CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

Bandits – 22.August.2015

I haven’t been posting a lot of my “Book Bandit” work lately. Hell, I haven’t been posting any of it these days but at today’s meeting I wrote something that surprised me. We actually played twice today. The first time was three prompts, chosen blind and at random. Using those three prompts for inspiration you write for twenty five minutes. You can incorporate one, two, three, or none of the prompts. Then we share what we wrote and discuss. My initial effort, in my opinion, was a bit pedestrian and I won’t put it here today.

Then we played a second round because the group was small today and time was plentiful. The second round had only one prompt and we had only 15 minutes to write. I kinda surprised myself with what appeared in my notebook. I’m going to transcribe it now because I write by hand in this venue and if I wait too long I may not be able to read my own writing. We are pretty strict on the time limit so often stories go unfinished.

The prompt: Lost between the pages

G0 – you have fifteen minutes.

I lifted the old notebook from the box that had been shoved to the back of my father’s closet. It was a journal. It was his journal. I skimmed through a few of the opening pages and realized that it was from his time in the Navy. He had written about his ocean transit on the USS Fargo.

He wrote about his shipmates and how they passed the time at sea.

He wrote about the monotony of life at sea; endless days and nights working in the infirmary. He wasn’t a doctor, he was a Corpsman attached to the Marines. Doctors were few and far between but a Corpsman was just as good, for a jarhead with trench foot or the runs.

He wrote of landing and marching through jungles.

He wrote about the sights and sounds of guerrilla warfare, and of lost companions whom he could not help.

But also lost, lost between the pages, were the things he didn’t write.

He didn’t write about how what he saw, and did, affected him. His account was more journalistic, a simple reporting of events.

In the interim I have had my own jungle war and having had my own jungle war, I understood. I could feel; and had felt, the same things as he did long ago on that island – his island.

I was able to find the thoughts and feelings that he had hidden, or lost, between the pages.

I wish I had known these things when he was still alive, these things that he never spoke about. I understand them, and I don’t speak about them either.





CSMA Prompts and Practice · Random Scribbles · writing

07 December 2014 – Writer’s Guild: Wading in Through the Bubbles

07 December 2014

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Yesterday’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts were:

  1. Wading in through the bubbles
  2. It’s all about the silence
  3. Melinda was a poet

Begin Writing
Melinda was a poet who wrote nothing down. She was amazing and publishers competed to print her books of blank pages.

Totally Alternative!

Melinda felt strongly that art should be interpreted not by the artist but by the readers. She tried her hand at acting but there was already an abundance of mimes.  She experimented with film but no one wanted silent movies anymore.  That medium had already been exhausted. Music had seemed promising but ultimately didn’t work either, because the radio stations didn’t like to broadcast silence… But books!

Well, books were the thing for Melinda. She first self published her silent novel but it was too large for a debut piece. Nine-hundred forty-seven pages of hard bound blank sheets necessitated a big investment from the reader, especially for work by an unknown author.  At least that was what her marketing senses told her. She decided that she should print a collection of her poetry.  She interspersed her verse with a few short stories, to serve as variety and published one hundred and seventeen blank pages.  She allowed her friends to talk her into an ecru cover on that one and the critics loved it.

People would purchase her silent book and use their own pens, pencils, crayons, charcoal, pastels or paints to interpret what she hadn’t written down or put on the pages herself. The book immediately screamed to number seven on the New York Times Bestseller List and Melinda quickly brought out another volume of just verse.  One hundred and fifty pages, college ruled and spiral bound.  It sold millions of copies the very first day and reprints are still flying off the shelves.

Melinda doesn’t write silent poetry anymore. She lives off the royalties generated from the works she didn’t write in the first place. Reprinting the short volumes keeps her well paid and Random House is rumored to be discussing a re-release of her debut novel.  Some believe that readers will now be willing to make that initial investment. Melinda is, after all, now well known.  Oprah has hinted that she is willing to endorse it which is a guarantee of success.

Melinda is a poet – A poet who writes silence.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

CSMA Prompts and Practice · Random Scribbles · writing

27 September 2014 – The Rattan Rocking Chair

27 September 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The first set of prompts are:

  1. Some are useful
  2. A rattan rocking chair
  3. Like the weather, it just is


Begin Writing
The rattan rocking chair had been on that porch for as long as he could remember.  It had always been the perch for the Matriarch of the family.  The men had sturdier chairs that came and went but the delicate rattan rocker somehow seemed to last forever and no one else ever sat in it.

Tony remembered his grandmother sitting in that chair.  She would keep her knitting basket by her side as she moved gently to and fro.  When Grandma passed his mother took it over.  She would sit there every evening and most Sunday mornings as well.

Her evening sits were her way of staying in touch with the neighborhood.  Watching the comings and goings of the people on the street.  Sunday mornings were breakfast.  Mom would sit in the rocker with a waffle iron on the table beside her.  Everyone who passed by was invited up for coffee and waffles.  When Dad died, the Sunday morning waffle feasts sort of dwindled away, but the evening sits carried on.  Now that Mom was gone there was no Matriarch. The rattan rocker just sat, unoccupied.  Occasionally a breeze would start it to rocking.  If he happened to be having a cigarette on the steps he would turn his head, hoping to see his mom again but she was never there.

Tony had briefly considered the possibility of taking a wife.  He imagined that if he married it would bring life back to the house, back to the porch and he would be able to once again hear the familiar squeak of the rocker.  He quickly discarded that idea though.  A rocking chair was no reason to get married, no reason at all.

Tony reflected on all these things as he lifted the chair from the back of his truck and handed it to the volunteer at the Goodwill donation station.

“Beautiful chair,” said the man with the blue overalls, “let me get you a receipt.”

“I don’t need a receipt.” Tony told him as he closed his tailgate and walked back up towards the truck cab.  He slid behind the wheel and dried his eyes. It’s just a chair he thought to himself as he started the engine and pulled out into traffic.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


Book Bandits team up with the Moonshine again.

CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

16 August 2014 – Book Bandits

16 August 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts are:

  1. Release the balloons
  2. A pinch of cayenne
  3. Templeton and Sons


Begin Writing
The sign on the door said ‘Templeton and Sons, Investigations’. When it was just Dad the sign read ‘Templeton Investigations’. Then when my brother John got his license Dad changed the sign to read ‘Templeton and Son, Investigations’.  I had just gotten back from my stint in the Navy and Dad had just gotten a third sign that read ‘Templeton and Sons, Investigations’.  My first case was a missing person.

It started on a warm summer morning when he came in the office and sat down at my dad’s desk.  He told us his name was Jimmy and he had a spot of something on the end of his nose.  As he sat, he pulled a tin of McCormick’s cayenne pepper out of the pocket of his jeans and tapped a pinch onto the back of his hand.  When he leaned in and snorted it, like a hit of snuff, his eyes began to water; but whatever had been on his nose was gone.

“Mr. Templeton?” he asked from behind the tears.  “I need to hire you to find a missing person.”

Dad looked at him with distaste.  He had never seen anyone snort cayenne before. “The police do missing persons. You don’t need us.”

“The police are not interested in this case.” Jimmy said. “It’s been over a month and the leads are drying up.”

“OK, tell us a bit about it,” Dad said. “Who’s missing?”

“It’s my friend Anita,” Jimmy replied.  “She’s just vanished.  Rumors have been floating around that she broke her leg but no one’s been able to confirm it.”

“Do you have a photograph of Anita?” Dad asked.

“No, I don’t,” Jimmy replied, “but I can sketch a likeness if you have some paper.”

Dad reached in a drawer and got a sheet of copy paper that he handed over.  Jimmy pulled a green crayon from his shirt pocket.  He put the paper on the edge of Dad’s desk and went to work.  Tongue protruding ever so slightly from the corner of his mouth. Jimmy quickly produced a sketch of a stick figure; identifiable as a woman only because of the triangular skirt he had drawn.  She had corkscrew hair and dots for eyes.  She was smiling.  He handed the crayon drawing to Dad and said, “This is what she looks like.”

“She should be easy to find,” Dad said, “seeing as she has no nose and is about as skinny as a pencil.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

02 August 2014 – Writer’s Guild

02 August 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts are:
1. Are you scared
2. Careful what you wish for
3. The old cat pounced

Begin Writing
The young lion was excited. He was going on his first hunt today and could taste the sweet flesh of antelope already. His grandmother was taking him. She was an accomplished hunter and had explained that it was important for a young male to learn to hunt even though the pride’s females brought in most of the food for the group.

They didn’t find antelope that day though; a herd of zebra was what they spotted first. He crouched with grandma in the tall grass, a safe distance from the prey.

“You creep closer and remain hidden, downwind. I’ll work my way around the herd and get them to run. Follow them and draw close but pay attention. One or more of the zebra will fall back a bit, slower than the rest. Pick one of those and take him down.


“Yes ma’am.”

“Take care not to get directly behind him. His hooves are sharp and can kill. Approach from the rear flank and when you make your move the first thing you must do is rake your claws across his haunch. Dig deep, it will slow him down. If he doesn’t fall right away do it again. When he does fall, and he will, go right for his throat. There’ll be lots of blood, tastes good. Enjoy it. Are you ready?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Are you scared?”

“No ma’am.”

“It’s OK to be scared,” she said, “this is your first kill.”

“Maybe a little, grandma.”

“Good boy,” she said. “Give me some time to circle around. Remember not to move too soon, wait until they see me and start to run. Then give chase, and pick your target carefully. You’ll do great son.”

The old cat rose slightly and vanished quickly from sight in the tall grass as she crept toward the other side of the herd.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.




CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

26 July 2014 – Writer’s Guild: Sally the Stripper

26 July 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

Depicts Adult Situations

The prompts are:

  1. A color I’ve never seen before
  2. dandelion dreams
  3. Stiff ole bones


Begin Writing
Sally the Stripper beckoned
The old man to the stage.
He shook his head
“I got stiff ole bones, on account of my old age.”

Sally was insistent,
“I’ve seen stiff old bones before,
It’s what I do. It’s who I am
It’s what I’m up here for.”

Two topless girls came over
And helped him climb the stair.
He clutched his chest, fell to his knees
Gave everyone a scare.

Sally dropped on top of him
She started CPR.
A call was made to 911
By the girl behind the bar.

When the paramedics got there
He waved them all away.
“Come back in just a minute please,
She’s about to make my day.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


I thought I wold post this to the MoonShine Grid.  It came out of my Book Bandits meeting this morning and it just sorta wrote itself while I watched.

CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

12 July 2014

12 July 2014

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Yesterday’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts are

  1. Gemstones
  2. The silliest of indie films
  3. Get it at Walmart


Begin Writing
“Welcome to Belgium, Mr. Smith,” the immigrations officer said as he stamped my passport and snapped it shut. “Have a nice stay,” he handed it back.

My name isn’t Smith but that’s what it said on my documents so I didn’t tell him any different. I had come to Brussels for gemstones, diamonds in particular but, I didn’t tell him that either. Everyone who’s ever watched movies, especially those silly Indie films, knows about the diamond trade in Brussels.

First though I needed to get to Bruges. I could get weapons in Bruges. So I made my way to the station. It was dinner time when I arrived but there was a hostel near the Hauptbanhof that didn’t ask a lot of questions. I took a room and went out to see the old city and grab a bite to eat. I had an appointment at 1000 the next morning.


Saturday morning dawned and a light fog hung over the city. Coffee and a croissant made a good breakfast and at about 0930 I headed out on foot after asking directions at the desk. I was looking for Lindwurmstraße which I had been told was about a 20 minute walk. I took a couple of wrong turns so it was 1000 on the dot when I knocked on the door at #47.

“Grüß dich” said the young lady in German who answered.

“Good morning,” I replied in English. “I’m Peter’s friend.”

“Of course,” she smiled. “He’s expecting you.”

She let me into the foyer and took my jacket. “This way please.”

I followed her into a dimly lit room. The walls were lined with bookshelves. The shelves were filled with books. A thin, sandy haired man unfolded himself from the chair behind the desk when I entered.

“Mr. Smith?” he questioned and I nodded. When he indicated a leather settee, I took a seat. “Our mutual friend told me you would require some hardware.” He said, making small talk, “But, he didn’t provide specifics.”

“I need a 9mm, something light, and three clips.” I said. “I also need something that makes a little more noise. Twelve gauge would be about right”

He nodded, “Anything else?”

“Just a box of shells”

“How will you be paying for this, Mr. Smith?” He waved his finger at the young lady. She in turn opened the door and went back out into the hallway.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.



After sharing our work we still had some time so we had another go. This time a single prompt and only 15 minutes.

The prompt was

  1. A thing of beauty and a joy forever


Begin Writing
I was watching her as she stared at the painting. She had stood in that spot for about 20 minutes before wandering off. She had roamed the gallery for about 5 minutes and now she was back.

She was an attractive woman and I wanted to speak to her but I couldn’t suss out who she was. Was she an art lover? Was she a critic from the Times? It was my painting she was staring at and I couldn’t even make out if she liked it or loathed it.

I decided to be an optimist. “Hi, what d’ya think?” I asked her and began studying the painting as well.

“I can’t figure it out” she said, “It reminds me of something but I can’t figure out what. I wish I could ask the artist what it is.” She shook her head.

“You’re in luck,” I told her, “I’m the artist. Is there something you’d like to ask me?”

She turned her head and looked at me as intently as she had been looking at my painting, “Yes,” she said, “What is it?”

“Are you from the paper?”


“Just an art lover?”


I slowly shifted the expression on my face from social to solemn, “It’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever!” I grinned.

“Fucking artists,” she said, “You’re all the same – you suck.” She spun on her heel and headed for the door.

“Does this mean we won’t be going for coffee later?” I called after her.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

07 June 2014

07 June 2014

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The prompts are:
Ignore it, maybe it’ll go away
You’re losing your edge
Whining is unacceptable

Begin Writing
The prompts today seem negative and confrontational. I don’t think I like them when taken all together.

A single one of these could be great if mixed in with other prompts about smiles or rainbows but all three at once? Jeez, I’m gonna have to go home and take a nap or eat a cupcake; something, anything to lighten it up a bit.

What are the odds of these three prompts being chosen on the same day? Statistics can be manipulated to prove anything you want them to; so let’s examine this a little deeper. There are 50 prompts to choose from so one might think that the odds are 3 in 50 but they are, in reality a lot longer than that.

Those choosing the prompts are picking blind; they cannot relate the prompts one to another. This assumes a 1 in 50 factor that needs to be considered in our calculations.

Separate people choose each prompt and there are eight people here today. 8×50=400 so we must include another 1 in 400 factor. This brings the odds to one in 450 but wait, there’s more. There are three individual prompts so we have to multiply that by the odds, so far. 3×450 brings our chances to one in 1350. Pull in the constant of π, rounded to 3.14 for simplicity, takes the odds to (3.14×1350=4239) 1 in 4239, which must be multiplied by 52, number of meetings per year. For a grand total of

 1 in 220,428

 Those are the odds of getting these three particular prompts on a single day, at a single meeting. I suppose I should quit whining though. In general whining is not acceptable and at this rate it’ll be more than 4000 years before we get another set of prompts this bad. I’ll make sure not to attend that meeting.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

17 May 2014: Book Bandits

17 May 2014

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It’s great to see so many of you out this morning and good that the weather is getting a bit more hospitable.  Don’t forget to tip your prompt master before you leave.


The prompts are:

  1. I’m just a businessman
  2. History is not a novel
  3. Hey, you can’t park here


Begin Writing
The judge slammed her gavel on the bench twice.  The staccato rapping sealed my fate.  She closed the file and handed it to the bailiff.  “Call the next case.” she said.

The big guy with the uniform clipped handcuffs around my wrists, put his hand on my shoulder and led me out the door at the side of the courtroom.

He said, “Sorry about this Mr. Wilson.  If it means anything, I agree with your argument.”

“That’s the thing, Doug.  It was not just an argument, I’m nothing but a businessman.  Locking me up is not going to stop the trade.  Someone else will just step in and fill the void left when I’m put away.  It’ll be someone meaner and smarter than me too.  I should have known better than to make the mistakes I did but history is not a novel so I didn’t read it.  And, because I didn’t read it I was unaware of the pitfalls and traps.  The next guy’ll know; and your job won’t be so easy.”

“You may be right, Mr. Wilson.  I can’t say”

Doug led me back to the holding cell in the basement of the courthouse and removed my handcuffs before he closed the door.  As the door slammed shut with a solid metallic clunk, he stuck his hand through the bars.  “Best of luck to you in there sir, watch your back.”

“Thanks, Doug.” I said and I shook his hand.

I turned and surveyed the cell.  Maybe 8 foot square with three masonry, or concrete, walls and bars facing onto the corridor.  There was a metal bench bolted to the floor that ran the length of the back wall.  For the time being, I had the place to myself so I lay down on the bench and listened to the sounds of the courthouse around me.

Another deputy was seated at a metal desk at the end of the hall.  I could hear him open a drawer and soon the sounds of a hand held video game could be heard.  Pings, whistles and explosions from the game almost drown out the tapping sounds of his thumbs on the controller.  My eyes closed and I relaxed.

I woke to someone tapping the bottom of my foot with a billy club.  It was the video game deputy.  “Lets go Mr. Wilson,” he said.  “Time to get you on the bus.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

10 May 2014

10 May 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits – Missed ya Lisa.

The prompts are:

  1. Go ahead, what’s the worst that can happen
  2. Normal, I guess
  3. Will you take four?


Begin Writing
“How much do you want for that washer?” she asked.

“Five hundred dollars.”

“That seems a bit exorbitant since one of the settings is missing.  Will you take four?”

“What are you talking about? There’s no missing settings.”

“There sure is,” she shot back.  “Look at this dial.  The setting names have been worn down and one is completely missing.”

“Which one?”

“Normal, I guess.  I can make out ‘Delicate’ and ‘Heavy Duty’ so the missing one must be ‘Normal’ right?

“I’ll tell you one thing, you’re not normal.  This is a garage sale.  You buy used things here.  The machine works.  All the settings work.  I can write ‘Normal’ on the dial with a Sharpie if it helps.”

“If you’re going to graffiti the machine then I can only go three,” she said.

“Lady, if you’ll go away, I’ll let you have it for two fifty and, I’ll have my boys load it on your truck for you.”

“I don’t know,” she sighed, pursed her lips and looked like she was giving is serious consideration. “What if I get it home and it doesn’t work?” she asked.

“Bring it back,” he said, “I’ll refund your money.  Go ahead, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“Well, you could move,” she said.  “Is this a garage sale or a moving sale?  What if I try to bring it back and you’ve moved out of state?  What if you move to North Dakota? I don’t want to drive all the way to North Dakota just to return a faulty washing machine.”

“It’s not faulty.” he said.

“That’s what you say. But, there’s no ‘Normal’ here.  That concerns me.”

“Lady, do you want the machine or what?”

“Of course I want the machine.  I just think one-fifty is a bit steep, price wise.  I mean, it’s not normal, it’s covered with graffiti and I might have to drive to North Dakota if there are any service issues.  I’ll give you seventy-five if you throw in a bottle of fabric softener.”

“Is Downy OK?”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.