An update from our forty-first Writing Workshop
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday May 15, plus some of the output published below
We started this week's workshop with a visit to New York! Photography expert Hans Kraus showed us around his Park Avenue gallery, sharing a selection of the beautiful nineteenth-century photographic drawings composed from insect parts, microscope magnifications, and even prints made from living material in the gallery's current exhibition, called "Critters." One of the key images from this show was William's jumping off point for this class. We looked at the photograph - composed of wing scales from a Hawk Moth - considering how the similar but slightly different shaped and coloured objects in the image relate to each other, or not; how groups and sub-groups might form and interact depending on how we look at or think about it. We moved through examples of writing from a previous class by Georgia Marshall, as well as Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, and listed to a quartet from Fidelio, all of which presented multiple characters in different, sometimes parallel, interactions with one another in different group formations.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here.
The Challenge: Write a piece from the perspective of 3-5 characters. They might appear in a single group, multiple groups or alone; they could be interacting, avoiding interaction, moving away from one another.
The Participants: Peri, Lena DN, Maddie, Gia, Madeline K, Pranjoli, Reese, Margaret, Wesley, Julia, Rachael, Chelsea, Jaya, Lena A, Mia, Delight, Lina, Helen, Hanbei, Peter, Sage, Sierra, Mahika, Anna K, Audrey, Angela, Jonathan, Grace, Charlotte, Iago, Nova, Madeline, Nami.
Alone in the Wind
Lina Kim, 11
As I walked home from school, I glanced at the kids outside, playing basketball and soccer and baseball somehow all combined into one game. They called it ‘basketbasesoccball’. For a second one girl saw me watching and I quickly shifted my gaze away, looking down at the sidewalk covered in chalk drawings. I pretended to be interested in them, trying to push the girl’s attention away from me, but instead she walked up to me.
“Hey, do you wanna join us?” she asked. I stood there, paralyzed. I’d always tried to hide in the shadows—but here, there was no shade, not a single tree. The only shelter from the beating sun was on the bench with the covering—which was inside of the basketbasesoccball court. With people sitting on it. I shuddered at the very thought. Sweat trickled down my forehead, but not from the heat.
“Robin?” she asked. I flinched at my name.
“No thanks,” I managed quietly. She stared at me for a minute, then shrugged, getting back to the game. I watched as they laughed and played, shooting hoops and kicking balls into the net and making home runs. I’d always been invisible. I looked around at the barren earth around the school. There wasn’t a single plant—not a shrub, not a blade of grass, not even a weed. I’d always wanted to do something about the lack of nature. Instead of staying any longer and risking someone talking to me, I headed straight towards my house. It wasn’t exactly home. Nothing felt like home to me. It was just a house. My house. No, my mom and dad’s house. They cared about me, but they just didn’t go about it the right way. They tried to get me to be out in the world, out in the sunlight, when I’d rather be sitting in the shadows of a large redwood tree in the middle of the forest, drinking in pure nature.
I reached a small forest. It wasn’t exactly a forest, just a place full of grass and trees, and it was really small. Still, I made a split second choice. I looked both ways and ran into the wilderness.
I decided to climb a tree. I hadn’t done that in years, ever since I fell from one at four years old and broke my right arm. But that was seven years ago. I put my foot in a small dent in the bark and pulled myself up into the middle, where the trunk split into several branches. It was a nice hidden place.
Suddenly a large gust of wind swooped around me, somehow grabbing me and throwing me into the air. A tornado? A hurricane? I reached wildly, trying to grab a branch to hold onto, but I was too far. The wind swept me into the sky. I felt myself dissolving into the wind, becoming part of it. I scrambled desperately in the air, but soon I was only wind. No one would remember me. I was invisible. And I still am. Forever.
Sometimes I still wish I could go back, make friends. But I know I will always be part of the wind. Immortal. But sometimes I didn’t want to be. What was the point of never dying when there was never anyone to keep you company? Even if I could be seen, if I was still immortal, they would just move on and I would be left, friendless once more. Alone in the wind.
The Midnight of our Friendship
Anna Ko, 11
They were happy and content. They had all they needed. Three friends together. But their bond wasn’t that simple. Their bond had its ups and downs, like the tide. Sometimes, they would click. They would understand and know just what to do. But sometimes, they were annoying as the squirrels and rabbits which continued to terrorize their garden, always huddling around to see how they could help the other. But never, never, had they ever had such a situation. When they were young, they had first met. But as they grew up their interests started to differ, and they argued more. They had their moments, but slowly, over time, it just started to collapse like a half-demolished unkempt structure. No one noticed it, but slowly, they were all just. . . Gone.
One wanted to grow up, to be kept away from the chains of youth. The other wanted to stay young, to never grow up. To have fun, to stay away from the grabbing hands of aging. Only one remained the same, growing up, but remembering the old days of when they were young. But, she knew, they would have to grow up. Even if it meant that she would have to sacrifice a part of herself. The part that wanted to stay young and have fun. She thought, maybe she wouldn’t have to. Maybe, she could just bring them all together, create a compromise! The chance was too great, but. . . The possible consequences were too. What if her petty attempt to bring them back together would instead end up scarring their relationship so badly, that they would hate each other? Or worse, they would hate her. Could she deal with that? Yes. If it meant possibly bringing back together, she would. Because she knew under the insults and rude gestures, they all cared for each other and they would do anything for each other.
Jonathan Li, 12
Once in a forest there lived a green critter and a red critter. They had never met yet, as their schedule was very different. The green critter was nocturnal while the red one was not. Once, when the red one stayed up to look for more food, the green one got up early. The red critter saw a big and fat strawberry. It was the largest he had ever seen. He was having a bad day, and he had not had any food the entire day. It was his only objective. He didn’t even notice the green thing coming closer and closer. . .
The green critter was a herbivore. Earlier in the day, it had thought something was a plant when it was not. It was still trying to spit out the lingering taste. “Disgusting. I wish I could find a sweet fruit to drown out this flavor.” Then it noticed the giant strawberry. It rushed for it.
Both saw only strawberry as they slammed into each other and knocked over the giant strawberry. The green critter got up at once. It almost rammed into the red one again, but was paralysed by shock. They stared at each other in awe. They didn’t look into the sky above.
Sailing on the sky with the sun, a yellow creature was listening to the wind. “I hear the cries of a fruit taken from its plant. I smell pure awe. Hmm . . . I wonder what is afoot?” It swooped down, only to find the strangest things it had ever seen, staring at each other like the other was the strangest thing ever. They stood there so long that the strawberry grew into more strawberries, and they stood there so long that goblins passed by unnoticed by them, and birds settled on them without being scared, and they turned into rocks home to busy ants.
Point of View
Mia Money, 8
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
Fern felt the warm sand drifting over her feet, each grain dancing in the wind. She breathed in the salty sea breeze and happily sighed. Her bright green pencil in her grasp, Fern smiled “This is amazing”. “I love this” Poppy shrieked, jumping gleefully into the beautiful, serene waves. A soft splash rippled the beautiful ocean and Poppy slipped underwater. Ruby stared down at the endless, ominous blue beneath her. Her heart quickened as she softly muttered “I. . . I think I won’t dive”. Indigo shrugged, crawling out of the water.“Your choice, want to get ice cream?” she asked, streaking the dry sand with her footprints. Fern furiously scribbled, erasing and sitting silently, the water touching the tips of her toes.“You guys should really jump in, the water’s great today!” Poppy called after them, strands of wet hair clinging to her red cheeks. Not waiting for a reply, she laughed blissfully and floated on the glimmering blue. It was one of the perfect days when the sun softly glistened on the shimmering sand. Ruby licked her mint-chocolate chip ice-cream happily, telling Indigo about a dream she had a few weeks ago, about all of the girls together, flying through outer space. A sudden noise startled Fern, and she looked up sharply from her writing. Her beloved friends remained between the cozy pages of her first script, leaving Fern to brave reality. Chunks of ice thudded against the window and the sun was dark and elusive. Fern’s feet now brushed against hard wooden boards, and the air was chilly and damp. Her hand instinctively snatched her small, blunt pencil as she once again opened her half-finished novel, returning to the perfect summer day at the beach, and a friendship too beautiful for words.