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An update from our twenty-second Writing Workshop!

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday September 19, plus some of the output published below

Dragonflies have amazing eyes that refract and can see in multiple directions all at once. The images they see are thousands of times more complex than what other creatures can see. This workshop, devised and brought to us by Jennifer Rinterknecht and Denise Donnio, both educators based in France, was designed to get us thinking about how our minds and our writing can be more like a dragonfly's eye: can we capture simultaneously different voices, different narratives, and the extraneous thoughts that are going on while we are writing? Can those random distractions become part of the narrative, like the texts or notes we pass in class become part of the story of the class being taught or the chat in Zoom becomes part of our Workshops?  They presented a few examples of this idea of layered narration, and suggested a simple way of trying to capture this as we wrote–by using two columns, one for the narrative that obeys the conventional rules (Grammar A) and one for the stray thoughts and seemingly irrelevant other thoughts that occur (Grammar B) while writing in the first column. As always, our workshop participants rose to the challenge, with some innovative and impressive work.

In some, the distraction became the narrative; in others the layers were in many dimensions, from different voices, media, forms and perspectives. Congratulations everyone who read, wrote and took part, and thank you Denise and Jen for an inspiring workshop!

The Writing Challenge: Write a parallel narrative–one in standard form, one in whatever form it comes.

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.

Liam Hancock, 12
Danville, CA

All That They Know

Liam Hancock, 12

All That They Know
I heard the idiot was messing w/ u again today. 🤨
Yeah, and?
Lol, idk. Just saying, I heard.
Ok. Want to video chat?
Idk if I have time, but I can check.
If not, me and the boiz are heading to the park later. Wanna come?
What ⏰???
10:30, 11:00, something like that. 🤷‍♂️
If I can sneak out, sure.

Hey, Little Mikey just told me he tried beating you up???🤜
The idiot?
Who else would it be?
Did u put up a fight???
Sure I did.
And what?
And did u win?
How do u define winning?
Ummm.... winning? It’s pretty self explanatory.
Well then I guess I did.
Are u coming to the park later? Why’d u ditch us last night?
If I can sneak out I’ll come.
Lol, try to see u then.

All That They Need To Know
I heard he was fighting w/ u again today. 🤣 Like it was a fight at all.
He grins, leaning back on his bed. The phone is propped haphazardly in his hands. This kid, right? I can’t believe he honestly thinks I like him.
Yeah, and? What do u mean, it wasn’t a fight?
He frowns, massaging the crimson red scar painting his neck. What the heck?
Lol, idk. Just saying, I heard. And I heard that he beat u into a pulp.
He laughs softly to himself.
Stop it.
He tries shutting off his phone, but the next text comes too quickly. He can’t not read it now.
Want to video chat so I see how fast I can send u running back into ur room again?
His old record is just seconds
No, and I won’t go to the park either. I’m done w/ u and ur stupid friends.
He bashes the phone on the side of the couch and shoves his head into the pillow.

 Hey... sry about that the other day. Idk what got into me.
A stupid grin plays across his face. Back for Round 2.
I’ve had a bad day. Please.
He lays listlessly on the floor of the basement, the phone tangled in blankets.
The idiot fought u again? Little Mikey told me.
On the other end of the video chat, the idiot feeds him lines.
Little Mikey’s an idiot too. But yeah. Yeah, the idiot fought me.
The box of Band-Aids lays overturned and empty on the mangy carpet in front of him.
And did you win? Lol 😝 like u would
Somehow, he isn’t laughing this time as the idiot does on the other line.
No. And I never do. Congrats on ur victory.
He gulps, watching as the other end of the text goes silent.
Are you there?


I’m sorry.

Scarlet He, 9
Scarsdale, NY

Japanese Food Festival

Scarlet He, 9

Grammar A:

The streets were filled with people swarming to get food from the brilliant, bright and beautiful carts. Smells of onigiri, a yummy rice ball with seaweed, ikayaki, a grilled, salty octopus on a stick, and sushi, rice wrapped with seaweed and topped with seafood fill the air. I bite into a piece of pickled radish from my bento. A salty, sour taste fills my mouth with joy. I take a sip from my bottled ramune soda, a spicy type of soda that gets its spice from a ramune ball. My arms are piled with towering food bowls. The smell is so delightful that I want to take off my nose and make it grow wings to fly around and smell the food. Then, I hear a rumbling. Time seems to stop as the bowls all came crashing down. A miso soup bowl splatters on my head, leaving my hair a miso mess. My clothes are splattered with ikayaki sauce. Everyone is looking at me now. What a great day.

Grammar B:

The smell of asari miso soup fills my nose! I jump in delight! “What a nice smell. I can’t wait to eat!” I yell, and start running to the nearest cart. I pile my arms with bentos, dumpling bowls and ramen. Yum yum. I run through the crowd to the nearest picnic table. I can’t wait to eat this food. I stumble a bit. Miso soup splats on my head. Disgusting. I continue walking. How rude, I get pushed by other shoppers! I try to walk quickly to the picnic table. A piece of rice tumbles onto my head. Excuse me? I need to hurry. Plunk. A pickled radish flumps onto my head. I’m getting annoyed. A couple of ramen noodles falls into my head, and I curse in anger. Boom. My bowls tumble. It’s raining food! My hair is now a ramen rodeo and a bento nest. Yikes. I am so embarrassed.

Ever Sun, 10
Bellevue, WA

That Voice

Ever Sun, 10

In the alternate world, there's a voice. I can hear it. It's always been there, like it was on the other side of the wall–even when I was standing in the vast, flat, prairies of where I live.

I wonder . . .  I thin––

Why do people wonder? Why do people think? Why do we ask questions, and use the word 'why'?

Wondering is to internally question something. Thinking is the same. People ask questions to learn, and 'why' asks questions.

Why do we keep things to ourselves? Why don't we say it out? Why do we have words with same meanings that are so different? And why do we LEARN?

Sometimes we have notes that are private. Thoughts that should be kept to oneself. There are different words with the same meanings in English because, well, English is weird. And we learn because our parents force us to.

Why are some things private? Who created the "weird" language of English? BTW, that's the first time I've used 'who' and not 'why'. And why do our parents force us to?

Some things are private because it might hurt somebody. I don't know who created English. Whoever he was, he must've been a weirdo. And stank like cheese. (No offense to mice.) At some times we use 'who'. And our parents force us because adults think they are smart. What kind of thoughts will hurt? And he must've been a laughingstock.

Why do we use 'who'? And 'what'? Actually, how many of those words are there?? Why do adults think they are smarter?

Well, rude words could make someone feel bad. And whoever created English must've –– oh. Nobody created English. It just . . . Kind of became on its own. There are a lot of words like 'why' and 'what' and 'who'. There's who, what, when, where, why, how, could, would, can, do, can't, don't, won't, couldn't, wouldn't, is, and are. Adults think they are smarter because they are older.

Oh. So rude words make people feel bad . . . It's a pity we can't make fun of the person who created English now. That's a lot of words. I can't even keep track of them! Adults are weird.

Yeah . . . well, we can make fun of adults now. But let's not. Because rude words will make them feel bad, and then they'll ground us and make us learn. And that's not all the words there are.

Huh. English is such a weird language.

It is.


Oh, stop it! I'm done with all your questioning. And there! I've finally become the one that cut you off, and not the other way around!

Dheshathen Thanigaivel, 11
Fulshear, TX

The Titanic

Dheshethan Thanigaivel, 11

The Thrilling Game
point of view: Blaze

It was Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and we got tickets to the game! It's not like were rich or anything. But, my dad got got a big promotion on his computer stuff. I went with my mom dad and my brother Neil, who didn’t watch the game so he brought his mathbook with him (I know who does that!) But, anyway I got ready. I got my curry jersey on and we headed on. When we arrived, the parking  lot was packed. So,we had to park all the way like 100 blocks down. And then, when we arrived at our seats after waited in the line to the game for at least two hours,they announced the starting lineups it was the biggest, most loudest celebration I heard. When they said my favorite player Curry’s name I yelled! Then when the game finally started! It was the intense game. It went back and forth, like a bald eagle soaring in the air. But then in the end, Curry had the ball with this hand, if we made it, the Warriors would win. So, Curry had the ball, he went with and missed. Then the others made a three and won the game. I cried. Then I heard Neil cried too. I stopped crying and I was like he actually cared. But it turned out that Neil got his first math question wrong, since he was five. Of course I thought. Then I continued crying.

The Boring Game
point of view: Neil
I was excited. Not for the game of course, because Blaze told me I get Jurussaic period of time in a quiet place to do math. I dressed my most formal clothing as if I was doing a recital. But Blaze lied to me. Well, so did my parents, but he came with the Idea. I did not get the Jurassic period of time. I got two hours with the noisiest crowd people of seen. But, I still still broke a world record of the fastest time of listing the periodic tables alphabetically backwards. Then, I just did the toughest algebra equations on the top of my head, and checked them with a calculator. But then, something disastrous. I cried. I cried because I got my first algebra question wrong in five years. If Blaze and these fans of basketball wouldn’t stop yelling. So I tackled him like a charging bull.

Sophie Yang, 10
Cupertino, CA

Dr. Nica

Sophie Yang, 10

“hello, dr. nica. my name is silvia. i like art and design and stuff. my mom told me i should record these voice letters to you, so you can learn more about me. i dunno why i need to do that. well, hi. lemme start over. i’m silvia, and i like art and design. my best friend is lily santos. today was a normal day. for me at least, i got in trouble again today. why am i even talking to you about this. this is private stuff! why do i have to tell you this stuff?



Something is not right.
My parents
Chat quietly in
The background.
I open the door,
What was that
I dont know
probably just the cat.
I quietly step
Into the room,
Hide in the
Something is wrong with silvia
Keeps getting in trouble
I agree. What shud we do
I think we shud get her a therapist
. . .
Ur serious?
Online therapist. she will record letters and––
she will h8 that
Wut else can we do
I dunno
Have u told her
U tell her
Ur idea. U tell her
Tell me what, dad?
My parents
Silvia u shudn’t be here
Well, i am, so start talking.

I cant believe
That my parents are doing this
I thought
They were on my
It wasn’t my fault
That Ethan told on me
When i doodled in class.
It wasn’t my fault I doodled anyway.
The teacher
My classmates
My fingers
Grabbed the pencil
Dragged it across the yellow sticky note
ms ginger? silvia’s doodling!
Her eagle eyes
Snap to me.
Angry, glowing
this is the fourth time this week, silvia. I have no choice.
Here it comes.
i am going to call your parents.

On my bed
Clutching my sticky note
With a wilted rose
Drawn on it.
It is a smeared,
A ruined,
Beautiful work of art.
It represents
My wishes
My wonderful wishes
But they will never be
Coming true.
It’ll never be that way.

“Hi, dr. nica. again. my mom made me keep talking with you. Anyway, i got in trouble for doodling. I love to doodle. Today, i drew a rose on a sticky note. But a classmate of mine kind of smeared it. no hate to them though. Can you say that? No hate to somebody? whatever. Anyway, i dont understand why i got in trouble. not the other kids. The teacher was kind of boring. there was things way worse than doodling going on. Spitballs airplanes that kind of thing. Did the teacher completely forget that jeffery was throwing straw wrappers at her??? urgh. i dont want to talk about this anymore. Goodbye.


I am tired
Of too many useless, easy classes.
Of getting in trouble.
Of creativity not allowed.
Of parents whispering.
Of teachers glaring.
Of friends fighting.
Of secrets that I don’t know.
Of things that don’t make sense.
Of things that make sense, but hurt.

Questions I Want To Ask
Life is confusing. Why can I not express my feelings? Why are things so strict? Why can’t I do what I want?

Isn’t life supposed to be free? Isn’t freedom important?

I love art. You probably know that already. But can’t I use that passion? Can’t I show it? Even art class itself won’t let me draw freely. Draw a water glass one day, paint a log cabin the next. This is wrong, this is not. Isn’t art subjective? How can something be wrong?

I am so, so confused. What is wrong with the world? Questions, questions. I sure hate questions.

“Hi dr. nica. Here I am today. i cant believe i survived three days. How am i even sticking to this? How am i surviving this? Ugh. I could be doing my math homework right now.



“Hello. in case you were wondering, i dropped the recording device. i definitely did NOT smash it off on purpose.

okay, fine, i was lying about that. but can you blame me? my parents are forcing me to record letters to some lady i dont know anything about! How would you feel? *sigh*. This is so not what i need rite now. I mean . . .

look, my parents want me to tell you about me. Ur probably not learning much rite now. lemme explain.

I love art. I doodle. a lot. i get in trouble for that, 2. Its hard. Nobody appreciates my creativity. I wish life was easier, but i guess not, huh?

well, imma go for now, ‘cause my mom is calling me. Dinner, yum.


My most recent letter
Was definitely my longest yet.
Do not
Judge me.
I am not
Opening up. Trust me.
It’s just, it’s like keeping
A diary.
I can tell her what
I want.
She doesn’t answer me.
I don’t
Know if she even listens
To the letters.
Of course she does, my mom said
When I asked.
But I’m not so sure.

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