Tag Archives: writing prompts

Creating Ghost Stories From Vintage Photographs.

In my collection of vintage family photos there is one that is not identified. It’s a turn-of-the-century wedding portrait, and the youthful couple stare at the camera with almost deer-in-the-headlights expressions. I can see no resemblance between any of my great-grandmother’s relatives (identified in other period photos) and either the husband or the wife. Friends of the family? Extended family members? The passage of more than a hundred years has erased the memory of their identity.

Chicago Review of Books

Maria Romasco Moore’s debut book, Ghostographs, is an entirely unique “novella-in-flash,” combining stories and vintage photographs that create an experience that’s both eerie and sublime. It’s a coming-of-age story that takes place in a small town full of secrets and ghosts and unforgettable characters. The book has received high praise from the likes of Carmen Maria Machado, who blurbed: “Each of these stories is its own ghost: startling, uncanny, gone. Each one rattles its chains, smiles its terrible smile, gestures towards the others.”

I was lucky enough to talk with Maria about her writing, the appeal of old photographs, working with a small press, and more.

I wanted to start with the author’s note that comes at the end of Ghostographs, and how you write about this collection of old photographs you slowly built and started from childhood. Can you talk a bit about your fascination with old photographs?…

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For the Love of Books: Writing Prompts?

One third of National Novel Writing Month has passed, which may preclude some slow writers from finishing a whole first draft of a 50-thousand-word novel, but it’s not too late to use the exercise to jump-start a new writing project.

I’m a pretty slow writer. It took me three weeks short of three years to write my roughly 200-thousand-word first novel, Irish Firebrands (I had to do a lot of cultural immersion research for it, and I edit as I write), I never suffered from writer’s block, and it was the most fun I’d had in a very long time. Also, it was written before I knew NaNoWriMo existed.

Since then, I’ve used NNWM to brainstorm the easy interpersonal stuff for my second novel, which I’ve been researching for four years already (although having to fight cancer and chronic anemia during this period are to blame for making my writing even slower, due to brain fog). I prefer taking notes with pencil and paper, but NNWM was a great way to get 50K words of miscellaneous beginnings, middles and ends of scenes saved on virtual paper before they vanished from sight (in the mind’s eye, that is).

Nothing in the NNWM rules says it has to be a coherent story from start to finish, in order to win, and participants are advised to regard what they do produce as just a rough draft, anyway, so it really ought to be a less stressful experience than people expect and experience it to be.

In addition, while the NaNoWriMo hell-bent-for-leather pace of 1667 words per day may seem to be biased towards pantsers, there’s good news for planners in the rules, too: research notes and outlines also qualify for the word count. What’s written just needs to be the novelist’s own original work. (It pays to read the fine print!)

How many of the works of art that feature books and reading which have been posted here over the past weeks have spoken to you?

Some of the art was produced as advertising; a few pieces are details cropped from larger works (often from some form of religious scene or icon); there are a couple of portraits of real people; and others were created to illustrate scenes from books.

Which ones have stories to tell, of which you have heard a whisper? Not just the story of a scene as portrayed: what about something else that may have been going on in the subject’s existence? Is it something you could turn into a short story, or begin to brainstorm a complete novel?

If a piece from our literary virtual art gallery has become a writing prompt for you, let us know about it in the Light a Fire Here box, below.

And stay tuned for even more pictures that immortalize the love of books . . . .



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Writing Prompt?

If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” what would your thousand words be?

city burned meme


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