Lift A Line

Recently I led the Morehead Writing Project’s Fall Teen Writers Day Out writing marathon. We joined the National Writing Project’s #WriteOut dedicated to Making Stories of People, Place, and Perspectives and so I selected writing prompts to inspire writing about our people, our place, and our perspective connected to Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. We began with a simple prompt that I have encountered in many writing books and events: lifting a line. 

The idea is simple. Read the work of another or listen to a song and lift a line, or an image, that resonates with you or creates an echo in your life and write to that echo. 

For this activity I leaned heavily on music created by those who share our connection and history with Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia including: 

  • Patty Loveless “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” – a wonderfully evocative story of our region that is shared by many but also offers inspiration to anyone who has ever felt trapped by circumstances and longs for escape
  • Reel World String Band “Who Owns Appalachia” – the history of our region with environmental implications
  • Dierks Bentley “Down in the Mine” – the story of hard choices and struggle
  • Jean Ritchie “Black Waters” – love and loss

I played the music videos for my writers and also shared the song lyrics with them. Based on the writing that was shared during our open mic sessions the songs that resonated the strongest were “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “Down in the Mine.”

If you are inspired to write more about people and place then check out “The House That Built Me” and uncover more ideas for writing your origin story with these prompts. Don’t forget to share them using the #JustWrite hashtag.