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How Stories Work—Writing Workshop #15: Veering

An update from our fifteenth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 2, plus some of the output published below

For today's Writing Workshop, Conner decided to tweak an old lecture on veering and give it a new spin. To begin, Conner had us choose an object—any object—from the room we were in to write about later. The core concept with which we began the workshop was that "veering" should be seen as a break in the pattern, as any sort of change in direction, a thing we understood to be aesthetically pleasing. To enforce this concept of veering, we looked at a few examples, the first of which being the "I am your father" plot twist from Star Wars and the second being Kafka's The Metamorphosis. We also looked at examples of narrative veering in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harry Potter, and The Sword and the Stone. Then, for an example in visual art, we looked at Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. From there, we reinforced the idea that "veering" represents the moment in which a story or poem breaks its most characteristic habit through a reading of one of Shakespeare's sonnets whose final line completely changed its trajectory. We also looked at the poem "I Know a Man" by Robert Creeley, two haikus by Basho, and examples from Ovid's Metamorphosis. 

The Challenge: Write a poem or story that veers off its intended path. Change direction. Change your mind. And use the object that you chose at the beginning of class.

The Participants: Clara, Josh, Emma, Lina, Ellie, Simran, Ethan, Alice, Audrey, Shilla, Olivia, Nova, Svitra


Emma Hoff, 9
(Bronx, NY)

Or Rather, the Shape

Emma Hoff, 9

Or rather,
it was the shape
that interested me the most,
spin like a top,
no,
trap it,
the base is on the other side.

You must understand,
dear reader,
that there was something that curved
(that curved!)
in unnatural ways.

The black was only
a shield,
a protector
of the young and old,
the little.

The big were never protected.

They had feet.

We look inside
and we wonder,
how do we eat out of this?

How do we put food in this
and stain it
and put it in the dishwasher
and torture it,
when it was truly meant to be held,
not breaking the shield,
but held nonetheless,
and the patterns and colors
make you want to touch cool.

I think it is rather beautiful.

You touch,
you are hot,
and it makes a sound.

Ring
is the sound.

But this does not interest me.

There is something else that interests me.

Or rather, the shape.


Ethan Zhang, 9 (McLean, VA)

Two Poems

Ethan Zhang, 9

The Sound of the Wind

I was holding it,
An ocarina,
An ancient
Chinese
Instrument.
Suddenly
It was gone
Vanished
Replaced magically
With a French Horn.
Unreal
Unrealistic
Yet I believed the magic
Until
The waking
Sound of the wind.

A Rosy Carpet

Outside my window
A rosy carpet hovered.
It was unreal
Absurd
And even insane
Was what I told
Myself.
Yet
I was convinced
It was anything
But a fantasy.
Carefully
I stepped on it
Into the misty clouds I rose.
The wind brushed my face
And I flew, high, high
Up and over
The steely house
The buzzing town

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