Stories, poems, essays. All written on paper bags.
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Why Paper Bags?
Many years ago, my parents went on a trip and left me at home. While they were on the plane, my mother grabbed an air sickness bag and wrote me a letter. Well, it was more like a to-do list, but she did mail it to me, so that counts as a letter.
She took a few more trips, and with each one that involved air travel, she wrote me more air sickness bag letters. While it was truly quirky in the way that only my mother, “Momcat”, was quirky, it was also the beginning of a fun tradition. I started writing her letters on air sickness bags whenever I flew somewhere. Writing that letter was the first thing I did once I got settled in my seat: I’d pull out the air sickness bag, a pen (Sharpies are perfect for this), lower the tray table, and dash off a quick letter before the plane even took off.
When Momcat died in October 2009, that first flight back home was unbearable. I felt as if that air sickness bag was taunting me. If I could have mustered up the courage, I would have asked the flight attendant to remove all the bags from the plane.
It wasn’t until last year that I decided it was time to reclaim the bags. I’d been writing with a group that used the Amherst Writers and Artists writing method, which is mostly prompt-driven, and I thought, What if I found a prompt using the in-flight magazine and wrote a story on the bag? Sounded kind of fun, actually. So that’s what I did. And writing that first bit of flash fiction was so cathartic, I kept going. I now have a stack of air sickness bag stories.
It got me thinking: would other people find it fun to write a story - or poem, or essay - on a bag? Would they feel limited by the space constraints, or liberated? I talked to a few writer friends about the idea and they loved it, as my writer friends often do when it comes to crazy, creative ideas.
Which brings us to Paper Bag Writers, the website. We provide the bag - a standard size lunch bag - and the prompt. You provide the story - or poem, or essay - on the bag. You get just the two 5 1/8-inch wide sides. You send back the bag and we put your piece on the site.
It’s coming up on four years since Momcat died. I’d like to think she’d find Paper Bag Writers amusing, but it’s also likely she’d sigh and say, “I really should have just gotten out my notepad.” But what would have been the fun in that?
Editor-in-Chief and Founder
October 1, 2013
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