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Introduction to this Stone Soup Writing Activity

This activity is built around a story by 11-year-old Ted Nelson, "A Definition of Happiness," published in Stone Soup in September/October 1985.

Winning a medal in a sporting event requires physical strength. It also requires concentration. In "A Definition of Happiness," Ted concentrates on winning. Win, win, win, he thinks with each stroke. While swimming, Ted also thinks of the "humiliation" of losing. Finally, Ted stops thinking, apparently loses an awareness of his body and where it is, and so he ends the race in a manner he hadn't dreamed of. Read the story, consider the techniques that Ted has used to tell the story, and work on your project.

Project: Write a Story About a Race

Unlike Ted who thought only of winning (and his fear of losing), create a character who is aware of his or her body, of how it feels, of where it is going. Make your readers feel what it is like to be an athlete moving quickly. If you are not very athletic yourself, use your imagination. If you write about a swimming race, make us feel how your character pulls through the water, reaching, reaching, stretching arms, kicking legs, feeling the water rush by. If you write about a different sport, think about the specific movements the sportsperson is making, the feeling of the muscles as they run or jump or throw, the thoughts going through their mind.

Maybe your character will win. Maybe your character won't. That doesn't matter, but give us a character who enjoys working hard, moving fast, having a specific focus, and being strong.

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