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Here are two writing prompts inspired by my reading of Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River. This rare image is from the cover of her first Aventura Edition (1985) that I’ve enjoyed since college. I was surprised to realize that other editions feature cover art with only white female figures. I find the publisher’s other covers odd at best and inappropriate at worst, as this is a book of stories by a woman of color about “a childhood in the Caribbean” according to the back cover. So, reader, I hope you enjoy this cover image–as my old copy can be difficult to find these days.  

Writing Prompt~~

1) Walk through your current home or imagine walking in a former home from some point in your childhood or adult life. Allow some of the “things” in the house or apartment to have a voice. Listen and write down what they say. Examples might include:

  • a piece of furniture such as the kitchen table or bed or rocking chair
  • a particular part of a room such as an alcove, closet or threshold
  • a window or door
  • a deck of cards, child’s toy, or item from the medicine cabinet
  • a teacup, picture on a wall, hair brush, hammer or thimble

Spill for 15 minutes

2) Write a list of things you were taught and/or told to do as a young girl or woman. The list can include things that were spoken, written, suggested without words, or simply modeled.

  • try beginning your phrases or sentences with verbs, as Jamaica Kincaid does in “Girl.” 
  • try beginning phrases or sentences with “this is how…”
  • note other ways that Kinkaid starts a line: “don’t…,” “always…,” “be sure to…”
  • don’t censor your list; allow items that might appear to contradict each other

Spill for 25 minutes

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