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An update from our second Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday April 24, plus some of the output published below

In the second Writing Workshop of the Spring/Summer Session led by Conner Bassett, we discussed the differences between plot and narrative. Firstly, we considered the fact that while all plots are narratives, not all narratives are plots. Following this, we distinguished narrative as a general term that encompasses all stories, and whose events are incidental as well as connected by the conjunction "and." Plot, however, was how a story is told, meaning that events follow "and so," leading to a deliberate beginning, middle and end. We then discussed the significance of plot, how it provides a narrative with inevitability, connectivity, and consequence through its ability to imbue every individual action with meaning. Next, we moved into a musical exercise as a means of further distinguishing plot vs. narrative, listening to an excerpt from "So What," by Miles Davis, and an excerpt from the third movement of Beethoven's Fifth, coming to the conclusion that the meandering, roaming tune from Miles Davis better represented narrative, while the building, crescendoing nature of Beethoven's Fifth represented plot. To wrap things up, we discussed the sequential narrative of Don Quixote, and the taught, precise plot of the story of Moses.

The Challenge: Choose one of three paintings between Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Scream by Edvard Munch, or Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Once you've chosen a painting, write a story or poem that progresses towards a conclusion, the conclusion being the image of the painting.


The Scream

Starry Night








The Participants: Helen, Jackson, Olivia, Sena, Isolde, Harine, Emma, Svitra, Josh, Aditi, Audrey, Emizzi, Noa, Sasha

Sasha D, 10
Moseley, VA

One Starry Night

Sasha D, 10

“Shake a leg Gabby, we are going to be late!” Papa yelled at me. “I’m tryin I’m tryin!” I yelled back. We ran, ducking under people, trying to get to the bank. Mama and Papa forgot to pay the bills because we are moving out of our house. Papa is desperate to get money out of the bank so he can use it to pay bills. Mama has a night shift, so I have to come along. Papa can be mean when he gets stressed out. That's why I tried not to say a word while we were walking. Mama and Papa are also going on a date in 2 hours. We don’t have enough money to hire a babysitter, which means that I must come along. They say that when I am 15 I will be allowed to stay home all by myself. But that feels like forever! “We are almost there, Gabby!” Papa exclaimed. I did not say a word. I knew Papa would’ve cut me off. Papa burst into the town’s bank, Country Side’s Coins. Everybody stopped and stared. I tried to act like I didn’t know him, but everybody in town knows who we are. “Welcome Mr. Collins.” Mr. Merryson said with a smile. I gasped. “Mr. Merryson!” I yelled. I ran around the desk to give him a BIG hug! “Long time no see, Troy.” Papa said, shaking his hand. “Will you be able to watch me tonight while Mama and Papa go out on their date?” I asked Mr. Merryson with puppy dog eyes. “I am afraid not my little Gabby.. Mrs. Merryson is very ill. I must make sure she will be okay.” Mr. Merryson said with depression. “Oh. Alright. I hope Mrs. Merryson feels better!” I said, sounding gloomy. I stood over by the front entrance, waiting for Papa. Mr. Merryson and Papa talked most of the time until Papa realized it was 8:30 at night. Mr. Merryson gave Papa the money, and we rushed to Mama’s job. Mama works at an Appliance Store. Folks around here mostly call it Amazing Appliances. “Papa? We should take a carriage there. It’ll be faster.” I suggested. “No, Gabby. You don’t understand-” “But I do! I do understand, Papa!” “No! You do not!” Papa said. I could feel a tear slowly slide down my cheek. We kept on walking in silence. We had arrived at Mama’s job. “Oh, Gabby!” Mama yelled. Mama ran to me and picked me up. “Mama!” I said as we hugged. On our way to their date spot, Papa let me ride on his back. “Look, Mama, Papa!” I said as I pointed up to the sky. One little dot had appeared. Several appeared after. Papa looked at the sky too. “You know what? We don’t need a fancy restaurant…..” Papa said. “Huh?” Mama and I both said. Papa put me down and crumbled up the reservation paper and threw it in the garbage can. “Why would you do that?” I asked. Papa just smiled as he held my hand, as well as Mama. As we walked all the way home, Mama and Papa were talking about things I did not understand. Once we got home, Mama and Papa got warm blankets from inside. “ I wonder.. ” I thought to myself. Mama and Papa came out with 3 blankets. Papa lay down the 3 blankets on the soft, newly cut, green grass. He laid on his blanket, put his hands behind his head, and sighed. “What are you looking at, Papa?” I asked. “The stars!” Papa said, still looking at the stars. “Oh!” I said. "May I do that as well, Papa?” I asked, looking at Papa. “Of course, Gabby!!” Papa said. I got in the same position as Papa. I smiled as I gazed up into the sky that was lit up by these little dots that go by the name, Stars. “Mama?” I said. “Yes, Gabriela?” Mama replied. “Can I name the stars?” I asked. “Well… if you would like…” Mama said, confused. I squealed silently. “That one is Sarah, this one Sam, Sadie, Samuel, Rachel, Brady, Briley, Ryan, and Katy!” I only named a few. A couple minutes passed. “Mama, are you awake?” I whispered to Mama. she didn’t answer. “She must be asleep.” I whispered to myself. “Isn’t the sky beautiful?” Papa asked me. “They sure are! It looks like that painting we saw last week at the museum!” I said. Papa chuckled. We stared at the sky for a while until Papa yawned, and started to close his eyes. Snoring came from him. I laughed a little. Papa’s snoring is very funny. I looked up at the sky one more time with a small grin. “This is one starry night.”

Emma Hoff, 9
Bronx, NY

The Red Woman

Emma Hoff, 9

I wondered why the cafe was getting colder. I looked outside the window and saw my answer. The shadows were closing in again. I had been inside the cafe all day, the inside being warm and cozy, compared to the icy frost outdoors. But then the shadows started coming closer. They had left, after a while, but then the Red Woman came in. I didn’t know her name. I named her the Red Woman because she wore red. She looked so beautiful, so pure, that no name seemed to fit her, even if I imagined her as someone else. She was sitting across from me with her husband, sipping coffee, unbothered by the shadows. And the shadows loved her. They avoided the toy shop and the clothes shop and the apartment buildings and the bakery. Last time they had haunted all those places. Not this time. They were running for the Red Woman, and even if shadows had no expression, I could still see their smiles of joy and absolute wonder and glee. If the shadows could make sound they would have been laughing. And then they burst through the giant glass window of the cafe. They were surrounding the Red Woman, and the Red Woman was looking affected by the shadows for the first time. Her eyes were wide and she was backing away slowly, slower and slower, panting like she couldn’t catch her breath. And suddenly, it was like the shadows were human. They suddenly had long, black fingers that they were pulling from their milky and dark insides. And they were grabbing the Red Woman. They were squeezing all the power out of her, all her beauty. And then they left. The Red Woman was sobbing, asking her husband to help her, but her husband ran away from the soiled lump of a woman on the ground. She looked at me like I was her last resort, and I realized I was. We were alone in the cafe. As the Red Woman looked at me, her features had already started to gray, her lips and nose already starting to twist and vanish. I realized that if I didn’t do something she would be left to lead a life of brainless nothingness. A life of shadows and cold and ugliness. And then I said the first thing that came to my mind.

“Honey,” I said, because that was what her face changing reminded me of, slowly dripping honey.

Then I laughed, because I realized how silly that word sounded, coming out of my mouth in this situation. But the Red Woman was smiling. She slowly melted away, her smile being the last thing, but I realized that she might, just might have been melting away to a world of warmth and kindness and… honey.

Sena Pollock, 14
Madison, WI

The Cornek

Sena Pollock, 14

One night three people met on a hill by a tree. The tree was dark and it’s branches were wavy.

The first one said “are you sure about this?”

“Yes I am, X,”the second replied.

The third one said “you are always worrying but this is the safest time. The cornek can only be stolen tonight.”

“But are you even sure that we should steal the cornek?” Said X,”after all, it has the power to destroy stars.”

“I am starting to doubt, you, X. Perhaps Q and I should go it alone” said the third thief.

“I agree with you, 9, said Q, but we should give X one more chance.”

And so, the three thieves crept down the hill and into the town. Q and 9 were so intent on getting to the church that held the cornek that they did not notice a figure standing by a lighted window and when X told them 9 only called her a worrywart. At last they got to the church and Q, who was the tallest, helped the others through the window before hiding behind a bench to keep watch. 9 said, “The cornek is in the vault under the altar. You will have to pick the lock, but I will get the cornek.”

They moved the altar, X picked the lock,and 9 climbed through the hole. 9 came out carrying a silk wrapped bundle. X thought it looked ordinary, but was smart enough to keep that to herself. 9 handed the bundle to Q and then climbed out, closely followed by X. As the thieves made their way through the sleeping town, they heard someone following them. They began to run and were almost to the meeting spot up the hill when Q tripped over a log and dropped the bundle.

They turned around and watched the stars explode over the town.

Svitra Rajkumar, 13
Fremont, CA

Starry Sky

Svitra Rajkumar, 13

A chilly breeze passed through the still night. The empty sky stared down at Star, as she
ran down the rolling hills.

Her long, pale hair trailed behind her as she panted heavily. Star slowed down to a walking pace thinking about how much had gone wrong today.

Her mind flashed back to what had happened in her world. Luckily she had escaped from there and was hiding in the human world for now, but she couldn’t help but miss the enchanting aura of Lamyria, The world of the Unreal.

She had been sitting on a giant petuliana flower chatting with her sisters, Leaf and Cloud.

Star had always been reckless, and quite infatuated with Carnelianq, The Human World even though she knew the topic was forbidden. She had been telling her sisters about the whimsical creatures and animals that resided in Carnelianq.

“They have so many Wombhyls! They call them animals, and there over a 100 varieties,” She exclaimed, overflowing with exciting information to tell her sisters.

“There’s no way there are more than 10 types of Wombhyls,” Leaf frowned.

“There are!” Star protested, as she began to sketch a drawing of something called a fruit bat on one of the papery leafs of the petuliana.

“Where did you find out about this anyway,” her older sister, Cloud, asked suspiciously.

With a perfect older sibling like Cloud, Star had never had any new information that wasn’t known to her sister already, so she was glad to finally have something of her own.

“I read it from a book,” She replied proudly.

“What book? It had better not be Xestorian Wonders. You know that book is banned, right?” Star was slightly annoyed that her sister had actually thought she had been reading the Xestorian Wonders in secret.

Although she could see why. The Xestorian Wonders was a book telling Lamyrians about the human world and how to go there. Star’s book did talk about the human world but it wasn’t on the level of the Xestorian Wonders.

“It is not the Xestorian Wonders. The title was written in ancient runes so I’m not sure what it was called.” She answered.

“It was something like..,” Star paused to think about the exact translation to Lamyrian but it was too complicated so she decided to spell it out.

“Z-x-u-pl-y-tw-g” She stated each letter clearly, and once she got to G, she heard a furious voice yelling, from behind her, saying that she had to be banished from Lamyria.

Everything else was a blur, and somehow she had ended up here staring at the starry sky.

Star was confused but mostly she was relieved, relieved to finally be away from all the chao sand noise.

It was only her and the stars in the sky.

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