Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt

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Do you keep a journal – or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I’ll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation – just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you’ll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you’ll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.


Family Photo

There is no such thing as a berry-colored sweater. I know this because my mother-in-law assigned our family “berry” for a family portrait that’s to be taken during the holidays. The idea is simple: Three families, three colors. Girls in plain-colored sweaters, guys in light-colored shirts and ties. I need two sweaters and three neckties.

But, the berry-colored sweaters my mother-in-law and I saw in early September were sold out by early October, and I’ve spent the past six weeks trolling the Internet and scouring clothing stores for a similar color and style. And neckties? It appears that manly men wear as many different shades of pink and purple as women.

We organize a family photo every year, but this time, we’re hiring a professional photographer to celebrate my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary. She’ll ensure our hands are folded in our laps and that we’re all looking at the camera at the same time. A few weeks later, we’ll have an example of our best behavior that’s appropriate for framing.

But I’m more interested in reviewing the candid shots the public will never see. Those shots tell an entirely different story.

When we were part of a family portrait for my side of the family earlier this year, the best shots of that photo shoot occurred while the photographer was moving chairs: My husband and two boys twisted their faces into absurd shapes; the boys covered their sister’s eyes and tickled her; my brother and his wife flipped their kids, ages 5 and 2, upside down.

If I study those photos long enough, I can hear the laughter and feel the pinches that produced the squeals. I’m confident our upcoming photo shoot will include many of the same antics; I just hope they occur after the formal portrait for which we’re color coordinating.


Journal Entry:  Describe what happened at your last family photo. Who cracked the jokes? Who cried? Who organized the standing/seating arrangement and how many shots did it take to get a “good one?” What made that shot the “good one?”

Note: This story first appeared as a post on my blog in 2010. 

Karna Converse is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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