Day 5 – Mary Robinette Kowal Opens A Portal


Freewrite from this opening sentence:

“Of the things that could go wrong while crocheting, opening a portal had seemed like a low probability.”


Hugo Award-winner Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of: The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers and the Lady Astronaut series. Her stories appear in UncannyCosmos, and Asimov’s.

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Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

55 thoughts on “Day 5 – Mary Robinette Kowal Opens A Portal”

  1. New to this site, but excited!

    My character was on the ninth stich when sparks shot from needle, taking over the yarn to form a fuzzy pink portal. Her otherwise bold cat abandons her and she is drawn toward the portal when her husband enters, fumbles with a key fob and retracts the portal. He won’t discuss the episode and takes her needle. When a box arrives with new needles and a mysterious note about a stitch of nine, she shelves the needles and takes up painting. Less than 1,000 words.

  2. SEPTEMBER 2020
    I’ve been writing stories for my grandchildren since they’ve been toddlers and this prompt gave me an idea for one. The theme of these stories is that the 5 of them have a quest to save our planet. They each have a toy which has magical powers to alert them when their help is needed. This prompt inspired me to take each of them through their bedroom mirrors and end up together on another planet.
    It’s developing well and I’ll be testing it on them before too long.
    I’ve loved this one. 750 words so far.

    1. Wendy, this sounds awesome! I bet your grandkids love starring in your stories. I didn’t do this one on day 5, but I’m reserving it for this week after letting it perk for a few days. Thanks for your inspiration. I always feel my ideas are so ordinary; it’s so helpful to see how someone else’s ideas unfold. Thanks for sharing.

  3. A portal was the perfect magical device for my story today! My main character enters and goes to an amazing writing retreat with rules and boundaries that only apply to her. Loved this prompt today and the story I wrote.

    Are others writing in notebooks or composing on the computer? I usually start in the notebook but used the computer today.

  4. This story came easier to me most I’ve written this month. I mostly just focused in on the idea of getting so lost in what you’re doing that you, somehow, end up twisting reality around you. The end result was pretty thin, perhaps, but I enjoyed writing it well enough.

  5. At first, I didn’t think this prompt would spark any creativity, but once I stopped to think about it and write an outline, it came surprisingly easy.

    And while what I wrote is a very rough first draft, I was quite pleased with it. It’s definitely the prompt I had more fun with until now. 🙂

  6. I found this prompt exciting and I dived into the opportunity to write about time travel into parallel worlds. I love reading such books but have, strangely, never considered writing this genre.
    I scribbled 700 words about a girl who found herself in the same place but in a different era and……..where had her crocheting gone ? It needs a great deal of work as I need to research facts about the things I have so freely described. I may have done several time leaps in my description of the furnishings of the room she now sat in, what clothes she now wore and the layout of the garden she now looked out across.
    There was an urgency to find her crocheting as well. It held an important clue.
    Will definitely complete this one.

      1. Thank you for asking Julie.
        I always have a lovely new notebook for May and September so I can quickly refer back. I also have post-it page markers to enable me to access those I want to develop. Once a first draft is written I go back to it and type it into my laptop producing a second draft as I go. I’m gradually getting systems in place to keep track of my writing, research and character notes. I’m always tweaking it though. X

  7. Maybe I was afraid to walk through the portal? It seemed interesting enough, but I initially felt this prompt was the most difficult of the month to connect with. Then, before I even knew it, Tony found himself inexplicably missing from his storage shed and wondering why he’d ended up in the back seat of a taxi in down-town Calcutta. It turns out it all had something to do with his grammy’s brown, leather craft bag and the yarns she used to spin as he fell asleep watching her crochet. It ended up being a tangled yarn more spicy than Indian curry.

  8. Mystic Blue yarn was new to Bertha. The face peering through the portal was one thing, but when a hand reached through and tried to grab her crocheting, well, that was it! She unraveled her crocheting and with it, the portal disappeared. She advised me she was returning the yarn to the store in the morning. Mystic Blue needed a warning label.
    Short flash story. 512 words.

    1. It sounds likely enough to convince me I should avoid ever buying anything labeled “mystic blue”. Or maybe that’s the first thing I go for. Depends on the mood.

  9. My character was sent the wrong wool by a shady aunt, and because they’d had a falling out over something else, she ignored the texts that would have told her NOT TO USE IT and to send it on to the person who was meant to make the portal. Her cat recognised what was up and tried to attack the wool. In the process of untangling that mess, my character made a pentangle. Steps right into a ceremony for anointing the new warrior princess of a demon realm. Of which her bridge- and croquet-playing aunt is the queen. Nobody got what they expected.

  10. I liked the prompt, but I got so involved in the world and characters I created that I never addressed the portal (at least, not yet). Sci-fi and paranormal are favorites for me, so I’ll go back and expand the portal idea later. I think he’ll follow a ball of yarn or drop a stitch or something and enter a different world of some kind.
    Anyway, I wanted to do something different, so my protagonist is a man who becomes president of an all-male crochet club. Yes, these do exist. Not sure how much longer it will be but did 650 words with dialogue tonight.

    1. They can get away from you, can’t they?

      But it sound like you have something really promising to come back to!

  11. I turned the prompt to my advantage again. My portal materialized as a new character who brought a hook of a different kind to power my story onward. Thanks. I have been writing for five days straight beginning a short story after taking Julie’s opening advice about looking for prompts. I ended coming across an old Coca Cola salesman receipt book and now I have mystery to solve.

  12. Funny, but rather than write about what happened once the portal opened up, I ended up writing a short story about what led to its being opened up. Meet Earl, a lonely widower who joins a local knitting club in search of a new female companion only to be banned from their meetings after asking one of them for coffee. Turns out they had strict rules against romantic entanglements (ha-ha!). Determined to win her heart anyway, he sets out to knit a sweater for her faithful pooch, thinking the worst that could go wrong is…well, you know where it goes from there. But perhaps that’s a story for another day!

    1. I’m feeling bad for Earl. I hope things turned out alright, the pooch gets to stay warm, and that when all the misunderstandings get cleared up, he finds the love and companionship he was after all along. Unfortunately, for a guy named Earl, it never goes this way though, does it?

  13. This day 5 is actually my first day. I ran with the idea that first came to mind. Managed to write just under 1K words. Initially, I was going to do this privately, but I decided to share it publicly in my blog. I’m totally cool with “failing-in-public.” We allow ourselves to grow that way. Hopefully all of us can keep going strong.

    Happy Writing.

  14. For the first time in this run, I had a tough time with the prompt. I wrote about 400 words as I slogged with it. But I tried. Maybe the portal freaked me out. Or that I have a crochet project haunting me, one that I need to finish.
    On the other hand, I did some revising of a story that I have in the works.
    Looking forward to trying tomorrow’s.

  15. Today I wrote a short piece of under 1,000 words full of more fairy tale fun! I hope I can keep up the momentum this year!

  16. This prompt was so much fun! I wrote a story about a woman who’s crocheting at home but wishing she could be anywhere else. She soon finds herself hanging from a tunnel made of yarn that’s suspended in space. She pulls herself into the tunnel using her crochet hook, gets whisked off to a beautiful beach, but is creeped out by the fact that there’s no sign of life. She ends up using the crochet hook to get back into the tunnel and back home, where she happily resumes her crocheting while sitting next to her cat–only using a different crochet hook, just in case!

    1. That sounds like so much fun, Sarah! Loved the image of the tunnel of yarn and how she used her crochet hook to hitch a ride back home.

  17. Thanks for the open-ended prompt today. It transported me to another world as I lost track of time. My son attends an all-boys high school and learning to crochet is a part of the required art class. This prompt had me as a fly-on -the-wall at the monthly meeting of the “All BRaCC”—– the All Boys Rugby and Crocheting Club.

    1. The All Boys Rugby and Crocheting Club — what a fun juxtaposition! I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one too!

  18. I discovered that the act of crocheting brings tiny purple worms from another dimension. They don’t appreciate being disturbed. They defend themselves by encasing any threat in quick-setting black cement that stings like nettles and smells of peppermint. Fortunately, once they’ve immobilized the threat, they return to their own dimension, leaving behind nothing but black and purple dust which can easily be vacuumed up.

  19. I used today’s prompt as a warm-up exercise:

    After I finished crocheting my first-ever granny square, I was overcome by a severe migraine. My head throbbed from vise-like pressure, my eyesight blurred, my legs wobbled, and my ears filled with the din of screeching children. When this state of agony finally subsided, the hole in the middle of the granny square had grown to the size of a doorframe. Beyond, a group of smiling children beckoned for me to approach them.

  20. I dug out my crochet hooks two weeks ago and have been hooking away ever since. It’s just such a relaxing thing to do during this lockdown. And it keeps me from snacking (somewhat). This was the perfect prompt for me today! Love it!

    1. Oh fab! I have been knitting like a demon all year….oh wait, now THAT feels like it could be part of this story…

  21. I’ve been in school again today, but this prompt spoke to me, more than yesterday! I stood in line outside the grocery store, tapping ideas away on my phone!
    Now to transfer yesterday and today’s idea into an actual story either tonight or tomorrow!

    1. That got me thinking: I’m not sure I had a smartphone when I started StoryADay. I might have (because I’m an early adopter) but I bet you most of the people who took part in 2010 couldn’t have stood in line writing a story…and their neighbors would have stared at them if they had. Now we think nothing of it!

  22. The word portal turned me off, I’m afraid. I’m not really a fan of paranormal activities, crocheting I can cope with although I wouldn’t be any good at it!
    Any way I’ve written a 100 word Drabble for a competition and may edit it slightly before submitting it, later this week.

  23. At first I did not know what to write. Crocheting seems such a boring activity to me. Then my imagination transported me to a new dimension where crocheting people meet through their meditative state and an interesting story follow. Those prompts stretch my imagination.

    1. Excellent!

      Just make sure you never say the same about knitting. We carry POINTY sticks… 😉

  24. Simple prompt and 1300 words just flowed out so easily. What a great start to the day. That being said, I would be so disappointed as a reader of my work this morning. The short story starts with a portal opening up, goes back in time to when my character first started crocheting out of boredom when helping out at her Aunt’s antique shop, and ends when she comes back to the shop years later, picks up her old work and the portal opens. I never explored what’s on the other side of the portal! I’m so mean sometimes!

      1. Now that’s funny. I certainly hope my character doesn’t find it on the other side of the portal. We’ll see what tomorrow’s prompt will bring. Is there a place where we can/should share any of these stories on the site?

        1. Not as such.

          2 reasons: 1, I want people to feel free to write messy first drafts and 2, if published (even on a blog) a story may be considered published for the purposes of submitting to magazines.

          Having said that, if you want to publish it on your blog or on Medium, or in a Google Doc, feel free to come back and share a link under the relevant post!

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