One of my favorite writing prompts came from a graduate course I took at Manhattanville College with writer Elizabeth Eslami. Liz told us to start with the phrase All s/he [or I] wanted was… and then write. Is the desire big—like James Bond’s desire to save the world from takeover by Spectre? Is it more personal, like the desired to be loved or to gain self-confidence? How does this desire manifest itself in action? I tell my fiction students to start there, in the middle of a desire—and to think about some reasons why the desire may be thwarted. Save the back story for later, I say. Keep the stakes high and raise questions. Those are the things I tried to do as I opened my novel Shadow Notes.