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An update from our eleventh 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. 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 12 posed the most challenging challenge yet: to try to write something where multiple voices are talking at once, in the same place, on the same subject, but not necessarily communicating with one another. We were joined by Prof. Dan Selden, a comparative literature professor at UCSC, and polyglot, to discuss the ways in which this kind of simultaneous story-telling unfolds in opera, and watched a selection of video clips of quartets and quintets from operas by Verdi, Rossini and Mozart. After a short discussion, the group spent time working on their pieces and then read aloud–in one case, with the participation of the whole group to simulate the overlapping voices in the writing (see Anya Geist's work below). This was definitely the hardest thing we have tried to do in the workshop yet, but as always, everyone rose to the challenge and produced some amazing work, some of which you can read below.

This week, we welcomed a record number of students, including a group from France, into the group. We're glad you can all join us!

The Writing Challenge: Write a piece one one subject, in one location, at the same time, using more than one voice.

The Participants: Georgia, Ever, Benjamin, Seraj, Lucy, Liam H, Tilly, Katie, Eugenie, Maddie, Ma'ayan, Enni, Rhian, Flynn, Will, Seung Taek, Gregoire, Enya, Jules, James, Sophia, Aditi, Maddi, Clara, Agathe, Amy, Charlotte, Annais, Jasmine, Addison, Saige, Candice, Carolina, Teresa, Lily, Zacharie, Zaryama, Adam, Anastasia, Liam, Keraj, Vishnu, Eve... and more!

Anya Geist, 14
Worcester, MA

A Day at the Pond

Anya Geist, 14

Peri Gordon, 10
Sherman Oaks, CA

Four Person Conflict

Peri Gordon, 10

Xander and Dylan have been secretly robbing the town, not even telling their respective wives, Elise and Sandra. Those wives found out, though, and told the town’s mayor. The aftermath is a mix of guilt and anger.

Sandra didn’t regret what she did.

Elise regretted it.

Dylan felt everything was all his fault.

Xander felt pure anger with Elise and Sandra.

They deserve punishment, going around and robbing every last person in town without anyone knowing! Not even their own wives!

They have their secrets, why oh why did we have to spoil their fun? How terrible we are!

Oh, I shouldn’t have gone along with this plan; I could have assured Xander that it was unnecessary! I don’t blame the girls for telling the mayor; I’m sure I would in their shoes! Oh, how I hate this mess I’ve gotten myself into!

Those two little liars! I thought I could trust them, but there they went, snooping for our secrets! That maniacal Sandra! And her little sidekick, Elise, also known as my wife! Oh, how I hate those two now!

Oh, how traitorous we are, Xander shall never forgive me! I’m sure he hates me, all the way to the core! My darling! Now my nemesis!

Oh, how my Sandra will be ashamed of me! She has a complete right to be flaming mad at us! I shouldn’t have gone along with Xander’s plan, oh, how I shouldn’t have!

I can’t believe they didn’t tell us! We’re their wives! Wives of robbers without knowing it! Wives of criminals!

Those traitors! Those double-crossing traitors! I’ll never speak to them again, not if I can help it! Those traitors! Those traitorous fools!

Liam Hancock, 12
Danville, CA

It Takes Us All: A Narrative Poem

Liam Hancock, 12

Grasping, pulling.
A timeless face lulling.
He gropes.
And he yanks
Forever not holding.
He drops the grain sand
Poured from chapped hand
And the sun and the thirst
A constant demand
As night, as day.
The voices still holler
It rings, it rings!
But where is his caller?
The mountains, the rocks
And pink flowers bloom
Yet he still remembers
The sun takes him, too.
Come, dear friend
Come, please do find
The ticking ticks on
I seem not rewind
This desert is death
A dozen days wait
Not falter your breath
The thought I do hate
Your face may still ashen
Into dark sands
The false, hopeful warmth
Slipped from your hands
Yet mine remain still
Grasping for land
The waves whisk me yet
A constant demand
He cries
He shakes
He feels the earth quake
Someone awaits him
A pressure can’t take
The sun finds his way
A knoll beyond day
He lays down once more
As he cries, casts away
And a dream sleep still holds
From a long broken mind
He is so, and so cold
A rock to sleep behind
Steady a falls
Grasping, he pulls
Someone’s waiting
Out in the cold
How to tell?
She must never know
Because what if she’s wrong
And the renegade still holds?
A cowboy of death
Harrumphing with step
And hollering
Spoken miracles with breath?
Oh, the pink flowers bloom
And she presses, grows old
But the boy is still waiting
Waiting out in the cold
Now the sand grasps it
Breath stolen from its sides
Because what would time be
Without its own time?
Was he ever alive?
Or was the sky just a false
The times atop times?
An evil trick slain
It will never be told
But the desert, the sky?
As night, and as day.

Enni Harlan, 13
Los Angeles, CA

A Moment from Two Perspectives

Enni Harlan, 13

Four little boys are playing outside my window. Each seems about six or seven, and they are wrestling with one another. Their screams and laughter fly through my closed window pane, and I glance outside. Their idea of “fun” astounds me, as I watch them topple over one another. The smallest boy charges at his friends, and a gust of wind ruffles his halo of wild blonde hair, which is illuminated by the light of the setting sun. Soon they’ve formed one big clump of kicking, shouting, and screaming… Then, something happens. Suddenly, they’re all crawling on fours like animals, crowding around one little boy. I squint my eyes and see that he’s holding a tiny dandelion. The boys observe the weed as if it were a speck of gold. Like magic, the boys have stopped fighting. I turn back to my computer, its bright screen staring back blankly at me. My fingers stroke the keys, but I’m rather confused. All I can think is– What happened?

The gentle rays of the sun streak across the patch of overgrown grass that my friends and I are playing on. We’ve grown up together like brothers, and so it’s no surprise when we break out into a game of mock fighting. We shriek with laughter as Sam stumbles by my side, but when he emerges from the ground, it appears that he’s found something.
“Look!” he hollers. “A dandelion!”
Dropping our game of pretense, we gather around Sam with actual excitement. Soon we’re chattering away; arguing over what wish we should make.
“I’m the one who found it,” Sam yells over all of us, but we ignore him.
“What should we wish for?” I cry.
“World peace?” Oliver suggests, and we all dissolve in laughter once more.
Two images streak through my mind suddenly, the first of the four of us fighting, and the second of soldiers fighting in an actual war. Is a dandelion really all it takes to stop a real dispute?

Georgia Marshall, 11
Marblehead, MA

Lying in a Hospital Bed

Georgia Marshall, 11

Lying in a hospital bed, staring at the plastic blue wall. I feel my life slipping away. The pain I feel is too much. My breath is scarce, my arms are thin and scarred. My hands continue to tremble. Shaking, hurting. My insides boil. What is this feeling? Hot and cold. Hot and cold. Hot and cold. I am angry. Angry at the pain I feel. I am sad. Sad when I hear my mother crying in the hallway, thinking I am asleep. Sad when I hear my father arguing with the nurses and doctors who say I won’t get well. Sad when I hear my little sister saying she is excited for me to come home. I know I won’t. I will be here until I am nothing but a body. A soulless body…

Lying in a hospital bed, pearly tears dripping down her cheeks. I want to hold her close to me, but the doctors don't let me. My younger daughter still thinks she'll come home. But she won't. Every night before bed, I drench myself in sorrow and guilt. Sorrow and guilt. Crying endlessly. Our last interaction before this terrible virus hit her was a fight. A fight over something as little as walking home alone with her friends. It seems so small now. I should've let her go. Crying endlessly…

Lying in a hospital bed, agreeing with the lies. The lies the doctors tell her. They say she will have to stay here for a while longer. She might not even be able to come home. But she will. I know she will. I can't accept the concept that she might not ever come home. She is my daughter. But deep down, I know she won’t. She never will. She is too sick. Too sick…

Lying in a hospital bed, looking sad all the time. Tears leak from her eyes every time-every time I say I can't wait for her to come home. I don't know why. She will come home again. One day. My doll lies on the faded pink shag rug in my room, waiting for me to play with her. I tell her soon, when my sister comes back.

Lucy Rados, 13
Buffalo, NY

Tales of Three Refugees: Perspectives from 3 Journeys

Lucy Rados, 13

I’m finally escaping this horrible life, one filled with hunger and war and pain. I’m getting away from where the bombs rained down everyday, where my sister and brother and father were killed. My mother and younger brother are the only ones coming with me, and the only thing I know have left. No money, no hope, just a new beginning. But I’m still scared. Maybe I’ll escape this war, but maybe America will not be as inviting as they want me to think it is.

I don’t want to leave. Mama and Papa say I have to, that I have to get Marco and Vincent out, but I don’t want to leave my older sister, or my best friend or my parents. I know there is a war, but I would rather be scared with Mama than safe but alone, on my own. I have barely any money, only enough to get on the ship, and even then, I won’t be safe, not with the waves, and all of the fears Marco and Vincent are surrounded by. My life was fine with Mama and Papa. Why, oh why must I leave?

I want to go to America. My parents think it is not worth the risk, that we will die before setting foot on those lands, and even if we get there, life will be unforgiving. But I know it is worth the risk. Getting out of here might take a miracle, but that’s what I’m hoping for if it gives me a new chance. And if Mother thinks it isn’t best, then I’ll leave her here! No, no, I can’t do that. I must convince them that it is for the best, that with the money we have, it will be enough to have the chance of escape. But how will I escape this land?

Mom pulls my hand, urging me to hurry. “Gustav, there is no time to wait,” she cries desperately, my little brother clinging onto her arm. I look back at our home, the stout building where all of my fondest memories will be laid to rest. This war has torn apart everything I know and love. There is no going back. I want to escape, I want to flee, but there is something holding me back. Perhaps it is fear of the future, in a land where we have nothing, or perhaps it is the memories of the past that I still cling to, never to let go. But if I want to leave, I have to let go. I turn my back on the house, not mine any longer, and run.

Mama and Papa push me out the door, no choice any longer. I’m going to die. I know I can’t make it. And Mama and Papa will die to, and our long family line will be over. We will die, I know, but I still take Marco’s hand, and pick up Vincent. We walk for hours that feel like weeks, days that feel like years. Finally, after avoiding every obstacle there could ever be, I see it. A boat. It does not seem like much, rather unstable for sure, only a cargo ship. But it is our way out. Marco and Vincent start to run forward, but I hold back. Can I really leave? I know I should, that Mama and Papa want me to. But everything is here. Well, not everything. Marco and Vincent have their minds in America, even if their bodies are not yet there. We have to go. I know it before I set foot on the ship. I know it as I lie down next to my brothers in a cramped room. I know it as the ship pulls out of the harbor. The world I have held on to for so long is gone.

I finally have convinced them to let me go. Father and Mother are coming to, though wary of the journey at first. We have gone through alleys, almost empty by now, no one left in this forsaken land. My parents are scared, but when we reach a navy ship, I know they feel safe, relieved, almost even happy. We spend days in a small room with three other families, eagerly awaiting our arrival in America. Then it arrives. We land on the shore, people scattered about. A new ;ife awaits us here, a land of hope. After finally being allowed into the country, we settle in a suburb, my Father finding a job as a mechanic, our left over money helping us create a new life here. My family is happy that I told them to come. We are safe from the world of terror, hunger, and longing.

I see it now. The boat. Mother carries my brother, both to help him, but also a lifeline for her in her fragile state of mind. We board the boat. It has now been weeks since we fled. I am sad that I have had my life taken from me, but nothing was left for me anymore. My new life is hard, i must get all the money for my family as my mother struggles to care for my brother. But I know it was right. It was the only choice. I am safe.

I am safe.

I am safe.


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