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An update from our thirty-eighth Writing Workshop

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday April 17, plus some of the output published below

In his first class in the spring 2021 series, William visited the idea of of Sense of Space, taking us beyond geography to think about the impact of place on characters in our stories, and consider the sense of place through the emotions of our characters. Quoting Colin Thubron, William urged the class to take their characters with them in their heads and think about the impact of place on characters as individuals: for one, the jungle might be beautiful and liberating; for another, humid and claustrophobic; for another terrifying and synonymous with death. It's all about perception. We looked at images through different lenses: how might the twisting branches of the trees in the forest look different to Hansel and Gretel when they think they are safe with their breadcrumb trail to lead them out again, and when they realise that night is coming and it is gone? What is the impact of memory on the sense one has of a place? What you see or don't see, feel or don't feel, might depend on what has happened there before.

The Challenge: Write a short piece that conveys a strong sense of place as it is perceived through the senses and emotions of your character.

The Participants: Chelsea, Hanbei, Gia, Maddie, Lena A, Lena, Delight, Julia, Leo, Mahika, Margaret, Peri, Nova, Lina, Pranjoli, Rachael, Wesley, Reese, Helen, Sage, Sierra, Angela, Anna, Madeline, Grace, Iago, Jonathan, Charlotte, Peter, Tilly.

Sierra E., 11
Mountain View, CA

The Dance of the Sea

Sierra E., 11

Rays of orange evening sunlight flew down the coastline, taking a calm breeze and charming birdcalls along. A strip of street, shimmering into the sunset glow, separated the sea from general humanity; vehicles in a rainbow of colors rushed down it, in a hurry to return home to their families. A thick, tall layer of green grass ran down the roadside, hiding the ocean from drivers’ view. The sky above was painted a rich, vivid and soothing violet, dotted with heaps of fluffy pastel clouds, as the sea danced.

The water rose into frothy white crests, then fell, crashing to the shore, though it scared not a soul, dancing like it did each night, dancing as if it would never stop. The scent of salty sea air became intertwined with the sugary smell of ice cream in a thousand flavors, drifting from a renowned café back on regular land.

The tide disappeared again, creating a pathway for the last few humans left on the beach to dissipate. And dissipate they did, laughing, and sprinting up the golden sand dunes that glimmered in the twilight, until the seaside paradise was empty except for its natural inhabitants.

The ocean came in again, drenching forgotten shells that had been collected by small children, and breadcrumbs that hadn’t been swept up; the water threw them into the sea, giving the lost items a fresh start among the crabs with their mighty pincers and the twisting, winding stalks of forest-green seaweed. The sky was darkening at a rapid pace; within an hour it would be pitch black, and the sparkling, silver stars would begin to appear. But before then, in the last moments of dusk, the world was tranquil and silent, except for the dance and crash of the waves.

Peri Gordon, 11
Sherman Oaks, CA

Last Night

Peri Gordon, 11

The seat of my wool couch scratched my legs fiercely. The whir of the breeze through the window echoed in my mind, calling for vengeance. I wrinkled my nose at the odor of fish coming from the disorderly place I called my kitchen and scowled at the far-too-large heap of clothing still to wash. I tried not to recall the violence of last night; I tried to instead remember the gentle feeling of the chair I had been in right before and the melodious song that I had been humming thoughtfully. But the incessant buzzing of the pests outside­–and most likely inside–and the pleading mews of the kitten I was supposed to take care of drowned out any positivity left, and I kept thinking about the violence of last night.

It took me five minutes to summon the energy to get up off of my uncomfortable furniture. I trudged into my bedroom, looking at the stained carpet. My friend, Rita, was there; I hadn’t told her what had happened. She was whistling; I was sure my dry lips would protest if I tried to do the same thing. Rita said, “You like my hair?” My guess was it was styled in a fancy way or something, but I could only focus on how the colors of her clothes–orange and green–clashed so horribly. I mumbled, “Sure,” while still gazing at the floor, still thinking about the violence of last night.

I couldn’t bear to be in a room with someone so vigorously optimistic, so I returned to the awful, itchy, expensive, not-worth-the-money-I-payed-for-it couch. And thought about the violence of last night.

Lina Kim, 11
Weston, FL

The Dark Hospital

Lina Kim, 11

I glanced around the hospital cautiously and shuddered. The walls were pure white, but I felt as if they were stained with the blood of those who never survived. The doors were clean, the windows shining. It was all a trick. A trap. I clutched my father’s hand. I rarely did, but the hospital gave me flashbacks of my dead mother. I needed comfort.

The stench of a thousand disinfectants hit me. I gagged. Dad put his arms around me. We turned a corner and continued walking down the hall. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people had died in this hospital over the years. It scared me that my grandmother might be next.

We found the section of the hospital where grandmother was. The man at the desk searched through the names. “Jiwoo Lee, Jiwoo Lee,” the man muttered as he scrolled through the computer. I grew relentless, tapping my foot on the floor quickly. He turned to us.

“She is not taking visitors right now,” he said sternly. The speed of my foot-floor-tapping grew. I couldn’t stay still. I buried my head into dad’s shoulder. He sighed and sat down on a bench.

“We wait,” he told me.

I sat, staring into space for a while, not moving. My head was tilted slightly to the right. The walls were even scarier now.

The man tapped at his keyboard, oblivious to our nervousness. He looked up from his screen.

“You can see her now.”

I shot up, looking at dad, who slowly stood up from the bench. He slipped my hand into his as the man gave us directions to her ward. We found the ward and entered.

I slowly sat down on the stool on one side of Grandma’s bed as dad sat on the other.

“Hello, Mom,” Dad said awkwardly. He and Grandma didn’t exactly have the most perfect relationship.

Grandma smiled weakly. “Hello. It’s wonderful to see you.” She sighed. “I wish I could have made apple pie for you.” She spread out her arms and I hugged her, careful not to hurt her.

The room wasn’t as cold and eerie as the rest of the hospital. Probably because Grandma was here. We sat in a silence for a while. It wasn’t awkward. At least, not for me. I sensed Grandma’s presence and relaxed.

Soon, it was time to go. The hospital wasn’t nearly as frightening as it was before. Seeing my grandmother alive for another day had given me a sense of comfort.

Anna K., 11
Saint Louis, MO

The Company of Trees

Anna Ko, 11

Two friends took a walk listening to the birds chirping, the peaceful sense of quiet that nothing other than nature could quite hold. The delicate branches of a Kwanzan Cherry tree swaying in the breeze. As they walked down the dirt path, they noticed the foliage getting greener and thicker. Soon, they found themselves lost in a jungle-like forest. The rustling of branches, the louder chirps of birds crying, the glowing light of nocturnal eyes in the dark evening, the smell of the cool breeze carrying along the scent of the forest, the grass trembling from the chilly wind, as if laughing at the two friends being lost. As they got lost further and further, their thoughts started to take different directions.

One saw the fearful parts. Predators could come in the dark and they would be found only after weeks or they would perish and starve as they continued to wander aimlessly, farther, and farther from other humans. The other friend saw the beautiful green of the leaves and the many types of flora and fauna wondering, how many other species of animals and plants could there be? How could the bark of some trees be so smooth but others, so rough? And both had a small part whispering in their minds, this place is beautiful, or, this place could be dangerous. And both had to agree grudgingly that the forest was a beautiful danger. The winsome forest lured them in and bewitched them until hours passed until they realized it was night.

As they thought about the forest’s attributes, they walked and walked until they realized they were back at the beginning of the path. One walked away as quickly as possible, not wanting to watch the glinting eyes of the nocturnal creatures. The other waved goodbye to the forest and strolled down the path recounting the adventures of their small peregrination. And
they wondered, what would have happened had they not found their way back. The forest watched them leave fondly. It had been long since they had been visited by people with such thoughts. Many humans had been plagued by what they called technology. The forest hoped that they would come once more with other friends to share their thoughts and bring the old
forest more visitors. It was a wonderful feeling, to be remembered once more.

Gia Porwal, 10
Jizan, Saudi Arabia

The Two-Faced Forest

Gia Porwal, 10

On the long dull pathway, the jubilant forest seemed alit with the sunlight peeking through the leaves of trees. Not mentioning, how lush it was!!! The deep, verdant grass felt softer than any bedsheet. The trees bark seemed to has all universe compassion filled inside.

As the sun set the view turned down from paradise to nightmare. Clouds of bats swarmed for food, spiders jumping out from nowhere. The same lushes of grass now gained the fear of worms, the very bark is now cold metal with insects crawling on them.

The moon light is completely divergent from sun shine. This was the time when horror things happened from joy to petrifying. The more I walked, the queerer it was!!! Too enchanting to trace.

Morning chipping sound of birds turned silent in the deep night. Hooting of owls was piercing in my ears.  The cliff in front of the moon had a wolf figure howling for the start of the hunting. Its pack answered back in the same blood curdling howl.

The cool breeze was so shift it felt like Ghosts circling me.

The trees glowing red eyes passed through me as though its branches could catch me any moment.

I ran and ran past morning past night waiting for this long dull pathway to end.

Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
Newark, OH

The Girl in the Painting

Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11

A long time ago I was smears of paint on a canvas, only bits and pieces of what I have become. After many painstaking hours, I was transformed into a girl lying in lush green grass, covered with peach pink blooms. I was in rapture as my universe was created. Every bud impeccable, every hue filled with hope. My mind was calmed by the cornflower blue watercolor sky speckled with flecks of acrylic white paint. My beautiful hazel eyes marveled at all the colors, lovely yet waiting to come alive. Paint was the only acrid aroma in the air, even though the flowers looked so fragrant. The distant trees were majestic yet minuscule from this far away. Once upon a time, I fantasized about running my fingers over the branches, getting a little closer to reality. Then, I noticed how they never rustled in the non-existent wind, always perfectly still. As magnificent as they seem, the trees were still trapped in this wondrous, beautiful yet dreary world with me. Time never ends inside a masterpiece. As the vibrant sun falsely shines on, every bright, hopeful color fades before my eyes. It all appears the same muted gray, beautiful no more. I can feel the silent screams of life yearning to infuse this exquisite piece of art. Ironically, all this time, the flowers enwrapping me bloom brightly, always a soft, cheery peach-pink.

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