An update from our twenty-third Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 3, plus some of the output published below
This week, Stone Soup team member Jane Levi led a discussion about objects and their important role in building stories. We talked about useful, functional objects that might carry the action forward (referring to Chekhov's famous comment that if you put a gun on the wall in the first scene, someone needs to fire it in the second) and symbolic objects that add additional layers of meaning for the reader which goes beyond their basic function as props. Starting with John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, where his detailed description of an ancient Greek vase becomes an opportunity for the poet to muse on time, beauty and truth, we discussed tokens from the Foundling Hospital as examples of simple things weighted with emotional significance that have inspired storytellers from Jacqueline Wilson to Charles Dickens. We moved on to think about writers like Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling who have invented new objects or transformed the characteristics of existing ones (e.g. the alethiometer and the Mirror of Erised) to add interest and additional layers of meaning to their work, emphasising how helpful research can be. Sometimes, even a close look at the definition of words in a major source like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) can uncover new possibilities in objects we think we already know. Finally, after a quick look at a real object (a police box) transformed into a fantastical one which almost becomes a character in its own right (Dr Who's TARDIS), we moved into our half an hour of writing. This week, James, Madeline, Gia, Liam, Georgia, Ma'ayan and Nova read their work to the group for feedback from William and Jane. With stories involving no fewer than three different creepy dolls (!), we enjoyed some dramatic readings and a few moments of real horror, as well as some strong, evocative writing that really made us see, smell, feel and hear a range of meaningful objects from pencils to phone booths, and blankets to bracelets. Thank you everyone for another great class, and read on below to sample some of the great work produced during our workshop.
The Writing Challenge: Write about an object in great detail. Make your readers able to see, hear, touch, smell it! You may choose to describe a real object, transform an existing object into a different version of itself, or invent a completely new one.
The Participants: Nova, Rithesh, Katie, Charlotte, Georgia, Peri, Lucy, 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, Georgia.
The Pearl Earring
Lena Aloise, 11
The house was empty, beds stripped of their linens, closet shelves bare. But in the midst of this desolate place, there was a pair of pearl earrings sitting on the windowsill. Mere pinpricks against a large expanse of rotting wood. It was very easy to miss them, if you were not looking carefully. But there they were, a fine layer of dust coating the perfect white orbs. Smooth to the touch, solid in one’s palm. A glistening surface mirrored its surroundings. He imagined a woman, dressed in her most elegant gown, putting the pearls through her ears, holding a hand mirror up to her face with the utmost satisfaction. Taking the arm of her husband and dancing, twirling, skirts billowing around her narrow frame. What had happened to the girl who had once worn something so beautiful? He shoved them deep into his jacket pocket and headed for home, boots making deep marks amongst the thick layer of white snow.
Lena D., 12
It rings for a long time
The sound of it
Makes me feel happy
The essence made out of metal
Touches my heart with joy
Even if I am lonely
It will bring cheer to the air
I loved that sound
Ever since I can remember
I can feel its power
Within the joy
I sigh in happiness
I say that it is
Not like any bell I know
Is like a great joy alarm
Fire in my heart
Like a burst of ember
Scarly missing me
But no I say
This is not the great joy
That I see everyday
It is not
The great joy that I see
Everyday I think deep
Thoughts of the world
And the darkness
Is now gone
Peri Gordon, 11
Nothing has been the same since I found a mysterious chandelier hanging above the spot where my regular lamp should be. It was swinging as if placed there recently, with stars, stripes, and spirals engraved into the sterling silver. Stranger still, all of the small golden flames in the little silver candle holder were all connected to a center flame, blazing blue, with sparks flying everywhere.
Then I remembered my colleague was scheduled to come over.
I attempted to extinguish the candles with water, which seemed to be the source of the trouble, but new flames would appear, seeming to burst out of the engravings. My dining room was a mess, with water on the floor and the chandelier more dangerous than ever.
It occurred to me that the fire was not spreading or burning me or acting like fire at all. Maybe, I thought, it’s not that dangerous?
Well, it was dangerous.
My colleague arrived. When I didn’t let her in, she started pounding on the door, demanding I tell her what was going on. That’s when the chandelier started moving through the dining room, through the hall, and—this couldn’t be real—moving right through the door. I felt the responsibility to follow, so, even though I was scared to death, I did.
The spiral engravings were spinning and lit up with—what was that, black fairy dust? Bewildered and terrified, I looked at my colleague. Her eyes were spirals—I mean it—just like the engravings. Spiral eyes—I’d seen pictures of those before—but that was purely fictional….
Was my colleague hypnotized?
The Ever Diamond
The Castle of Arbania had hundreds of objects inside it, and they all had a meaning in the castle. There were trinkets or vases and many more objects on every possible surface and the castle was quite cluttered. In the biggest and most used room in the castle there was a round, tiny sequin on a painting. The tiny sequin was quite hard to see in the painting and you could only see it if you looked very closely at the magnificently painted woman beautifully painted on the canvas. The sequin was part of her beautiful purple dress that had many other sequins carefully drawn on it. The sequin was placed right in the middle of the ladies dress and looked as if it had always been there. If you looked closely at it you could see it flashing different shades of purple and if you tried you could take the sequin off the painting and hold it in your hand. In fact, what looked like a beautifully drawn sequin was an enchanted diamond. The diamond had a long History and traced back to the beginning of mankind.
Let me tell you the story of The Ever Diamond. The diamond was crafted out of the most beautiful diamond a man had found lying in a pool. The pool was quite small and had produced many other diamonds and this special diamond was sadly its last. The man carried the diamond to his workshop and had carefully carved it into the shape of a beautiful heart. He placed it into a beautiful necklace that he was going to give his wife and placed it into his pocket where he thought it would be safest. While the man was heading home a powerful wizard walked up to him and demanded that he wanted the diamond. The man holding the diamond was first hesitant, not wanting to give his greatest piece of treasure to the wizard, but he agreed since he did not want to be harmed.
He handed the shining diamond to the wizard and ran away quickly. The wizard put a powerful spell on the diamond that enchanted it as he had done to the pool that had produced it many years ago. Soon other wizards found out about it and they stole from each other with no doubt that somebody would steal it from them since they each thought they were the most powerful. One day a kind wizard took the diamond and shrank it size and placed it on his most treasured painting in his entire castle. The painting showed a woman who was wearing a beautiful purple dress that was adorned with beautiful sequins. He cast a spell that made the enchanted diamond a part of the painting forever. And that is how this special enchanted diamond ended up on the painting that still lays there now.
And that is the end of the story.
Twinkling Stars: Extraterrestrial and Universal Council Charms
Lina Kim, 10
The Extraterrestrial and Universal Council has charms made into an accessory–a symbol that the wearer is a star, moon, planet, or asteroid. The charms are arranged in a pattern; Star, Star, moon, star, star. They grant you abilities; to grab ahold of gravity to orbit or put a moon or planet into orbit, to fly near the speed of light, or to shine bright and grant light. They are colored with all colors, fading and swirling into one another, forever moving. When extraterrestrial spirits are brought to Earth, the charms lose their power, leaving the spirits as humans. The charms turn silver. When removers* come across these charms scattered into oblivion from the explosion of a star, they burn them and absorb their power. They can be arranged as many different accessories, and all have a special symbol on the crescent moon, that symbolizes who is who.
*removers are people driven by hatred and loathing with hopes to destroy the Universe and rebuild it in a horrible way, such as bringing back slavery or discrimination.
The Jewelry Box
Lucy Rados, 13
She traced over of the initials engraved on the top of the dark, chestnut wood jewelry box, LMS. She glanced down at the inscription, though she knew that she could never forget it. Margaret spent nearly all of her time up in the attic, staring at this box. To my dear Lyla, it read. Though I must go away for a while, know that I love you and have cherished all of the time of I have spent with you.
The words brought sentimental tears to Margaret’s eyes. She shut them tight, took a deep breath, opened them, and for the first time ever decided to open the beautiful box. Up until now, the box had seemed too personal, untouched and private. But today, she decided that she could not stand the suspense. She gingerly picked up the box, afraid that it might crumble in her hands, feeling the smooth edges, smelling the lingering traces of wood finish. The box was lighter than she had expected, neither carrying the weight of lost memories nor jewelery. “Strange,” Margaret said to herself. “I would have thought that something as amazing as this would have been constantly used!”
Setting down the box, not much longer than a book, and not much wider than a loaf of bread, Margaret gently opened the lid up. It was not filled with expensive jewelery, nor anything of the sort. Instead, lying on the soft, purple velvet, looking slightly old but never touched, was a letter. Margaret felt wrong reading it, but could not resist the temptation.
To whoever might be reading this:
I cannot bear living without Thomas. Every day is a void, empty of emotion, no joy, no sadness. I have gone after him to war, though I know I shouldn’t. Please tell him, if he comes back, what I have done. I love him more than I can bear, and know that you can understand, dear reader. If he returns, and I am not here, give him this.
-Lyla Marie Stephens
“Give him what?” Margaret wondered aloud. Then she saw it: a simple golden wedding band. Margaret yearned more than anything to be able to complete this story, to give these two a happily ever after, but no one had returned for the box. There was no date on the letter. Who knew what had happened to Thomas and Lyla? Perhaps they had died, or maybe found each other and been too caught up in the moment to return for the jewelery box. Margaret would never know. So, with a heavy heart, Margaret returned the box to the shelf where she had found it, tracing over the gold inscription one last time. She looked down at the dark wood where a tear splashed down from her face. Perhaps it would be the last tear ever shed over this story.
Ma'ayan Rosenbaum, 13
She was a lovely thing in her days of creation. Porcelain, cool to the touch, had been painted over and over again until her face bore a color applied so meticulously that the pleasant expression held a shockingly realistic vitality. Petite little toes slipped neatly into Mary-Jane shoes polished to a shining capable of showing a reflection when stared at hard enough. Longs legs hidden under tightly stitched stockings were built nearly too proportionally to belong to anything but a living, breathing creature. But the clothes were the true appeal of the Victorian-era figure that looked back at me. A fitted corset, the most astounding shade of midnight blue became a trailing, rounded skirt further down the torso. Sleeves of lace hemmed just in time as not to obscure any part of the dainty white gloves covering her slightly curved fingers. Embroidered roses the color of a cloudless sky lined the fabric, matching a band of flowers that stretched across soft curls. And oh, the hair. The color of hay, her locks streamed down her back like soft waves in an ocean made of the purest gold. If one expected that the period clothing to smell as if it were truly made in the 18th century, you would be happily surprised to find a heavenly aroma of a peppermint-vanilla wafting about it like a sort of aura. Although my mother claimed to have crafted the thing for the sole purpose of her daughter’s enjoyment, only the murky green eyes shared any resemblance to my own harsh features. The labor of her life, my mother passed away quite soon after its completion. Oftentimes, I feel as if this doll is but a remaining shell of the girl my mother always wished for me to be.
Dheshethan Thanigaivel, 11
Yes! The day is finally hear! I finally get a new basketball! It was 5am.It was the day I can get a new basketball! As me and my dad reached to Academy Sports, I immediately ran like a cheetah and immediately ran towards the basketball section, I might have ran into an old woman, but hey, I couldn’t stop myself. Then I was there. With probably at least a thousand basketballs in the aisle, I tried looking for one I'd wanted for a year. There were a bunch of ones that looked good, the signed MVP Lebron James ball. Also there was Kevin Durant ball with a picture of his face on it! But I didn’t want any of those. I looked all the way down the aisle, and found the one. The one I was looking for. With its beautiful red stripes so bright and beautiful, Pablo Picasso would never be talked about. And with its beautiful and inspiring Rockets symbol on it, it was a dream come true. As my dad checked it out, I immediately went to my house, opened the package, and there it was. The 1995 limited edition, championship.
Rockets ball! Then, I tried it out, and made every shot on my driveway hoop with my new shiny basketball in my hands.