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An update from our seventh Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday May 29, plus some of the output published below

Excess: more than necessary—exaggeration, extravagance, exuberance, abundance, unnecessary, overload, overkill, surplus, luxuriance, improvisation, unrestraint, ridiculous

To kick off this week's workshop, we began with four artworks—Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Dulle Griet, Peter Paul Rubens' The Garden of Love, Jackson Pollock's Convergence, and the Sistene Chapel—all of which illustrated, in one way or another, the theme of excess. While we technically defined "excess" as "more than necessary," the purpose of this workshop was to show how sometimes excess is necessary in order to create the feeling of being overwhelmed or overpowered or repulsed, an idea perhaps best encapsulated in the work of contemporary Australian sculptor Ron Mueck. We looked at a few of his hyperrealistic, larger than life works in order to demonstrate how something almost "too real" becomes grotesque. Following our discussion of Mueck, we looked at examples of Baroque architecture, a style associated with ornamental excess as is the case with St Peter's Basilica and La Sagrada Familia. We also discussed a piece of Postmodern architecture, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, a "non-functional" building more characteristic of a dream or a work of science fiction than reality. We then discussed excess in music, something popularized in the Rock n' Roll music of the 70's and 80's (think Kiss, David Bowie, and Queen), and best exemplified by Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which we listened to. The last section of the Writing Workshop were devoted to examples of excess in writing as we looked at an excerpt from Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (exaggeration), Lewis Carroll's The Jabberwocky (pleasure in its own silly sound making), and, finally, an excerpt from Cormac McCarthy (functional resistance to grammar, repetition of the word "and").

The Challenge: Write as much as you can, as fast you can, without worrying about making sense; write excessively.

The Participants: Emma, Simran, Svitra, Liam, Sena, Zhilin, Noa, Georgia, Helen, Aditi, Sinan, Olivia, Harine, Alice, Julia, Audrey, Josh, Isolde, Samantha

Emma Hoff, 9
Bronx, NY


Emma Hoff, 9

The ceiling hates me because it is cracked and imperfect and unloved and unfixed and nobody pays attention to it anyways, because they don’t care. Well, I care, but that doesn’t really matter because it hates me the most because I am loved and my life is good and I am not cracked or broken or crumbling and as far as I know, I will not fall and squash somebody and I can move around and I play sports and I write and I read and I draw and I play, but the ceiling isn’t able to do any of that because it is inanimate and cannot move. And I like looking at things, but I think I understand how boring it would be to see the same thing over and over again, my family walking down the hallway, maybe carrying something, maybe stomping, frowning, happy, sad. If the ceiling is inanimate, do you think it can see things? If it can’t it still somehow hates me, which seems impossible, but for now, I’ll say it’s possible and stop the fight and also the confusion, because you probably can’t understand a thing I’m saying, but that might be okay.

Georgia Marshall, 12

How Olive Hendrix Broke Her Leg

Georgia Marshall, 12

It is a hot day, but I’m not that hot. In fact, I am able to pull a sweatshirt over my head and I am fine. Anna’s complaining about the sun making her hair get all frazzled, so I explain to her that the only one frazzling anyone’s hair is Anna herself. She rolls her eyes at me and pulls out her sketchbook as we wait for the chipped yellow bus to roll up with its paint sizzling off like the skin of a sausage. Anna likes anime, which I hate, so I ignore her asking me if Ponyo or Lu over the Wall is better. Instead, I focus on the bees that are buzzing beside Anna’s ear, which I think are having a fight but are also very polite and don’t want to sting her. I wish they would. That would shut her up. I hate Anna. But she is my best friend, so I guess I shouldn’t hate her. But Olive at soccer practice is a lot better than her, which is unfortunate because Olive is in the hospital and probably dying. Well, no, Olive broke her leg and can’t do soccer and I don’t know where she lives and I am now stuck with Anna on the sidelines talking to Trini Deboever and ignoring me in midfield. I jam my earbuds into my ear and play a blasting rock and roll song that my dad would probably like. I don’t know why I am listening to this. All of a sudden the school bus pulls up on the side of the road and I spring up and claim my seat by the window. I glare at the shrubs in Mrs Porter’s yard as Anna walks right by me and sits next to Trini, who is staring at her phone. She looks up when Anna comes over, and her face glows like a lantern. I’m not kidding. It turns yellow and full of light. Okay, maybe she just smiles and acts all surprised, but I can see through it. I bet her mom is a murderer or something, and she has a knife in her backpack. I want Anna to get away from her as soon as possible but I also hate Anna and wish she didn’t exist. The school bus begins its journey down the road. I wish I had a T-shirt under my purple sweatshirt with skeletons on it because now I am slightly-sort-of-kind-of-maybe-a-teensy-bit hot and I will probably die in a few minutes. Well, no I won’t, but if I did then maybe Anna would miss me. I pull my earbuds out of my ears as a shadow falls over me. Olive Hendrix is standing over me, balancing on silver crutches which are jammed in her armpits. Her curly brown hair is clipped back in a ponytail, and I can’t help but envy the soccer ball hair clip she has in her hair. “Hey, can I sit here?” she asks. “Sure.” I manage to reply, painfully aware that my voice is quivering like a feather in the wind. She plops down beside me and smiles. “Are you okay? You look kind of. . .” her voice trails off. “Yeah, just hot.” I try to ignore the fact that my face is probably red as a beet. I have millions of friends and Anna still wants to be one of them, and Trini Deboever is dead, I think to myself. “Well, good. Want a piece of gum?” She slips a piece of mint gum into my hand. I pop it into my mouth and chew down on it. “Thanks!” “You're welcome.” “So, did you see the game last night?” I ask. “Oh, yeah. Did you see Megan Rapinoe? She was awesome!” Olive’s face lights up, kind of like Trini’s did when she saw Anna. As Olive and I start talking soccer, I see Anna glance over at me. She slightly-sort-of-kind-of-maybe-a-teensy-bit smiles at me, and I slightly-sort-of-kind-of-maybe-a-teensy-bit smile back at her.

Aditi Nair, 13
Midlothian, VA


Aditi Nair, 13

Boom! Crash! Bam! It quickly struck the air, disturbing the flying birds, the peaceful clouds, and the still atmosphere– crashing and ripping through the surface of what was once a blue planet, a place where people lived in harmony. Plumes of dead black smoke circled the atmosphere, flowing into the lungs of millions of people, leaving them congested and stuck. The grass was dyed black and brown, exuding a smell reminiscent of a completely burnt marshmallow. Mobs of children screamed and cried, invading the invisible bubble that each person had– shaking the weak and broken ground. Buildings were torn from their roots, slammed into each other, and were sliced in half. Boulders and glass shards hovered in the air, getting into the eyes of all the spectators. Blind and bruised, they ran to their cars and homes, but those were also gone, destroyed, or never existed. Deadly gases of carbon monoxide covered the globe. Humanity extinct, families gone, and the planet that was once called home left in ruins.

Sena Pollock, 14,
(Madison, WI)


Sena Pollock, 14

So there was a blue thing and maybe it could fly or not but I don't know because my eyes were blindfolded and I was in the tree of doom. Then there was a Roke and it was crashing and I saw that it was yellow and had wings and I was not blinded anymore. The tree crashed and I was falling through a lake of birds covered in skin and they were preaching my nose out but I turned into a Zkide and went underground and I started eating my sludge from yesterday until it ran on and I was not alone now because I had someone else in my teeth and was named Shark and Shark said, "I am Coman and I will eat your fish." And I said, "I do not have fish" and Shark said "Yes." "No." "You have." "No." "Yes." "Maybe..." "Fish? Give it to me." I gave the werk to shark because it happened and I had fish but it left and Coman left and I was alone and the dirt says I will give you magic if you sing but I didn’t know any songs that exist so I sang about bloooonam and the dirt said "I hate you" and I was in the air and eating a rock and I was deasa of the water and then my sister was saying, "You are going to jail with the blue thing" and I said, "Why not?" So jail was green and slinking and I was freaking out because my sweater was on backwards and my pants were on frontwards and I was swimming in lava and it felt good had I not eating that fish that was Shark Coman. Then my aunt said "I will tell you a story" and I said, "Yes" and my mom said, "You are lying you don't have a story because I am alive like you." And I ran away until the lobster tried to eat me and I came home where my oma said, "You need to like this on Instagram or oisol will go you away." so I lift and flying the water of eyes and my friend said, "I like my bear better" and my other friend said he was a skeleton but he was really lying, he was a gong and he said, "You better get out of here or you will get eaten by a shark" and I said, "I like sharks more than I want to".

Svitra Rajkumar, 13,
(Fremont, CA)


Svitra Rajkumar, 13

Veronica rang the doorbell a second time and heard loud voices coming from inside the mansion.
“It's unlocked!” Her new best friend Emma Chandler hollered from inside her house. Veronica twisted the doorknob, suddenly feeling a little scared. This was her first sleepover after she had moved to California. All the houses here were abnormally big compared to her small-town home in Massachusetts.
The girls at her school were extremely nice to her at the beginning of the year but eventually they drifted away from Veronica and went back to their own original friend groups. This was a repeated pattern she had observed after moving so much for her mom’s job. She entered the house and peered around.
The flickering chandelier swung above her head, nearly brushing her dark hair. Veronica heard footsteps moving at a rapid pace. It was probably Emma and her other friends but it took them a few minutes to reach her because the hallways were so long.
“Ronnie!” Emma ran toward her and clasped her hands. “OMG We were just about to
change into our swimsuits and go to the pool!”
The pool? They have a pool too!?
Veronica nodded blankly and let Emma drag her along to the backyard with the other girls following closely behind them. Veronica stared at the tall maroon walls that were covered in portraits of Emma and the rest of her family. Emma and her older sister wearing matching sundresses at their summer villa... Emma’s younger brother posing in front of his brand new tricycle... Emma’s parents at their wedding...
“Nothing like your tiny old house in Massachusetts, right?” Ruby giggled from behind her. It sounded like she was trying to be nice but Veronica could hear the snideness in her tone. Ruby had always been sort of mean to Veronica in the slightest ways. Trying to show her that she didn’t belong here.

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