With Any Luck, A Phase of Orange: Writing Prompt Wednesday


Happy Wednesday, readers, writers, and shark fans! It’s that time of week again! We’re here for another Writing Prompt Wednesday!

Each Wednesday, we will share a writing prompt THEME instead of just one solo prompt. There will still be prompts included, but like our SHARK WEEK writing prompts post, and our Cheryl Strayed / Wild writing prompts post, there will be a variety of prompts to pick from. If you’d like to share your response to one of these prompts, contact us, and we might share it on our website or include it in our next issue of Lit Shark Magazine!

This week, to celebrate September… and fall!… almost being here, we wanted to share a prompt that centers around how the seasons impact us. Or, better yet, what we would miss about them if one of them were to ever go away.

Maybe you’ve always lived in the Midwest and have dreamed of moving to a tropical climate—but is there anything, anything at all, you would miss about winter? What do you feel when flowers begin to bloom in the spring and the leaves change color in the fall? Which season do you most identify with, and what does that time of year say to you?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this—whether it’s about fall or another season entirely—and we can’t wait to read your work.

In case you would like a little inspiration, our Editor-in-Chief McKenzie is back this week with how she addressed this prompt—specifically, what she misses about fall and long drives after moving from the Midwest she always knew to coastal Croatia. 

This piece previously appeared in her Medium publication (August 2021).


A Leaf Turns Orange in the West —

In the chilly Midwestern November of 2020, I watched the ground zip past and fall away as the plane lifted off and pointed its nose toward Europe, my mask between my nose and the window.

As the clouds flowed into place, I looked over my shoulder, seeing people packed in shoulder-to-shoulder after months of living 6 feet apart, and more. My baby, just 3 months old, was in my arms, his hands clasping at my jacket, and in the seats next to me were my 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. My husband was seated behind us as we prepared to make the 13-hour flight to our new home in Croatia.

While we were in the hospital, recuperating from the birth of our third child, my husband received a message neither of us expected: an irresistible job offer back in the country where he was born and raised. We had talked a couple of times about potentially moving there someday, or at the very least purchasing a vacation home, but the message made the conversation much more plausible.

I looked back at my husband behind me, who smiled at me and asked how our baby was. I smiled softly. In 3 short months, we had brought a baby into the world, let go of most of our possessions and packed the others, and organized all the paperwork we’d need to move our family of 5 to another country mid-pandemic.

To our children, I couldn’t have been more excited: It was an adventure! Another country! Living on the coast by the sea! New school! New opportunities! A separate room to write! Everything in walking distance!

But inside as I watched the clouds stir past, I was terrified.

When we found out I was pregnant with our first child in the winter of 2013, we decided we would begin house-hunting before I graduated from my MFA. It made sense to move back to Indiana to be closer to family, and the whole process happened so impossibly fast, we were able to purchase a home nearly a year before I was set to graduate.

I commuted back and forth from our house to Western Michigan University for the rest of my university career, first pregnant and then exhausted with a newborn baby, occasionally taking her with me for the trips.

Despite the hour-and-a-half drive one-way, I wouldn’t have traded those drives through mid-Michigan for anything.

I still have the drive memorized: the long coil through the neighborhood, a sharp left on Jackson, a right onto the highway, three exits, and then a right-right-left that would put me on the south side of Portage and Kalamazoo. The drive up was full of long, winding roads over flat land where you could see the nearest car nearly a mile away.

What I miss more than anything are the trees: thick pines and maples, particularly their rapid turn from green to orange to brown. During the orange phase, I slowed slightly to really take them in, and I made the drive as many times as I could, knowing they wouldn’t last long.

I sat back in my seat, baby now secured in his bassinet, and I closed my eyes, imagining the fall we were leaving behind. I grew up at the heart of the Midwest, surrounded by color-changing trees, pumpkins, and oh so much pumpkin spice. I grew up as one of those people who could live with autumn, Halloween movies, and the smells of cinnamon, apples, and pumpkins all year long. It was a core part of who I was, and I was leaving it behind.

The country I was moving to didn’t celebrate Halloween, didn’t utilize pumpkins… really at all…, and since we would live on the coast, we wouldn’t see the trees change color. It would never be cold enough for the leaves to really fall, or for the smell of snow to creep in.

I knew this was far from the largest concern or element of culture shock that I would face. I knew that. But the idea of leaving those trees behind haunted me. If I had known that a job offer was coming while I was in the hospital, I would have spent more time during the summer and the previous fall making that curvy drive to Kalamazoo.

That drive had become a few hours of catharsis for me every time I had a dark day. When I felt myself struggling, I did what I absolutely had to do at home, put the laptop away, loaded the kids in the car, and drove off toward Michigan. We’d simply do a road trip: drive into Kalamazoo, drive up and down the main strip where I used to live, order some drive-thru for in the car, and drive back home. 3 or 4 hours, and I’d feel like a new, revitalized person, mother, and writer.

It didn’t occur to me until I was on the plane that I would be giving that up.

With the pandemic inching on, a winter in a strange country where the coast goes quiet during the off-season, I felt alone and stuck. How many times I wanted to make that old drive, I don’t know.

I’ve already decided when we visit the States again to see our family, there will be one afternoon spent on that drive. I imagine myself crying, knowing that the road no longer remembers me, knowing I won’t be back on that road again for at least another year. But since we’ll be visiting in the fall, I’ll at least get to see the trees changing color.

With any luck, they’ll be at the heart of their orange phase.

Happy Writing, all. Submit here.

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Written By McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan (she/her/hers) lives and writes in Europe with her family (originally from the Midwest). In addition to being the Editor-in-Chief of Lit Shark Magazine and the Banned Book Review, she is a novelist, poet, and book reviewer. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University and her BA in English/BS in Education from Indiana University South Bend, where she began her work in publishing. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, Young Ravens Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Encore Magazine, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Green Mountains Review, Memoir Mixtapes, The Life Collective, Her Journal, Motherly, and more. When not writing, she enjoys reading, appreciating nature, and spending time with her husband and three children.




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