When I’m cold, dissected, studied, 
and filed away with the other meat 
laid out for the coroner to greet
I wonder what will be left of me,
the man who breathed and loved and dreamed;
who wandered the world so solemnly,
and clung to life so desperately.

Around me will be piled the faithful,
who “passed away” religiously
smililng bright and hopeful,
arrayed in all eternity–
all just as dead as I will be.

I will not leave so peacefully, 
nor am I content to think 
there’s some unending destiny 
beyond the stars behind a veil
that no one can detect or see,
but I wonder what will be left of me
when my life rots away in the garbage heap.

I’ve heard them say they must believe 
that death is not finality
that there’s something more beyond the grave.
I don’t trust anybody’s words to save
or grant eternal life to me.
My own words are the only way
I’ll live beyond mortality. 

Kylo Ren Temper Tantrum – Video to Prose Prompt

The figure turned, blue light from the monitors glaring off his metallic helmet. The man who had approached him trembled as the eyes he could not see bore into his thoughts. Swallowing, he shuffled his feet on the metal floor and began to sweat. He delivered his message hurriedly, the words falling out of his mouth one after the other like a chain tumbling from a platform.

“We have no confirmation,” he said, voice breaking. “But we believe FN-2187 may have helped in the escape—”

Ren’s saber extended in a explosion of red flame. The man flinched, bracing himself for the impact of searing plasma. He heard the saber’s shrill hum as it sliced and crackled through the air – but the saber did not hit him. Ren attacked the console in a frenzy. The slashes fell at random, sometimes slicing gracefully through, sometimes stopping abruptly on a denser piece of metal. When this happened, the leader of the Knights of Ren wielded his weapon like a club, hacking and beating the console to a burning mass of scrap. Bits of sparks and liquefied metal landed on the messenger’s clothing and sent up tiny tendrils of smoke. He wanted to escape, to flee the room screaming, to hop into and escape pod and run back to his parents on Coruscant—but the man was too afraid to move.

Ren’s movements slowed. He hacked at the console once more, sending an arc of sparks streaming across the room. He panted heavily for a few moments before sheathing his saber. He turned to face the man again.

“Anything else?” he asked calmly.

Mind racing, the man stammered: “The two were accompanied by a girl.”

The messenger flew toward Ren’s outstretched hand, shoes clattering against the floor, eyes wide with terror. He felt the impact of the glove, and cold fingers tightened around his throat.

“What girl?” Ren said. There was a coldness in the voice that the mask could not account for.  


What is this Prompt?

In his book Image Grammar, Harry Noden compares writing to filming scenes in a movie. He says:

A well-described fiction or nonfiction work creates the mental equivalent of a film, leading readers through a visual journey of endless images with close-ups, action scenes, and angle shots. (4)”

In this metaphor, a comma “…controls a telescopic lens that zooms in on images. (6)” We wanted to play with this idea in my creative writing class as we focused on his first two “brushstrokes,” which are participles and absolutes. (If you’re not sure what those are, that’s okay: I will include a brief explanation later on in this post.) To do this, we looked up a clip from one of our favorite movies or TV shows and translated the action into prose. I figured if we need to think about writing as framing shots of a movie, why not practice by turning a clip from a movie into writing?

This is a pretty straightforward exercise that gives you an outline on which you can paint your prose. You can make it as spicy or as plain as you want, and in reality you could practice any skill you’ve been wanting to work on. I liked this activity because it lets you focus on the writing itself, whereas trying to practice skills and create a story at the same time splits your attention.

Even if you’re not practicing a certain skill though, it’s pretty fun to narrate a scene from your favorite shows.

Give it a shot!


Participles and Absolutes

Basically, a participle is an “-ing” word that is acting like an adjective (describing a noun). In the following example from my post, the verb swallow is being used to add to the image of the man. 

Swallowing, he shuffled his feet…

Swallowing is a participle, a verb-turned-adjective that happens at the same time as the other action in the sentence. An absolute is a similar, but it’s a noun+participle combo that adds another image to the sentence rather than just describing the subject. In other words, the participle focuses the image, but the absolute zooms in on another part of the subject.

The messenger flew toward Ren’s outstretched hand, shoes clattering against the floor

“The messenger” is the subject of this shot. That’s who we’re focusing on here, but in this scene there’s actually a point where the camera does a close-up on his shoes (I could not find a clip that showed this whole scene for some reason, but go watch it, it’s there!). The absolute phrase “shoes clattering against the floor” achieves the same effect in prose that the zoom achieves in the clip.

There is lots of good information on the web about these first two brushstrokes, but here is a google slides presentation I put together to help explain them to my 11th graders.



Noden, Harry R. Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999. Print.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Dir. JJ Abrams. Perf. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2015. Blue Ray.

Short Story from a Painting – Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhone


I stopped at the end of the pier and gazed out across the bay.  A warm, salty wind whipped through my hair.  The sun had bowed out behind curtain of stars not more than an hour before, but the sky was still bright with lights, echoing the warm welcome of the air. Across the water were lamps from houses and shops that reached out in contrast over the deep and colored it with yellow swatches that moved like brush strokes across the water.  The stars shone out above and beneath the strokes in an arch that stretched from the sea to the sky in a blue mirror that was unbroken save for the motion of  the waves.

A briny gust from the sea whipped my hair about my head. Suddenly, I did not feel so alone. I closed my eyes and smiled, drinking it all in.  I listened to the fluttering of the breeze and the banging of the boats tied together against the dock.  I listened to the breathing of the ocean as the waves washed up and down the shoreline.  I heard the old wooden pier creek in protest against the battering waves, and felt it sway ever so slightly from side to side.

There was some magic in the atmosphere, and I spread my arms wide and laughed aloud to greet it. I looked around me for someone to share the moment with. I saw no one – till the sound of talking drew my gaze back down to the beach. A man and a woman were walking toward the dock arm in arm. She leaned on his shoulder and closed her eyes. He pressed his cheek against her forehead as they walked. I almost called out to them, but something held me back.

Realizing what that something was, I scanned the horizon one last time and inhaled deeply, then turned and hurried back up the dock to let the couple experience the scene for themselves. I hated to leave that place, but in so many ways it has never left me.

This was a piece I wrote a long time ago in an effort to practice descriptions, using different senses, and painting with words. It’s interesting to drop yourself into a painting and try to really experience it instead of simply looking at it. It’s even more interesting to try and record the experience you have when doing this.  I don’t mean simply talking about it though. I feel like it’s so easy to fall into the trap of merely telling our readers what we think instead of showing them, but having an experience yourself is always more engaging than just reading about it. Our task as writers is to use that fact to our advantage and do our best to allow our reader to have those experiences for themselves.

Research suggests that certain parts of our brain are unable to tell the difference between reality and a well-simulated reality. This means that we can make our readers laugh, cry, and be upset over events that never happened. We can even make them fall in love with people who don’t even exist in the real world – but the key is to be able to immerse them in our created worlds. If we cannot learn to master the art of showing, our readers will never be able to fully engage with our writing.

If you want to try this, find a painting that resonates with you and put yourself into it. Make sure you describe what it would be like to be there, not just what’s happening or what you see in the painting. I tried to make mine into a sort of narrative, but that’s optional. Make sure you share your finished product! Don’t be afraid of sharing your work. Not ever piece has to be a masterpiece, and  we cannot create the masterpieces unless we’re willing to sketch and try out new things.

Finally, remember that you do not have to be published to be a great writer. Vincent Van Gogh (the artist whose painting inspired me to write this piece) sold only one painting in his entire lifetime, and yet today he is one of the most well-known painters of all time. He could have decided that his work wasn’t appreciated or worthwhile. He could have stopped painting and done something else with his life, but he loved to paint. He painted for the love of painting. He didn’t let people tell him that he couldn’t achieve his dreams, and he didn’t let his lack of success stop him from trying to achieve those dreams. He is my favorite painter not only because his  paintings move me, but because his unfailing determination to achieve his dreams inspires me to not give up on mine.

Breaking the Sound of Silence


I studied “The Sound of Silence” with my students
on the very first day of my teaching career.
I thought about how I wanted them to break the silence,
and share the “songs” they’ve been writing with the world.
We talked about worshiping the “neon gods” in our lives;
about how we have the power to turn away
and make something of ourselves.
We decided that our expressions may not find themselves
being studied in classrooms or housed in books –
“subway walls” and “tenement halls”
may always be the proper venues for our thoughts –
and yet we are all “prophets,”
whose experiences, ideas, and lives are valuable,
are full of meaning;
We decided we all compose songs, but few of us ever dare
disturb the silence and face our fears of failure.

And I thought about the silence that stifles me sometimes,
the dark, endless silence that’s covered
with those heavy, abstract words
that embody the fears that so often quiet me:
rejection, doubt, fear, insecurity…
I thought about the silence in which I shroud myself,
that sometimes so completely covers me
that wonder if I may have lost all hope
of untangling myself from its clutches.

We thought and talked,
first at a whisper,
unsure if we could speak at all,
then louder and louder –
and with more conviction
as our ideas were praised
and echoed in the wells of silence –
then louder still, and more confidently
until we became a chorus of bright voices
each singing our own melody in unison and
drowning out the sound
of silence.



I am excited to announce that I began my career as an English Teacher on Monday! I am so excited to me working with the students at Veiwmont High School in Bountiful, Utah. I am teaching 11th grade, 11th grade honors, and creative writing! Jumping into my first year between terms has been challenging so far. I was hired last week, and I set foot in my classroom for the very first time on Monday, so you can imagine how stressed I’ve been, scrambling around trying to get everything ready.

One of my objectives for this first week (besides making it out alive on the other side) was to help my students begin to  understand how literature and creative writing can positively affect their lives. As I thought about how to teach this concept, my mind was drawn to the Disturbed cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” There are many possible interpretations of this song, but I believe one of the best is simply that we all have a story to share. To me, this song is about breaking the silence that we’ve become accustomed to. It’s about not being afraid to stand up and speak out about what’s important to us.

I hope that they are beginning to understand, but if not, this idea is so fundamental to who I am that  they’ll be getting plenty more of it throughout the remainder of the school year .

This is what I did it all for. This is what is was all about!

I am so excited to be a teacher!


Holding the sheep calms her,
makes her feel safe,
maybe because she thinks
about the sheep instead of herself—
or because it absorbs her little tears—
or maybe just because she believes in it.
Whatever the reason,
holding the sheep is always enough,
which makes me wonder what was happening
last night in her dreams
that made it necessary for the sheep
to hold her instead.

     “Fifi” was my daughter’s best attempt to say “sheep” when she was very young and received the stuffed animal from her aunt. Although she’s two now (and can say “sheep” without difficulty), the name has stuck, and the sheep is as much a part of her daily routine as her meals and time on the swing set. She drags it everywhere, and she never sleeps without it. This morning I asked my daughter what she had dreamed about, and she said “I dream Fifi hold me!”  

     When she’s old enough to understand, I’ll have to thank my her for all the poem fodder. 


In trying to find my voice,   
I’ve often let others invade me
and govern my every choice,
allowed them to persuade me
to write only in free verse
’cause rhyming’s too “sing-songy”.
They strip all of these things from me
telling me I’ll be different from the rest—
if I hang with them in starbucks 
with an unkempt beard and an undercut
wearing Burnie stickers and a hipster vest. 
If I’ve taken this too far,
forgive me. I didn’t mean to.
But let’s forget about who we think we are,
and focus instead on what we do. 


and it’s nearly October before I come back.
I’ve been gone so long
I don’t even remember how to start a new post.
I hunt a full five minutes for the link,
and by then I’ve nearly talked myself out of it anyway.
The longer it’s been since I’ve done something,
the less confidence I have in my ability to do it.
“It’s been five months since
‘Working at a Cellphone Company’ was published.
Here’s how the post has performed so far…”
a message says,
and I’m not sure whether the site is trying to motivate
or discourage me.
Either way, it’s working, and I’ve found the link.
I place my fingers on the keyboard.
It feels like coming home.
I don’t even hesitate –
I’ve had my fill of that in five months.
There is only one thought in my head.
I begin:




Hey there! Thanks for reading my latest piece. Who are you, you might be asking? Oh! I’m the regular guy that carries the wannabe poet around inside of him until he bursts out of my chest like something from a science fiction movie. I know your next question: why haven’t we heard from you before? Good question! And… I’m not sure I know the whole answer. I think I know part of it though.

Part of it is organization. I think I felt like this space should be reserved for “polished” creative  writing. I don’t know if it was just that or if I wanted to paint a certain picture of myself or what, but I figured I’d try something new and allow myself to be a person instead. Don’t think this is some kind of grand re-awakening or something grandiose like that; I think it’s just me trying to overcome the resistance I’m feeling as I try to get back in to writing creatively on a daily basis. I figure I’m more likely to do that if I don’t have to get in to character (or at least if I can break the third wall in a post-script).

Anyway, I might do more of this, and I might not, but I just wanted to take a minute and talk frankly for a bit about what I was thinking when I when I wrote this piece.

Five months ago I read a book by Stephen King called On Writing. It was awesome, and it gave me some of the tools and confidence I needed to help me get to work on a story I’ve been mulling around for years. I got into the habit of writing about 400 words a day on that  story. I was so excited! Things were coming a long great, and the story seemed to be taking on a life of its own. I got so absorbed in it in a few weeks that my poetry fell by the wayside.

I don’t know why, but my story slowed to a stop eventually. I hope to come back to it soon, although I’m not exactly sure what happens next. Anyway, I must have burned myself out with what I got done, because I stopped writing the story and didn’t pick up poetry again.

Then school began, and I started my last semester as a student teacher. All of that inspiring kids to write started working on me again, and in my prep period I found some down time and thought of my old blog. Hopefully I can keep it up for a while this time. Knowing me and my creative spurts, I will slow down again at some point, but in the mean time…

It’s good to be back.


Working at a Cellphone Company

You tell me about everything—
why you’re here and
how your plan started
what was wrong with your phone and how
you dropped it in the lake
climbing out of the canoe
when you were on a fishing trip with your son
who flew in from school in Seattle
(where he’s studying to be an engineer)
to spend the summer at home before he graduates
plus his grandmother’s health is declining,
so you’re glad to have him home—
you’d go on if I let you,
but I don’t.
You’re life may be an open book,
but that doesn’t mean I want to read it.

Untitled – May 4, 2016

It was years ago, but I smell you sometimes
usually on another woman,
and everything stops for an instant.
It’s not when you introduced me to Jones Soda
the excited confusion when you told me you were bisexual
or the depression when you friend-zoned me—
I remember those things too, of course,
but not when I smell you.
When I smell you I’m passing a note in shop class
talking to you on the the phone for five hours,
switching out the cordless when the battery ran out
telling you I’d never been kissed
watching Ashlee Simpson try to lip sync on SNL
walking out afterwards in the rain to meet you
on the corner under the lamp-post
holding hands stepping over writhing worms
(out in the rain for the same reasons we were)
cuddling for warmth under a park pavilion
and the electric taste of my first kiss
to the tune of “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers.