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An update from our first Writing Workshop with new teacher, Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday, April 17, plus some of the output published below

In his first class under the official title of Stone Soup Creative Writing Instructor, Conner Bassett "called an audible," and delivered a scintillating lecture on the use of "and" in literature as well as visual art. As he reminded us, although this was our first official workshop together, all of us, students and staff alike, are in the midst of our writing journeys, making this Writing Workshop less of a beginning, and more of an "and." Over the course of the workshop, we learned about the uniquely conjoining, relational, and aggregational nature of the swiss army knife contraction, noting specifically its different uses within the titles Crime and Punishment and Being and Nothingness. We also looked at Marcel Duchamp's conversion of a urinal into a "fountain" in his famous museum exhibition, noticing how this subversion of meaning connoted the effect of the word "and." Moving through the expression of "and" in works by Magritte, Warhol, the general nature of Islamic art, and in the effect of the comic panel, we read an excerpt from Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses in order to see the "speed" of and. Finally, we considered "and's" ability to transcend time and conjoin the present with the past in Ezra Pound's poetic masterwork The Cantos, and Dylan Thomas' poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion." And, of course, at the end of the workshop we wrote!

The Challenge: In 30 minutes, write one of three types of pieces; one, write a story or poem where you replace every period with the word "and"; two, write a story or poem that begins "in the middle," beginning with the word "and"; or, three, start a new story or poem at the end of an old one, beginning with the word "and."

The Participants: Emma, Harine, Georgia, Helen, Aditi, Olivia, Simran, Liam, Svitra, Noa, Anya, Audrey, Isolde, Alice, Samantha, Maddy, Sena, Sasha, Sinan, Emizzi, Jackson, Sophia.

Anya Geist, 14
Worcester, MA

The House That Didn't Fit In

Anya Geist, 14

And the whole house seemed to not quite fit in, always a bit out-of-place. The floors were old and scuffed but regal nevertheless, so whenever I saw them I was reminded of the days when a creaky old house with rusty nails leaching through the peeling white paint was fresh and new, not a relic of a bygone era by the side of a road where motorcycles revved their engines late into the night. The windows, too, gave off this odd sense, with their dust-caked panes and sagging sashes and musty curtains. Not so much windows they were, as rippled, dirty pieces of glass shoved into the wall. And there was one window I recalled, in the living room above the stiff old couch with a stained glass drawing, again so hopelessly out of place—both out of place in this out-of-time mass of a house and out of place at the junction of two rural New Hampshire highways—where the sun would stream in, alighting the whole place, the rugs, the armchairs, the old wedding photos decaying on side tables in little ornate frames with a glow that perhaps belonged more in a cathedral; not, like I said, at a rural highway junction, nor in a house with a tiny first-floor bathroom painted with peeling wallpaper and smothered by this old, rundown smell, maybe which had something to do with the horrible squeaks that came out of the faucets—two faucets, one hot, one cold; that’s how old it was!—and washed your hands with slimy soap. Yes, even the soap didn’t fit in—or maybe it did, since it was all weird and felt gross on your hands when you thrust them under the frigid iron-filled water—but it didn’t really fit with the whole modern world; it didn’t leave you feeling clean. And then up the stairs—the stairs were steep, sharp, and one could imagine them in an old colonial town, and I do believe the house was from the 1800s—you would find the bedrooms. The bedrooms above the kitchen with the terribly old stove that I don’t believe could be used anymore and instead took up space and held different jars of jam which I always thought could be sold at the local farmer’s market, and we’d use the jam to make sandwiches with bread from that same farmer’s market on that little fold-out table that always seemed as if it might fall apart. At any rate, the bedrooms were stuffed with pillows and such because no one ever really used them except for the master bedroom, stuffed with Cabbage Patch dolls and little plastic toys from when we were toddlers—how out of place, 21st century manufacturing was in this house! Truly most things were out of place. This house, old and falling apart only ten feet from the highway—quite literally ten feet—and so near to that corner store which also was a gas station, and doesn’t even have heating for the winter. But then—when I walked around the side of the house—it didn’t even have a back door, except in the basement, and I daren’t go down to the basement—I saw the backyard, which was unkempt and wild  and disturbed by those pesky motorcycles screeching down the road at ten at night, and maybe the house wasn’t so out of place after all.

Emma Hoff, 9
Bronx, NY


Emma Hoff, 9

And when she was picked, she had long hair. Long, flowing hair, dark as the night sky, which never seemed to be blue, and dark as the colors of the witches cloaks, which were always pulled so tightly around themselves, like how tight the buns on top of their heads were. We had a visit from the most important witches recently, they were here to choose. I had always been a promising child.

“Lots of potential, just needs to speak up more.”

And then she came. I had always suspected her of being a witch’s child, because of her raven black hair and black eyes, and pointy nose, and big ears, and small feet, and sensible clothing.

She didn’t wear a cloak, or have a bun, but she was a witch’s child, I knew it. And her name was a witch’s name: Loretta. Loretta had short hair. It was very short, ending in abrupt jagged lines halfway up her face. It was what the witches always hated, not sensible enough, not strict enough, not… witchy enough. Loretta didn’t cut her hair after that.

Not after those strict words: “Your hair looks like a tangled nest of ugliness. No one likes that. I don’t like that. You, eventually, will not like that.”

So it was growing, longer, and longer, until it was in a tight bun. And finally… it was time to choose. Who would become leader? Who would become the head, the person with the most... potential? It was Loretta. The witch’s child. The ultimate choice. And yet, I could not help noticing that there was sadness in her eyes. No more of the fierce cunning that she had had

Her eyes had used to say, “Come at me, and I will pierce you with my jagged hair.”

Not anymore. And as she was picked I saw her closely. Now her eyes said nothing. She was the head, and yet… her sensibility had gotten away from her. It was running somewhere far, until Loretta would call for it.

Isolde Knowles, 9
New York, NY

The Subway

Isolde Knowles, 9

In Boston there is an old subway and this subway does not go underground like these modern ones do now and all the entrances all closed off, but there is one door you may find and it's decorated with cracks they go along the walls of the staircase that you will find if you enter this door and the cracks threaten to cave in on the stairs and if they do then the beautiful arcs of the staircase will be lost forever and although they creak in the windy days and although they let in the water when it rains and although the cracks could decide to cave in they don't and maybe it's because they're scared of losing it too and then if you follow the cracks up the stairs then you'll be met with a wooden door and as you exited through their you'll be met with a beautiful scene and you may understand why the cracks were hesitant, for the tracks, although old and rusting are covered in vines that loop over each other in intricate patterns weaving and every so often dappled with colorful flowers that grow towards the sun, they were beautiful in their imperfectness with the flowers mixing with vines and the vines they covered the old train cart that's left there and maybe if you listen hard enough you can hear it through the sound of the city.

Georgia Marshall, 12
Marblehead, MA

The Beggar Woman's Song

Georgia Marshall, 12

And the beggar woman sang of the wolf’s cold heart, how she prowled in a mist shrouded lane, she widened her slanted yellow eyes and let her blood red howl resound through the woods. And, oh! How it throttled the trees! And, oh! How it threatened the lives of the very birds who hopped from branch to branch each night!

The beggar woman cradled her child, her only fragment of comfort in a harsh world, where all reality was grey and sharp at the edges. Beautiful Felicity. With her tender locks of golden morning rays framing a round, dimpled face, and her grey pearlescent eyes that were reminiscent of the moon’s burnished silver, and her pallid, lustrous skin that glowed with youth and radiance. She was a perfect picture of the beggar woman, or what she had once been. The beggar woman glanced at the path, and then the Inspectors were coming again.

And she darted away, like a deer, running from the wolf.

Aditi Nair, 12
Midlothian, VA

A Day of Games

Aditi Nair, 12

And the sky blue waves reflected a silvery glow, eagerly inviting children to dive in. The waves bounced around in joy, encompassing every space of the small lagoon like a black hole devouring everything in its vicinity. The curious and carefree from the lot pondered about all of the adventurous games they could play.

“Let’s go in! The waves are calling us,” one of them cried as he trudged his way through the wet sand and knee-deep water.

They soon found a small stream flowing into the ocean’s depths and promptly followed the smooth currents. Waves, big and small, crashed on the children leaving a foamy aftermath of gritty crystals and shell fragments. Purple flowers and bright green leaves– along the shoreline– added color and life to what seemed like a never-ending winter. Cerulean blue and shades of turquoise danced in harmony, engaging the children as the waves bounced them like a stray buoy.

And the ocean did not stop playing with them; with their excitement quickly rising, they soon forgot about the fast-paced currents and ventured further and further until they noticed that the shore had disappeared. The unforgiving ocean was the only entity in sight!

Each child had a heart-rending story to tell; some more painful than others, but they had all found a way to escape and thrive with nature. The children stayed calm; they used their adaptive mindset to set their reality aside and focus on the problem.

And then, a giant wave plummeted, sending the lot into a set of tumbles– all in one direction. Quickly recovering from the sudden sweep, the children looked around to see where the ocean led them. The lagoon! It was there, and it was in sight! Quizzically, the kids looked at one another; the ocean shimmered as if it was smiling at them. Maybe the ocean was not so
unforgiving after all!

Before the sun dipped down into the horizon, revealing its orchestrated display of reddish-purple hues, the children found their way back to land. Relieved and grateful, they huddled together by the shore once again to continue their day of games.

Sena Pollock, 14
Madison, WI

My Second Adventure

Sena Pollock, 14

And then it turns out I was wrong, because I am writing another story. I went back to Clara's shop and we moved the desk and went to visit Jacob. I finally found a time when I could go and my mom wouldn't think that it was too weird. This time it was much easier to get there because I had brought my flashlight so we could see. We knocked on Jacob’s door and he said “Come in.”

We did and Clara said “How are you?”

And Jacob said, ‘I am well, thank you, how are you?”

Clara said, “I am well too” and I said “me too, what are we doing today?”

Jacob said, “Would you like to see my books?”

Clara said, “Yes of course.”

And Jacob showed us into another room and it was full of old books and I saw one that looked cool and I said, “Can I read that one?”

He said, “Yes of course you can, but are you sure it won't bore you?”

I said, “No it won’t. I don't think it will, anyways,” so I opened the book and it was something about traveling to a country I had never heard of and all of the people talked old fashioned like Jacob and it was pretty interesting. I looked up and Jacob and Clara were talking about something and I kept pretending to read, but really I was listening to them. Clara was telling
Jacob that he should come up to her shop sometime and make sure that she didn't have any more of his stuff for sale. I had a feeling that they had had this conversation before and I felt left out, but then I thought who do you think you are? Of course Clara can visit Jacob without you. He lives under her shop.

Then Jacob said, “Alright, I will go, but make sure that no one is in your shop, because I do not want them to stare at me and it would be a bad idea for us to all come out of the floor while someone is watching. Clara said that it was ok because she had put the ‘Closed’ sign on her door.

Author's Note: This is a continuation of a story I wrote before, about a boy who meets a 200 year old man living under an antique shop.

Svitra Rajkumar, 13
Fremont, CA

Scarlet Eyes

Svitra Rajkumar, 14

And the feeling surged through her body. Although she was unsure what exactly it was, the feeling was bold and clear, it made her feel as though she could do anything. Suddenly, the impossible seemed only a few steps away from achievement.

Karma stepped closer to the edge of the balcony, and peered down below. Cars drove quickly, their bright red lights a blur as they sped down the road.

It was dark outside, she could have done it, and no one would have noticed.

She stared into the empty sky, her arms resting on the cold marble of the balcony.

Not a single star in sight.

Even the moon had chosen to stay hidden tonight.

She closed her eyes as the immense guilt hit her again, trying to pull her down into an ocean of darkness.

It was times like this, where she would regret.

Karma could spend hours regretting her choices, for she had made so many mistakes. It almost seemed like she never learned.

Police sirens wailed in the distance. Her scarlet eyes shot open, as she backed away from the balcony.

“No, this can’t be happening” She murmured, trying to reassure herself, but her mind was already thinking of the worst case scenario.

How could they have found me?

I never told anyone I was hiding here for the time being…

Unless, it was Rowyn, her childhood friend.

But he couldn’t have…

Rowyn and Karma had been good childhood friends and had grown up together, but she had to be suspicious of everyone.

And right now, her priority was getting out of here. This hotel wasn’t safe anymore, now that that

The police had followed her here too.

She needed to move quickly, and quietly. They didn’t know what she looked like, the only thing that gave her away was her scarlet eyes.

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