An update from our fourth weekly writing workshop
A summary of this week’s project, 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 24, we introduced ourselves and got straight into a discussion of this week’s theme: Trapped!
William Rubel, Stone Soup’s founder, presented some images and ideas about being trapped, entrapment, and prisons of various kinds: Traps for birds depicted by Breughel; pulp fiction “Trapped by Love” book covers; ideas about mental traps that people set for themselves; fear of entrapment in humans and animals. Before getting down to our own writing, groups members shared some brainstorming ideas for some more specific ways of thinking about the theme.
– trapping yourself in a bad friendship – you might know this is not a good person, but you do it anyway.
– a personal barrier acting as a trap: you want something, but you somehow feel prevented from reaching it, without there necessarily being an obvious reason outside of yourself.
– an emotional barrier, such as fear, anger, disappointment, being scared for something, or of what might happen if you take an action.
– being trapped by other people’s expectations of you.
– being caught out by an enemy (which could be a person or a thing), e.g. being trapped in a elevator.
The Writing Challenge: What are your ideas around the idea of being trapped? This concept is as broad as you want to make it, and can include: traps; those who entrap; those who are entrapped (who are either very conscious of it or, for one reason or another, feel themselves not to be trapped when they are); and even those who dream of escape or have escaped!
The Participants: Lena (10), Ever (10), Emily (10), Analise (9), Liam (12), Peri (10), Suman (10), Djin (10), Ma’ayan (13), Anya (13), Lucy (12), Georgia (11), Isabella (9), Emilia (6), Tristan (14), Gracie (12), Lauren (10), Maggie (11), Joanna, Sophia (10), Allegra (10), Arianna (9), Aviya & Kesed.
There was a lot of free thought going on within the idea of being trapped–and as usual some great writing resulted from our half hour of concentration, which authors then read aloud to the group. There was some encouraging feedback for the writers in the chat section, besides lots of positive verbal responses to the individual readings. We are all overwhelmed by how talented all our workshop participants are, and how their ideas are just on fire for every workshop! Below you can read a few examples of this week’s great workshop output.
By Lena Aloise, 10
The Earth spins silently,
In its unseen chains of gravity.
The moon plays with the evening tide,
On puppet strings.
Our hearts flutter in our chests,
Because our minds instruct them to.
And clouds are pushed by the summer breeze.
Are we all just things on our puppet strings,
Being controlled by some greater force.
Is the existence of humanity,
Just an idea thought up by someone else?
And if we are just things on a puppet string,
Who is the person holding the other side?
Or do we cut our puppet strings?
Pave our own paths of destiny?
Could it be that we bend the bars,
Of the prisons of our universe?
By Analise Braddock, 9
The only trap she could stumble through took her
He trapped her desire concealing it in her
Feeding her the past the trapped moments turn into hours
Gripping her freedom but still holding the time
Inside where she’s trapped and concealed
Eventually she breaks out her desire forever lost
By Anya Geist, 13
I’m standing, watching
I know that most people
Would give anything to be where I am
Would love to bounce, weightless on the Moon
Would love to walk in space
Would love to see the Earth from afar
But none of them are here
They say they would love to be here
But they aren’t, they’re aren’t here
And I know, in my heart
They won’t ever be
And so I stand
And I stare at the Earth
Watching the clouds drift over land
I remember land, the touch of soft grass
I see the oceans, so expansive
I remember the feeling of waves and water
But will I ever see them again?
Weeks ago communications went out
No one has come, no one has fixed them
I am here, on the edge of the Moon
The place everyone dreams of being
But I am not here, not in the place where everyone is
By Anya Geist, 13
There is water all around me, murky and dark. Growing darker, darker. Light hardly reaches down here, in the bowels of the lake. It’s like being in a forest, a forest where evil whistles in your ear with every blow of the wind, where every crack of a branch is an enemy out to get you.
The vague reflections of my friends on the surface shimmer before my eyes, mirages. I am viewing them from another world, a world no one should venture into. Oh why, why did I take the dare? Hardly anyone has ever reached the bottom of the lake? But I am trying.
My chest grows tighter and my ribs and lungs feel tied together. I hardly dare to waste my breath and it seems to shrink inside me, shriveling until I barely know it’s there. Whenever I do risk a slight exhale, whenever bubbles of air rise from my nose, free to return to the sunny surface, I feel a brief respite. But it is like smelling food when you are hungry. In the end, it only makes the pain worse.
I am almost there. I must be. The water is cold, more than cold. It grabs at me with its long sharp claws, digging into my skin, infecting me with tendrils of ice. The surface seems universes away. There is a reason that no one ventures this deep.
And then–my foot hits slimy ground that, in the pitch-black, I failed to see. I nearly inhale water out of shock. I made it. There is no reason to linger here, now that I am so close to leaving this prison, this torture.
Kicking as hard as I can, I burst for the surface. I can see the sunlight. The water is growing warmer and my lips are no longer blue. I am almost there. So close. I reach out my hand, and, finally, it is above the surface, in the sunny day. And, a second later, so am I.
Though I am dizzy, I inhale, exhale, over and over, trying to restore my lungs to normalcy, greedy for fresh air, which tastes so sweet. I cough, choking on my breath.
The day around me is so fresh, it is so clear. The sun twinkles on the water, which now seems harmless and innocent.
“Good job!” my friends tell me, patting my back. “You made it!”
Their congratulations feel hollow, and I shake my head, still unable to speak, still drawing ragged breaths. They will never understand how it was down there. They are right, though. I am free.
But, as I climb the ladder onto the sun-warmed, wooden dock, eager to sit in the sun, I swear I can still feel a vine of icy cold water clutching tight to my ankle.
By Peri Gordon, 10
It is the first day of middle school.
I look around. Everyone seems to have a friend.
How do they make friends so quickly? I wonder.
Then I see a girl striding up to me, two others giggling behind her. The girl in front looks me in the eye sharply.
“Do you want to hang out?” she asks.
My heart soars. I don’t have to be alone anymore!
Then I notice something. Her tone of voice … the way she looks at me … the way she keeps lifting her eyebrow … as if she’s commanding me to do something. A sickening feeling crawls into my stomach, telling me that she’s using me … that she’s the wrong kind of friend …
I smile at her.
“Of course,” I reply cheerily. “What’s your name?”
I sigh quietly, telling myself that I did the right thing … that she will be a good friend …
I look up. She’s already ten feet ahead of me.
And she hasn’t even told me her name.
The next day, I bound up to the same girl.
“Hi!” I exclaim. I smile at her.
She responds in a bored tone.
“Put these books in my backpack,” she commands, without even saying please. She thrusts a heavy pile of textbooks at me.
“I don’t even know where your backpack is!” I stammer, buckling under the weight of my heavy burden.
The girl points at a navy blue backpack and shoves me away. Books fly everywhere, and I topple over.
“And pick those up!” she commands while her friends titter. I want to stand up to her and tell her that I’m not her servant, but I can’t.
I’m too scared.
I knew this would happen.
And now I’m trapped.
By Tristan Hui, 14
Am i trapped inside my head?
like when you turn the light on
and it all flashes
goes white at the edges
and comes back
inside i am trapped
in my head you turn the light on
it all flashes
goes white at the edges
blink and come back again
Spirals to the dark
i am trapped
and in my head it all flashes and goes
White at the edges
you’ve turned the light on
you go around inside my head
By Sophia Elise Kaushik, 10
I wake up in a cage.
The cage is trapped too.
Trapped by his promise to stifle my freedom.
I promise him we will escape our captivity soon.
I close my eyes.
Our traps melt away.
He is free.
So am I.
We are free together.
Or are we trapped in our duties, our aspirations, the expectations of who we are?
Maybe we were never trapped.
Maybe we were free all along.
By Allegra Maio, 10
Annie/A: A 13 year old girl who is struggling to make her teachers happy by getting A’s on all of her work.
Miss.Kath/M.K: The teacher who wants Annie to get all A’s
Annie: But Miss.Kath! I really don’t want to do this extra work!
M.K: Annie dear! I thought you had the highest scores in the-
A: I know, I know in the whole entire school but I just don’t want to! I mean I would finish it in no time but that’s just not who I am! I am not the type of person who goes around saying “I’m the smartest kid in school! Don’t worry, I can solve your problems!”
M.K: Oh silly Annie! I know you don’t mean it! ( nervous chuckle) I’m sure that a nice cup of tea and a good night’s rest will make you feel better. See you tomorrow!
A: (mumbled) yeah sure see you tomorrow.
A: Why does everyone think that just because I’m smart I love being smart! I HATE it! Everyone is asking you questions, you have to be nice and answer them, you have to pretend you know everything, it’s just annoying. I feel stuck, like a robot. When people ask me something, I turn on. When people stop asking me questions, I shut down.
Mom and Dad: Honey! Dinner time! You have to feed your mind if you want to keep it smart!!!
A: Wow. They even make food relate to being smart. (snort) This is getting old!
M.K: Well hello Annie! Are you feeling better?
A: (mumbled) Yes Yes, of course. You are always right!
M.K: I’m so glad that you’re feeling better. Would you like to do the extra work now? I always knew that your brain was fit for your body. Ha ha ha!
A: NO!!! What do you not understand! Just because I am the smartest kid in school doesn’t mean I ENJOY being the smartest kid. I think that Simone or someone else should have my brain they might actually ENJOY being smart.
M.K: Oh………..well… but………… Annie get back here!!!
By Arianna Maio, 9
i went to the woods
I was sitting down underneath
When i saw
i saw a couple birds
Hangin’ out together
On a tree
On the floor i saw
To gnaw on
Then i watched the
Fly away from their tree
To the never-ending far away floor
To eat the food
To gnaw on
Saw a trap
Sittin’ where the food was
A big log
Just right above the
Didn’t notice though
And kept on pecking at the seeds
Fell on those birds
Felt like it too
Then this guy came
He was wearing a
dark blue pants
and green shoes
And he picked up the log and the birds too
They got taken away
Then i realized something: those birds were really foolish
And i bet those birds they learned something too
That they are really foolish
Emily Meyer, 10
I don’t know how to get out of here
What do I do?
‘Cause I’ve been trapped for so long
I miss all my friends
Will the coronavirus reach me?
Will I ever be free?
By Lucy Rados, 12
She looked at the crowd,
A sea of eyes meeting hers,
Gazing at her expectantly,
Locking her in place.
She stares back,
Fear etched across her features,
Waiting for someone to get her out,
But to no avail.
No one comes to get her,
To free her from the trap of people.
She shudders, trying to think,
Trying to say something.
Her words, trapped in her mouth,
Her fears, trapped in her head,
A voice comes out, anchoring her.
At the sound she leaves,
Free from the trap of eager faces.
No longer stuck without words.
By Lucy Rados, 12
The teacher closes the door.
“Pencils out!” She calls to the class.
The hours begin, treachery ensuing.
You can see the minds racing,
As the anxious class struggles to complete the test.
The clock ticks slowly,
The expectant faces glancing at it, willing it silently to move faster.
But nothing comes.
The students, sullen faced,
Bend over and look back at their tests.
Finally, after excruciating hours,
A timer sounds.
They look up, hopeful.
The teacher nods.
“You’re done! Day two is tomorrow!”
After hours of imprisonment,
They will be trapped once again in the room,
Taking the test they had so eagerly finished.
Once again, school trapped them.
Ma’ayan Rosenbaum, 13
I stopped living long before my body began to die. Since the age of seven, I have been bound to a hospital bed. Towards the beginning, I tried not to think about it too often. The words “cancer” and “death” would send me into a pit of sorrow and despair. But I’ve learned the hard way that pretending everything will be okay would never make things normal again. Adults like to think–for the sake of their own fragility, I believe–that I don’t understand what’s happening to me. That I believe them when I’m told I’ll recover, or that I’m unable to hear the hushed, pained whispers they share over the state of my sickness when I’m supposed to be asleep. And that I’m unaware of the fact that I haven’t been brought back to my house because I’m getting better, that my family isn’t taking off school and work for a spontaneous vacation at home with me. That I don’t know that today may very well be my last day on this earth. I’ve been contemplating my own mortality for months. I love my family more than words could ever say, my heart simply aches for them, but to die is to be human, and I want nothing more than to feel human again. To rely on flesh and not machinery. I’d rather move on to whatever is next in store for me than live another moment in this prison called terminal illness. I need to fly, and run, and dance. But I know that these years have given me all that they can give. I’m ready to be free from my pain. I’m ready to leave this trap that is my very own life.
Ever Sun, 10
I gazed mournfully through the old, rusty glass, scarred and dented with bruises of dirt and yellowed grass. It was snowing lightly outside, tiny specks of snowflakes, pure and clean, gently drifting down, making the journey of a snowflake’s life.
The chilly winter air was quite cold, and through the broken window, breezes sailed across the tattered room, piercing my delicate small body. I was a handsome young bird, with wings fresh and strong, and here I was, imprisoned, cut off from my world in the skies. How I wished to be free, to be soaring in the clouds with the ones of my kind.
The snowing went on for days and days, frosty winds that kept me weak whipped me, biting me with their sharp teeth and their venom of cold filled me. The wide world that I used to have with a flap of a wing now became the cage that I was set in, microscopic compared to my old world in the air, the world where I could explore every crook and nanny, that world that gave me freedom. But now here I was, powerless against the dull metal binds of the once-golden cage. The strips of my prison held me back, and each time I looked at them my heart was filled with that sense of lostness, that feeling of being forgotten and wiped from their minds.
It was a sad feeling, knowing you were known no more, knowing that you weren’t thought of anymore. I felt extinct, and the hope that was never there in my heart was blown out with the gale that came every now and then.
I was a prisoner. To think an animal that had the gift of freedom, the power of flying anywhere in the world, was trapped by thin steel cords; well, that was a thought that had never entered my mind before.
I was the lonely prisoner in the cage, in a musty and creaky room, uninhabited by anyone anymore. I succumbed to loneliness and sat down.
I waited for someone to find me, but maybe it was true that I would not be found. Maybe I would last forever in that cold, sad, room, never to be seen…