Art as a writing prompt

Debbie Dakin brought some of her pencil drawings to the Tempe Writers’ Studio at the library. Each of us chose one as inspiration for a 15-minute writing session. This one reminded me of a character in my stories about rural Virginia in 1932.


Sarabell Simmons was shocked and appalled when that Baltimore woman stumbled into the choir loft on Sunday morning. “Shocked and appalled,” she told Helen at the beauty parlor. Nodding so emphatically that Helen lost her grip on the curler for a moment, she went on, “of course I know things are different up North, but honestly, I declare, are they all heathens? Who on earth would come into the church through a side door and walk straight into the choir loft?”
Helen made some tutting sounds over the pins held in her teeth.
“Well, it’s a good thing she didn’t end up in the Baptismal pool,” Sarabell continued. “Not that her appearance would have changed that much. That slicked-back spinster hair… Why I could have told just by looking at her that she was a Yankee schoolteacher.”
“Does she live in Mrs. Meade’s boarding house?” Helen asked, putting the hairpins into the curler to hold it.
“Yes, yes, that’s the one,” said Sarabell. “Poor Mrs. Meade must be down to her last penny if she has to accept someone like that. Bad enough we have all those people from Richmond, although I must say, our pastor and his wife seem to be fitting in right nicely…”
“How long have they been here now?” asked Helen. She attended the Methodist Church and didn’t really know the Reverend Johnson, but Bitty was a regular customer. Not weekly like Sarabell, but she’d come in for a trim every month or a style on special occasions.
“Oh, let’s see now,” Sarabell rolled her eyes up as if searching for a memory in her eyebrows. “Little Melissa was just starting to walk, so it must be, hmm, oh, ten or eleven years.”

Original art by Debbie Dakin

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