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An update from our twelfth 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 19, attended by young writers in France, the UK and from across the United States, started with a discussion about shaping characters, and a question: How can we can create a sense of a character for our readers, without  simply writing a list-like description of their looks, personality, hobbies and so on? Some of the workshop members who had attended the week's summer camp with Stone Soup & Young Inklings–all about working on characters–talked about their experiences, and after a short discussion on the ways we might develop the feeling of a character, like a sketch or outline, the group spent time working on their pieces and then read aloud. Read on below to get a feeling for some of the powerful personalities we were given a glimpse of in this session!

The Writing Challenge: Write a short sketch that gives us a sense of the fictional character you are developing.

The Participants: Lorelei, Shreya, Lena, Anya, Katie, Maddie, Gegoire, Peri, Kanav, Georgia, Hera, Enni, Ever, Eugenie, Christina, Chloe, Enya, Tilly, Madeline, Kara, Charlotte, Sophia, Aditi, Liam H, Emily, Benjamin, Louise, Ace, James, Heather, Vishnu, Clotilde, Melanie, Thomas, Seraj and more...

Lena Aloise, 11
Harvard, MA

The One with the Empty Eyes

Lena Aloise, 11

She was a small woman, shoulders hunched forward in their eternal brace, face expressionless, eyes empty pools of sunken darkness. Her lips were pursed tightly, corners of her mouth pointing downwards, as if she feared that something might slip out, that spoken words might make her more vulnerable. As if she was constantly fighting back tears, tears that brought back to much pain to let fall. The cornflower dress she wore was stunning, with a lace trimmed bodice and a skirt that fell to her ankles. But she, herself, was broken, shattered, despite once beautiful looks. A face that had once been the envy of every girl now was one that all shied away from. The soul was dead, although the heart still beat, and that drained the life from everything. Her sepia locks fell in waves down her back and every few minutes, a hand would reach up, grab a curl and finger it nervously. But those eyes stared straight ahead, not stopping for anything. Eyes that had seen horrors that no person should have to view. Eyes that were afraid of life itself, of seeing more, scared of the past.

They called her Mit Leeren Augun. The one with the empty eyes.

Peri Gordon, 10
Sherman Oaks, CA

The Duchess

Peri Gordon, 10

In a mansion high atop a hill, there lived a refined duchess, with smooth and slightly tanned skin and crowned golden hair. Her name was Annabelle, and she wore only the finest clothing, made of satin with gold embellishments. She strutted around like a queen and was most always treated like one. She rarely left her soaring towers, but when she did ride her magnificent silver carriage into town, no one dared approach her, unless they were a dashing prince or strapping knight come to see her. If any commoner came within three feet of her, she would stare them down with her piercing blue eyes, and they would scurry off.

Lady Annabelle was a fine young duchess, and no one dared mess with her.

Enni Harlan, 13
Los Angeles, CA

A Child

Enni Harlan, 13

A young girl crept down the carpeted stairs nimbly, as quiet as a mouse. Her face was stony and lacking any sign of childhood’s innocence, despite her youth. She was small, but possessed the sharpness of someone far beyond her age. Her clothing was ragged and filthy, but her short brown hair framed her face in a seemingly orderly manner.

The girl stopped at the foot of the staircase, her dark eyes darting about the room. Not a soul was awake, and the house was deathly silent. With a trembling hand, the girl struck a match and lit a candle. The room was instantly illuminated by its flickering glow. The timber bookshelves lined with dusty books appeared ancient in the forlorn room.

She tiptoed towards the bookshelf, and found herself removing the same book as always. It was the book of poetry she had treasured for years; the very one her mother had read to her as a child.

The little girl opened her satchel and dropped the book in, grimacing as it clattered loudly against the silver candlesticks she had taken from the bedroom upstairs. A door creaked open loudly upstairs, followed by a sequence of footsteps. The girl froze instantly, then darted out the door without a further thought. All that was left was an empty space in the bookshelf.

The child’s lean figure disappeared into the darkness of the night…

And the house was silent once more.

Anya Geist, 13
Worcester, MA


Anya Geist, 14

James lifted his heavy backpack to sling it over his shoulder. It was navy blue, but covered in dirt and small stains, marks of a long time of use, and was ripped at the top from an unfortunate excursion into the uptight Mrs. Robin’s rose garden.
“You’re wearing shorts again! Go change!” his mother called the doorway to their small kitchen. “It’s only 50 degrees.”
James looked down at his thin legs and knobbly knees, at his skin which might have been as pale and fine as snow, but was instead engrained with endless amounts of mud and dirt. He shrugged. “I’m fine.”
His mother took in her son’s naturally thin face and sighed. With that, the boy pulled open the front door, causing his thin muscles to tauten momentarily, and headed off to school.
His walk every morning was about 15 minutes long to get to the city, with an extra 5 he spent dodging cars and buses as he crossed the city streets to get to school.
Actually, on further reflection, it usually took about thirty minutes, because there were always puddles to jump in on the dirt, country road, and trees to climb. The boy’s legs were spotted with bruises and flaked with cuts from his many adventures of climbing as high as he could.
In fact, one particular tree, one he had just passed a moment ago, held a very unique memory. It had been a few years ago, when he was seven, back when his best friend, Robert, still lived nearby. The boys had been climbing the tree, weaving their way up, up, up into the endless maze of branches, when James had fallen. It was the first time he’d ever broken a bone, and his mother had been shocked. James supposed she might have suspected that this was an inevitable occurrence, but nevertheless, she had been very distraught at both the cast on his arm, and the one on his leg.
She wasn’t terribly surprised at James’ accidents anymore–and he had had quite a few of them–but he thought she had begun to dread the calls she received at least once a year from the hospital.
James smiled fondly as he thought of that first time in the tree. He didn’t mind falling, and while breaking an arm was a nuisance, it wasn’t life-ending. And it provided an excuse in school if he ever needed one. James scratched his arm absentmindedly, running his grubby fingers over the spot where his scar from that fall was. His first scar. And one of his only ones. He was proud of it.
James grew nearer to the city where his school lay. He didn’t care much for the city, for the endless hum of cars, and the sooty air. No, he preferred the endless skies over his house, where, when he climbed up a tree, he could see for miles, all while eating a fresh fruit he nabbed from a neighbor’s yard.
The buildings around James began to grow taller and taller, engulfing him in their shadow. He had always been on the small side, simply slighter and shorter than the rest of his friends. It wasn’t as though he was one of those invisible kids, though. He was called on the most by teachers, and not always for good things. They would stare at him and shake their head as they held the paper airplane he had thrown or the gum wrapper he had unwisely left in the open. They would say, “James, James. One day you’re going to get into more trouble than you can handle.” He never believed them.
Teachers also seemed to think that his mischievous tendencies were due to his appearance. His green eyes, they said, were like a jungle, filled to the brim with tangles of ivy and troublemaking creatures, and his chocolatey, curly hair could have been polished and sweet, was instead like dark chocolate, knotted, with a bit of bittersweetness. James himself didn’t notice any of these characteristics. He was happy just to be himself, and, as he was generally a steady B student in school–and in life, he thought–trouble didn’t bother him much. He didn’t pay much attention when his mother told him that he should wear a new shirt, not that battered green one, or when the khaki shorts she’d bought came home torn and ripped–which James liked better.
No, James thought, as he bolted across a crosswalk in the city just before a bus hurtled through, even if he had forgotten to do his math homework last night, he was pretty content with his life.

Kanav Kachoria, 11
Potomac, MD

A Wise and Happy Boy

Kanav Kachoria, 11




Charles sits under a tree every day beside his barn writing poems,
He writes and writes,
Until the day hits night.
His skinny body from head to toe matched with his big brain almost makes no sense,
But it works for him since he is happy and is never tense.
Apples fall down,
And Charles eats and observes,
He is always calm,
And pleasure comes to him almost like it’s served.
No one is around him,
But only in the barn,
The only person who is not in the barn beside Charles,
Is Grandma getting her yarn.
Charles is like Shakespeare,
He is very smart,
And his writings are interesting,
As they are always a piece of art.
Charles is a very strange boy,
With the most joy,
He lives his life enjoying it,
And he tries to be his best to everyone as he is always cloying.

Vishnu Mangipudi, 12
Bellevue, WA

An Old Pasttime

Vishnu Mangipudi, 12

John was a tall, slender, middle-aged man that had loved sightseeing from a young age. He had enjoyed going to parks, loving to birdwatch and hike on mountainous terrain. He was a very active person too; he would get up at 6:00 AM to run on trails in his community. But as he got older and older, John was no longer able to hike up to his favorite mountain spot, or walk on trails around his community. Every day, he would go outside of his house, mourning his lack of sightseeing. Little did he know, however, that his life was about to change.
John’s neighbor was an aspiring engineer, a young girl by the name of Bala.
She was an intellectual, always aspiring to unlock the secrets of the world. She had charming, sparkling blue eyes that had a great depth to them, and was a friend of John. When she noticed his sadness, she grew upset.
“What’s wrong, John?” Bala asked.
“It’s just–I can walk outside and recount my memories no longer.”
Bala knew what she had to do. Sitting at her mahogany workbench in an old, dusty, workshop, she got to work. She was going to implement a virtual reality system that would help John with his sadness, and bring his fond memories back to him.However, after the system was created, the machine didn’t work. John felt as though the system was not natural; it did not emulate the scenery perfectly. John sighed as the day went on. His life was set; no going back now. Getting up once more, he heaved a great sigh, before settling back down onto his couch into an eternal slumber.

Georgia Marshall, 11
Marblehead, MA

The Portrait

Georgia Marshall, 11

The portrait hangs on the wall innocently, depicting a young woman. Her skin, fair and smooth, glows like a chest of treasure. Her face gives off an aura of great cheeriness and warmth. Her emerald green eyes glow like a thousand stars, round and full of kindness. She has a soft silk shawl draped over her shoulders like a curtain. Golden ringlets frame her face, curling off at her deep dimples. Her moss colored dress billows around her like a cloak. She is beautiful. And yet, there is something else about her.

Though her eyes radiate gratitude when taken in by a glance, they show a different perspective when watched with careful attention. Hunger. Hunger for power. Kingdoms falling into the depths of despair by the treacherous hands of darkness. Soldiers lying motionless on the battlefield. Snakes thick as tree trunks wrapping themselves around sleeping maidens. All seen through her eyes. Her hunger.

When I try to run away, a strong wind begins to pull me back. It claws at my back, ripping my dress. I keep fighting it, pulling, screaming. I am sucked in. I can't escape. Darkness falls upon me. And I see things. Terrible things. I hear screaming. Fractured, tortured, terrible screaming. I suddenly feel ravenously hungry. Hungry for a soul, hungry to be free of the burden of the portrait.

I am the lady of The Portrait. I feel her feelings. I know her whole life story. A tragic, heartbroken, treacherous story. About a girl fallen in love with a powerful sorcerer. An evil one. People had warned her not to love him, but she had fallen under his spell. He had cast her into a blank canvas. She had been bitter and resentful for years, so she had set her plan to work. She had put on an alluring mask, showing herself in a whole new light. Then she would capture her prey, put them in her place. She could finally escape her home, The Portrait.

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