An update from our thirty-second Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday February 6, plus some of the output published below
This week we talked about language: non-English language. Participants shared the various languages they know, and we went on to explore some invented languages used in fiction, such as J.R.R Tolkein's Elfin and Klingon, used in Star Trek. William played a number of readings, songs and film clips asking us to focus on how the sounds of the languages convey meaning, character and culture, even when we don't know the words.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Focus on sound–invented words that just seem "right and/or the sound of an invented or foreign language that fits your fictional creation. Prose, poetry, or a song are all acceptable.
- the base language for the story or poem is English
- either allow made-up words into your story as part of its flow
- create a scene in which there is someone from a different world (fairy, talking tree, delirious person, monstrous giant etc.) who speaks 2-4 lines of dialogue OR 2-4 lines of a verse or song.
The Participants: Ismini, Nova, Iago, Anya, Nami, Sophie, Charlotte K, Reese, Elbert, Lina, Leo, Lindsay, Lucy R, Julia A, Emma B, Kaidyn, Rachel L, Hera, Madeline K, Helen, Eva, Lena, Liam, Ava, Georgia, Pranjoli, Samantha L, Sierra, Simran, Madeline N, Sage, Sophia, Margaret, Elise, Margaret, Maggie, Olivia, Noa, Lucy K, Alice, Ann, Angela, Enni, Yasmine, Charlotte M, Tilly, Emi, Tegan, Sadie.
The Calls of a Dolphin
Sierra E., 11
Tall conifers swayed gently in the evening breeze, tilting toward the Pacific coast, as if craning their long necks toward the water’s edge. Children laughed gleefully as they sprinted across the smooth sand, wrapping up a day of adventure and excitement, all but one, who sat huddled in a jet-black jacket leaning against a rocky cliff. She heard her parents calling for her, but she paid
no notice, instead staring blankly up at the sunset, painted lavender and a rosy pink. The waves lapped softly at the shoreline, several hundreds of feet from the young girl, who, through it all, remained perfectly hidden.
Her parents became desperate, shouting louder and louder for their child to return. She stood, but not intending to return home. Not yet. As she had done for years now, she sprinted past the spires of rock that were positioned jaggedly along the ocean, some halfway submerged by salty seawater. The voices of her parents became drowned out with the harmonious wind and waves,
blending together into a sort of song.
“Come!” the child beckoned sweetly, finally sitting down where the beach grew thin and the ocean became immeasurable. The water spun upward into a spiral, causing the child to leap backward suddenly. A smile formed on her face when a sleek creature emerged. It was who she’d been waiting for. Her dolphin. The one she had met four years ago on that stormy winter night. The one that had visited her each time she came back to the beach. The one that greeted her with compassion and exhilaration.
The dolphin chortled cheerily, keeping most of itself in the sea. It whistled seven times, repeatedly, speaking in a language most humans couldn’t make out. At first, the girl struggled to understand as always, then, pulling a chip of a shell from her pocket, she whispered, “I see. Your pod is running out of food? The fish and squids have disappeared?”
The dolphin whistled once, as if to agree. “Don’t worry,” the child replied hopefully, somehow still understanding with the shell she had found so many years ago. The creature swam away, calling out its goodbye, leaving the girl, still remaining on the sand in the exact spot, in shock as she always was after a welcome from her friend.
Lindsay Gao, 9
The cassie implewart crawled out of her nest. Her long bubber colored fur fell into her eyes as she leapt from tree to tree in a snookaloo manner. Finally, she came upon a small grove where three nymphs already stood, nibbling on bloated mushrooms. She growled at them, and they disappeared into the forest of maples and oaks. She grabbed an alkay sized nut, squealing in happiness as she realized a water nerry was inside. Unfortunately, her squeal was heard. A creature, brown as a Rhodesian Lakeside Brownie it stood there, staring at her.
“Cop incub issle. Cokie aparr alooya? Tsuki?”
She knew that had to mean something, but she couldn’t figure out what. She only spoke Mitzer Mouth, and thought maybe the creature spoke Logipo. Her mother had wanted her to speak that, but she had refused. She gave the creature the water nerry, though she didn’t want to. One water nerry could exchange for at least five cassie mushrooms. The creature smiled at her. She smiled back.
She woke up. It had been twenty-five days since she gave the creature the water nerry. She looked out a tiggle in her nest, and saw something that made her heart leap into her throat. A small water nerry sat on the stump next to her nest, and a small clump of brown fur was caught there too. And now she heard a soft sound carried through the wind, “Maroo: Thank you.”
|Cassie implewart||A creature.|
|Bubber||Color of the ocean with sunlight upon it.|
|Snookaloo||Sneaky but graceful.|
|Alkay||A bit larger than an almond.|
|Water Nerry||A mix between a nut and a berry.|
|Rhodesian Lakeside Brownie||A household spirit.|
|“Cop incub issle. Cokie aparr alooya? Tsuki?”||“I’m really hungry. Can we share some nuts? Please?”|
|Mitzer mouth and Logipo||Different types of languages.|
|Cassie mushrooms||Cassie implewart’s favorite type of mushroom.|
|Tiggle||Dot sized crack in the nest of a cassie implewart.|
Anya Geist, 14
the words fall out of my mouth
and spill through the air
as I spout
verses and lines holding
intricate commas and delicate words
weaving this web of prose
rows and rows
my native tongue
that I will always fall back upon
and then I stumble
estoy escribiendo una poema
o no escuchando cuando mi maestro habla, habla, habla—en inglés, as a matter of fact
and at home I rupture
into bursts of poorly formed oraciones
probablemente littered con many errors
while mis padres ven a mi—están confusos
porque they don’t speak spanish
and so I have to translate
debemos ir al carro
necesito hacer mi tarea, pero no quiero
este es mi español.
then I go to synagogue
and there the lines of prayer in hebrew
wrap around me
and I wish I could speak more
than just אחד, שתיים, שלוש, ארבע, חמש, שש, שבע, שמונה, תשע, עשר which is numbers one through ten
and אָדוֹם, כָּתוֹם, צָהוֹב, יָרוֹק, כָּחוֹל (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue)
because all I know is אוֹר because of the yotzeir or and לַיְלָה because of ma’ariv aravim
and שלום and טוֹב and חג שמח
and a variety of other religious words that I’ll likely never use in conversation
and then there are the languages where I know un poco
I know that maison is house in french, and I could probably, albeit torturedly, count to ten
I know ein, zwei, drei is one, two, three in german
salaam is peace in arabic, though I can only spell it in english
I used to know a little bit of danish—the only thing I know now that bedstafar is grandfather and bedstamor grandmother
and for some reason I know overleden is passed away in dutch
I wish I knew more
I wish I could speak all the languages of the world,
that from my mouth and from the tip of my pen
would burst forth
melodies of sentences and words that used to feel foreign
but alas right now
this, this poem in english, and no me importa and בוקר טוב and scattered miscellaneous other palabras
these are my languages
The Man Who Fought the Dawn
Enni Harlan, 14
They thought him drunk, the drunken man by the lot on Amfort street where four story homes loomed upwards like skyscrapers. He sang like a drunken man. He danced like a drunken man. They told us to keep away. Keep away. Stay away. Yet there was a glimmering sense of soberness in his eye; a touch of something-- something that seemed so real, so earnest, so alive and conscious that in no way could he be of the half-living. His air-- what was it? He left no mark but the air that he breathed, yet he sang for the world to hear him, sang as if his father had come home from Lahmorse untouched, as if there were a steady drum beating the dawn out of every day of life-- as if his singing would stop it. He danced as if he were on a stage, but that was only on good days. On bad days he was silent. Silent. Like the factons in the meadow, the ones who were too silent for you to see. The ones we hunted after when we were young, the ones we never caught. The man himself. He was a facton. Nothing more. Just a smudge. A smudge of jubilant darkness in the world. He gloated in his darkness. He gloated in the shadows. They fought to remove him. Remove him from the light.
One day I looked down and saw his shadow. His shadow, not far away. They said to run. Run, run, run to your mother. What would she do? Sing me to sleep? Sing you to wake? What is a mother when youth ceases to be? But there was he, glaring at the light, at the dawn with such arton in his eyes that I feared not. I was a shadow. The other. The phrygian speck of something else. He was nothing, nothing more than a man who longed to sing the double thirds of a g sharp minor scale with only one voice. He wanted to fly without wings, to dance without a stage. There was nothing more. The shadow remained. And then, when all was silent, he began to speak. He spoke. I thought him mad then. His mind seemed a void to me, a void of nonsensical words. Then what were mine? And then-- I listened. His drunken slurs, his gibberish, maybe, was it something? He spoke. Spoke of crayfots and linetesses on summer evenings. Aline, ajorish thon glydis, he mumbled, then sang. Sang. What were those words? They were shadows. Shadows on a summer evening. I listened. Then I feared. And then, when all was silent, I walked away.
When I returned the lot was empty. They took him on a Friday, or perhaps it was a night. Or perhaps at dawn, when he glared at the sunrise, when his eyes were a void of darkness. Darkness in the dark. Then he was nothing. Nothing but a shadow in the night. I awoke that night. I could hear his words. His words, echoing through the streets, through the hills, the words of the crazy man on Amfort street… or was it us who were the ones with no mind? Aline, he had said. What had he meant? Aline, ajorish thon glydis. Nothing more. Simply… words. Words of drink, they had said. Or were we the ones who were drunk, not from drink but drunk on war, on life? I could hear his voice, floating through the dawn. I raced to the lot. It was empty. Somehow I knew it would be. But even when the man was gone, even when he was nothing but a blur, a blur between reality and something more, even then, I heard his voice. What were those words? The truth? They said you could not grasp it. Not ever, not more than a moment. But sometimes, when I heard sinetus in the breeze, when I heard the ahmrots cursing below the ground for a land that never came to be, sometimes, when the sunlight came and shook us out of the darkness, the glydis we could never ajorish, sometimes when the dawn came… I glared too.
The Day I Made a Friend
Lina Kim, 10
I flew down the stairs and threw a satchel over my shoulder, quickly shoving on my shoes. I’m late, I’m late, were the only words going through my brain. More accurately, igj Hath, igj Hath, in the Kopajs language. I ran out the door, rushing towards the Tree of Wallahäne. When I got there, I removed the satchel, threw it to the side and knelt in front of the tree. Its pink and green leaves rustled in annoyance as I muttered the verse of Wallahäne.
Armehg Lahufa Carniarle,
Pophenx harlo mabifo.
I grabbed my satchel and raced off to school.
As soon as I had gone through the door, I felt green elven eyes on my back. I averted my gaze and lowered myself into my chair, muttering an apology. The teacher tapped a pencil on his desk impatiently.
“Late,” he announced. “Detention on Tuesday and Friday.” I groaned, and he glared at me. He turned back to the lesson. I tuned out.
When he had finished lecturing us, I got up eagerly and went to the lunch room. I opened my satchel and found a charlemepl, a type of purple fruit, a paikan sandwich, and a box of maila juice. As I ate, an elven girl came up to me.
“Hi,” she said shyly. “I’m Ariyz. I’m new here. What’s your name?”
“I’m Giwhuanu,” I said. “Wanna sit here?”
“Sure!” Ariyz said, plopping down a lunch tray. “What languages do you know?” It’s a way of tradition to know what languages someone speaks before befriending them. For elves, anyways. I swallowed a bite of charlemepl.
“Wallahäne, Argiarh, and Vanisha,” I responded. “And you?”
“Wallahäne, Vanisha, and English,” she said proudly. I gawped at her.
“You know English?” I demanded. Only humans know English!
“Well, my mom is American,” Ariyz said, blushing. Quietly, she said, “she’s a human.”
“Wow.” was all I could manage.
“Most people don’t want to be my friend because of my parentage,” she said. “So . . .”
“I’ll be your friend!” I said immediately. We talked and laughed over lunch. I had made a new friend!
It matters where you come from, but not as much as it matters what is in your heart.
igj Hath: ichj Hach (ch as in Chanukah)
Armehg lahufa carniarle: Agh-mehg la-hoo-fah Car-nee-alle
Pophenx harlo mabifo: Poh-fenx har-low mah-bee-fo
Ginger and the Beast
Rachael Lippe, 10
Ginger sat on her toadstool and thumped her heels against the stem. Thump, thump, thump, thump, and then some more thumping. Ginger allowed her legs to hang, but the thumping did not go away. Louder and louder, closer and closer until it appeared around the clump of zinkle. “About time you showed up,” she said, glaring at the beast. “Hodani a melama, there was traffic,” he grumbled. Ginger rolled her eyes and flew toward him. She was no bigger than his trumple, but didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. “Come on, let's go,” she landed on his shoulder, trying not to wrinkle her nose at the putrid smell of old fish and garhunkle. “Zunkle hugle tees, my apologies miss. “Yeah yeah,” she said, annoyed that she had to do this.
The People of Bumblelore
Nova Macknik-Conde, 9
Talesthe Pelelos ofeelato Boombalore
Wrika intelelo Boombalis rikathes talesthe Inglais Transthon
The People of Bumblelore
Written in Bumblish with the English Translation
Tiffy Lano sayte, “Iyekos seyelo! Nafe mapo talaling serali! Belalee saro! Ou liselo arely oneto talesthe linakos!” crowslayte. Welteso Panelos rolleso eeso ellenieyas anolelos anlelatos, “Yelonones nipeloselas anholelaboles foneaweralos!” Tiffy, nareelawes ersole ellenieyas anolelos gretosa ersole chohemos cholepos oupelos, “Shela ubepos ifelos yelonones noobenow welanek’s gaboole fenalela yelonones.”
Taffy Lan said, “I say! No more goofing off! Be serious! Our lives are on the line!” crossly. Wane Perr rolled his eyes and admonished, “You never have fun!” Taffy, narrowing her eyes and gritting her teeth choked out, “Shut up if you know what’s good for you.”
Leo Michelman, 11
Light slowly leaves,
As the end approaches us all.
The day has come
Our time has come
The entire world will soon fall.
Ar galspi yo ra’ah, (ahr GAH-lspee yoh RAH-ah)
Pokal noq hkla. (poh-KAHL nahk hih-KLAH)
Malsu ry mek khiyo. (mahl-SOO ree mehk KAI-yoh)
Or paldo reharc. (ohr PAHL-doh ruh-HAHRK)
Qorla fir morsdore, (KOHR-luh feer MOHRS-dohr)
Malsu netl pererer paiyo. (mahl-SOO neh-tuhl peh-REH-rehr PAI-yoh)
Translation below ↓
The end is upon us,
Death has arrived.
We will soon be gone.
It cannot be stopped.
Sooner or later,
We have to carry on.
Translation is over
As I look at the world,
At the blood red sky
I see the ones around me decease.
The flames approach me,
But I smile with glee.
Now, I can be at peace.
Excerpted from Book Zero
Leo Michelman, 11
Many have not heeded the warning that lies inside of this book.
However, you must.
If you are not going to, then I will tell you what little I know of the myth of the demons, and Master Jakobs’s encounter with them, of course.
Eons ago, when the universe was nothing more than a boundless void, and almost all living creatures were merely specks of dust floating around, there were only two entities: Apocalypse and Peace. They were opposites, so no one can say how they fell in love.
Perhaps they fell in love because they were opposites. In any case, Peace gave birth to the six demons: The Thought, The Dream, The Memory, The Grip, The Mouth, and The Conscience. They represented the six parts of the mind: thoughts, dreams, memories, the grip on reality, the silver tongue, and the conscience.
Despite their mother’s calm and caring nature, they were more like their father: chaotic and violent. They always looked up to Apocalypse, and everything he did, they did. Apocalypse would feed them the very concept of death.
The demons hated their mother, for she was unlike their father. She tried to feed them the concept of love, which they always turned away from. She got upset with the demons, for they did not love her. Peace then created the humans, a less chaotic, less violent race.
She realized that there were not any places for her new creations to go, so she took a ball of wet clay and shaped it into a planet for the humans. Peace called it “Earth” and vowed to protect the humans.
When Apocalypse discovered this, he went into a rage and vowed to make life difficult for the humans. He accomplished this by creating minor entities: Sickness, Death, Evil, Lying, and so on.
He sent the minor entities to plague and terrorize the humans, which they did. Soon after, the humans had become much more evil. Trees were burned down, the sky was cloudy more often, and humans were destroying each other’s homes.
The sight of the chaos made Peace upset, so she took an old piece of leather and fashioned a book out of it. She enchanted it, giving it the ability to trap evil sources of power.
One day, she gave it to the demons as a gift. She told them that all of their hopes and dreams lay inside of the book. The demons were clever, but they were as arrogant as they were clever. The Conscience opened the book, which triggered the enchantment, pulling the demons into it.
When Apocalypse found out about the book, his wrath was so strong, it made thunder and lightning for days. He placed a counterspell upon the book. The next being that opened the book would release the demons again. From then on, it was referred to as Book Zero because the two spells canceled each other out.
I will now try to share Master Jakobs’s side of the story, assuming he will let me. But I will warn you now. Heed Master Jakobs’s warning, or the very fabric of the universe could fall apart.
Golliwop and slither-slew
Lucy Rados, 13
Golliwop and slither-slew,
I don’t know where they took you
Leverlass or flissyflap,
She won’t tell me when you passed
Evergrouse but hithersouth,
Where is it, where is the house?
Hippey scop after livernop,
Getting there, I didn’t stop
Wable bloe on ivondoe,
How ever could you get home?
Astblickcoo for you, for you,
You did it, you got through
Higger and Jigger
Kaidyn Robertson, 11
There was once a Higger
And with that Higger was a Jigger
Hither-down the tree willow
Their little heads lie asleep upon their pillow
What sights they now see
So much so that this is told feinderweld the evershine
Their friends splatterlic “I wish that was me!”
“noth is it only us!” Higger and Jigger proclaimed
So that everyone feinderweld the evershine was tentledained
“Nonsense this is!” Splatterliked the friends of Higger and of Jigger
“It is nothing but a hither-up wrong tale of qigger!”
Higger and Jigger sorrowed for noth thought their tale was true
Then, with their heads a rest upon their pillow, one and two
They leapt into Delderfron and Glitenglade,
Forever frolicking upon the tale that was made.
When the Garden Speaks
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
I walked into the silent garden. It felt peaceful and quiet yet something about it seemed to be…Alive. Perhaps it was the butterflies daintily flitting about or the rustle of the trees above that seemed to be talking through their silence. “Whoosh wilsh shoom” the playful breeze whispered in my thirsty ear. I felt that I could finally break free from the stifling confines of the ever so familiar English language. It has always seemed formal and slightly superficial, never enough to express the laughter and the tears. Suddenly, I felt something whiz past me, faster than any butterfly or canary. I ran after the speeding blur, trying to reach it, trying to define the ‘liffering’ feeling inside me. When I was finally close enough, I lunged and clapped my hands around it, feeling the unknown being furiously fluttering inside my trembling palms. I opened my hands the tiniest bit to feed my blazing curiosity. Could it be that the creature I was nervously clasping was actually...a fairy? The tiny elvish fairy viciously glared at me and squealed in her high, sharp voice “Goon sillik dee itilkin arronific LIRKE!!!”. I could and couldn’t understand what she was saying. It made perfect sense yet no sense at all. I was awe-struck and exhilarated at the irony. There were voices everywhere. The butterflies whispered “Listily oosil mali” while the canary cheerfully sang “Micc saln lameen”. The trees uttered in their deep voices “Badook wrn carik”, “Lyran, saloof, mandi, kanoon”. They were speaking yet silent, telling the truth through utter gibberish. Though every word was classified as horribly wrong, in that blessed moment, it all felt imperfectly perfect.
The Affliction of Alien Uncertainty
Ismini Vasiloglou, 12
Dirt, endless dirt. Pile after pile of blocky granules stretched on for miles beyond Talterra’s vision. The An’gora gave her little reprieve from her daunting task of shoveling soil. They were the cruel, ruthless creatures that they seemed to be, with their ashen-mavelic xortas jutting out from their crawkry necks and their devious, cunning witts encased within their malevolent, devlictal craniums. She’d stumbled into this world only a few months ago, a lanky teen with no real aspirations or ambitions. Now she was filled with a single-minded purpose, survive.
Drik’alkra, as its inhabitants seemed to have named it, was a small planet. Talterra wasn’t even sure if it genuinely was a planet in the first place. Covered in ugly ice and awful dirt and encased in a silvery dome, with little variety of life, Drik’alkra could be anything, perhaps a comet or dwarf planet, possibly a ship of some sort. She didn’t much care. Knowledge no longer felt quite so essential; it held little value so long as it did not pertain to dirt and its transportation.
Four months- or at least what she thought was four months- before, Talterra had gone out for a drink on her homeworld of Iluise, and her curiosity had bested her. She’d stumbled, drunkenly, from a glabellar to the Optics building. Then she’d hacked into their organization’s mainframe and hitched a ride on an explorer pod, without a guide or training, out into the rest of the Andromeda galaxy.
It had been pure chance that Talterra landed on that accursed space rock. Her fate was now no longer in her naive, foolish hands. All she had left was remorse.
“Ac’ache shiv loregn” One of the An’gora stumbled past her.
Then, right before her eyes, materialized one of the elusive, graceful creatures of the strange world. One of the Frelskells as the An’gora seemed to call them.
“Aleia feldun deskali?” Talterra sensed the Frelskells eyes on her back and started shoveling at a faster speed.
So far as she could see, she was an anomaly in this world, an alien to the aliens. When she’d arrived in the strange light of the rock’s three blue Lightgivers completely confused and delirious, the creatures had merely stared at her in something akin to shock. Unwilling to pass up free labor, Talterra had been shoved by her brute like captors into a pit with the rest of their underling workers to shovel dirt into large piles with whatever tools she could scavenge. Why she knew not.
They fed her a strange mulch like substance encased in a chalky paste. The flavor was so foreign, Talterra could not even begin to describe it. The creatures seemed to make it out of nothing, but it was edible, and it sustained her, so its origins did not matter. She drank the water she mined from the dirt. Its quality was questionable, but hygiene and health were pointless endeavors.
The world’s gravity was another anomaly. It seemed entirely manufactured. Throughout one work period, the gravity seemed to shift; heavier in early hours and lighter in later ones,
Other than that, things were eerily similar to Talterra’s planet. The atmosphere, or the world’s dome’s regulated conditions, were almost identical to those of her planet. Though she couldn’t be entirely sure, and she likely never would be.
She felt fortunate that they’d yet to cut her open and examine her in a lab. Considering that their technology was far superior to her planet’s and that they seemed to be even more confused by her than she was of them, it was a miracle that she wasn’t chained to a slab of rock being dissected like an unfortunate frog.
“Aleia feldun deskali?” the Freskell repeated in a haunting, dulcet tone.
“Trakta frtha. Se’e feltha dev run.” the An’gora responded in a seemingly hesitant manner.
“Eldeun feleush tiviali dega yele. Ale’e d’vrun anda An’gora. Delv’e ten.” the Freskell’s tone now seemed almost warning; it glared at her again.
As the aliens continued to converse in their unintelligible language of harsh grunts and melodic lilts, Talterra felt an impending sense of doom. For the first time since her arrival, she understood the meaning of true panic.