Ripped from the New York Times: Inspiring Lives Prompts

In our continued celebration of the National Day on Writing, we’re working with the New York Times Learning Network to bring you a writing event ripped from the paper’s pages.

For this feature, we’re asking you to use first lines we’ve collected below—all taken from the “Lives” column, the long-running essay series that appears in the back of the New York Times Magazine each week—as jumping-off points for your own stories, essays, plays, memoirs or poetry.

How to Submit:

1. Sign up for an account on Figment
2. Write your entry.
3. Tag it “InspiringLives” on the “Details” tab
4. Press “Publish Now.”
5. In about two hours or so, your story will appear among the submissions.

So choose a line below to start your new piece with, then see where it takes you . . .


Mornings are not our best family moments. (From Mother’s Little Helper)

I was 6 when my brother John leaned across the kitchen table and casually whispered that he had killed Santa Claus. (From A Rat’s Tale)

Last winter, after more than three decades of silence, I desperately wanted to see my mother before it was too late. (From The Most-Hated Son)

I don’t think anything would rattle the mother of a preteen boy quite like the words my 12-year-old uttered this spring: “Mom, we need to talk,” he said. (From The Missing-Piece Son )

I am parked in a rental car in front of the house where I grew up. (From Previous Address)


I’m not your typical undergraduate. (From The Re-Education of an Amnesiac)

In junior high school, I was bullied. (From Geekdom Revisited)

Prom. Graduation. Summer job. I wanted all three to complete my high-school days in iconic American fashion before heading off to college. (From Pancake Chronicles)

Patrick was the sort of student who made a teacher curious. (From The Lost Student)


I don’t care if it’s good for you, because to me kale has always been a four-letter vegetable. (From On This Farm There Was Animosity)


It’s impossible to look cool when you’re part of a tour group. (From In Too Deep)

In three days, I saw, heard and ate things that you see, hear and eat only on a 3,280-mile Greyhound trip across the United States. 
(From The Perfumed Cuban)

Not very long ago I was in New York for a few weeks and decided to get a tattoo while I was there. (From Under My Skin )

When I travel alone, my preference is to keep it that way. (From Strangers on a Train)


It had rained heavily the night before. (From The Letting Go)

It was an impossibly pristine Sunday afternoon. (From Online Mainline


He friended me just after Thanksgiving, Week 13 of regular-season football this year. (From A Brief Electronic Affair)

Paul was one of my best friends in high school, but we drifted apart after graduation. (From High-School Redux)

One day this past summer, I logged on to Facebook and realized that I was very close to having 700 online “friends.” (From Facebook in a Crowd)

It was a given that we would be conspicuous. (From The Art of Losing )

Messages and Visitors

I was vacuuming the bedroom one afternoon some months back when I moved a few books aside and spotted a dusty old scrap of paper. (From ‘Bunch Muncherasi MD’)

The young man who came to see me a few months ago didn’t knock but stood at the doorway to my office. (From First Love, Once Removed)

I had almost forgotten I’d sent in an application when the e-mail message appeared, like Mr. Big, out of nowhere. (From Sects and the City)

Gorilla Suits and Cosmic Forces

There were a couple of dozen costumes to choose from — Superman and spaceman and muscleman and Popeye and, inexplicably, Baby Huey — but unless the customer had something specific in mind, I went with the gorilla suit every time. (From The Monkey Suit)

Cosmic forces have a way of turning up the heat to make us change. (From The Tractor Driver or the Pothead? )


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