An update from our seventh weekly writing workshop
A summary of this week’s project, plus some of the output published below
The Stone Soup Weekly Writing Workshop, held on Fridays at 1:00 p.m. PST, is open to all Stone Soup contributors and subscribers during the COVID-19-related school closures and shelter-in-place arrangements. We meet 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 May 15, the group was focused on Point of View.
This week's presentation and discussion looked at the various perspectives writers can use to tell their stories and present their characters. The story will unfold differently, and the "facts" may even be very different, depending on who is telling the tale. Are we seeing the world and hearing about events through the eyes of an observer or a particular character? Are we in the hands of an all-knowing external narrator telling us about what happened to "him," "her," and "them", or are we being told the tale by "I", the one to whom it is happening? Are we able to see several points of view, directly from one or two different characters, or can we infer how others might feel by understanding the main character's point of view?
The Writing Challenge: Write from the first person ("I") point of view. The "I" can be an object, a human, an animal, as long as it is a first-person perspective.
The Participants: Ever, Emily, Analise, Liam, Kanav, Peri, Suman, Djin, Ma’ayan, Anya, Lucy, Georgia, Tristan, Gracie, Lauren, Sophia, Allegra, Arianna, Aviya, Michela, Maddie, Silas, Justin, Vishnu, Lewis, Kendyll, Chloe, Gina, Abhi, Laila, Ethan, Shai and more!
Below you can read just a few examples of the great work that came out of this workshop.
Lena Aloise, 11
Humans are creatures of great complexity. We are, by nature, social beings, but many love solitude, the quiet, empty feeling of being alone. We are builders, innovators, risk takers, engineers. We have an ever increasing span of knowledge, technology that advances by the hour.
But some nights, when the local alarm lets out shrill screams, when gunshots pierce the still night air, I wonder how far our species really has come. Will there ever come a day, Laila, when mankind will learn to accept each-other, when all can sleep in peace and live united?
These questions whirl angrily around my mind, causing a dull throbbing in my right temple. Physical pain is something I can cope with, but this mental anguish, this feeling of uncertainty is not.
When we were young, we used to play in the meadows behind our house, Laila. We would splash in the stream that cut through the lush greenery, braid crowns of wildflowers and pretend we were the queens of everything. What we meant by ‘everything’, I am still unsure. I would not want to rule everything right now, not want to look upon the ruins that are in my possession, not want to see all the innocent subjects who have suffered on soil that I call my own. You were too young to remember what fun we used to have. I wonder if you remember what happiness, what bliss is. It is scarce these days. In my opinion, contentment is not having to worry about foreign invaders, about where your next meal will come from. Laila, you deserve a better world, but all the riches I do not have could not buy that for you.
This letter will never reach you. Post is just too expensive nowadays. But Laila, my serene night, my peaceful star, know that I do love you, more than your young mind can conceptualize. And I will still love you, even if I never do see you again, even if the sky falls down on us both. Until we meet again, dear sister, whenever that may be.
Your loving sibling,
Analise Braddock, 9
The wind took me
Dipping sorrows around me scaring my deepest fears
Never before could anyone realize it
The plastered death sure to come out of the wind
When the wind was stronger huge, all around eating up my eyes before I could blink
Swirling around taking her from me
Holding up the strings moving me
The wind was ready
Turning present to past leads to certain consequences
The fear that was told not to fear by one turning to all
But my mind resisted
The wind still took me
A Day in the Life of a Small Town: told from four perspectives
Anya Geist, 13
Today the day dawned bright and fair. The sun was rose-gold, rising from the embers of the night. I stood at the top of the Golden Hill. I stared out into the west. All around me, the grass seemed to be lit aflame with color. I wandered a bit, then sat down, letting the warmth of day wash over my body. Today would be a good day, I decided, for exploring the Great Wood just beyond the edge of town.
I’m awake. I don’t want to be awake. But I can’t ignore the noise anymore. Children laughing and playing on the streets outside. Can’t they just stay at home until a decent hour? The sun has only just risen. I deserve some rest, especially since I run the general store. I shout at them through my open window. They scatter like birds that are being pelted with stones.
[[The morning is very pretty and it is going to be a sunny day. Mama makes eggs for breakfast and then I go out and I want to play with my friends but a lot of them are still inside and so I knock on their doors and say wake up and then they come outside and then we play but the mean general storekeeper yells at us so now we are going to school.]]
**Rising from bed, I peer out the window at the coming morning. It looks as though it will be a clear day; that’s good, it means there will be time for some journaling. Life is no fun unless there’s something to discover; and most things can be discovered in a small town; that’s what I always say. Ah, I can smell the aroma of coffee wafting in from the kitchen of the inn; I must away to breakfast now.**
I run through the farmers’ fields on my way to the forest, my long legs slicing the waving grasses, and gliding over rows of produce. I snag an apple off of a tree. It won’t do anyone any harm if they don’t know about it. Besides, I’ll need energy when I enter the Wood. I can already see its threatening branches looming close by, like icy fingers reaching out to grab you. I shiver and run faster.
Guess it’s time to get up. The customers won’t wait forever. I humph and get out of bed. I crane my neck to see out the window. At least those kids are gone. But they’ll be back. They’re always back. Usually to get “free samples” from the store. Guess what, they’re not free, son.
[[The big bell is ringing and so now me and my friends are going into the school there are two classrooms in the school and we are in classroom one. I don’t like my teacher because she can sometimes be mean and she says that we should know how to rite better but I think my riting is fine. We also learn math and science in school and our teacher is reading us a book right now. I would like school a lot more if it wasn’t for the whole riting thing.]]
**By now, I have grabbed a quick breakfast made by the innkeeper; he’s a charming old fellow, really. At any rate, out I go! The streets of this particular town are quite busy at this time of morning, I’ll say, what with everyone on the way to open up the market, and the general store–oh! what a frightening shop keeper–being unlocked. But that’s the way things tend to be in these places; what I’m really looking for is the life of an actual person. But I’m sure I’ll find that!**
By now it’s mid-morning, I think, though I can hardly see anything through the tangle of branches and trees all around me. Hardly anyone ever ventures into the Wood anymore, and there are no paths. Still, I love it. It feels private and special. Like no one will ever take it away from me. People are frightened of the Wood, I think, but I can’t understand why. It’s gorgeous, in a haunting, eerie sort of way. Just as beautiful as the sunrise this morning.
There. I’ve opened up shop. I hope people are happy now. They can come in. They can demand my goods at a bargain price. They can let their kids loose to mess up my displays. Hmph. No one understands how much work goes into running a store. I’m thinking of jacking up my prices, just out of spite.
[[I think it’s almost noon which is when my teacher says that the sun is in the middle of the sky. But it’s also when we eat lunch and I can’t wait for lunch but I think I forgot my lunch at home this morning so that’s bad. I’ll just share with my friends because we usually do that anyway even though the teacher says we shouldn’t but I think it’s okay.]]
**My stomach has begun to rumble; it feels that it has been a long time since my delicious breakfast at the inn. I suppose I ought to find a cafe to eat in, though lunch time is one of the best times for observing life; people are out on their lunch breaks and they talk to each other, and no one ever suspects someone of listening in to conversations. Hm, options, options. I can’t decide whether to stay outside or not. Besides, it’s a lovely day! I couldn’t possibly stay inside. Ah! Look! A cafe with outdoor seating! I’ll sit there, I suppose, to both eat and observe.**
It’s early afternoon, now, in the Wood. I love this place. If I could choose to do so, I would never leave! I’ve found this large rock, that seems to be a dull but lovely slate grey. I can sit on it, and it’s very comfortable. I can also lay down on it, and stare up at the sky. The way the tree branches intersect, the patterns they form in the sky, are artistic, abstract. I could watch them forever.
Ugh. It’s rush hour. Everyone will be mobbing the store now. Mobbing me. I don’t even have any help. It’s horrible. Everyone is bombarding the counter, demanding that the prices be lowered. I refuse. I will not lower my prices. I hardly make enough money to live on anyway. So they’ll just have to deal. And, to top it all, there’s this strange person just walking around. Spying on people. What’s the deal with that?
[[Now it’s the afternoon and I’m out of school and me and my friends don’t want to do our homework because it’s riting so we are going to play. It’s good because the mean shopkeeper is at the store so there is no one to bother us. We play and then now we are getting hungry for a snack so we are going to the store to get a snack with our allowance but we can’t tell our parents because they want us to save our money but we go anyway.]]
**I absolutely love this little town! It is so charming; I have met so many characters here and they are so unique! I doubt I will ever meet people quite like them. Unfortunately, this is the only day I have to spend in the town; tomorrow I must move on to another one; I’ve got to stay in business! I’ll have my supper at the inn and then go, I suppose. I will be dreadfully sorry to leave this place behind, though.**
The sun is beginning to set upon the Wood. I am still laying on my rock, and I can see golden fragments of light slipping down onto the forest floor. It’s breathtaking, the way that the light penetrates the darkness of the Wood. I don’t want to return to the town, so I don’t think I will. I know how to handle myself and I know which plants are edible and which are not. So I’ll stay. I can’t wait for night in the Wood.
Finally. Finally it is time to close shop. At last. At last. Now I can go home. I can make myself a small supper and then go to sleep. I can’t wait to be able to fall asleep.
[[I’m eating supper now with my family and it’s very good but I’m not very hungry because of the snack that I ate earlier. After supper I’ll have to do my homework and then go to sleep. It’s already dark outside now. I guess I’m tired so maybe I can just go to sleep without doing my homework because I don’t want to do it.]]
**I have just finished my supper here in this small town. It was scrumptious and special; a solid characteristic of the town in general. Well, I’ve got my bag packed and I suppose I ought to be going now; it’s time to say goodbye, and to leave this town, sleeping softly in the dark of night.**
Good night, Great Woods of mine.
Good night. Even if you all are a pain.
[[Good night to everyone everywhere all over the Earth.]]
**Good night, small town. I shall miss living a day in your life.**
A Perspective Not Worth a Second Thought
Another performer strode up onto my ebony wood body and sat down at the marble piano, an eternal burden of mine. The man began to play a dramatic and fast-paced tune, and the whirlwind of notes caused a whirlwind of thoughts to overtake me. I thought about the performer and how tired his hands must have been, I wondered about how the piano felt about the endless beating that its ivory was getting, and, most of all, I thought about the audience. I sensed the awe of the people in the crowd, the crowd of observers, there only for the performers, and not for me. It would be a silly thought to most; why would the audience applaud for me? And yet, I am a performer, and I am the one performer who has patience, true patience, more patience than that show-off pianist, nonchalant about the fact that I will always be devoted to him, other performers, the audience…. Really, nobody does pay the slightest respect to me, as if this has been my place far too long for it to be worth a second thought. Truly, if I could be granted one wish, it would be for the stage to finally get some applause.
I have made a decision,
A decision that will change the course of my life forever.
I'm going to live permanently with my Dad.
My life now has a “before and after” chapter.
Were the next page is something different, unknown, and unordinary.
In this book, after this chapter, it's the end.
But when one story ends. . .
Another begins. . .
The Tree I Am
Kanav Kachoria, 11
Oh the tree I am,
The roots of my body buried in the ground,
It feels like my feet are one hundred pounds.
My very tall trunk reaches the sky
People see me like I can fly,
I hold my position like a solid mountain,
Not letting my grip give away at the enormous ocean fountains,
I see everything in the world,
Like a king ruling the globe.
But my branches ache,
And my leaves are falling apart,
I think I am turning old.
The species of humans always amaze me though,
They still see me as a giant piece of gold!
Oh the tree I am,
Knowing that I am very blessed,
With a giant manifest surrounding me,
Still feeling like I am a normal being,
Oh...what a mess
Clean to Dead
Allegra Maio, 10
I live a very short life. I last about 1 or 2 days once taken out of the package. Let me tell you how it goes.
First, I get attached to a million duplicates of me. They attach me and my fellow duplicates, without glue. I don't know how they attach me, but I don’t like it. Then, they wrap us up and put us in plastic. After they wrap us up, we get bought by somebody and arrive at their home.
The first thing the people do after we arrive is take us out of the plastic and put us on a shiny metal bar to hold us up. We can roll in circles on that thing!
It has been a day sitting on the rolly thing. I see a human coming into the bathroom.
I see them sit on the toilet. I hear something I don't want to hear. Then, they reach towards us and rip ME away from my friends. They take me under them and place me to where I don’t want to go.
I get something rubbed all over me and then I get dropped into a deep, wet, hole. The human stands up and pushes down a different metal bar. I go down, down, down.
I was once clean and now, I’m dead.
Arianna Maio, 9
I watch as a new group of tourists starts climbing me they dig their nails and connect their ropes
I get 20 new scrapes everyday
I am green and brown and kind of old
I overlook the horizon as a giant statue
Sometimes i want to burst out of my prison
But my roots won’t budge
I want to climb and be free but i am in this rusty rocky prison
I will never get out of
A Beautiful Summer Day: An excerpt from "The Illuminating Mystery"
Vishnu Mangipudi, 12
It was a beautiful summer day. John gleefully stepped out of his house to bask in the sunlight. He had always enjoyed the crisp breeze that came with the intense heat of summer; I would know that as his older sister. I carefully followed him to the lake. The deep, blue hue of the water struck me as gorgeous. The water surface was calm, with little wavelets popping up from now and then. John and I skipped a few stones across the water, chatting about our new lives. We had recently moved here, into the suburbs. Before, we used to live in a rural plantation about 100 miles south of our new home. We had greatly enjoyed living on that farm, which grew everything from carrots to strawberries. Every now and then, John and I would prance about the fields, occasionally getting into trouble for wandering too far off. It wasn’t really our fault; we had always wondered what lurked behind the giant rhododendron bushes, noticing that there appeared to be some sort of light behind it. Unfortunately, we were always caught, and never had the chance to observe the source of the light. The mystery still bugs me to this day, but I am glad that our new life isn’t as stressful as the old.
Just by looking at Jane’s face worried me for a second. She was unusually pale, looked nervous, and was shaking ever so slightly. Recently, my sister has not been acting normally. Instead of slowly munching on her food, like she used to, she now chomps and gulps down the food in only a few bites. I knew that she never wanted to move since the first day we began to pack up, but her urge to go back was never this strong. There must have been something else bothering her, but what?
“Jane, why the long face?” I asked her.
She became petrified. I knew something was wrong, but she didn’t say a word.
“Please, Jane, tell me, what is on your mind right now?”
John was persistent. Why couldn’t I just experience my emotions in peace? I understood that he was concerned for me, but I wanted to be alone. After all, I was thinking about our parents’ deaths… and the role I might have played in them.
Her Majesty, The Tree
Georgia Marshall, 11
Small Chipmunk hurries up the side of her elegant brown body. Knots and lumps in her trunk create small barriers for this tiny brown ball of fur and flesh to pass. His tiny paws make a steady beat like the nimble toes of a ballerina, gliding across an earthen stage.
Finally, Small Chipmunk reaches her outstretched arm and climbs upon it. His tiny chest heaves as he swallows enormous amounts of air for such a small particle of life. A soft breeze blows through the forest, nearly knocking him to the ground, while only rustling Her Majesty’s beautiful crown of leaves.
Rays of sunlight pierce the air like golden spears. Small Chipmunk digs his harmless claws under a layer of her rough bark. He makes his way across her arm. Your Majesty, I have brought you your breakfast, he says in a squeaky tremor. Bring it over, she replies in a kind, breezy voice.
Small Chipmunk inches ever closer to her face. Slowly she opens her eyes. They are warm and green as moss. She twists her dirt caked lips into a smile. Ah, acorns, she says mistily, one of my favorites.
Shall I? asks Small Chipmunk tentatively. Yes, you shall, the tree replies. Slowly, ever so slowly, she opens her mouth. It is dark and wide. Small Chipmunk could easily step inside, as if it were a long corridor. He shudders at the thought. Gingerly, he tips his handful of nuts into her mouth. It closes like bars to a jail cell. Small Chipmunk steps back.
This majestic grace, this beauty, this natural wonder opens her eyes. But this time there is no warmth to them. They are icy cold, and reflect memories of terrified animals, backing away, some, even running. But from the Queen of the Forest? No, thinks Small Chipmunk, not from The Queen, the kind and generous queen. But the images do not fade or disappear. They become more vivid by the second.
Those nuts, as delicious as they were, have not satisfied my hunger, says the queen. Small Chipmunk blinks and begins to jitter uncontrollably. Fortunately, however, there appears to be food very close by. Small Chipmunk’s mind is racing. The Queen surely does not mean. . . it cannot be.
The Queen smiles maliciously and opens her mouth. She begins to suck in her breath. It is like strong wind pulling the furry creature towards her. Small Chipmunk screams. Her Majesty, the tree, trying to eat him? He tries frantically to scramble away. It is no use. He is sucked in.
He is falling, falling through a darkness so evil and unbreakable. Like plunging into a bucket of icy water. He is falling into the depths of Her Majesty, The Tree.
Ma'ayan Rosenbaum, 13
How am I? Well, I guess I’m feeling rather . . . introspective. Much of my time is spent not only pondering the world around me, but also the one that exists inside my head. I’m not sure what else a girl who isn’t allowed outside her own home is expected to do every day, for my contact with the earth beyond the walls of my confinement is limited, allowed to trickle through the filter of reality only through phone calls and distant memories of togetherness that are starting to fade away. As the days pass, I begin to forget that I am encompassed by a spinning globe full of people just like me. Sometimes it feels like I am not human at all, merely the shell of a living being passing through the motions of life in quarantine. Not only does the world view me as nothing more than the potential carrier of a virus, but I know that, sooner or later, that is how I will see myself. The days blur together in a haze of depression, the tears stinging my eyes reminding me that I am still here, in this broken world. The tedious routine that has become my life feels like an agonizing chore. Loneliness stains the world around me, a thick cloud forever hanging above my head, suffocating me in the differences that separate us from the periods of “now” and “then”, gasping for air to give me a reason, any reason, to keep going. Yes, introspective is the right word. Anywho, how’s your day going?
Abhi Sukhdial, 12
A storm was coming.
It was a big, black storm, whirling and whirling around the world. Bits and pieces of lightning struck down on the planet; the electricity crackled and then pounded down with all its power.
I was sitting in my house, alone. This wasn’t a typical storm and looking at it said it all. It started only two hours ago, but nothing could save you from this. No shelter, no basement, no underground area, no bathroom. No hope of survival was in the storm. So, the only thing I could do was sit, scared for my life. The storm was still miles away from me, but it was moving intensely and rapidly.
Thunder struck down like wildfire. Every five seconds, I could hear a crackle, boom, and punch. I could hear crying, screaming, and the honking of cars on the roads, driving as fast as possible. Luckily, my house was in Bakersfield and was far away from any big city or town.
Nobody predicted this storm. It just came unexpectedly. People just had to run. Many died, and it wasn’t pleasant. There was also a big blackout when the storm arrived, making it impossible to watch TV. All we had was a book, and fear.
Before this storm, I worked as a NASA astronaut. It was, actually, quite fun. It was hard work and very frustrating, but fun. We did a lot of work and headed to Mars quite often to collect data samples, check for signs of life, and other stuff. I got paid well, had a wife and two kids, and lived happily. Before this, my life was normal.
I could see my wife shaking with fear and the kids playing, with their astronaut helmets on. The stars were up above in space, and I couldn’t ever stop looking at them.
I grabbed some of the red dust and imagined the pain and suffering the people on Earth were going through right now. I was thousands of kilometers away from them, but I could still hear their screams. I picked up my camera and recorded the scene.
Now, I have to start a new life. Being an astronaut and a good one surprisingly saved my life. I immediately drove to one of the NASA centers (and the place I worked) with my family. They immediately accepted my family and me. We boarded, grabbed some helmets, and went to our seats. It was extremely crowded, and I was worried I wouldn’t find a seat for my family or myself, but luckily, we found a few. To this day, I never really know why I headed to the NASA center immediately after I saw the storm. I just believed with all my hope that they could take us away, and luckily, I was right. The rocket swooped away in the sky, and soon, I landed here. As I write this now and visualize the horrible, painful destruction that was caused in less than a day, I feel grateful.
But I was not grateful for the horrific storm Earth was facing. I was just glad that the storm couldn’t reach me on Mars.