things from books, and I wanted to know everything.
I came upon a photograph. I knew of cameras, and had recalled seeing people posing on the beach or shots taken of the water. I knew of paintings, but there weren't any in the house. James saw me looking at the photo and said, "That’s my mother."
I asked where she was, as I wanted to see her. I'd never met a human woman before. "She died," he told me. I was sorry, and told him so, and that my mother had died as well.

She had been caught in a shoal, and Rhiannon had taken me into her rookery. Of course I didn't mention that.
Then Patrick came in and sat in a chair and started to read his newspaper. I fingered the books on the shelves. I could see letters on the spines, but I could not understand them.
"Would you like to read something?" Patrick asked me. I nodded.
"Go ahead," he told me when I didn't move. I took a book from the shelf and stood, turning the leaves. Jamie came in, and saw me trying to read. He seemed friendlier, more talkative then Patrick, so I was not surprised when he glanced at the book I was holding and smiled.
"Sherlock Holmes," he said. "Have you read it yet?" I shook my head. "I did. I liked it. Try it. Go ahead," he added when I didn't move again. Slowly I turned and looked at him.
"I can't," I said. "I can't read."
"You can't read? You never learned how?" I shook my head again. "I can. I can teach you," he offered as the thought occurred to him. "Can I, Dad?"
Patrick was absorbed in his newspaper. "Dad?" He looked up questioningly. "Bree can't read. Can I show her how?"

Patrick looked at me in surprise. 'You can't read?" To Jamie he said, "Well, sure. No use havin' all these books around if you can't read 'em."
Jamie pulled a chair over to the footstool I sat on. "There are lots of stories here," he told me. "I guess we should start with the first one so you'll know the characters in 'em."
Taking the book from me, he read about a man whose name was John Watson. "'In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine..."

I stayed with Jamie and Patrick for several weeks, having no other place to go. I couldn't transform back into a seal without my pelt, which was long gone. While I appreciated Patrick and Jamie giving me a place to stay and teaching me to read, I dearly missed my rookery. I would take walks every day along the shoreline, searching for my pelt, hoping to find it, but I never did. I would sit on the jetty with my feet in the sea, and talk to my friends. Their seal heads would pop up and they would talk to me in seal tongue, and though I understood them I could not answer them. They did not understand my human English, but through gestures and vocal tones I knew they understood my meaning.
Several weeks turned into several months with Jamie and Patrick, and those months became a year. I was getting used to human ways, dressing and eating. Patrick bought me ladies' clothes and I grew used to, if not fond of, human cooking. Several times in the beginning after potatoes and some type of meat and bread I would go down to the shoreline, wade in and then dive under, holding my breath, and catch a fish to eat, no easy task, what with human hands and not being able to breathe underwater for very long.
With Jamie's cheerful, patient help I learned letters, and to spell the words I could speak. I was learning to write as well, carefully shaping the words from books onto paper. My handwriting was terrible, but slowly I was improving. We had read several long novels, a bit every night, and I enjoyed the pictures which formed in my head about the words I understood. Jamie never minded my endless questions, although upon hearing them Patrick would grunt exasperatedly, unable to concentrate on his reading, or some other chore.
I was learning other things as well: I washed dishes with Jamie, and upon reading recipes in books, and learning which foods were which, I could cook several things. I learned how to sew; my stitches were clumsy, but they were stitches. I washed clothing. Patrick seemed to enjoy my help, and retreated more often to his reading, or some other household chore more to his liking. He didn't care for cleaning, but was intent on keeping the house in order, and constantly mentioned having to buy something to do so: caulking the windows to keep the wind out, patching the roof, replacing the screen door, oiling the hinges.
One day among all the others, Patrick asked to marry me. I knew of marriage; I'd read about it in books. I said yes. I knew I would have to stay with Patrick and Jamie, but until I had my pelt I could not go back to being a seal. Patrick bought me a blue dress for the wedding, and a pearl bracelet. I cried that night in bed. The pearls came from the sea. I would never go back there, I could never see my friends again.
The next day was the wedding. A man named Pastor Leslie was there. I knew about religion from books I'd read, but what the priest spoke of meant nothing to me, except that Patrick and I loved each other, and would live together from now on. I cried during the ceremony, but Pastor Leslie smiled at me, and at Patrick in his old suit and old, shined shoes. He didn't know I could never return to the sea.
Did I love Patrick? I wondered. I was grateful I had a home and all the things a home had: meals, company, things to do. I was grateful to have a place to stay since I could not return to being a seal. I was grateful that Jamie had taught me how to read and write. But was that the same as love? I didn't feel romantic towards him. When we returned home, after the ceremony, where we gave gold rings to one another, Patrick told me that Jamie was my son.

I told him that wasn't so because I hadn't borne him, and Jamie had told me about his mother. He explained that now that I was his wife, Jamie was my child as well as his. I knew this wasn't true, but I felt closer to Jamie than to Patrick. It was Jamie who explained human ways and taught me how to read and write, Jamie who was always cheerful, not like his gruff father. I decided I didn't mind being his mother.
That night as I was undressing, Patrick told me to come to his room. I told him I was about to go to bed. He said that from now on we would share a bed, husbands and wives always did. That night we mated. I was uneasy, never having mated with a human before.
Several weeks later I told Patrick I didn't feel well. He replied that I was pregnant. I was happy, never having had a pup before. I decided to call her Darcy Rhiannon, after my mother and my surrogate mother.
The baby turned out to be a boy. We named him Michael. I was amazed. I was a mother. I had created a baby from my body. A human baby. It seemed a miraculous thing.
When putting Michael to bed, I would sing him sea lullabies. Jamie seemed glad to be an older brother, and adopted the same patient cheeriness in playing with the baby as he had with me. He enjoyed singing to Michael as well, sailor songs, usually. After hearing them I refused to let him sing them, as they were usually about drunkenness, shipwrecks, or whaling, and were bad luck. Patrick put a stop to Jamie's ways with Michael for another reason; he felt his boy shouldn't be doing 'the woman's work' and would take him out on his errands or jobs about the house.
While I nursed my baby I would examine him for traits of seal genes. He appeared to be a perfectly normal human boy-no pelt, whiskers, or flippers instead of feet. I enjoyed him, his scent, holding him, singing to him, but I wished he were a seal pup.
The only abnormal thing about Michael were his webbed hands. They looked the same as regular human hands except the area in between each finger was attached by a piece of skin. Patrick hated this and wanted Michael to be operated on, to make his hands like that of a regular baby, but I refused to let him do it. Luckily the doctor said he was much too young.

However, when Michael was nearing three, Patrick insisted upon the surgery, or else his hands would grow that way for good once he was older and nothing could be done. I wanted the one piece of evidence of my baby's selkie blood to remain intact, but Patrick wouldn't hear it. He took Michael to the doctor and had the webs cut.
Michael died in the surgery. He had lost too much blood. The doctor couldn't easily stitch the incisions on his tiny fingers; he didn't have the proper equipment.

I sobbed endlessly when I heard this; Jamie consoled me, held me and whispered words of comfort to me, and while he cried I did the same. Patrick drowned his sorrows in Guinness. I know he drank to forget, or to ease the blame of the fact that Michael's death was his fault, but I couldn't think that he was hurting too, because of what the ale did to him. He turned mean, and became even more emotionally distant.
Once when I was in my room, still grieving, Jamie had made dinner, and had burnt the food, our last piece of fresh meat. Now we didn't have the means for a decent meal. Patrick slapped him.

There were other occasions, too, where he was physically violent to Jamie. Once as I was coming down the stairs I saw him beating him. Despite the fact that Jamie was now grown, he was no match for his father's strength, especially when he was angry. I bit Patrick to protect Jamie.  My dislike of Patrick increased with each of these events, and then became hatred.

Once while in town I saw a woman in a sealskin coat, and I couldn't control myself. I ranted at her, screamed and cried. Jamie knew of my protectiveness towards seals and my fondness of them, but neither he nor Patrick knew I was a selkie.

On this occasion, Patrick ranted at me: "What's the matter with you, woman, get ahold of yourself."
Meanwhile Jamie hugged me. "Mama, its okay, its okay." He had begun to call me Mama years ago.

"No," I told him. "It's not okay. It will never be okay."

I assumed that Jamie had gotten his geniality from his mother, his father certainly didn't possess it. From the time I met him he was never friendly, rather sullen. I never quite knew why he decided to take me into his home.
One day Jamie's boat capsized fairly far from shore, too far, I knew, for an exhausted victim to swim to safety. Frantic, I dove in. The water was freezing. I had never gotten used to how cold it was for humans, without blubber. With several strong strokes I reached him. He was holding onto the boat, but could not get himself back to shore. The water was just as cold for him as for me. We emerged from the sea dripping, shivering, blue-lipped. I laid him out on the sand and raced home for blankets.
As I wrapped him up and laid a blanket over my shoulders he said to me, "That was amazing." I asked him what was, and he said, "How fast you swam. It was freezing. You looked like a seal, racing to rescue me." He gave a breathy little laugh, because it was impossible. I knew I had to tell him.

"You're a seal." I nodded. "That's how you swam so fast. But...that's why you couldn't read or write. Is that how you came, from the ocean?"


"You weren't shipwrecked."


"I've heard stories,...but...I never thought I'd meet a seal person...a selkie."  He smiled. "My ma's a seal."
We embraced through wet clothes and layers of blankets.

"You're a seal, and you saved my life. Does Dad know?"

I shook my head.

"Was Mikey a seal?"

"Part seal," I replied. "Remember the webs?"

He nodded. "My little seal brother...I am not a seal, though."

"Not by blood," I told him.

"Am I a step-seal?"

I laughed.  "Not by blood," I repeated. "But by friendship."

Author Bio...
Jessica Goody’s work has appeared in New York newspapers, anthologies such as Timepieces, Moonlight Café’s Poetry By Moonlight, and The Sun Magazine. She was a Featured Poetess of Her work ranges from poetry and song lyrics to short stories and children’s books. She is a dedicated environmentalist, and is interested in publishing a volume of poetry and a mystery novella, The Stardust Room.  Jessica Goody lives in Oceanside, New York and can be reached at: PinnipedPerson@AOL.Com

Using Photography To Inspire Writing: Photographs and Essays by Hank Kellner

“Words and pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either alone.”

                                                                  -William Albert Allard, American Photographer

If “One picture is worth a thousand words,” can one picture also inspire a thousand words? Of course it can. That’s why writers are becoming increasingly aware of the power photographs have to unlock their imaginations and help them express themselves through written language.

For example, this photograph could easily trigger dozens of ideas that can help to inspire writing. One can’t help wondering what the woman in the photo is thinking.

Why is she standing alone in this scene? What does it feel like to wait for someone who is late? What kind of a family does this woman have? What would you say to her if you saw her standing where she is? How would she respond? Why does she appear to be unhappy? Does she remind you of anyone you know? The list of possibilities is endless.

Your responses to these questions can easily inspire you to write short stories, longer works, memoirs, and even poems. Here’s one poem that was inspired by this photo.


What are you thinking of
As you stand, unsmiling,
Alone on a deserted street?

Another time?
Another place?
A moment when your world
Was bright and cheerful
And you didn’t have to stand
Alone on a deserted street.

-Elizabeth Guybo

Even before digital cameras and cell phones made capturing images of children easier than it’s ever been, almost everyone on the planet had at least a dozen kiddie photos. Without expending too much effort, you can use almost any photo of a youngster to give you ideas for writing.

One thing you can do is to think of key words associated with a photo. When you do, you’ll find that the words trigger a multitude of fresh ideas.
Almost any words will do. Here are several that could accompany this photo: (1) Happy (2) Boyhood (3) Striped Shirt (4) Sneaker. As long as you’re willing to use your creativity and imagination, any one or more of the words associated with the photo will initiate responses that will lead to others.
Some writers like to use the time-honored question/answer technique to spark their writing. A few examples are (1) Who is the child? (2) What is his/her name? (3) What is the subject’s family like? (4) How old is the subject? (5) What is he or she feeling? There’s no limit to either the questions you can ask or the responses you will generate.

Often maligned but never out of sight, visual images surround and captivate us without letup. Show a photograph to a child, and the youngster will point to it, trace its image, and respond with a variety of emotions. Show another to an adult, and you get a frown, a smile, or a gesture—rarely will you draw a blank. Show a photograph, or a series of photographs, to just about anyone, and you’ll generate more responses than you can handle.

Copyright © 2010 by Hank Kellner


Photograph by Hank Kellner

Beyond the Window

I cannot see beyond the curtain
That cloaks my window.
But if I could, what would I see?

A field of wheat? A city street?
A cloudless sky? Cars rushing by?
I cannot see beyond the curtain
That cloaks my window
Unless I push aside the flimsy cloth
And look beyond the glass.

by Elizabeth Guybo

Do you remember a book titled, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle? First published in 1966, it featured a collection of black and white photos accompanied by poems. Almost immediately, Reflections became popular with teachers of English who found that they could use the photos in the book as a source of inspiration for their high school and junior high school students. Incidentally, the book went through many printings and is still available on the Internet.

Today, many teachers still use photos to encourage not only teenagers, but also adults to create both poetry and prose. Shown here is a poem written by a senior citizen at a workshop I conducted at the Center for Creative Retirement, University of North Carolina, Asheville. Does the photo inspire you? What do you see in the combination of light and shadows? What is the mood of the photo? What might you discover if you could “…see beyond the curtain”?

Go Google!

If you Google the phrase “photographs and writing,” you’ll discover an astounding 23,400,000 entries for that topic. That’s enough to keep you busy for the rest of your life and beyond—if that were possible.

But 23,400,000 entries are just a few drops in a teacup when they’re compared to the mind-boggling 77,100,000 entries Google cites when you enter “photography and writing” instead of “photographs and writing.”

Obviously, I couldn’t sample more than just a few of the websites cited in Google, but I did find one, The Library of Congress Learning Page  that’s especially helpful to anyone who’s interested in using photographs to inspire writing.  According to the unnamed author of this “Learning Page” from the Library of Congress, some photographs can help to launch “projects that will develop visual literacy and creative writing skills,” while others “lend themselves to expository writing.”

In the section of the article that deals with creative writing, the author presents a photograph of five students who are on a field trip, directs the reader to select one of the students shown in the photographs, and then asks such questions as: (1) How old is the student? (2) Has the person you chose been on an adventure like this before? (3) What unexpected events occur on the trip? (4) Are friends along on the trip? (5) Is there someone in the group the student dislikes?

In the expository section of the article, the author presents a simple, uncluttered photograph of a sand dune and points out that “…in writing about a sand dune, an essay might include the definition of a dune, an account of where dunes exist in the world, the kinds of animals and plants that live among the dunes, and an assessment of the human impact on sand dunes.”
Every Photograph Tells a Story

On a more personal level, today almost everyone owns a digital camera. Except for a few diehards, gone are the days when people waited anxiously for rolls of film to be developed and prints to be made. Now, as if by magic, images appear instantly to be downloaded, stored on hard discs, and printed at the drop of a sombrero.

This means that many people probably have collections of hundreds, if not thousands, of digital images that can trigger writing. Consider these two photos, for example. They could easily trigger any number of questions designed to inspire writing. For example: (1) What were the conditions under which the photographer created the photos? (2) What were the reasons for creating the photos? (3) What was happening while the photographer snapped the photos? (4) In what way are the people in the photographs related? Indeed, the number of questions you can ask is limited only by your imagination.
This photo is a good example of a photo that reveals little but says a lot. Almost in silhouette, a uniformed police officer wearing a helmet stands near a display window. Part of a shadow appears behind the officer.
A headless mannequin clothed in white stands framed in the window to the officer’s left.

Perhaps a viewer will want to discuss the contrasts between the officer and the mannequin; the similarities between the positions in which the two are presented; and the helmeted officer as opposed to the headless mannequin. Or maybe he or she will want to create narratives featuring the two figures. For example, what would happen if the headless mannequin somehow morphed into a living person? How would the officer respond to such a startling event?

Photographs that feature people involved in some form of activity always elicit interesting responses that inspire writing. In this photograph, a woman leans forward at what appears to be the shore of a lake or river as she trains her camera on something or someone we cannot see. On each side of the frame, several canoes rest on the shore.

Who is the woman? How old is she? Is she married or single? Does she have a companion who’s waiting outside of the scene? Who or what is she photographing? Is she a professional photographer or an amateur?

Author's Notes:

If you find inspiration in this photo, and if it helps you write either a poem or a paragraph, I’d love to hear from you at  You’ll find more of my photos posted at Photobucket. Feel free to browse. Visit my blog at English Education for even more photos and inspiration. Finally, go to National Writing Project to read more about using photographs to inspire writing.

Author Bio:

Hank Kellner is a Korean War veteran and the author of "Write What You See: 99 Photos to Inspire Writing" published by Cottonwood Press in 2009. His series of articles on using photos to inspire writing appears at Creativity Portal.

Peekaboo Poppy
Photograph by Molly Anderson-Childers


By Penny MacPherson

At first, writing is nothing more than a survival skill for the new blind student: the only blind student at school. As an awkward teen, she loses her voice among her peers because of a change in surroundings and environment. She feels and fumbles her way into writing poetry.


Think of me as your online poetry mentor. Writing poetry doesn't have to be a painful experience-or does it? I have carefully structured lessons that I think you'll like. What is my goal? To get you to write or say something. Anything will do, at least at first! I have structured the following activities for you to complete in a flexible framework of days or weeks, depending on the pace of your curiosity. I will show you, just like I've shown others, that you can write poetry-and succeed at it.

If the prospect of trying this alone is too daunting, why not gather several family members, a group of friends, a group of homeschooling students, or a youth group and try these ready-made fun poetry activities?

Note: For younger children, older brothers and sisters, parents, or other friends or relatives may serve as the child's scribe to capture the young poet's thoughts or images on paper.


What is a collaborative poem? Simply stated, a collaborative poem is one in which each group member generates one line of poetry to be included and combined with similar efforts of other group members into a single poetic composition.

Why write collaborative poems?
  • They take the pressure off individuals.
  • They encourage brief and spontaneous contributions from all participants.
  • They create a fun and festive atmosphere like playing a party game.
  • They create teamwork.
  • They add a dash of fun, humor, laughter, edification, and therapeutic release to everyday life.


Sentence Completion: "Summer is..." 
  • Stop and Think: Take ten seconds for Wait-Time. Close your eyes and think about how summer looks, sounds, feels, smells, or tastes.
  • Each participant writes a sentence.
  • Before trying this, consider the following poem as a model to focus and clarify your thinking. 
Summer Is...

Summer is all the trees gowned in green
... Frozen custard from Victoria Sweet Creams
... Concerts in city park just before dark
... Air sticky and pregnant with humidity
... The roses down at Yaddo
... The dripping of mulberry perfume in the Charlottesville air
... A searing sunburn
... A soft ice cream from Martha's
... A sleeping bag under a starry sky
... A fireworks display on the Fourth of July
  • Did sensual impressions reach out for you? Which ones?
  • Did any images jump out at you? Which ones?
  • Did you wave to any poetic devices as they passed by? Which ones?

It's your turn now. Keeping the sample poem in mind, change gears and write a collaborative seasonal poem about what winter is like.  After ten seconds of wait-time, complete the "Winter is..." sentence with the sensual impression you just thought of.



Once all sentence strips have been completed, participants take turns reading their strips aloud to the group.  
The workshop facilitator collects completed sentence strips.  As a group, participants arrange and decide on the strips in an order that pleases the whole group. Glue sentence strips onto a piece of construction paper or poster board according to what the group decided, then choose a designated reader to share the finished product of the composite poem with group members.
  • Guided Practice: Sentence Completion 2. Repeat the process by choosing a partner and selecting another season.  
  • Guided Practice: Sentence Completion 3. Repeat the process by choosing a different partner and a third season.
  • Independent Practice: Sentence Completion 4. Time to try your wings. Working by yourself, repeat the process by choosing a fourth season.
  • Share finished poems with the group.
  • For poem preservation, type, laminate assemble, and bind all finished poems into a book.
  • Make a cassette or Mp3 of all poems to nourish your own poetry.



It's as if you sit before a plate of food you've never seen, smelled, or tasted before... You're not so sure you'll like it. You sit debating. An inner voice, whispered hush, wells up inside, nudging you to try just one bite. Lifting one dainty forkful to your mouth...savoring it...Hmm, it definitely tastes like more... Cleaning your plate... You go back for seconds.


Whether first-time visitor or returnee, I welcome you. In my previous post, I outlined a cluster of poetry activities built around sentence completions. This installment shifts focus to acrostic poetry. Recalling the objective is encouraging you to write, nourishing the creative spirit of your Inner Poet. Whetting your appetite to sense and say things differently is the quarry you're relentlessly pursuing here. Let's get started. I have structured the following activities to complete in a flexible framework of your own choosing, depending on the pace of your curiosity. If the thought of going solo is too intimidating, gather family members, friends, homeschoolers, or a youth group -- trying these House Specials together. Bon appetit!

Note: For preliterate small fry, older siblings, parents, friends or relatives may assist as scribes to capture their poetry on paper.


Let's write a kind of short, simple, unrhyming poetry. The formal attire of counting syllables is not required here. It is uncomplicated and manageable. This brand of poetic expression is called acrostic poetry. Before trying this, consider the following poem as a model to focus and clarify thinking.


F-irm in his convictions

A-lways wanted me to thrive

T-aught me how to laugh and sing

H-olds me accountable for my choices

E-mpathetic to my challenges; I, so filthy

R-ich in his COMFORTING love


Making a Wall Web or Mind Map, write "FATHER in the center of the page. Now draw a circle around the subject of your Content Map. From the center, draw at least four spokes radiating like clock hands from various points of your circle.

Stop. Think. Take ten seconds Wait-Time. Close your eyes to consider the following suggestions to stimulate thinking:

1. Who Is He?
2. What is He like?
3. What does He say?
4. What does He do?
5. What makes him happy?
6. What makes him unhappy?

Set your content map aside for now. Acrostic poems begin with stems. Stems support leaves, fruit or flowers hanging from them. Acrostic poems feature the stem as title and subject. One capitalized letter goes on each line, looking like this:







Leaving it this way, there's nothing but dead stem. You breathe life into it by adding leaves, fruit, or flowers through either single words or phrases, you transform your lifeless stem into teeming abundant foliage. You decide which words or phrases work best to convey thoughts and feelings about your subject, letting readers know your subject better -- seeing it through your eyes. The important thing is choosing words/phrases to adorn the stem. Use the Wall Web or Mind Map to help you embellish your stem.



Time to try your wings. Keeping the sample poem in mind, write an acrostic poem about your father. After ten seconds wait-time, complete your stem with words/phrases describing your poem's subject: "Father."


Group members feast on finished poems.


Repeat process, substituting family members listed below:

• Mother

• stepfather/stepmother

• brother/sister

• grandfather/grandmother

• uncle/aunt/cousin

Summary of Steps:

1. Your subject becomes your poem Title.

2. Write your stem down the left margin of your page.

3. Stems need words/phrases to allow the reader to know your subject better.
4. Group members feast on finished poems.


• Type, laminate, assemble, and bind finished poems into a book.

• Make Mp3's of poems to nourish your Inner Poet.

• Put poetry on youtube.

• Put poems on personal blogs.

Author's Bio:

Ms. MacPherson holds a B.A. from Wells College and a Master's of Teaching degree from the University of Virginia.  She has offered poetry workshops at various elementary schools. MacPherson conducts women's healing through writing workshops spiritual writing intensives, and community poetry readings. She has authored ten books of poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. She currently resides in Florida. Find out more about Penny and her poetry at  Poetry Patch 416.

Surrealistic Rose
Photograph by Molly Anderson-Childers

Call For Submissions! 

Are you interested in seeing your photos or words on Addictive Fiction or Stealing Plums?  If you're a writer or photographer, and you have an idea for a poem, story, or guest blog, please email me at  You can also find more info on my Guest Starring... page.  I'm currently welcoming new work by emerging and established authors, photographers, and artists.

Dream Big!
Photograph and Creative Journal by Molly Anderson-Childers