Cover Photo: Against a reddish pink background, we see the Chinese character for téng with bandaids covering it slightly on the top right and bottom left
graphic created by Stella Cabot Wilson for Catapult

A Writing Prompt for Mandarin Speakers

Are you a bilingual writer? Try this prompt from Catapult instructor and poet Chen Chen.

Write a poem (or story, or essay, or . . . ) in which you open up this memory of 疼 to your present associations with the word, its sound, its written character, its uses and meanings. Look up the etymology; fall into the etymology. Do you use another Chinese dialect/language? Is 疼 pronounced differently in that dialect/language? Does the different sound lead to a different feeling for you? Write from someone telling you they 疼 you and toward you telling someone you 疼 them. Use as much English and as much Mandarin/other form of Chinese as you need. Write out of and into this aching yet strong kind of love.


Did you enjoy this prompt? Go to Chen's Catapult page to check for upcoming classes with us.

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, The Texas Book Award for Poetry, and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His work has appeared in publications including Poetry, Tin House, The New York Times Magazine, The Best American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired ReadingPoets & Writers Magazine featured him as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World.” He also teaches for The Speakeasy Project and The Adroit Journal.