A note from Laura
Mired in February’s deep winter snow and cold, like many of you may also be, and stuck at home for much of the time during this current Covid surge, my awareness of a sense of place is at its peak! As our Editor, Emma, reminds us in her opening note of the profound influence of our surroundings on our experience in the world, I invite you to consider, as you read the February edition of Stone Soup, the role of setting as a literary device.
Consider Ava Cai’s piece, “Honey Dipped in Celery,” in which we are provided with a thick description of a brief slice of time spent inside a classroom during silent reading period. I love the rich detail in which the author describes the classroom setting and the playful way in which she reveals herself through these surroundings. Like, I imagine, many of you, I can relate to the sense of captivity while willing a clock to tick during silent reading time, as well as the sweet feeling of freedom the moment your hand touches the doorknob to leave.
Part of what illuminates these experiences and makes them so relatable, is the detailed description of setting the author provides: the dim light with the broken bulb flickering above, the tree beyond the window whose leaves blur together with distance, the clock hanging on the wall whose red arm ticks rhythmically while its black hands crawl ever so slowly, the stale, sterile smell of the bathroom.
Now consider how the author utilizes all this rich detail to reveal something of themselves. What do we learn about the author through her experience in this particular setting? Through her description of a stagnant, quiet room, we learn that the author doesn’t like to sit still for long periods of time, that she craves movement, fresh air, stimulation. Setting, in this piece, is used as a literary device to reveal something we didn’t know, in this case, about the author herself.
I invite you to pay particular attention to setting in your next piece of writing. See if you can manipulate your depiction of place to point to some kind of broader meaning, idea, or thematic element of your work. For example, what might a description of a home reveal about the family who has resided there for generations? How might the early morning sun, slowly creeping along the wooden floorboards of an empty kitchen, point to the excitement or restlessness of a main character?
As always, if you’ve written something you’re proud of, please share it and submit it to us via Submittable!
With warm winter wishes,
Congratulations to our most recent Flash Contest winners!
Our February Flash Contest was based on Prompt #190 (provided by intern Sage Millen), which asked that participants write a story about a character who falls into a bowl of tomato soup and into a magical land. The whimsical yet specific prompt served as the perfect vehicle of creativity for our participants as we received more submissions—43!—than we ever had before! While every story was naturally based upon the same premise, these stories could not have had more variety. Submissions ranged from an epistolary story addressing a corrupt king to the origin story for a pet rabbit to a story surrounding the subsequent events of the eerie, dystopian "Orange Day." As we received a record number of submissions, we found it extra difficult to choose only ten stories worthy of mention, so we added a sixth story to our honorable mentions. As always, thank you to all who submitted, and please submit again next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.
"The Magic of Tomato Soup" by Ananya Cronin, 9 (Fishers, IN)
"Dear King Solanum" by Sophie Li, 11 (Palo Alto, CA)
"Tomato Island" by Nova Macknik-Conde, 10 (Brooklyn, NY)
"The King Who Fell into a Bowl of Tomato Soup" by David Yu, 11 (Hong Kong)
"Ten Times" by Natalie Yue, 10 (San Carlos, CA)
"It Started with the Tomatoes" by Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)
To"Clara and Whiskers" by Elizabeth Sabaev, 11 (Forest Hills, NY)
"Reality or Subconsciousness?" by Emily Tang, 12 (Winterville, NC)
"Colors" by Liyue Sally Wang, 11 (Newton, MA)
"Wish upon a Dream" by Eliya Wee, 11 (Menlo Park, CA)
"Gone Tomatoes" by Savarna Yang, 13 (Outram, NZ)
From Stone Soup
By Ava Cai, 12 (San Jose, CA)
The quiet classroom was like a prison. The lights were dim, and a broken bulb flickered softly above me. I had never liked the dullness of this room, nor did I like the quietness of reading time. I sat in my assigned seat and flipped through a book about spaceships. The cover was slightly dented, and some of the pages were half torn. I managed to make out only the picture of the Apollo lunar module. I closed the book and placed it on my desk. I leaned back in my seat and let my head dangle off the tip of the blue plastic. I stretched, making all my muscles bunch up, then relax again. I let out a satisfied sigh and sat up, looking around the room. Everyone was still reading besides my teacher, who was swiping furiously at his phone. I shifted into a more comfortable position and began trying to count the leaves of a tree out the window. It was not too far away, but I could only make out the size and shape of it. It looked like a green cloud with two ears on top.
I rocked impatiently in my chair, waiting for the teacher to signal that class had ended. I looked up at the clock and then leaned back in surprise. It was only 2:06! I slumped deeper into my chair at the fact that I had to wait fifty-four more minutes until the bell would grant my wishes. So I observed the white clock with its red arm ticking to the rhythm of my feet tapping, the long black arm inching forward slowly and the small black arm that was barely moving. I wondered if it was broken and if I should ask the teacher to fix it. Silently, I scolded the small black arm and turned my attention to my teacher.
Stone Soup is published by Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization registered
in the United States of America, EIN: 23-7317498.
Stone Soup's advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.