Tip on Writing for Money, Plus a Thanksgiving Prompt

Here’s the hot tip: No. 5 from the Top 20 Tips From WD in 2009 series:

“I remind myself that my income is contingent on the pages I produce, and if
I don’t write pages I don’t get paid—and pretty soon in my mind I can see
myself living in an abandoned truck. When the only thing standing between me
and that fate is the next paragraph, it comes out pretty quickly.”
–Hollis Gillespie (Trailer Trashed), as interviewed by Brian A. Klems in
the May/June 2009 issue of WD. (Click here to check it out.)

WRITING PROMPT: Thanksgiving Delight
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings (I feel another one coming on next week

Write about the greatest Thanksgiving meal you’ve ever eaten, describing it down to the final piece of pie. Make your readers not only experience it, but crave your meal.

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5 thoughts on “Tip on Writing for Money, Plus a Thanksgiving Prompt

  1. Dorraine

    Okay, Zac. A memory. Thanks for this prompt!

    One Thanksgiving it snowed. Flakes slipped from the easy white sky like tiny stars. No traffic, our part of the world quiet as a sleeping cat. By nine a.m. eight inches of powder was on the ground. We stared out the foggy window knowing relatives weren’t coming. Phone calls confirmed it. No bossy Aunt Annie. Cousin Verona would not be here to tell windy stories, we’d heard a thousand times over. A vacant child’s table. The curly-headed toddlers who normally sat there, banging spoons, spilling gravy and giggling, giggling, giggling, would be at their own tables today.

    “We’ll make the best of it,” Mom said.

    Dad winked. “Hallelujah, we can eat in peace this year.”

    Mom rolled her eyes and went to the kitchen. She had risen early to stuff the turkey with bread, sausage and sage. Her breakfast cinnamon rolls were already on top of the stove, covered with dishtowels, exploding to five times their original size. They would be in the oven soon and our mouths after that, hot sugar, and yeast bread and sweet glaze. We weren’t too hard hit about the one time missing relatives with mom’s good cooking.

    “Will you girls set the table? she asked.

    On the silky orange tablecloth we placed ten white china plates, two brown tapered candles, crisp cloth napkins and a bouquet of mums. We stood back and observed our work. Real professional.

    Mom peeked in and grinned. “Nice job, girls. After breakfast you guys can go outside and play in the snow.”

    We devoured those cinnamon rolls and then layered up for the cold.
    After sledding we came inside, all red noses and cheeks, fireplace blazing and us thawing, mingled scents of turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes and gravy dangling in every nook and cranny. Our stomachs grumbled. We heard the oven door clang for the last time and knew the turkey was finished.

    “Don’t touch that turkey, honey,” Mom said.

    “Oh, just a bite. You can’t deny me a bite,” dad grumbled. And then laughter and kissing.


    Later, we sat around the table, snow still dropping outside the windows, inside warmth and cheer, dishes and silverware tinkling, plates piled high with steaming food, and we, thankful for each other. And missing relatives.

  2. Francesco Sinibaldi

    La perception des âmes désolées.

    C’est la
    perception des
    âmes désolées,
    et quand le
    tourment descend
    pour décrire
    le portrait d’une
    ombre matinale
    je vois, dans
    la mer, une ombre
    infinie qui rappelle
    la jeunesse.

    Francesco Sinibaldi

  3. Mark James

    Zac: I tried to do the family thing, but . . . I don’t know. . .
    They keep me in restraints for a reason, I guess.
    Martha: No kidding. This was a tough one.

    I started with the pie.

    While they passed creamy mounds of mashed potatoes and silky brown gravy, I reached for my second helping of dessert.

    When I glanced up, my mouth full of the sticky sweet taste, my mother was staring me down. “It’s the best part, Mom.”

    “No.” She reached a trembling hand across the table. “The best part is knowing you’re off that death trap mountain.”

    Next to me, Lissy, my little sister, spooned green bean casserole onto her plate.

    My dad, the only living man I knew who thought falling in love was a one time deal, took my mother’s hand, kissed her with a strange tenderness. “He’s here now. That’s all that matters.”

    “Is it?” she said. “Something isn’t right.”

    “Are you gonna cut the turkey, Dad?” Lissy said.

    “We carve turkeys, Lizabeth.” Mom’s school teacher correction came out on autopilot, her voice low, disconnected somehow.

    Lissy didn’t quite roll her eyes, but she kicked me under the table, and hid a grin behind her hand.

    The bird lay in the middle of the table, brown crispy skin deep fried to somewhere between perfect and divine. The wings always got me, the way they stuck out, like it could still fly away and escape.

    I almost let the knife, sleek blue steel sheathed in dark wood, slip through my hand when Dad passed it my way. Lissy and Mom looked as surprised as I felt.

    “I’m glad you’re home, son.”

    I cut into the turkey. The tender breast yielded, sensuously soft; juice seeped out.

    “How did you get home, Jason?” Mom said.

    My hand jerked sideways. The knife slashed deep. Lissy slid her plate across the table just in time to catch the falling meat.

    “On a plane,” I said. But I couldn’t remember the flight.

    “What airline?”

    “You picked me up at the airport, remember? It was – – ”

    I didn’t know. And the ride home—that was a blank too. Lissy always bombed me with questions about my climb, the snow, the funny boots with spikes on the bottom. But not this time.

    “Martha, he’s here. Does it matter how?”

    Lissy cut into her meat, swirled it in the gravy. “I’m here too.”

    “Exactly,” Dad said. “We’re together, the game’s on in a couple of hours and – -”

    “Your team always loses,” Lissy said around a mouthful.

    Mom rested her hand lightly on mine. “Finish carving, Jason.”

    I shivered. “Geez, Dad. Saving energy? It’s like a snow cave in here.”


    I woke to the cold; left the warmth of my mother’s house behind. On either side of me, Larson and Jack were frozen over. The sunless night did them in.

    I was cold; and hungry . . . so damn hungry.

    Almost blinded by brilliant rays from a merciless sun, surrounded by endless vistas of white, I sank my teeth into warm meat and thought of pumpkin pie.

  4. Martha W

    Okay, this one was difficult for me. I know I didn’t pull it off. *sticks tongue out at Zac*


    Every Thanksgiving for the last fifteen years we have dinner with my husband’s family. With the exception of one – the year we had it at our brand new house. The year I went from a gas stove to an electric stove. Those of you who know… are groaning right now. Well, me too. There’s a reason it was only *one* year. Anyway, I digress.

    My mother-in-law is wonderful. She gets up at ungodly hours to clean, stuff and bake a delicious turkey with homemade stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Usually there’s sausage or ham too. Plus all the trimmings like veggies, fruits, cheeses, etc. There are fifteen of us in my husband’s immediate family now. We always have a good time playing games and planning our shopping trip on Black Friday.

    But every year on the Wednesday night before turkey day, I find myself thinking back to when I lived at home. And wishing for one more. We would shop the weekend before to pick out the exactly-right bird and then let it hang out in our fridge to thaw. On the night before we’d bake up the pumpkin pies, letting the spicy aroma fill the air. I still make my own pies to this day.

    The morning of Thanksgiving my mom would let me sleep while she got the turkey going but would wake me up around seven so I wouldn’t miss any of that awesome buttery smell as the turkey cooked. Each time the oven opened it was like a new surprise. The skin would be just a touch more golden and there’d be a little bit more juice in the bottom of the pan that we could use to baste the turkey.

    Around noon we pull out the box of Stove Top and mix up the stuffing. We didn’t make our own from scratch but we always enjoyed the yummy herb scents emanating from the pan anyway. We did make homemade gravy, though I’ve never picked up the knack for it. My mom, though, has the touch. Just the right amount of flour with drippings, milk and herbs. Mouth-watering goodness. She just never passed along the gene for getting it right to me.

    Of course, we also had mashed potatoes but those were Betty Crocker. Simple, easy and yummy. Then we’d slice the cheeses we had picked out to go with the Ritz crackers. Black olives, sweet pickles, cranberry sauce and carrots rounded out the little spread.

    Sometimes, when all things went right, we’d have a meal fit for a king. Other times, we’d eat only the pies and still have the best meal ever. In case you haven’t figured this out, the greatest meals I’ve ever had weren’t about the food itself. It was about the time spent making them. The time spent with Mom, laughing and joking about things gone wrong.

    Here’s hoping you have at least one Thanksgiving like mine.


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