Five visual writing prompts
Inspired by everyday items in a beautiful city – from nature webcams to abandoned shopping lists

Try these visual writing prompts from Liz Breslin, a writer based in Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, to inspire your writing and explore a beautiful city while you’re at it.

Liz was one of five writers in residence from UNESCO Cities of Literature around the world who joined us for a virtual writing residency in Norwich throughout February 2021. During their stay, our residents shared daily writing prompts on our Instagram as part of Imagining the City.

Live Royal Albatross Cam

About an hour outside the city of Ōtepoti/Dunedin at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head, on the Otago Peninsula , you can watch the toroa/northern royal albatross do their albatross thing. It’s a long drive even in a possible world. But thanks to the RoyalCam (world famous in New Zealand) you can also watch them from the (cold) comfort of your screen.

My virtual residency project is about watching life through webcams. For this prompt you might want to write un-alone, in consideration one of the other 77 people also online, also watching, with you. Or you might imagine the story of one of the 27 who gave the Royal Cam a thumbs down. Or maybe you’re also distracted by the reflections of the view?


Two pictures. Two minutes.

These are two shots from Ōtepoti/Dunedin’s Octagon web camera, exactly two minutes apart. Look at them for two minutes exactly, telling yourself you’re playing writing as well as spot the difference. Then write continuously for two minutes exactly until a timer you’ve set tells you to stop.



Traffic cam

Leith Saddle from the traffic cam, motorway eating old forest. On car journeys from/to the city of  Ōtepoti/Dunedin along it we play car cricket. The rules of car cricket are: a car that passes gets you one run, a van, four and a great big truck, a six. If you pass a red car, you’re out. When you’re in the saddle, when you’re straddling the road, what rules, what games, do you make for yourself? Write about these or write a secret you’d only say sat next to someone in a moving vehicle.


Shopping list

I found this list behind a wooden bench in the Octagon at the centre of Ōtepoti and teased it out with my foot. Vogels is an NZ brand of bread, famous for needing a lot of toasting. And hokey pokey ice-cream is vanilla with hard caramelly bits.

Take this list and turn it into a poem/story/thing. Fill around the exising words, making sure you use each one of them.


Liz Breslin writes poems, plays and stories. In 2020 she co-created Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature’s Possibilities Project and was the winner of the Kathleen Grattan Award for a Sequence of Poems. She’s also been part of a spoke’n’word tour of the Otago Central Rail Trail, which will be screened as rail:lines, a documentary film. Her second poem collection, In bed with the feminists, will be published by Dead Bird Books in 2021. 

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