April 2016 NaHaiWriMo Writing Prompts


Selected by Robert Franson



Beach. I thought I would start by focusing on some familiar landforms, and what better than a beach? What does a beach bring to mind today? As always, the prompt is just intended to get you started. Feel free to go where you will, and since today happens to be April Fool’s Day, some may wish to have fun with that instead.


Grasslands. Beaches (yesterday’s prompt) always make me think of oceans, and that makes me think of the prairie grasslands. There are so many similarities. From a high point you can see forever in all directions, and the big sky makes a high ceiling with clouds scattered about. And there is the wind. So continuing my first theme of landforms, I’ll go with ‘grasslands’. What’s your take on grasslands?


High country. We’ve written about beaches and grasslands. Time now to consider the high country. I love the mountains, but not just the peaks. I particularly enjoy spending time in the cirques sitting by an emerald lake watching the light play on the mountain tops, or just hanging out near tree line, where the trees are my size.


Desert. Deserts can be harsh and forbidding places, but they can also be very beautiful. The rains in California this winter have brought forth a spectacular display of wildflowers in Death Valley, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades.


Forest. We’ll look at one more large landscape feature before we change focus a bit. After thinking about the desert, which is often parched and desolate, it’s nice to contemplate the cool depth of the forest. I think of the redwood forest of California and the eastern hardwood forests of New England where I grew up. What kind of forest do you think of?


Favorite pet or critter. I thought you might like an easy one before we move on to another theme, and this should be easy for most (I think). Of course, you may prefer to write about a critter you don’t like and would not like to meet. That could work too (I don’t like tarantulas).


Icy or icily. For the next few days we’ll focus on descriptive words—adjectives and adverbs. Today we’ll consider the word “icy” as in covered with, abounding in, or consisting of ice, or intensely cold. Or, in terms of attitudes, characterized by coldness, unfriendly, frigid (an icy stare), or steely (icy nerves). Alternatively, April 7 is “World Health Day,” as designated by the World Health Organization. World Health Day seeks to draw attention to a major global health concern each year, and the theme this year is diabetes, a pandemic that has spread rapidly in the last few decades. If you don’t want to write about “icy” things, perhaps you would find inspiration in World Health Day.


Abandoned. Could be anything that is or was abandoned. An abandoned mine, house, children’s playground. Whatever comes to mind. Maybe abandoned furniture left by the side of the road. Or an animal, or pet. Once, when I was driving across the desert, I saw two or three kittens left by the side of the road. I stopped, caught them, and dropped them off in a shelter in the next town. What have you noticed that someone left behind?


Melodic. Lots of things can be melodic—the wind in the trees, wind chimes, someone’s voice, bird song, waves rolling up the beach and retreating, even a child dragging a stick along a picket fence. What melodies do you notice today? I should also note that this is Vimy Ridge Day in Canada, an annual observance held on April 9 to remember Canadians who victoriously fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France during the First World War.


Prickly. Lots of things are prickly: cacti, roses, blackberry canes and brambles of all sorts. Prickly pear cactus is said to produce a luscious fruit that can be made into jelly, wine and many other products. Some people are prickly and difficult to get along with. What does prickly bring to your mind today?


Glittering. My dictionary says “shining with a shimmering or sparkling light.” Lots of things glitter—the water, or snow, when the sun is on it. Glass and polished surfaces glitter. Chandeliers glitter. Stars, and eyes too. And in another usage, even careers glitter. I’m hoping for a glittering collection of haiku!


Meager. We’ll consider this last adjective before we move along to a different focus for the prompts. There are lots of synonyms for meager: inadequate, scanty, paltry, modest, insufficient, sparse, deficient, and skimpy, just to name a few. Check it out in your favorite dictionary or thesaurus. And there are lots of situations where meager supplies or resources may have a large impact on outcomes. Hopefully it will suggest a wide range for possible haiku subjects.


Favorite flower. Taking a bit of a break between themes again. You wrote about your favorite pet or critter earlier. Here is another opportunity to write about one of your favorite subjects. I love most flowers, but one of my favorites is the California poppy. A field of gold poppies can get me every time. What’s your favorite?


Creek. Earlier we looked at large landforms, now we turn our attention to smaller, more individual landscape features. Today we’ll consider a creek, which is defined as a stream, brook, or minor tributary of a river, or, in some places, as an inlet in a shoreline, a channel in a marsh, or another narrow, sheltered waterway. Small creeks are easy to overlook but they can provide important habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife.


Waterfall. Waterfalls are so magical, and so varied: Large, powerful ones that thunder and shake the earth, ethereal veils of water that blow in the breeze, little trickles that make music in the glade. I love to watch birds soaring through the mist of the falls.


Gorge. When I think of waterfalls, the subject of the last prompt, I often think of gorges. Maybe that’s because I spent my college years at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. There are deep gorges on each side of the campus, and they are wonderful places for walking and picnicking. There are several waterfalls in both gorges, which undoubtedly played a key role in their formation.


Volcano. The last few prompts have been kind of peaceful in tone, so it seems like time to mix in something more exciting. And what could be more exciting than a volcano. Whether it is erupting, spewing molten lava and tons of smoke and ash, or quietly looming snowy and white over the surrounding land, a volcano is an exciting sight. What is your take on volcanoes?


Fire. We wrote about ice earlier, and somehow fire and ice seem to go together. We shouldn’t forget fire. Iceland proudly proclaims that it is a land of fire and ice, and Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled “Fire and Ice.” Think of all the different kinds of fires we could write about: wildfires, controlled burns, campfires, and cooking and heating fires, just to name a few. And then there’s use of the word “fire” in an employment context, as in, “You’re fired!” Lots to go on here. Does it fire up your imagination?


Earthquake. I hadn’t intended to suggest this as a prompt, but with the recent devastating earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador I’m guessing that some of you may want to write about earthquakes, some aspect of them, or the compassion and heroism of people who are trying to provide aid and comfort. If you’re not comfortable with that subject here is an alternative: glacier.


Enchant or enchanted. As a verb, enchant can mean to influence by or as if by charms and incantation (bewitch), or to attract and move deeply. We probably all know of places that are said to be enchanted. You may also remember that at the end of the Winnie the Pooh stories, Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an enchanted place at the top of the forest and talk about the future. The stories close with these words: “So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”


Peculiar. Lots of things can seem peculiar. Trees and plants may be shaped in peculiar ways. Train and bus schedules sometimes seem peculiar, and people can certainly behave peculiarly. And then there is the current election campaign in the United States.


International Earth Day. It is celebrated by billions of people around the world and is observed in over 190 countries. Worldwide, Earth Day celebrations utilize educational programs to inform people of ways that they can help protect the environment and its natural resources. They say this of their focus for this year: “Let’s plant 7.8 billion trees for the Earth. Let’s divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100% renewable. Let’s take the momentum from the Paris Climate Summit and build on it.” See more at http://www.earthday.org/. Write something appropriate for the Earth Day on April 22.


Serpentine. When used as an adjective, serpentine means of, characteristic of, or resembling a serpent, as in form or movement; having a winding course, as a road, sinuous; or shrewd, wily, or cunning. As a noun it can refer to serpentine, a dark green mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate, sometimes mottled or spotted like a snake’s skin.


Colors. Pick the one you want. Purple seems to be popular right now.


Stormy. Weather can be stormy, and certainly has been this last winter in most of the United States because of El Niño. Relationships can be stormy too. And some people have very stormy dispositions. What storm clouds are brewing where you are? April 25 is also ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. It is also observed in Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn Islands, and Tonga. Anzac Day was created originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.


Pristine. Immaculate, perfect, in its original condition; unspoiled.


Flicker or flickering. Lights often flicker before a storm, and candles flicker. Movies, particularly older ones, flicker on the screen. Sometimes eyelids flicker. And there is a bird known as a flicker (a woodpecker).


Delicious. As an adjective it can mean highly pleasing to the senses, especially to taste or smell, as in a delicious dinner or a delicious aroma; or it can mean very pleasing or delightful, as in a delicious sense of humor. As a noun it can refer to a red or yellow variety of apple, cultivated in the United States.


Happy Hour. The term can mean different things to different people. The conventional meaning relates to the time when a pub or bar will make drinks available at a discount. Or the term can be used to refer to a cocktail party. For some of us there may be other times that we think of as our special or happy time. Longfellow wrote of the “Children’s Hour.” I like to think of quiet times spent sitting by a Sierra lake watching the alpenglow, or just sitting by the ocean watching the waves roll in. What’s your happy hour?


Laughter. Could be the laughter of children, or of folks enjoying a happy hour or party. Or maybe the laughter of loons, or kookaburras. For a discussion of laughter in animals, see https://goo.gl/91BciW. Check out the kiikaburra’s laugh at http://goo.gl/BWT4MU, and the loon’s at https://goo.gl/QPHKEx. Both are good for a laugh!