2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1)A few months ago, when I was suffering through winter finals, I had this little image of how my summer would go. I pictured me, my laptop, birds chirping, and much needed writing time for those larger projects that had somehow fallen through the cracks.

With jobs, an internship, summer classes, and social life, the time I thought I’d have for writing was as non-existent as it ever was. The reality is that life gets in the way. You don’t always have the time you thought you would, and some of those projects you really wanted to push through end up getting buried under other responsibilities.

This summer, in order to keep my creativity flowing, I’ve started using writing prompts. There are a few things I love about them. The first is that they don’t take up a huge chunk of my time. If I have fifteen minutes before class or when I’m on lunch a work, I fill about a page and a half.

Second reason I love them is because there is no real commitment. When I start a prompt, I usually don’t really give it too much thought. I’m not trying to tie in plot or world build. I let all the crazy ideas that have building up flow out onto the paper. It’s usually in that moment when I get some sort of spark to boost a larger project.

Writing prompts are like the warm ups you do before playing the game. They give you the option to place your characters in situations they’d never find themselves. This will help you figure out who your character is what you want them to show your readers. You can even invent new characters and explore genres you don’t write. The most important aspect of these exercises is the fact that you’re training your brain. When it comes to creativity, sometimes you have to be able to come up with ideas on the spot or with little preparation at all.

Although there are dozens of them out there, here are three of my favorite types:

  1. Situation Prompt: These type will give you a mood or situation that your character has found themselves in. Usually the protagonist is referred to as “you”, but this doesn’t mean you have to incorporate yourself into the story.

You wake up to find a man sitting at the foot of your bed. He’s dressed in black and has a revolver. What he tells you has you fearing for your life.

  1. Dialogue Prompt: This can be a little tricky. There will only be one or two lines of dialogue and you aren’t told who’s saying them or what type of environment they are in. This is great for practice on character personality development and world building.

“You know this is crazy, right?”

“Isn’t it great?”

  1. Character Prompt: Here you are given the description of a character, or there might be more than one character. What you have your character(s) do and say will help with character development. This is also a good practice for character description.

Everyday a man in a brown trench coat comes to the same diner, sits in the same seat. Today, he sits at the counter.

These prompts are just some I came up with off the top of my head. If you want better ones, I’d suggest going to writersdigest.com. A daily writing prompt is loaded on their website every morning. This allows you to post a short story in the comments for other writers and editors to read your work. Pinterest is also a great place to find prompts. It’s where I find most of the ones I use.

You don’t have to dedicate yourself to a writing prompt. It’s merely a tool meant to help boost creativity and confidence in your writing, exercise your writing skills, and train your brain to switch on its creativity at any moment.

– Sharnita Sanders

As many of us know, June is National Pride Month, where individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community hold festivals, parades, and other events to celebrate their identities. With recent changes in legislation that allow marriage equality, there is now more for the community to celebrate. However, like-wise, there are also laws being enforced and tragedies occurring every day that remind us all that the fight for acceptance is not over. Here at OAR, we are striving to create a journal that reflects the work of exemplary undergraduate students who come from diverse backgrounds and, therefore, have diverse stories to share.Camera 6-15

Like the LGBT community, LGBT literature is still working to be integrated into the canon that they have previously been banned from. The world of LGBT literature has been opening up now for decades, however, the general population has stayed more or less unaware of its existence. For those who don’t identify within the community, they often don’t have a reason to include LGBT literature into their own reading lists, feeling that these stories won’t speak to their own experiences. The truth is these stories are more relatable than many may think. Those within the community do not only experience life through the lens of their sexuality or gender; they experience their life as human beings. Along with the day to day challenges of finding what one is passionate about, developing friendships, overcoming betrayal, and the like, individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community also experience the cross culture challenges of race, class, religion, and other identities that have nothing to do with their sexual and gendered identities. While LGBT literature often does endeavor to reach out to people who are questioning their sexuality, closeted, or just in need of support, it also includes the same themes that one would find in any story featuring heterosexual and cis main characters, and should not be written off too quickly.

In an effort to open my own horizons, I’ve added some LGBT literature to my own bookshelf, which I suggest others check out if they feel like doing the same.

  1. Style by Chelsea M. Cameron

StyleChelseaCameronSummary: Kyle Blake likes plans. So far, they’re pretty simple: Finish her senior year of high school, head off to a good college, find a cute boyfriend, graduate, get a good job, get married, the whole heterosexual shebang. Nothing is going to stand in the way of that plan. Not even Stella Lewis.
Stella Lewis also has a plan: Finish her senior year as cheer captain, go to college, finally let herself flirt with (and maybe even date) a girl for the first time and go from there.
Fate has other plans for Kyle and Stella when they’re paired up in their AP English class and something between them ignites. It’s confusing and overwhelming and neither of them know what to do about it. One thing they do know is that their connection can’t be ignored. The timing just isn’t right.
But is there ever a good time for falling in love?


  1. Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera

JulietTakesABreathGabbyRiveraSummary: Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. 
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.


  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzAristotleandDanteDiscovertheSecretsoftheUniverseBenjaminAlireSáenz

Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.



4. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore


Summary: When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes including a transgender boy, the best friend, who’s also the woman he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.


For more books like these, I recommend following GayYA (www.gayya.org), which specials in finding and reviewing books featuring LBGTQIA+ main characters, as well as interviewing authors of these books. LGBT literature is more than pride. It’s also about embracing the many similarities we have in a world that is full of so many possibilities.

-Camera Martin