An update from our thirty-fifth Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday March 6, plus some of the output published below
This week William talked about the different ways of looking at characters who are "emerging from" something. We considered the opening words of the King James Bible, and the possible narratives of emergence in Caspar David Friedrich's mysterious painting The Wanderer, looking out from a mountaintop over a misty valley and peaks below. We considered the emergence of involuntary memory Marcel Proust's famous madeleine moment, watched a clip from a movie version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and discussed the idea of characters emerging from a mental (rather than a physical) fog to come to a realization; any and every kind of emergence. And then, of course, we wrote!
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here.
The Writing Challenge: Write a scene or story in which a character emerges from a fog or chaos of some sort. Remember, the writing should consist of two distinct parts—one of chaos, and one of clarity. The distinct parts can run together, like in Swanns way, or they can be separated like two mini chapters.
The Participants: Madeline K, Peri, Leo, Kaidyn, Julia A, Reese, Lindsay, Helen, Ava, Lucy K, Pranjoli, Liam, Margaret, Lena, Samantha, Eve, Lina, Sierra, Syra, Nami, Simran, Rachael, Madeline N, Maggie, Sophie, Anya, Madeline S, Tegan, Noa, Elbert, Alice, Ruhi, Olivia Z, Charlotte K, Sage, Anna, Angela, Tilly, Yasmine, Lucy R, Grace, Emma B, Enni, Olivia S, Charlotte, Jonathan L., Nova
Peri Gordon, 11
I haven’t eaten. I haven’t slept. I haven’t smiled. I haven’t laughed. I haven’t spoken. I haven’t understood. I haven’t truly loved, and I haven’t truly lived, for days. I am too tired.
I would be too tired to care, too, but number six—not understanding—is bothering me. I have to understand, and I don’t. One day I was part of a community. The next, the police were in front of me, their indestructible armor gleaming in the light of dawn, and were shoving me out of my life. And this isn’t a new life, because wandering aimlessly in the scorching heat and the freezing cold and the dry, humid, or wet pit of being completely lost isn’t living.
I have lived in the city all my life. All my life—my life of actually living. All the time of my not lonely, not frightening, not starved existence. Now my life is over. I am lost, and no one, not even myself, can find me.
I was born in the city. But was I? I can’t remember—but that’s normal. Completely ordinary. Like I used to be.
Except I was never ordinary. I was different, but in subtle ways, my favorite color and food and style of clothing being unique. Does that mean I should be forced out?
Except I do have memories of birth, too early to be defined in my mind, but memories of a better world. Golden wings on silver elephants, delicate blue roses on diamond crowns. My earliest memory is of an atmosphere of swirling, shimmering color. People coming up with ideas and working together to bring them to life. Is all that from a children’s book? No. I would never have given it away.
Suddenly I remember more. Instead of learning to add fractions, I learned about creativity and ingenuity. Creativity—that was the name of the place. What place? My birthplace. Why did I leave? Oh, I remember. I got lost. Yes, yes, oh yes, then, like now, I thought my life might as well be over. But the city found me. And now, thirty years afterward, they found out about me. Remembered how strange my arrival was. I have found out about myself, too. I am Creative—yes, that’s the adjective. I can go back to Creativity.
Dagger of Ash
Lina Kim, 11
Gabriella stood at the edge of the clouded forest in anticipation. Her cousin, Finn, was going to visit. Every month, it was like this. The fog allowed a rift in the space-time continuum, and allowed him to come from the other universe. He wasn’t, of course, actually related by blood to Gabriella, but they were so close that it seemed they were cousins.
Normally, the fog wasn’t this bad. It was just a light mist in the forest, dew on the grass and flowers. To Gabriella, weather and fog conditions didn’t matter. Just the same, every month, she would stand in front of the forest in sunshine, rain, storm, whichever.
She was clutching a book to her chest. It was a journal. Whenever Finn would come, they would flip through the journal and add notes to it, about plants and animals and everything from Finn’s universe. Finn carried a similar notebook, except it wasn’t a notebook at all. It was a strange little rectangle, only the edges weren’t sharp, they were curved. If he tapped a white space in it, it would pull up a “keyboard”, in Finn’s words. He would simply press a letter on the keyboard and it would pop up in the space. Finn called it an eye-pad, which is ridiculous, since it is not a pad that you would put on your eye.
Gabriella recalled the first time Finn had visited. He had been shocked. Yellow trees?? he had yelped. It was true. The trunks were yellow, and the leaves were blue. The fruits tended to be black and gray and crinkled at best, but sometimes, after a while, they would turn strange colors and nobody would eat them. For example, oranges were slightly round, black and wrinkled, but they would turn orange and an orange coating would surround the fruit.
Finally, Gabriella heard a bush moving. She turned towards it and out came Finn. She grinned, then her face fell.
He was all scratched up. There was a long scar across his cheek, stretching from under his eye to his chin. He didn’t meet her eyes.
“. . . Finn?” Gabriella asked worriedly. His head snapped up.
His eyes were glowing golden instead of their usually pale blue color. There was something so unsettling about the golden eyes . . . Gabriella almost backed away.
“Finn?” she repeated in a whisper.
Finn— no, he wasn’t the Finn that Gabriella knew— stood silently and wordlessly. Then he turned around slowly and headed into the forest, jerking his head in a universal sign that she should follow him. She did.
She was never found or heard from again.
*** *** ***
Every month, a new child around Gabriella’s age at the time would go to the forest and try to find out how Gabriella disappeared. Some didn’t want to give up hope. Others’ hope was already long gone. A boy named Owen decided to be brave. He knew that none of the ‘investigators’ would return. He intended to be the first.
See, this was years later. Owen was only seven when Gabriella disappeared. He had rather admired her. She made math fun, made reading interesting, made science into a game. And then . . . She was gone from the face of the Earth.
Now, he was nine. Old enough, he thought, to go on a mission to find Gabriella. He was one of the people who never gave up hope.
He ducked out the back door one night, when his parents were still sleeping. He carried a backpack with a bag of pretzels, a flashlight, and . . . That’s pretty much it. He didn’t really know what to bring. He headed to the edge of the forest.
He cautiously peeked around, unsure. The fog was heavy that night, as it now always was. It was the same as the night exactly two years before. But he didn’t know that.
Now, Sir Owen, he told himself, thinking of his dad’s nickname for him, never give up hope. You’re going to go into the forest and you’re going to save Gabriella and you are going to find out how she disappeared. What he didn’t realize was that Gabriella was much too far from saving. And that he was next.
As he trudged deeper into the forest. A shadow whizzed past him and brushed against his arm. He felt a sharp pain. He froze.
Slowly, he shined his flashlight where the shadow had touched him. Blood leaked from a wound. But there was no knife. There was only ash clinging to the thick, red liquid spilling from the cut. Owen fainted dead away.
He was ripped apart by the dagger of ash.
He was gone.
Madeline Kline, 13
When one doesn’t use one of his senses, the others are strengthened. In nature you should at some point try this: Close your eyes and feel the world around you through sound, smell, and touch. Hear the animals, smell the greenery, feel the breeze. You might hear animals you would never have noticed, feel the breeze you would otherwise have ignored. And when you open your eyes, you will appreciate the world around you more so than ever.
My eyes are covered. White swirling clouds obstruct my vision, leaving me blind and helpless. I cannot make out the ground ahead of me or behind me as I stumble, one foot after another, through this land.
“See?” A voice says behind me. I spin around, lose my balance, and fall back hard as the voice continues.
“Humans rely too heavily on their sight. It restricts their other senses, their brain focused on straining their eyes for light that isn’t there.” I squint into the whiteness ahead of me, trying to make out the figure speaking. I scramble to my feet and stumble towards the voice. My legs catch on a root and I trip and fall again, unable to regain my balance. I lay on the ground, the wet dew on the grass brushing against my face. Even pressed against the earth, I cannot see green or brown or any color whatsoever.
I make no move to get up. At least, lying on the ground, I can’t fall and hurt myself. The smell of the earth I cannot see fills my nostrils. I roll over, staring up at where the sky should be. The wind whistles through the trees above me.
I never noticed it before, but the birds are loud. Chirping, they can be heard over the wind. Coming from above me. Somewhere in the trees, there must be a nest. I get to my feet, and walk slowly towards the chirping, feeling the ground and air in front of me, until my hands land on rough bark. I look up, at the first color I’ve seen in a long time. Straw and twigs weave themselves together into a nest before me, and a bird flies over, landing on the branch next to the nest. I look back down, and suddenly, the green of the grass fills itself in, with the drops of morning dew appearing as I gaze.
I see my hand in front of me, and sprouting from my palm comes the brown bark, working its way up to the top of the tree, where green leaves sprout from branches, which sprout from limbs forming in front of my eyes. Behind the leaves, blue skies fill themselves in, and clouds appear overhead. I look around me. The gurgling of a nearby brook draws my attention, and I turn my eyes towards the sound. The water springs from the air and sprints over nearby rocks, spraying me with mist.
As I look around, most of the world remains cloudy white. I close my eyes, and listen to the sounds of the forest. I can picture all of the forest around me, and as I walk slowly throughout my feet brush against plants of all types. I continue forward, my hands brushing against the bark of trees and my feet probing the ground for rocks and roots that could trip me. Eventually, the babble of the brook fades, and I can no longer hear the rustling of the leaves. I reach down to check that the grass is still there, and feel the dew on the blades. The world is mostly silence. No audible wind, but I can feel a fresh breeze.
I open my eyes to see the grass spreading in every direction, and turn to see the forest behind me. I hear the chatter of children, and know that civilization must be nearby. Now I know what to look for, and my eyes catch the blurry shape of a school building in the distance. I run towards it, and feel the wind against my face.
I am no longer blind.
From Where the Mountains Range
Eve McAlister Munford, 11
The pain in her voice felt like I had come to the edge of a steep cliff, for if I fell I would be left with the sensation of loneliness and desperation. Wind whipped around my face in every which way, as if trying to decide where to take the last of this wispy, unmemorable moment away. I focused on her pale, expressionless face, powered with white snow. The sharp tip of her head met the clouds where the wings of birds would circle. The frigid breeze had taken every last breath of air away from me, slowly luring the life from my body with it. Waking to the feeling of warmth hit my shoulders, I pondered whether I had met the feeling of endless happiness, or my destination.
Mist, white mist
swirls and dances
around my head.
Clear and true.
Big, blue, clear skies
that stretch so long,
I begin to believe
that there is no end
Big waterfalls gush down
into churning bodies of cold water,
so clear that you can see
every little crab
scuttling along the deep,
So clear that you can see
each individual pebble,
pink, black or gray
to the bottom
of that something.
that is so clear
and so true.
Oh, how wonderful it is.
How wonderful something is,
after a lifetime of nothing.
Three Fingers, Hope and War
Noa R., 11
The battle ended with my sword ripping flesh. I fell, exhausted to the dusty, bloodstained ground. My men all leaned on each other. Too wary to let out a cry of triumph. My second in command, Jerry Moonstone, limped to my side and lay down beside me. We both laid there on our backs. Just as we did when we were kids on a warm summer’s day. Watching the clouds
move lazily across the clear blue sky. It was funny thinking about it. Thinking about such a peaceful thing right after I just killed twenty men. Maybe more. Then again, I could just be delicious.
“We need to get you to the med tent,” Jerry said
“Ha! I’m fine,” I said. I really did feel fine. Other than a few aches and scrapes.
“Nah, man you’re missin’ a few fingers!” Jerry laughed, a nervous laugh. I looked down at my left hand. Two bloody stumps replaced the place where my index and middle fingers were. I turned away from Jerry and vomited. The red and green barf pooled. Reminding me of the christmas wreaths I would see on people's doors in December. I whipped my mouth on my
damp and gory jacket. I stood but a ripping in my chest made me gasp and collapse. Before I hit the ground Jerry’s dark brown hands caught me and steadied my wobbly knees. A thin trickle of blood crawled out from behind my jacket. I laughed hysterically, suddenly feeling giddy.
“MED! MED!!” Jerry yelled “CAPTAINS’ HISTARIC!!”
The next few hours were a blur. People in white clothing swarmed around me like bees. I was lifted into a stretcher and brought into a white tent. People poked a prodded me. The stinging in my left hand was now more prominent. There was screaming in the background. Only weeks later did I realize that it was me.
Six weeks later I was well enough. It still was hard to look at my left hand. I was in my house standing on the upper story balcony looking down at the quiet cobblestone streets. Barely anyone was out at two am. I decided to take a walk in the lamplit streets. Alone. Finally Alone. I walked down stairs and grabbed my coat and hat. I looked at the ugly walking stick. I grabbed that too. Doctor’s orders. I turned the brass handle. Fresh air flooded my senses. It was that very moment, at 2:08am, Wednesday the 7th of April, that I realized something. Life wasn’t about war. It wasn’t about winning. Life was about living. Life was about savoring the moments that were important to us. It was about saving the people we love.
The Castle Where I Am Safe
Kaidyn Robertson, 11
In my cave I am safe. The cave of my thoughts, the cave of my dreams – I am safe there. That cave is where I can hide, where I can be alone. They try to call me back, try to make me like them. But I am not. I will never be. I will always have my cave, the place where I am safe. Most people fear shadows and darkness, but I do not. The shadows welcome me, I come to them without a fear. Of course, these shadows are all in my head. But what is the difference between thoughts and reality anyway? Thoughts and dreams are as real as any other form of life. The mind is not a prison, it does not give me condescending looks like everyone outside my mind does. It is my castle, the place where I can retreat when things are wrong and when the world feels broken. That castle is as real as any. But no one believes this. They do not see what lies in the shadows of my mind. They are too absorbed in the life of the outside. They think that their home is out there. But really, it is inside them, you live within yourself. No one can get you if you live within the walls of your imagination. You are safe.
Until of course, someone does get you within the walls of your mind.
And that is what happened to me.
In the shadows I was, within my castle. All the while, I did not know someone had lain siege upon my mind, trying to break it and force me out. I retreated farther, feeling sure they wouldn’t be able to reach me in the shadows that everyone else fears.
But they did.
And I found myself outside my cave and castle.
There was light and voices. So loud… too loud… It was too much. I tried to find my way back to my cave, but the shadows that led me were gone…
The noise, the light… it all pressured upon my consciousness – where was I? Why had I been pulled out?
The voices seem to be trying to tell me things…
I grope around…
Then I open my eyes…
I see the world spread out before me…
And I realise I’ve been gone far to long.
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
Lyra hadn’t spoken in months. She had stayed in her room ever since the accident. Her life seemed vacant since the fateful day a brother and sister wandered too close to the rocky precipice near the edge of the forest. Lyra hated remembering. She hated the thought of laughing or smiling when her favorite playmate would never again join her giggles. For a year she was only surviving because she had to, alive yet lifeless. Lyra’s family was losing hope. During the first few months, everyone whispered about the 6 year old who lost her twin, “the poor dear who didn’t deserve it”. Eventually however, the talk died out. It seemed like everything except Lyra would return to normal. Even her parents were learning to live with it. Then it happened. It started off with a moving truck and a ‘house sold’ sign across the street. With the new neighbors, the Taylors, came a young boy as old as Lyra, the age Jack would have been. Every day he strayed closer and closer to Lyra’s house until she could see him clearly from her window. Lyra watched as he played gleefully, as happy as her brother always used to be.
Whenever her parents weren’t home, Lyra would slowly approach the kitchen window. She would stare, transfixed, at the carefree boy tearing through her lawn. One day in the middle of spring, the boy looked down from the apple tree he was climbing and the two locked eyes. Grinning, he beckoned for her to come outside. She hesitated and resisted. Each day the boy would look straight at Lyra and, always smiling, would ask her to join him. After almost two months, she finally gave in. Summer arrived and her whole world burst in a happy glow. The little boy grasped her hand as she stepped outside. He pulled her eagerly into the lush meadow. She threw her head back and laughed as the heavy fog of sorrow in her heart was lifted. Her mother and father were so overjoyed to get back their ebullient little girl that they went and personally thanked their neighbors. Confused, the Taylors welcomed Lyra’s parents for stopping by but said that they got married last fall and are expecting their first child this winter. Nobody knew who the boy was, nobody but Lyra.