An update from our nineteenth Weekly Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop, plus some of the output published below
Our conversation on August 7 was joined by young writers from across the US, as well as in Canada, the UK, and France. This week, our topic was using archival photographs to inspire our writing. After looking at a few archival photographs, we then began to discuss the ways in which we could use an archival photograph. Do we create a fictional story around the photograph? If we know the true story around the photo, do we recount that tale? Do we use the photograph as a connection between real life and a story? For an example of how we can utilize photos, we read an excerpt from Ransom Riggs’ book Hollow City, which is the second novel in his series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Riggs incorporates archival photographs into his books, using them as footage of the peculiar things that occur. We also read an excerpt from a short story published in Stone Soup in the May/June issue in 2002: “Kisses from Cecile” by Marie Agnello. Agnello uses letters that were sent to her great-grandmother by a French penpal to tell a story. After this, we set to writing our own stories inspired by archival photos. Via Screen Share on Zoom, we were provided with several photos to use, though many participants used archival photos of their own family, instead. Keep reading to experience some of the powerful writing we were given a glimpse of in this session.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Use an archival photograph to inspire a story.
The Participants: Lucy, Maddie, Shreya, Peri, Ever, Suman, Liam, Tilly, Madeline, Kanav, Simran, Abi, Charlotte, Aditi, Vishnu, Nami, Janani, and more...
The Two Men
Two young men were walking on the road
They both were carrying large bags
In one was clothing for both of them
But in the other bag was something unexpected
The bag had a foul odor and odd shape
No one knew what was in it.
People supposed it was an old guitar
But little did they know that it was a dead body
Peri Gordon, 10
I stand outside the house the way I do every day when I take a walk. I think it’s just cruel that people like me have to live in tents, homeless, while a house stands uninhabited. They say it’s haunted, that no one in their right mind would go in there.
Suddenly, I’m compelled to go in. I know better, but I ignore that. I guess I’m not in my right mind, I think.
I walk to the door. It’s locked. I climb in through the window. And oh my goodness, I’m inside a house! A house! I’ve only been in a house once, for the town festival the mayor holds every decade. And no one even talked to me.
I limp around, taking in the big windows, the comfortable parlor, the kitchen. Then I come to the stairs. I have never seen stairs before. Not indoors, anyway. The festival was restricted to one room; I would’ve found the stairs then if I could. But the mayor wouldn’t want poor people on his staircase, would he? It’s a marvel he invites us at all.
I sigh and slowly make my way up the stairs, holding on tight to the banister. At the top, I relax my fingers and let go, then drift around upstairs. Everyone was wrong; there are no ghosts here. None at all, though if anyone found me they’d be convinced I was one. I must be pretty creepy, roaming around here, touching the sturdy wood of the walls, playing with the lights, even taking a bath. But now I know: The rumors are false. This is a perfectly normal home. It must have been abandoned long ago and never bought, never sold . . . and I doubt anyone with money plans to inhabit this “haunted” house anytime soon . . . it’s far too big for just two people, but, gazing at the town, I wonder if maybe, just maybe, it would be just big enough to be a home for the homeless . . .
I run back to my tent and tell Mother we’re moving in.
(Somewhat) Empty Alley
Madeline Kline, 12
The alley was deserted
when the man came with a camera
to snap a picture.
The flash startled everything there
scaring the rodents back into their holes,
and causing the birds to flutter up into the air.
All the unseen life truly deserted the alley
until the scent of food drew them back.
Dark as shadow
and unseen by the man and the flash,
the creatures inhabit the alley once again.
Lucy Rados, 13
He clutched his child close. The imposing background provided a drastic change in landscape from what the father and son were used to. Elliot had been raised here at Manchester by the Sea in his family’s mansion, but as soon as he could, he had left for the country, where his heart and mind could roam free. Soon, however, his father had called him back to the mansion, for his mother had been taken ill. Elliot had gone ahead, leaving his young son with his wife in the country.
Tragedy struck not too soon after Elliot’s arrival: his mother passed away. Then, a few weeks after the funeral, his father died as well from pneumonia. Now, he, as the oldest child, was the heir to his mansion.
His family was sent for, and they moved from their simplistic life to one of glamour. He hadn’t wanted to subject his family to this closed life where one seemed to be trapped with no escape, but it was his duty to his parents’ memories, and so he prepared for everything to change.
“Welcome,” he whispered in his son’s ear, “To Manchester by the Sea.”
The Dark Alley
Shreya Sharath, 11
We ran through the dark alley with the burglars at our tail. I was panting and Debbie, my little sister, was running as fast as she could. She was holding the money bag firmly in her hand, but I could see that it would slip at any moment. We took a right and reached a dead end. I was petrified. Sweat dripped down my face. My legs were shaking with terror.
“Got you now, sweetie,” one of the burglars said. I turned around to see all three of the burglars close in on us. Debbie looked at me and winked. I could tell she had a plan.
“Ok, you got us,” Debbie said as she threw the money bag to one of the burglars, “Here’s the money. Now can you please let us go?”
Her eyes were filled with tears, but I knew that she was faking them. I even managed a few tears as well.
The burglar's eyes were fixed upon the money bag. Then one of the burglars said, “OK, get out of here.”
We ran out of the dark alley, which suddenly felt much brighter. The sun poured on my face.
“Come on! We have to get out of here before they figure out I just put some rocks in the bag,” Debbie said.
We both ran towards the bank, where both of our parents were.