An update from our tenth Weekly Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop, plus some of the output published below
The Stone Soup Weekly Writing Workshop is open to all Stone Soup contributors and subscribers during the COVID-19-related school closures and shelter-in-place arrangements. Every Friday, we meet for an hour and a half via Zoom to respond to a new writing challenge, write together in our virtual room, and then share what we have written with one another.
Our session on Friday June 5 was the first at our new time (09:00 PST), the first that we had a participant in Europe joining us, and–most exciting of all–the first run by one of its participants, Lena Aloise! Lena gave a wonderful, detailed presentation on the history and standard tropes of fairytales, and proposed ways of using those typical characteristics of traditional fairytales to subvert the form–and write a fairytale with a twist! After a lively Q&A discussion, the group got down to some serious writing, and came up with some marvellous variations on a lot of popular fairytales. Participants turned villains into heroes (and vice versa), played with setting and time period, recast the tale as a news story to look at things from a whole new perspective, and even combined multiple fairytales to make something new. What a great session. Thank you, Lena!
The Writing Challenge: Write a fairytale–with a twist.
The Participants: Lena, Ever, Peri, Katie, Tilly, Lucy, Georgia, Analise, Djin, Lalia, Emily, Anya, Gracie, Aditi, Ethan, Vishnu, and more!
Anya Geist, 13
In the middle of the night, when the sky was clouded and dark, when fog cocooned all land, a plane took flight. But it was no ordinary plane, no. It was special, in a way. For this plane intended to travel to space. The planet Earth was growing crowded, stuffed with people like water in a glass, only this glass was spilling over, was dripping onto the ground, little droplets running away, falling off the edge of the world.
And so evacuations had begun, begun with the magical citizens of Earth. And the two magical people in the world, whose powers could erupt like lava from a volcano or could be still, like a forest at night, were twins. Moon and Sun they were called, though no one knew their actual names. At any rate, they were the ones on the plane that night, being sent far into space, to some unknown planet, where their magic could help life begin anew.
However, unbeknownst to them, there was a stowaway on board. You see, Sun and Moon lived in a grand palace, not in the north, south, east, or west, but in all places at once. And the children of Earth’s royalty, the ones who wouldn’t grow up to inherit polluted cities and razed farmlands, were often sent to the Palace of the Sun and Moon as pages, as servants. The stowaway in question was one of these servants, a messenger whose job was to bring notes from the people of Earth to the Sun and Moon.
There was something about this stowaway, however, that was different than all of the other servants in the Palace. First, the stowaway–whose name was Mason–had chocolate-colored hair and caramel-colored eyes, and the sweetest temperament of any eleven-year-old to date. The other servants whispered about him, though, for his parents, the Lord and Lady Alberts of the North were dead. Their entire land, all of their cities and fields, their palace and their forests, had burnt. And Mason, their only son was left without an inheritance.
There was another thing about Mason, though. Both of his parents had golden-blond hair, the color of honey, and their eyes were as green as the grass on the prettiest field. Rumors spread around the world that Mason was not actually the son of the Lord and Lady Alberts, that his parentage lay elsewhere.
At any rate, Mason had stowed away on the plane because he had learned something very valuable in his job as a messenger. A secret about the world that could save it, and that could destroy Sun and Moon.
One day, Mason had a job to deliver a message to a man underground, a man who lived deep inside the Earth. So Mason traveled to the location on the letter, somewhere in Antarctica, and while he crossed the beautiful snowy plains of the continent, something strange happened. The sun shone down on him, and for a moment, he was ablaze with light, as if wreathed in flames. He dropped the letter, and its seal broke upon the ground. It fell open, and Mason saw no option but to read it.
This letter, as it happens, was intended to be of the utmost confidentiality, and had been sealed with an unbreakable seal. When Mason saw its contents, he was aghast. But he came to a resolution. The Sun and Moon were evil.
Mason recounted these events as he hid in the back of the plane with the Sun and Moon. They were breaking through the cloud cover, and soon, Mason knew, they would emerge into space. It was then that he would have to confront them.
The time came and Mason stood up. He coughed, and the Sun and Moon turned to look at him, with anger in their metallic, gleaming eyes. Mason winced as they began to advance.
“What are you doing here?” they asked in perfect unison, their voices tempting and soft.
“I know what you did,” Mason replied shakily, forcing himself to stand tall. “I know everything. And–and I’m here to stop you.”
“Well, well,” they said, each seeming incapable of speaking on their own. “He knows.” They smiled and their teeth were horribly pointed, like jagged mountains erupting from the Earth. “Welcome, brother.”
Mason paused, frozen. “You knew?” Then he shook his head. “Of course you knew. And you hid it from me. You let me be your servant without telling me that I had magic, that I was just as powerful as you.”
“Well, of course we couldn’t. You wouldn’t understand, but you see, Earth is under our control. And it will be until it falls, because no one else will be evacuated. Then we’ll move on. Go to the next world. And the next.”
“I know. I know all of it. I know how you killed the Lord and Lady Alberts and how you serve the man underground.”
“We do not serve him.” But the twins seemed unsteady now.
“Well, it doesn’t matter.” Mason took a deep breath. “I’m going to stop you. I’m going to save the world.”
“Oh look,” Sun said to Moon. “Our little brother is going to play the hero.”
“It’s a good thing we froze his life for a few thousand years. Otherwise, he might’ve tried this earlier,” continued Moon.
“But nevermind,” Sun said.
“We can do it again,” they finished together.
“No!” Mason shouted, and from his arms erupted flames and ice and rock and soil. For while the twins were the Sun and Moon, Mason was the Elements. And so he caused the plane to burst open in space, and there, he trapped the twins, made them to be stuck in a prison of his own creation–as they had done to him until he was rescued by Lord and Lady Alberts–for evermore.
The True Version of a Tangled Story
Peri Gordon, 10
You hate me, don’t you?
You hate me and you’re glad I withered away.
You support that golden-haired priss Rapunzel, right? Oy, didn’t it ever occur to anyone that I was trying to do a good deed?
The girl’s parents were about to go on vacation, and so I thought, why don’t I take care of her while they’re gone? So I did that, and I left a note on each ship so that they would see it no matter which they took. I did not see it coming that they would take a new ship, which no one had gotten the chance to set foot on but the architects. But it was too late, for the girl’s parents could not find the girl, as they looked everywhere except for the tower of that old, ugly woman at the end of town. And, as I do not usually go out of my way to make contact with others, I just continued with my ordinary life, thinking that the royals were vacationing peacefully and knowing that their daughter was safe with me. Little did I know, the royals never left, which means that I never saw them come back.
Therefore, I did not know the truth until years later. During that time, the only reason why I trapped Rapunzel inside my tower was because I truly wanted to keep her safe. What with my looks, I was considered a witch, and if the girl were discovered to get the slightest cut or bruise, I would most certainly be slaughtered brutally.
And the hair? Well, I thought of that as something on the side, a slight reward for my enormous generosity towards the kind and queen.
And so I went on like this, thinking the royals were still on a quite long vacation, until I spotted the queen one day. Grabbing Rapunzel by the hand, I rushed towards her, ready to reunite the girl with her true parents. But before I could, the queen screamed, Rapunzel screamed because the queen screamed, and a man, with muscular arms and a handsome face, rushed forward. He forced me into battle and soon simply chopped off Rapunzel’s hair. I realized that I was so old that only that hair had been keeping me alive, and, well, the rest is history. I withered away as Rapunzel, her prince, and her parents embraced in what they thought was a perfect ending.
A Shining Star!
Vishnu Mangipudi, 12
Once upon a time, there was a very beautiful and kind young woman who had recently made the one-way trip to Mars. She had always loved the Earth, but her stepsisters were jealous of her lovable nature and demanded her to go to Mars. Everyone in her neighborhood pitied poor Ella Mons, but she had to go. As she waved goodbye to everyone, she closed her eyes and awaited the journey.
What’s more, she had left hastily, with no time to say goodbye to all of her friends and family.
In her tiny room in the spaceship, Ella treasured the beautiful dreams she had while she slept of a better life. “A dream is a wish your heart makes while you’re fast asleep,” she had thought.
She landed on Mars the next day, excited about the new life yet scared about the friends she had left behind. Nevertheless, she was determined to adapt to her new life. When she arrived at the colony to take her role, she noticed another girl not much younger than her all by herself. When she went to the girl, the girl opened up to her, and they both became great friends. Suddenly, however, an emergency exit alarm sounded.
“Quick! Get out of this air bubble!” Ella implored the stranger.
“What about you?” the girl responded.
“Never mind me, now run!”
After everyone was safely evacuated, she knew what she had to do. During those long years, when she was isolated and secluded, she had always aspired to be a computer programmer. Every now and then, she would overhear tidbits of coding information from her stepsisters. She had always been very attentive, and soon picked up many coding skills. Ella raced to the computer systems in the air bubble before anyone could stop her. She charged into the building and got to work, noticing that there was a bug in the code, She parsed line after line until she found the error, an exception caused by cosmic radiation. She furiously hammered the keyboard, working to resolve the issue. She worked hard while the bubble deflated, collapsing and nearly fainting due to a lack of air. Just as she was about to black out, she pressed the "run" button. Slowly, but surely, the air bubble refilled to safe levels. Ella couldn't believe it! She had just saved the entire colony! She gave a big smile, before falling to the ground and blacking out.
It had been a few hours in the incident. Ella woke up to a crowd of people all around her, praising her for her heroic deeds. She had become famous for all of her amazing deeds, and was even broadcast on live TV!
While everyone was cheering for Ella Mons, her stepsisters walked out to see what the commotion was about. However, the door opened to countless reporters interviewing them about Ella. Enraged, they slammed the door, and walked back to their now ragged bed. They certainly did not live happily ever after.
A Different Version of: The Twelve Dancing Processes
Lucy Rados, 13
A soldier rode through the land, injured from battle and no longer able to fight. In a village, he heard of the king's twelve daughters, and how no one could figure out where they went at night to dance until their shoes wore down.
“All of the men who have tried to find out what happens have been executed, for no one can discover the secret,” a wizened man told the soldier.
Well, I might as well try, the foolish soldier thought to himself. He came to a little lady, and told her of his plan.
She advised him not to drink the wine the princesses gave him, and to take this cloak, which would make him invisible.
Taking the cloak, the soldier set off and presented himself to the king. When the princesses gave him wine, he made sure to secretly and carefully get rid of it, not drinking a drop.
That night, the soldier faked being asleep, snoring like a rhinocerous. The eldest princess, taking note of this, clapped her hands, and the sisters filed down the steps, the soldier secretly following.
“Wait! My gown has caught on something,” the youngest exclaimed. The elder sisters told her to be quiet, that it was only a nail. The suspicions vanished until, as they were walking back from their dances with the princes through a forest with trees of gold, the soldier snapped a branch off for proof. All of the princesses turned around.
“What was that?” one of the princesses asked.
“It came from over there!” another gasped, pointing at the place the soldier stood with the branch under his cloak.
“The soldier must have followed us and now knows our secret,” a third exclaimed.
“Nonsense,” the eldest sister said “There is no way he could have followed us. He was fast asleep.”
The princesses eyed the spot warily but walked on, until the youngest princess cried out as she fell to the ground, tripping over the soldier’s limp foot. As she fell, she reached out, pulling the cloak off of the concealed soldier.
All of the princesses shouted out. “How did he find us?” “You said he was asleep!”
The soldier, most shocked of them all, said, “Bu-But how? Well, I know your secret now, so I can’t be executed, and now I get to marry one of you.”
The princesses laughed. “You might know our secret, but you can’t really expect us to let you marry one of us, after you failed to find us out secretly. No, we will tell our father that you left, and won’t be seen again, and that is what you must do,” the eldest sister told him.
So at 4 o’clock in the morning, the soldier secretly stole out of the castle, the only one to ever discover the princesses' secret.
Many more tried to find out the truth, but many more were beheaded. The princesses kept dancing, night after night, year after year, until they grew too old and weary to dance. The soldier continued his life, staying secretive, until one day, old and tired, he returned to the king. Few recognized him, but the eldest sister knew who he was. “What are you doing here?” she whispered.
“I am going to tell your father the truth.” And he did that, for the princess could not stop him. The soldier was commended, but it was too late to get married. So the soldier settled down, and finished his years in comfort.