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Winding Staircase
"Winding Staircase" (Canon Powershot G10), photographed by Jeremy Nohrnberg, 10, (Cambridge, MA) and published in the February 2021 Issue of Stone Soup

A note from Caleb

I wanted to start out by briefly recognizing the work you continue to do in the Writing Workshop. As a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I have taken numerous writing workshops, and few come close to the level of genius you routinely display in just thirty minutes. It seems every week your work gets more original, nuanced, and engrossing. I look forward to hearing you read your work again next week.

In Jeremy’s photo we look down a winding staircase, a view that could give those with a fear of heights a touch of vertigo. The shot is formatted such that we stare down the barrel of this staircase’s center, the bottom becoming a singular, darkened point, like an inverse tunnel. The result is as striking as it is ominous, made more so by the paradoxical effect of the rug draped over the banister that shifts the perspective from a person standing atop a staircase to a person standing on a rug and looking down, their body perpendicular rather than parallel to the stairs. The photograph asks questions about the nature of perception and what lies in wait for us at the end, challenging whether or not light really does exist at the end of the tunnel.

Conversely, in Amber Zhao’s stunning poem “Finishing a Poem,” the speaker reaches a state of bliss as they are finally able to complete their poem, reaching the light at the end of the tunnel of inspiration. For the speaker, writing and living are inexorably linked: “the jagged edge of brokenness / intrudes upon my soul, and dusty fingerprints outline / the soul of this poem.” Moreover, writing is elevated by the speaker to the highest of planes, thereby simultaneously raising the stakes of writing as well as its potential reward, as Amber’s meta-poetic meditation on writing harks back to the concept of the poet as a godlike creator “whose words eclips[e] the sun and moon alike.” Amber’s poem reminds me that like life, the process of writing, while oftentimes long and arduous, brings with it moments that put us in a state of exaltation.

So, keeping in mind these two works of art, I ask you what feelings you harbor toward completing a poem, story, or novel: do you relish the sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing something through to the end, or does the end of your writing loom in the distance like the end of a perfect day? Regardless of your feelings on the subject, I want you to take the time this weekend to practice writing endings. You could write a hypothetical ending to something you’ve already been working on, or you could write an ending in and of itself. Let this exercise take you wherever it takes you; I reckon it will be rewarding!

Until next time,

Highlights from the past week online

Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!

Famous author Adam Rex wrote a glowing review of Abhi Sukhdial’s novella, Three Days Till EOC, which won the 2019 Stone Soup Book Contest.

The rest of our wonderful author interviews were published this week, including interviews with third-place winner of the 2019 Book Contest Nami Gajcowski and newcomers Shelby Miller and Katie Pausin.

Nova, 9, wrote a review of Ellen Hagan’s forthcoming novel in verse, Reckless, Glorious, Girl. Check out Nova’s review to find out why she found it to be a delicious read.

Amber Zhao

From Stone Soup
February 2021

Finishing a Poem

By Amber Zhao, 10 (Brisbane, Australia)

I have carved truth and beauty into yellowed parchment,
having created something unique, vital, simple, complex, and bottomless
as a fallen flower. The jagged edge of brokenness
intrudes upon my soul, and dusty fingerprints outline
the soul of this poem. The unbroken stretch of time
has not erased these words eclipsing
the sun and moon alike.

What troubles they must have faced; what creative, poetic troubles
would have gnawed on that author—spirit
like moss and ivy on a house! Impossible feats are possible
viewed the right way, melding dark and light
into lines that are like a wishing well and looking glass.
These rhymes instill visions that I thought
would never come again,

and the rhythm beats faster than fire. For me,
I find a new renewal in this poem. After years of waiting
to write that masterpiece, that pièce de résistance,
word after word grasps into touch, paper, and ink
to reveal the tide of inspiration.

To read more from this issue, click here.


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.


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