The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Another Possibility September 29, 2012

Filed under: Videos,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:19 pm

For this prompt, I asked everyone to write down these four words and phrases:


Regret                I regret nothing

No Regrets        We regret to inform you


Then I read the definition of the word “regret” from the Oxford American Dictionary (click here to read that). The line that stood out for me from the definition was, “to bewail the dead.”

What I wrote follows.


Today at the gym, a man older than I am climbed onto the elliptical machine next to me, and I saw myself in ten years. I have to say, he looked good. He had a nice head of silver hair, and smooth skin on his face. He may have had some surgical assistance with his look, but it could also have just been the result of good facial creams. He looked older, but attractive.

In my peripheral vision, I caught him giving me the once over more than a few times, and I couldn’t tell if he was cruising me or trying to figure out what was blaring in my ears: I tend to lip-synch along with whichever diva du jour is on my iPod. Today it was Ms. Aguilera (I met him out for dinner on a Friday night/He really had me working up an appetite). I should have just smiled at him, but I don’t like to socialize at the gym.

It was profound, though, because for so long now I’ve identified my future self with the old guy who’s bent over a walker, struggling to climb onto the bus, or the chunky, lonely guy by himself in a bar that’s otherwise busy with groups of friends and flirtatious conversation. That’s going to be me, I often tell myself, and the image I’ve held onto to for so long—the older me who’s married to a sweet guy, living in Sonoma County with a brood of chickens, a few dogs, and at least one cat to catch the mice—just slips away more and more.

But this guy, this guy made me re-think all my hopeless thoughts. He had nice arms—firm and slightly furry, with good muscle tone—and nice hands (trimmed nails and invisible cuticles). He was moisturized and clipped; he was keeping up with the maintenance. That could be me, I thought, years from now, still pumping away to a dance tune, confident in shorts and a funky t-shirt.

I’m not sure what to do with these new thoughts. Should I write my therapist a thank-you note? Because the longing and hopelessness I’ve kept company with for so long now is slipping away, and in its place is a new awareness that there’s so much I don’t know. I might end up with a bent spine and stiff legs; I might also complete the AIDS Ride someday and push my body into new, tight shapes. I might live alone in an overstuffed one-bedroom in the Mission, or I might live in a big house with people I know and trust; I might become a foster parent or a big brother. I might have a hot, young lover who finds me extremely sexy, even with these lines on my forehead, and these new thoughts of not being able to control anything.

It all feels strangely possible now.



Hopelessly Hopeful September 20, 2012

Filed under: Videos,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 10:53 pm

For this prompt, I simply played the song, “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor. Check out the video version and see what resonates for you (then write for 20 minutes).




Here’s what I wrote:

I’m working hard at letting go of Mr. Right. So much so that I’ve actually been working on reversing my inner dialogue. For instance, if I’m invited to a party, I no longer think, “I could meet a nice guy there, so I better dress well, curl my eyelashes, touch up my sideburns.” Instead I tell myself, “Go have fun with your friends. Everyone else there will be part of a couple, straight, or battling bad breath. You aren’t going to meet anyone at a party, so give it up: let it go.”

This may sound harsh and pessimistic to you, but I find it liberating. And I practice some version of this now no matter where I’m headed. Flying to Chicago? You won’t meet anyone at the airport or on the plane. Grocery shopping? Forget it. Having lunch alone? Bring a book. A Saturday writing workshop at the Writing Salon? All women.

I’m turning every fantasy on its head, but I still can’t give up this hopeless hoping when I attend a wedding. I’m working on it, but letting go of this one makes me sad because, well, it’s just so fucking romantic.

Last week was no different. Though I was attending this wedding with my close friend, Mario, I still popped in my cufflinks with that familiar tape playing in my head. And when I saw the cute single guy sitting next to us during the wedding, laughing at our pre-ceremony remarks, the little dying fire inside me was stoked a little.

Later, at the reception, we found that same guy sitting at our assigned table with two seats open next to him. When it was obvious he wanted to sleep with my friend and not me, well, that’s when the pity party started up again.

While they chatted away and the lesbian couple next to me talked about the wedding cake, I poured myself another glass of wine and proceeded to get good and drunk.

I make it a habit not to dance at weddings. It’s usually too depressing: the tacky Deejays, the rough mixes, the stupid fake floor—everyone forced into intimacy because of that little square laid over the carpet—it just bums me out. Plus, relatives always cluster together and it always makes me feel more like an outsider. I was doing a fine job of feeling like an old maid, watching another friend dance with his partner of thirteen years (and the bride). But when Gloria Gaynor came on following that familiar clash of symbols and sang, “At first I was afraid/I was petrified,” I knew my gay forefathers would frown on me if I didn’t get my ass out of my chair and dance to what I consider the gay anthem. So I joined them.

It turns out the bride was a great dancer, and she was wearing red pumps under all that cream tulle. (I always ask the bride to show me her shoes; it’s a ritual.) She kissed me when it was over (good luck as far as I’m concerned), and it was all downhill from there.

I watched as she and the groom fed one another chocolate cake covered in candy pearls, and I got teary. I tried my best to catch the garter (Mario actually caught it, so he’ll probably marry the guy at our table who couldn’t keep his hands off him). I was even tempted to catch the bride’s bouquet, but I knew the ladies who were lining up would never allow it. Still, when the bride tossed those red roses over her head, one petal fell off. My eyes went right to it, and as soon as I could, I slipped it into my pocket. It’s drying on my desk right now, right next to a great old black and white photo of my parents.

I guess I still have some work to do.


Similes, Metaphors, and Kisses September 7, 2012

Filed under: Craft,Poems,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 8:42 am

Some of my prompts have titles; this one is “Similes and Metaphors.”

First, I ask everyone to make a list down the left-hand margin of five  nouns and five verbs ending in “ing.” This is a free write, so I remind them to just write whatever words pop into their heads.

Then I have them write “is like” next to each of those words, setting up the foundation for a simile.

Next, I have them finish the phrase using whatever words come to mind, or borrowing from other words on their lists. So we get phrases like, “Coffee tables are like friendships,” and “Kisses are like promises,” or Flying is like freedom.”

We each choose one of these and read them around to hear the variations.

Next, we cross out the phrase “is like” and create a metaphor. Now we have, “Coffee tables are friendships,” and “Kisses are promises.” Very different indeed.

As with all of my list exercises, I have everyone choose three that they’d feel comfortable reading out loud, and we read them around, leaving enough time between each reader to write down any we find inspiring or interesting in any way.

Finally, we choose one, write it at the top of a blank page, and begin writing, using the metaphor as a prompt, repeating it if and when we feel stuck. We write for twenty minutes.

My metaphor was, “Kissing is Flying” Here’s what I wrote:


Kissing is Flying

a mouth open as wide as the sky

a whole cloud of birds between two wet lips

the world opening up beneath you:

fields covered in the shadows of clouds,

trees reaching roots into river beds


the breath coming quickly as you travel under bridges,

over buildings, sloping down, down, down, then soaring

up, up, up into the horizon, through a passage of towering

rock formations, rushing over great bodies of water,

suspended in bright air, the sun rising out of the ocean


past a flock of gulls, blindingly white,

the sun reflecting off their wings,

or a murder of Crows, darkening the sky.

For a moment, for a moment

for a fantastic moment you transcend


this body: bone, flesh, muscle, tail spread out

behind you, you take flight, and there is only this

only this, no gravity, no sorrow nothing to hold you

down, so just for a moment

you rise and rise and rise