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An update from our third 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 one hour 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. At our session on Friday April 17, we introduced ourselves (all 20 of us!) and discovered that besides Stone Soup team members calling in from Canada, the UK and the USA, we had workshop members from all over the world!

This week, William Rubel, Stone Soup’s founder, set a challenge inspired by a fantastic photograph by contributor and Writing Workshop member Anya Geist (13): Web Dweller. He presented a number of other images and ideas from history and literature about spiders, including the story of Arachne, transformed into a spider by the goddess Athena as punishment for having beaten her in a weaving contest–leading to a lively group discussion. Before getting down to some serious writing, groups members shared super-quick inspirations for ways of approaching a piece of writing about spiders from an original perspective.

Brainstorming ideas:
- Write from the perspective of the fly caught in a web
- Write about how Arachne feels once she has been turned into a spider
- Investigate different aspects of the fear of spiders
- Being trapped, and the fear of that: thinking about how spiders literally trap things
- Try giving a positive perspective on a spider for a change!
- How about the spider that likes people and wants to be loved by them, and is upset that people don't like them?
- Look into the origins of the bad vibe around spiders and make a story out of that
- Tell the story of Arachne from Athena's perspective

The Writing Challenge: Write about spiders, or ideas related to spiders, in some form, from any perspective.

The Participants:  Ever (10), Peri, Suman (10), Alexandra, Amity, Djin (10), Emily (10), Hana, Lena, Ma'ayan (13), Anya (13), Analise (9), Liam (12), Abhi (12), Vivian (11), Lucy (12), Mico (13), Silas (10), Georgia (11), Mia

Everyone was so inspired by myth, memory, and the emotions evoked by arachnids!  Below you can read just a few examples of the great work–including a fantastic fairy story, poetry about history and memory, a terrifying horror tale, and poems about entrapment–that came out of this terrific workshop.


Old Friend

By Analise Braddock, 9

The spider she befriended lives around the corner under the desk near the collected dusk

Spinning and spinning the tremendous tidal wave of the web

Now she forgets

The friend I had in my hands is now gone

Further on the spider’s day is away from hers.

Turning to dust fading away the spider remembers the good days

Light would come in staining but only shading her smile

In the time now she forgets


Trapped

By Anya G., 13

It is trapped
Scuttling around under a glass
Harmless, and powerless

It has been caught in my web
I waited, waited
For it to fall into my trap

There is nothing it can do
It can hardly move
It has met its demise

But then why
Do its hairy legs clutch at my chest
Threatening to bite, to hurt me

My stomach curls
As I remember it, poised
Over my head, ready to attack

The wispy filaments of its web have been swept away
And yet it has managed to spin a new one
And trap me, like a fly, with its mind

The Spider

By Anya G., 13

It is waiting, lying in the dark
Its end-goal so close...
It prepares to pounce

Children thunder above it
Running down the warm, wooden dock
Preparing to pounce on the cool, fresh lake

They see only the summer day
No thought of the spider
Lounging right beneath them
Has crossed their mind

The children run closer to the water
The spider hurries toward them
They are there, jumping
And the spider closes in

The children crash into the lake
Water obscuring the world
The spider is dead, washed away
And its dream of seeing daylight
Has been pounced upon


Peri Gordon, 10
Sherman Oaks, CA

Why Don’t People Like Me?
A Poem Told from the Perspective of a Spider

By Peri Gordon, 10

Why don’t people like me?
I’m not a pest like some bugs.
I don’t flit around or annoy anyone.
Do people not like how I look?

Why don’t people like me?
I have many legs, but so do butterflies.
I am often jet-black, but so are many dogs.
Do people think that I am dangerous?

Why don’t people like me?
I’m not large and imposing like a protective mother bear.
I’m not poisonous, and even if I were, it’s not like I go around biting people every day.
Do people find me disgusting?

Why don’t people like me?
I don’t have gross habits like some humans.
I eat insects, but humans eat chicken. Yuck!

So what reason do people have?
Why do they avoid me like I’m a plague?
Why do children scream when they see me?
Why can’t I have a friend?

Why don’t people like me?


The Spider and the Fairy

By Ever Huang, 10

Out in the middle of the beautiful garden, overflowing with abundant flowers, irises and buttercups, there was a grand old maple tree. Its leaves were gleaming red, fiery and beautiful like fire. The sunbeams shone brightly on this tree sometimes, and the maple tree seemed to glow.

Now, at one of the smallest intervals of two branches, a small spider made its home; its web of so many memories; of all the insects it had proudly caught. This spider had a good living from its nearly invisible web, getting houseflies, mosquitos, and sometimes bees. He had spun his treasured web for months, working so hard his spindly legs needed bandages.

One day, the spider was taking a nap when suddenly his web shook greatly, and he thought that there was an earthquake, but when he looked up abruptly with worried eyes, he saw that the earth was calm and normal, so what had caused the tremor? He looked around, afraid his web had been ripped, and what a surprising sight he saw! There in the middle of his web, something had flown itself right into the web.

But it was not any insect; it had glassy white wings, nearly transparent, and it looked rather like a human! The thing had human legs and arms, short hazel hair reaching only a little bit over its ears, and wore a clean white dress, now frazzled because of the web, and was very stuck. Strangely, the tiny girl held a little spear, just the right size for her.

“Hello, Mr. Spider! Could you help me a bit now?” the human like thing asked, struggling against the sticky binds of the web.

“What are you?” the spider asked, dazzled by the beautiful little human.

“What do you mean? I’m a fairy, of course, can’t you see that?” the fairy said, annoyed. “Now will you please help me free? I’ve got an important job to do!” she exclaimed, kicking and pulling at the strings of the web, stabbing it with her sharp spear with her free hand, and it seemed to the spider that the fairy had taken good karate lessons.

“Careful! You’re going to break my web! Here, I’ll help you,” the spider yelled, clambering over to the fairy. He still stared in awe at the beautiful fairy. “What’s your name?”

“Mine? Oh, I can’t tell you that. Names are the window to the soul for fairies, and my thoughts wouldn’t be so private if anyone knew my name, would they, nosypants?” the fairy huffed, but stopped fighting with the strong web.

The spider slowly and deliberately freed the fairy from his web, and the fairy nodded a quick thanks and flew off into the bright blue sky. The spider watched the elegant fairy all the time as she spread her pretty wings, fluttering just like a butterfly, until he could see her no longer.

For many years, the spider didn’t see that fairy, or any fairy, but he thought of her every day. And for some strange reason, his webs grew prettier and prettier, and he could make beautiful scenes and pictures so detailed he himself was amazed at his beautiful work. Mostly, he created pictures of the fairy, who was eternally chained to his train of memories, and she was encrypted on his web forever.

Though he didn’t know it, that fairy was a servant of Athena, and she had watched him all along, every day of those long, lonely years; and it was she that gave him the beautiful weaving skills, but not too much, for fairies live forever and she still remembers the wrath Athena had given to Arachne thousands of years ago.


The Big Friend

By Georgia Marshall, 11

Darkness surrounds the delicate weaving of silvery threads I call home. Iridescent drops of water splash onto the wet surface of the tunnel I live in. I clasp two of my legs tightly around a fragile strand of silk. The rest move in a pattern as I shimmy my way up my web. Flies hang limply to my weavings.

I slowly make my way over, shivering slightly as a damp chill brushes through. Rats scamper across the grimy floor, their claws echoing on rough stone. My pincers crush the fly to a mash small enough for me to digest. Once I am finished, I step delicately down my web. I crawl towards the edge and begin my descent through the damp air. I hang from a single silvery rope as I lower myself down to the ground. My figure appears, writhe and vile–enlarged. But I am a ballerina, gliding across a glowing stage.

Once I finally reach the ground, I scamper across. I move at a fast pace. My fine insect legs don’t make a sound as I move, quickly, quietly, through the tunnel. As I am running, I don’t notice the entrance to the tunnel being opened with fair skinned fingers. I scuttle up the wall and turn around. My insides turn to ice. I can feel my tiny heart thumping.

I hear soft, light footsteps create a steady beat as they echo, closer and closer. A petite human figure makes its way slowly over, shrouding my only source of light. I try to turn but fingers close around me. I panic. The only way out is to crawl into the fingers. I stay still for a few seconds, hoping the human will get bored and leave. It doesn’t.

I edge closer to the fingers. My legs are jelly. Finally, I put one thin leg on one small finger, then another. Finally, my whole body is placed on the fingers. Before I can escape, they lift me up. I shudder with fear. I am lifted up to view two enormous blue eyes. I spot a tendril of reddish hair wave out from behind an elvish ear. I decide to escape as quickly as possible.

The girl who is holding me doesn’t cage me again. She lets me move. I break away from her hand and lower myself down until I reach the ground. As soon as I reach it, I run as fast as I can. The girl stays still. I look back to see her smiling slightly. “Goodbye little friend,” she whispers softly. As I scurry away, I think to myself, “goodbye big friend.”


What Happened on Crescent Hill

By Lucy Rados, 12

I watched the spider dancing across its web, its small legs in a flurry. Watching its simple yet elegant movements, I was reminded of what had happened last year, atop Crescent Hill on that chilly December day…

We had gone up together, my sister and I, the snow flying around us, wrapping us and keeping us close together. Usually, we might be afraid of climbing the hill, but since it was winter, we were sure nothing would, or could, come. My sister called to me.

“Look down there!”

There was a note of something like panic or excitement in her voice, so I hurried over.

Coming up the steep side of Crescent Hill was a spider. But it wasn't like any spider I’d seen before. It was larger than our dog, almost as tall as me. I stared in horrified fascination, and only one thought filled me head - I was trapped!

It was as though an invisible web held me in place, keeping me as petrified as a statue. After a moment, though, a flood of thoughts suddenly drowned me, perhaps a feeling worse than the silence which had previously held me. Why had it come for me? How did it exist? How had it gotten through the snow? Then, one thought pushed its way before all of the others: My sister! In my terror, I had forgotten she was with me.

The spider began to seem less terrifying, since all I could think of was her. Spinning around, I saw the spider bite her, her lifeless body fall to the snow and the spider leave.

There was no time to ask why as I scooped her up and ran, not thinking twice…

I watch the spider now, a year later, surprised I can observe it without so much as a prickle of fear. Perhaps I would, had my sister been hurt. However, I got her to the hospital in time that fateful day, the adrenaline coursing through me the only thing keeping me standing.

I strain myself and ask why. I try not to dwell on the past. I don’t want to live in a world of memory. But if I only knew why, maybe I could relax, calm myself, think once again, but the waves of terror threaten to drown me if I live in the world where the spider came. One day at a time I tell myself, and maybe on of those days, I will find the answer that satisfies me, but not yet. I look over at my sister and know that we are safe.

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