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An update from our twenty-ninth Writing Workshop!

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday November 21, plus some of the output published below

This week William returned to talk about rhythm, phrasing and cadence in writing, with a focus on the impact of short sentences, and the relationships between music, painting, and writing. We read sections from Song of Hiawatha (Longfellow, 1855) for its rhythm, Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities for their defferent versions of extra-long sentences, aloud, thinking about they impact of these stylistic choices on the reader. We listened to some performances of evocative music such as Beethoven's 5th Symphony (the short sentence of its "Da-da-da-da") and Rimsky Korsakoff's "Flight of the Bumblebee," comparing and contrasting with more lyrical, flowing phrases.

The Writing Challenge: Chose one of these three approaches to your piece of writing:
- Short first sentence…
- Start in the middle with long ranging stances that may be held together with the glue of dashes. Don’t be overly concerned with perfect grammar on this first pass.
- Write in short sentences. Entirely or mostly. 

The Participants: Madeline, Helen, Liam, Keyang, Anna, Lucy, Samantha, Charlotte K, Anya, Jonathan, Tilly, Margaret, Olivia, Angela, Ava, Emma, Maddie, Enni, Ying, Analise, Nova, Rachael, Madeline S, Juniper, Janani, Lucy, Georgia, Elbert, Suman, Lena D, Sophie, Tegan, Peri, Lina K, Charlotte M, Nami.

Araliya, 11
Sandy Hook, CT

The Statue

Araliya, 11

I ran as fast as I could. Dashing through the thick brush. The moon followed. I heard loud footsteps behind me. I ran faster. Then I came across an abandoned building. I ran towards the building as a dark figure approached the clearing I had been at before. The dark figure looked around to see where I was. With no luck of finding me, it walked away. Once the dark figure left, I went to look around the abandoned building. I came across a statue of a raven. I looked into the ruby red eyes of the statue as though to be alive. As I walked away, I looked back to see that the raven statue was gone. I look around wondering where it could be because I know that it could not have just come alive and walk away, could it? I ran out of the building terrified. I ran back into the woods just to find the dark figure running towards me. I turn around and I run into the raven statue. I look back to find the dark figure and then it hit me. The dark figure was the raven statue. The dark figure was a shapeshifter.

Lena D., 12
Coarsegold, CA

A Room, My Room

Lena D., 12

The floorboards creaked as I entered the hallway.
My bedroom door was open a crack, so I pushed my door back
as I entered my dark room, the fan looming over me
like dozens of eyes.
I turned on my lamp which hadn’t been dusted in weeks
The photos of my photo collage stared at me
as I remembered when I took those photos.
Me when I was eleven, with my brother on the day before Easter.
A photo of my grandparents' cat.
All of those memories enveloped me like a blanket
that secured around me.
The sun shined in my eyes as I closed them,
wondering what it would be like when I grew up.
I leaned against the cold wall against my bedroom and
wished that this pandemic would stop.

Underneath the photos, there lay a cardboard shelf,
which I hadn’t put anything in there in days
My desk, which I got when I was ten,
had a bunch of stuff on it.
Christmas cards for my friends
Sketchbooks for me to draw on.
A photo frame with pink fabric that had
a rainbow embroidered onto it.
On the left there lay a turtle lamp, which my grandmother gave to me.
On the right, there lay a can of my pens that I hadn’t used that much.

Next to my bedside table, there lay a bookcase, which I turned into a dresser.
I bought a mirror with my own allowance, and beneath there lay my hairbrush.
Nothing but dust.

Clouds came into the distance, pouring sudden raindrops as I looked out my window, listening to music with my headphones plugged into my ears.
Not a noise.
I took my headphones out of my ears to hear loud birds chirping in the distance as I crawled under the blankets to hear my dog barking, at a package that just arrived.

Peri Gordon, 11
Sherman Oaks, CA


Peri Gordon, 11

It would only spread.

It was huge. It was larger than any other that I’d seen, even on television. It was picking up speed faster than I could bear, faster than anyone could control. It ravaged buildings, which couldn’t control their stillness. It murdered people, who couldn’t control their small size. Orange, red, yellow, who knew? It was all those things that we are not. We are not powerful, or unstoppable, or undefeatable.

The fire was still picking up speed. I ran. My friends ran. My family ran. We all ran. We didn’t know where, or why, or how. We were weak. We were tired. The fire was angry, punishing. Why?

I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to save anyone. I couldn’t bring my home with me. I hoped to bring my friends with me, my family with me.

Because I understood something.

The fire wasn’t controllable. But neither were we.

Enni Harlan, 14
Los Angeles, CA


Enni Harlan, 14

The sea is dark. The sky is darker. The waves are murky. The air is clear. The floor is shaking, this way and that, jerked around like a kite in a storm. I cannot see my feet, and yet I feel them trembling, planted on the moving deck. Waves crash against the scarlet hull–at least I know it was scarlet in daytime. At night, where we stand, the world is a void, a void of empty darkness. Clouds of vengeance shield slips of moonlight. Not a speck for our sorry boat. Our boat lurches onwards, left to right, slicing through the spray of seamist. And then the waves slice in through us. Ropes are abandoned. We pray for mercy. I think of my mother, in a land far away, humming a tune to a fatherless child; trapped in the fury, the vicissitudes of winter, longing for light at the end of the tunnel. I crane my neck to see the horizon, search for light, for land, for hope. My eyes are searching, wishing, wandering. Darkness is all that lies ahead. A wave, a crashing, ruthless monster, hits us from behind. You are cunning to creep, to slither like a snake, to take us down from down below. You are cunning, I think, as our boat is turned sideways, as my feet slide on the deck, as my arms flail for the cold metal railing. You are cunning, cunning, so cunning, too cunning, possessed by the salt that took my father. You are cunning to discard my empty soul, to drop me down in the water below. But I am cunning too. I lunge for a glimmering speck, a piece of wood where I can lie, dripping, shivering violently, beneath the inky sky. Watching dark clouds, the wrath of the heavens, dance above my weary soul–straining for my mother’s song, and yet all I hear is my own straining breath. In and out, clinging to the splintery darkness; up and down, up and down, forever waiting for light to come.

Lina Kim, 10
Weston, FL

Dark and Light

Lina Kim, 10

The dark was interrupted by a brilliant light,
Emitted by stars near the sea.
The moon glowed ever so slightly in the night,
And it seems like the glow is for me.

I see little white dots shining in the sky,
Looking through the window in my room.
A seagull swoops down near the waves and the tides,
And leads a fish to its doom.

The ocean, stars, seagull and fish in the night
Show all relations between dark and light.

Rachael Lippe, 10
Setauket, NY

Akeelah, Akeelah

Rachael Lippe, 10

Akeelah, Akeelah
I wake up to Akeelah every morning.
Akeelah, Akeelah
Puts me to sleep at night.
Akeelah, Akeelah
I listen to it all day. I can’t stop hearing it.
Sometimes it gets deafeningly loud.
I can’t hear myself think. I can’t hear others speak.
Sometimes it gets so quiet I can barely hear it
A whisper at the back of my mind.

Akeelah, Akeelah
I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there,
Cheering me on

Slowing me down
Waking me up in the morning
Lulling me to sleep at night
Raising me up
Lowering me down

Akeelah, Akeelah
It’s angering at times, yes
But it has a rhythm
A comforting rhythm that soothes me
It’s the rhythm of my life
Steady. Never changing

Akeelah, Akeelah
Akeelah, Akeelah
Akeelah is who I am,
and I never want it to go away.

Nova Macknik-Conde, 9
Brooklyn, NY

Wind Over Water, Sky Over Sea

Nova Macknik-Conde, 9

Wind over water, sky over sea, riding the ocean, come, wait for me, alone on the sand, waiting for thee, riding the ocean, come, wait for me. The birds are a-chirping, the skies are like new, the wind is a-howling, an endless plane of endless blue. Shimmering so brightly, too bright for my eyes, hoping for a dream that will never come true. Walking on air, I’ve grown my wings, falling through clouds, flying with glee. Singing to sleep, drifting alone, flown to you, not on my own. Waiting for sunshine, waiting for rain, waiting for lightning, waiting for wind. Waiting for hope, waiting for dreams, not on my own, not on my own. Drifting to heaven, hold on tight, drifting to sleep, waiting for night.

Sophie Yang, 10
Cupertino, CA

Here and There

Sophie Y., 10

The winds here slap my face; there, they tickle me gently. The animals here are rare and restrained; there, they are my closest friends. The food here is easy to get; there, it is grown and preserved. Here, noises are loud, buzzing, annoying; there, it’s soothing and simple.

Why did I agree?
Why did I come?
Why did I fall
For her trick?
What should I think?
What should I do?
What should I feel
About this foreign world?

Milk. They have much. But where are the cows? They flavor it, take away its freshness. How do people ruin the fresh, delicious taste of milk, yet don’t spoil it?

Animals. Where are they? I want a foal. A lamb. A piglet. Anything. But the only animal I see? A tiny little fish. Stuck in a tank.

When I want clothes, I weave them by hand. But where to find sheep’s wool? I refuse to go to the so-called stores to buy clothes pre-made. Pre-made doesn’t understand what I want.

What to do here, when I have free time? There, I would ride Cinnamon, my horse. Or care for the farm. Or join with my nearby friends to play. Here, there is nothing like that. My cousins laze.
The stare at a big bright box with people in it.

I can’t stand it. One day, it snows. I am glad. This is perfect. But all the snowy places are packed with people. Where can we find open land?

Fortunately, my aunt knows. She has a “huge” yard. It looks tiny to me. Smaller than the horse’s pen back home. But it will do.

I drag my cousins to the yard. They start to put on huge coats that make them look fat as pigs, but I refuse. They instead are in their sleeping clothes.

They shiver. But I laugh and spread out my arms. I dive into the thick snow. I make a mountain of it. Soon, they join me.

We hollow the mountain. We sit inside, having fun.

They wonder about the warmth inside. I simply roll my eyes. These city-folk know nothing of nature.

This is fun. The only fun I’ve had from this urban place. Perhaps they would enjoy the outdoors more from now. I glance at one cousin’s watch. It is 11:11. For once, I do not wish. I do not wish to go back. I need to teach everyone that things do not simply come from those stores. That the great outdoors are better than a moving box.

There, I am used to working and creating. But here, I can teach it to others.

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