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An update from our twenty-first Writing Workshop!

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday September 12, plus some of the output published below

We were so happy to be back this week for the first in our second series of Writing Workshops, and the twenty-first one we have held this year! This time, our founder William Rubel focused on a very useful figurative tool for writers: metaphor. We started with two simple and common ideas–that a man is a rat and time is money–as examples for discussion. We watched some movie clips and read some specific examples from literature that displayed the power of stating that a character IS another object, animal, or force of nature, from Juliet as the sun in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, via the "spider" Drummle in Dickens' Great Expectations to Hagrid's "mane" of hair expressing his lion-heartedness throughout Harry Potter, as well as describing his shaggy look. After half an hour of writing Liam, Simran, Gia, Anya, Peri and Elbert read their work to the group for feedback from William. We heard a selection of stories, long and short, and poems, including haikus; several were powerful responses to the ongoing wildfires in California, and all of them were rich with metaphor and creative imagery. Some of those we heard, and more written during the class, are published below. What a tremendous start to the new season!

The Writing Challenge: Write a poem or story that builds and develops at least one strong metaphor.

The Participants: Nova, Rithesh, Katie, Charlotte, Georgia, Peri, Anya, Simran, Scarlet, Liam, Maddie, Jonathan, Olivia, Tilly, Samantha, Janani, Helen, Madeline, Ella, Chloe, Ma'ayan, Keyang, Dana, Charlotte, Cassandra, Ava, Jayden, Maggie, Sophie, Enni, Juniper, Sierra, Elbert, Hera, Nami, Dhesh, Sophia, James, Ever, Emma, Gia, Sophia, Eden.

Dhesh, 11
Fulshear, TX


Dhesh, 11

His beard was like tangled wires,

His eyes were dark, similar to the night sky,

His hair was shaped like a hair dryer,

Why is he dressed up like this to a Prom, I thought?

But, it turned out, he was dancing with my mom!

Anya Geist, 14
Worcester, MA

Leaves of Autumn

Anya Geist, 14

Leaves twirled through the air, their edges curled as if singed by fire, their vibrant colors beaming as though they were fire. They touched the ground with the grace of a ballet dancer, and then sat silent, waiting for the wind to blow them along.

In the night, their color faded with the rest of the day, and they were merely dark silhouettes, phantoms that crept up from the ground. The wind would creep down the roads, through the bony fingers of bare tree branches that made an otherworldly glow in the rare light of the moon, and the chilly breezes would, on occasion, ruffle a few leaves, causing them to crinkle and scrape the sidewalks as they rolled away; a truly ghostly noise.

Day dawned, and the leaves burned brighter than ever. They were the sun, strong and shining in the light of daybreak, in the crisp freshness that fell over the world. Any notions of ghosts, of spirits that haunted the world, had been blown away, just as that eerie wind was replaced by fresh gusts that smelled of apple cider and Thanksgiving food.

Children giggled gleefully as they walked to and from school, stomping on fallen leaves, catching them as they flew through the air, jumping in neat little piles that blew apart at the slightest touch. Leaves were the harbinger of fall, of that magical time filled with shiny, crunchy apples freshly picked off of trees; of orange Jack-o-lanterns carved into complex patterns, lit by a flickering candle; of all of the good things that made their eyes shine in the cooling weather.

And so autumn went, with the leaves that flew gracefully to the ground.

Peri Gordon, 10
Sherman Oaks, CA

Desert Prison

Peri Gordon, 10

Water is gold in the desert

It’s a superhero

Or the last ticket to the show that is life.

I’ve been lost here for days

A prisoner in an endless jail.

The desert is a jail.

The lack of water is the executioner.

I am at its mercy.

The search for water is my final trial.

Then what is water?

Water is the sign that I am decidedly innocent

That my life will be spared.

But even if I find it

I doubt I’ll ever escape this prison.

This desert.

Then water just means I stay here longer

Lonely and afraid

Free from the executioner

But not from the jail.

Liam Hancock, 12
Danville, CA

Running From Time

Liam Hancock, 12

He runs with his sneakers kicking up gravel, his knees pumping, his hips and chest drawn out with sharp intakes of breath. He is a free man, he is a slave who has broken his shackles and left them in my hands. He is a butterfly who has first sprouted his wings. Once before, he lived as a creature, squirming and writing in my fingers. Could hardly get out of his own way. But he’s liberated now.

And is that a cause for celebration?

Because I’d kept him in chains for a reason. I’d firmly gripped the keys in my hands, the locks and bolts hanging listlessly from my fingers. Back and forth, back and forth they dangled, like time pressing continuously forward and yet hesitating and moving back again. Time, when he was locked away, was of no value to me. With one variable of Ian’s murder off the table, I had ample opportunity to solve the equation.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to let him go.

I had the numbers. I had the memories, the moments. I had everything I needed to uncover him and bring justice, a judge in my black, velvety gown hammering the mallet down onto the broad oak desk.


Somehow, someway, I knew he was. I had the numbers. I had the equation. But he had me. And I have to face that he still has me now, clutched in his balled fists as he races down the track. He has me, he has the keys, he has the cell, he has Ian. He’s taken everything away, and he’s running away with it, and for the strangest reason, I don’t care at all.

Time lulls, it lurches, it races back to the starting line.

Time is a broken record tape, punching and stabbing and sending waves of violent static through perfectly good music. Because it’s sick how time brings me back now to Ian, even as he runs away. Ian, who was once my best of friends. More than best friends. We had more than that. Best, best, best, best, friends. So many bests that it would take a century to simply finish the acronym.

We didn’t care about time back then.

Time was nothing. Time was the clock, ticking away until 10:00 PM, when Horror Central aired Friday The 13th and we sat through the entire thing until the families next door were screaming at us to turn down the volume. Time was 2:45, when the school bell rang and we were jostled roughly out the door alongside a hundred other screaming kids as they raced down the stairwell.

Then there was nothing left.

It had only lasted one, maybe two years. He ran away, his sneakers kicking up gravel, knees pumping, chest heaving in and out. He was a caterpillar who still awaited its transformation, and I was keeping him down. I determined that the hands ticking away on the clock were mine and that I’d point them at him—just to slow things down, just to keep the record tape from falting.

I was insane.

I was insane. My room was an asylum. I locked myself inside and I tied myself to the wall, just to keep from flicking the remote to Horror Central at 10:00 PM, just to keep from bolting out and running, running after him.

It wouldn’t have been much use, anyway.

Ian was running, Ian was gone. He was breathing, and he was talking, but he was killed. I knew it. And somebody had done it to him, somebody was to blame. What about Horror Central, what about school bells, what about races at PE that I knew you would win? Why did you bolt so hard, so fast?

You’re always running, but I’ve never seen you in such a rush.

Enni Harlan, 13
Los Angeles, CA

One September Day

Enni Harlan, 13

September, the month when seasons change,
When emerald leaves turn to burnt copper.
A lonely breeze meandering, like a
lonely child, pining for home.

September, when I open the cracked timber door,
that broken piece of my mother’s best china;
September, when my dreams, my treasures,
Are crushed and shattered to the ground.

I long for those leaves, of ripe citrus and corn,
Dancing as the wind puts on a show.
But no, the sky is a ball of crackling fire;
Sunburned, bleached, and utterly broken–
With the eyes of a lion, ready to pounce
As we choke on soot, our lungs screaming
For mercy.

Samantha Lee, 11
Thomaston, CT

The Serpent

Samantha Lee, 11

A great shining, metallic blue coil slithered in the river. You could clearly make out the figure in the sparkling, clear water. The thing’s eyes were icy fire, seeming to pierce everything it looked at. It had a snake body with small fins that looked like wings and more on its head that looked like a crown. It obviously thought very much of itself from the way he moved. He was king. The king of the river.

Cooly he looked up out of the water. The sun made his scales sequins. His shocking blue eyes looked into my forest green ones. His eyes told me he was a strong ruler, dominant and fierce. I couldn’t stand the intensity any longer. I looked away. The serpentine thing was victorious.

“What was that thing with the icy gaze and royal manner?” I wondered. “Why did he haunt the gorgeous banks of the river?” I went on my way with these questions still buzzing in my head and the piercing blue of his eyes still burned into mine.

Elbert Park, 8
Palo Alto, CA

Three Haikus Concerning the Recent Wildfires

Elbert Park, 8

Haiku 1

The sun fades away
Blocked by the smoke, empty yet vague
God pray this phase ends

Haiku 2

The smoke is now Zeus
Air quality unhealthy
Will time please reverse?

Haiku 3

Ash is falling down
They’re balls of worthlessness-Ants
Please get out of here

Sophia Tucker, 11
Melrose, MA


Sophia Tucker, 11

Lily Lang was sitting in the metro, listening to some music when she noticed an advertisement on the top of the wall that read: “Miri Noel provides the best piano lessons which will bring your music to life, with your listeners flying in the air!”

Lily started building excitement, smiled and thought to herself, I’ve always wanted to fly! –like the birds! Maybe if I told my older sister to start playing the piano, I’ll listen to her practice, and I’ll fly!

So, the next day, she marched up to her sister and commanded, “Please take piano lessons with Miri Noel.” Her sister answered, suspiciously, “How did you know I wanted to?”, but Lily remained silent and whispered to herself, “Wow, this went easier than I thought!”

A month into her sister's practice, Lily asked her sister to play something, and she did. She played a beautiful piece, The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams. The sister was already at measure four, but nothing was happening. Lily could feel the vibrations and the beautiful sounds. She closed her eyes and tried to picture flying. But instead, she saw birds singing their own concertos, trees, and Spring. But when she heard the last note of the piece, she was still on the ground, in her living room. But it almost felt as if she was flying. This feeling was better than she expected.

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