The Catalyst

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

Love On Top October 18, 2013

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 5:45 pm

This shorty-short blog post is all about love.

The prompts this time are:

Love is solid

I need new everything

I think of her now


I think of her now, coming out of Marshall Fields with a black and gold shopping bag.

She decides to walk rather than take the train. It’s one of those late April days without rain, and the tulips and daffodils are everywhere: under the trees, hanging over the edges of window boxes, in vases on the tables in the Walnut Room, where she has just had a slice of Frango mint ice cream pie, coffee with cream. The clink of the china cup on the saucer. The clatter of forks. And now, the fresh spring air, the streets alive with people who have also decided to walk.

I like thinking of her this way, peaceful in her solitude. The El roars over her head as she crosses Wabash and heads toward the river. I want to crawl inside her thoughts, but knowing who she will become—mother, wife, demented old woman—I don’t dare interrupt this moment in the years of her youth, before all that, before all of us.

It’s sacred, this solitude, her young body, the way she thinks, perhaps, of dinner later, of being loved. She is young and attractive, and she knows she is loved.

I like thinking of her this way.


Cornbread: Laguna Writers Style October 9, 2013

Filed under: Recipes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 2:02 pm

Every now and then I publish a recipe here without much fanfare. This one is a standard: Cornbread. I’ve adapted the recipe from The Joy of Cooking (Northern Cornbread). A few prompts and the recipe are below.



The beauty of melted cheese                     photo 2-11

I just want someone to cook for me

You look absolutely edible tonight


Recipe: Laguna Writers Cornbread


Dry Ingredients

1-1/4 cups cornmeal

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt


Wet Ingredients

2 large eggs

1-1/3 cups buttermilk

2 Tbsp oil, butter or leaf lard


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet, a 9 inch round cake pan, or a standard 12 cupcake pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then whisk in the buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

Fold in the oil (or use melted butter) OR melt the leaf lard in the skillet in the oven and tip the pan to coat it evenly once the lard is melted.

Scrape the batter into the pan and tilt to spread evenly (or fill the cupcake pan 2/3 full).

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes in a muffin pan, 20 to 25 minutes in a square pan. Serve hot.

Note: you can also add a half cup of grated cheddar cheese and 1/3 cup sautéed bell peppers. I did this in the muffins pictured above.

Makes 12 servings


Stronger Than Pride October 4, 2013

Filed under: Grief,Videos,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 4:37 pm

The prompt this time was Sade’s song, “Love is Stronger than Pride.”        IMG_2256

Click here to hear the song (and then write in response for 20 minutes).

Here’s what I wrote:

Don’t write about loss. Write about lemons: Meyer, Eureka, Lisbon, a whole bag delivered to your door. Write about blossoming trees: plum and cherry, pink clouds lining the city streets.

Don’t keep winding back to that twenty-something who felt trapped: queer, stuck in the suburbs, his mother a ghost in polyester pants, a diaper underneath.

Write about the daffodils at the mouth of the Park Boulevard exit off Highway 13, that splash of green and yellow that surprises you every year. Write about the pug puppy who kissed your face, or the sexy, straight Puerto Rican guy who said, “Man, I think you’re beautiful. If you were a girl, I’d be all over you.”

Don’t write about the long, confusing, on-and-off with the handsome man with the black coffee eyes and the beautiful feet, the one who wouldn’t save himself, the one you couldn’t save.

Write about adding cream to caramelized sugar, and butterscotch pot de creme. Write about the tri-colored koi at the Botanical Gardens just thirty minutes from Puerto Vallarta, the bumpy bus ride past Boca and Mismaloya, the way the locals are lulled to sleep by the rush of warm air from the open windows, the wide curves, the growl of the engine.

Don’t write about sleepless nights, or age spots, the aisle in Costco where you seriously considered the bottle of promises for $124. No one wants to hear that you’re lonely some nights, so lonely that you go out and talk to strangers, drink too much, make out in crowded bars with men you don’t even know.

Don’t weave your way in and out of self-analysis: the way you still yearn sometimes to live out her shortened life for her, to be a parent, to grow old, be a grandparent. Don’t talk about Daddy issues, or how you delete the profiles of men who sound too much like Papa, even though you still hold a tiny grain of hope that he’s out there, that he’s waiting to be a rock, to do what’s best for you.

Focus on the flowers: narcissus rising like angels from a glass vase, calla lillies taking root in the shadowy corners of the yard, and the promise of lilacs this year. Little buds in the branches. The promise of those. The promise.


Pets Tell the Story October 1, 2013

Filed under: Craft,Short Stories/Short Shorts,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 3:41 am




The prompt this time is one I call, “Pets Tell the Story,” and is a POV (point of view) exercise. Here’s how it goes:

Begin with a list of pets you have known, yours or others’. (Note: these don’t have to be pets you particularly liked, but ones you have known, even superficially).

Simply name them.

Now choose two and make a few notes about their attitude, general personality, and something these pets might say: an expression or a comment. Choose one of these animal characters and write in his or her voice. Tell us what it’s like to live in the place he or she lives, and what he or she thinks of the human he or she lives with. Be as serious or as playful as you like.

What I wrote is below.


Is it time to eat? Is it time to eat yet? Eat? Eat? Oh! You want love? You just want love? Okay. Love, love, love, love, love. I’m stretching, stretching, stretching up. Oh, it’s hard work to wake up. Come on down here for kisses instead. Warm morning kisses. Love, love, love, love, love. My mouth is dry. Let me lick my chops. Come back for more now. Love, love, love, love, love.

He plays the TV too loud in the morning. And he burns the toast. That stinks. But he cracks an egg for me sometimes, fries it up, and breaks it into little pieces. Then I crawl out of bed for breakfast. Eat eat, eat, eat, eat. Then back to bed. Sleep. Ah. The TV finally off; he’s gone. Deep, deep late morning sleep.

At noon my walker arrives. I love him. Martin. He comes to the gate at the kitchen door and I’m up shakin’, shakin’, shakin’ this bulldog booty for this handsome man.

“Good morning my dear one,” he says, stepping over the gate, squatting down to kiss me. Love, love, love, love, love. Then he lets me out the back door, and I run down the steps to pee. Ahhh. I should have gone this morning, but I was so sleepy and he was running late. He’s always running late. Late, late, late, late. He’s always late. But Martin’s always on time, and he always lets me out. Always Martin. And that other one, Ryan. I love Ryan. Love, love, love Ryan. Where did he go?

After I pee, I chase that stupid squirrel up the lemon tree. Ruff! Stupid squirrel! Then I grab a lemon and bite down. Sweet tart, sweetheart. Sweetheart. That’s what Ryan called me. Where is he? He is part of the pack. Where did he go?

“Penelope!” Martin calls. “Let’s go for our walk.” Our walk! Our walk! Walk, walk, walk! The stupid leash clicks on. I bite it. Bite it! Bite it! I hate this leash. Grrrr. “Penelope, stop it now,” Martin coos, and I only do what he asks because I love him. I love him. I love him.

Down the hill, I sniff the little girls with their mama. They run over to me. “Penelope!” they scream in unison. Oh, yes! I love the girls too. Love, love, love, love, love. Every day before lunch, this love, that love. Sometimes Mochi, that curly black beast comes up and barks at me. C’mon, let’s do this, Mochi! C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon!

Then down the hill for lunch at the cafe. Me under the table, cooler here, and Martin eating his wrap. Little bites dropping down. Snacks. A little marinated onion. Yes. A piece of chicken? Wow! A pepper. Forget it. Too hot. And then I hear a familiar voice. Who’s that? Ryan? Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!

I come bolting from under the table, but my leash is caught. Thunk! I see him there. right there, talking to another man! Not my main man, some new man. He doesn’t see me. “Penelope!” Martin says. “Easy. What is it?” I’m stretching, stretching, stretching, stretching. And I start barking. Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!

“Penelope?” Ryan turns to me. Those big brown eyes. Oh, Ryan! At last! Back in the pack, get back in the pack! “Oh my God, Penelope!” Ryan kneels down. Love, love, love, love, love. Crazy love. Crazy, crazy, crazy love. Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!

“I take it you two know each other,” Martin says,

“Yeah. Her dad and I used to date.”

“Oh. Are you Ryan?”

Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!


“I’m Martin.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Ryan stands up. He’s sniffling and wiping his eyes. I crawl up his legs. Come back, come back, come back, come back!

“Oh, Penelope.” He comes down for more love. “I miss you, girl.” Then he says, “I gotta go.” And he starts walking away. What?

“I’ll tell James we saw you,” Martin hollers, but Ryan just keeps walking and doesn’t look back. No! Ryan! Come back, come back, come back, come back!

“Calm down, Penelope, jeez,” Martin says. And when he slips me off the leash for a second to untangle me from the table legs, I almost get away. But he grabs me by the collar. “Stop it!”

Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!

First, he’s a dot in the distance. And then he’s gone.