Memoir Writing Prompts: The Turkeys Are Flying (No, Really)

by Matilda Butler on August 15, 2013

Writing Prompt LogoPost #181 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Finding the Relationship Between Writing Prompts and Writing (AKA Finishing a Story)

For the past two weeks, we’ve had the fun of watching baby turkeys (officially called poults) as they ate their way across our neighbor’s lawn. We’ve had an abundance of grasshoppers and perhaps that’s what has kept their interest. Our small flock of wild turkeys currently consists of three hens and seven poults. We imagine that there were originally more but that they didn’t survive.

A few months ago, we saw the prelude to all of this. A tom entertained four hens (and us) with his preening. He’d fan out his tail feathers and turn round and round. He clearly wanted to impress the females. Of course, by the time he was through with his show, the hens had usually moved on and he had to go find them. This was a great show. Actually, quite spectacular.

Then came the tiny poults. At first they were just slightly taller than the cut grass. But they grew quickly. A couple of times we saw an argument between siblings — or at least that’s what it looked like including the part where one of the hens hurried over to stop the fight. I saw flapping of wings among the young ones, and didn’t really think anything about it.

But yesterday I observed the most amazing scene. My study is on the second floor and I look out on a forest. The neighbor’s yard and ours border marvelous Douglas firs. Hearing the cheep, cheep, and gobble, gobble, I looked down on my neighbors lawn and saw the hens and poults as usual. Returning to my writing, I looked again when I heard a different noise. It turned out that one of the poults was flapping her (his?) wings. You know–fluffing them out and moving them up and down. Just before I looked back at my computer, I saw the poult fly into the tree across from my desk. It balanced on the branch and stayed there. Then one of the hens flew into the same tree but several branches higher. I thought that was the end of the show when a second poult tried the practice flapping of wings and then flew onto the same branch as the first one.

None of the others were ready to try. At least not that day.

What do this have to do with writing? With writing prompts? With getting our memoirs written?

As you know by now, I’m a big fan of writing prompts. Kendra jokes that every place I look I see a writing prompt. And there’s some truth to that. There are numerous reasons to use memoir writing prompts:

  • They get us past writing blocks.
  • They get our creative juices flowing.
  • They stretch us as writers.
  • They can help suggest new material for our stories.
  • They encourage the habit of writing.
  • They may cause us to do research on topics we’d otherwise ignore.

  • Occasionally, you’ll read someone saying that writing prompts are a distraction. That the same amount of time should be spent on making progress with your “serious” writing. And I won’t completely disagree. It seems to me that it is a matter of balance. Sometimes we need a fun distraction that is actually helping us improve as writers. Sometimes we just can’t seem to write on the manuscript but we’re open to feeling the surge of creativity if it comes from a writing prompt.

    So don’t spend all your writing energy on writing prompts. At the same time, remember that the baby turkeys were only ready to fly after practice. Writing prompts are one of our ways to practice.

    Memoir Writing Prompts

    1. Look out your window and write the scene. What is it like in each season?

    2. Think about the most recent generation in your family who lived in a rural area and would have seen wild turkeys, maybe even shot them as food. Then write a few pages about one person in that family and what life was like in the autumn. You might need to do some research.

    3. Write about how you learned to cook turkeys. When was the first time you cooked one on your own? Who ate it with you? Did it turn out well?

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Hanna Maulseed August 15, 2013 at

    I have already ordered this book. It is a great inspiration. Can’t afford any more. Thanks.

    Matilda Butler August 15, 2013 at

    Hi Hanna:

    Glad your copy of Writing Alchemy arrived and that you find it inspiring. We hope that you’ll use some of our writing prompts in conjunction with the book.

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