An update from our fiftieth Writing Workshop
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 16th, plus some of the output published below
William revisited the idea of being trapped, which was the theme of one of the first Stone Soup writing workshops he ever taught—from April 2020, at the very beginning of lockdown. The class went over a variety of ways a person or character might be trapped, which could be physically, like surrounded by one’s enemies, or it could be mentally or emotionally, like trying to please everyone around you. After reading some passages from books that demonstrate a “trap” of some sort, including Dickens’ “Great Expectations” and Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” the young writers of the workshop got to work drafting their own stories about a trap.
The challenge: Write about a trap of some kind, whether figurative or literal.
The participants: Maddie, Peri, Tilly, Elbert, Liam, Jonathan, Sierra, Samantha, Kate, Lena, Aditi, Faiz, Kina, Grace, Iago
A Trap Suddenly Evident
Peri Gordon, 12
In sixth grade, Clarise inhaled A’s as if they were air, A’s topped with pluses like ice cream cones topped with cherries. A’s in black pen and red marker, in the smiles of her teachers, in the jealous scowls of her classmates. Every subject came naturally to her. Writing was just saying what she meant to say, and she sure had a lot to say. Math was fun, and history was interesting. She considered science her worst subject because it was the only class in which she had ever received a B on any assignment. It was a beginning-of-year form her parents had forgotten to fill out on time. It barely affected her overall grade.
Clarise’s desk partner, Seth, was constantly complaining about the homework load. So was Clarise, who thought that there was too little homework. She planned to go to Harvard University someday, then to get a Ph.D. and become an English professor there.
The sixth grade year flew by. Seth thought it had been too long. Clarise thought it had been too short. Soon, it was the first day of summer break. Ten weeks later, it was the last day.
Clarise strolled out of her front door, holding hands with her older brother, Daniel. It was a hot morning, but now a delicate breeze was coming in her direction. The siblings stepped across the narrow pathway that cut through their lawn. One side had been mowed recently. It glimmered in the morning sun. The other side had not been mowed in many weeks. It seemed to plead with Clarise: Please, trim me!
Clarise turned away with satisfaction, knowing that mowing the lawn was a chore that belonged to her brother, not her. She would remind him later. But now she wanted to talk about school.
“Excited for ninth grade?” she asked.
“Nope, not at all,” Daniel replied, sarcastically cheerful. “You excited for seventh grade?”
“You bet! It’s probably going to be too easy, though...”
Daniel made a face. “Maybe for you. For me, it was a nightmare.”
“That’s what you said before sixth grade.”
“Oh, really? I’m not surprised.”
Clarise chuckled at her brother’s negative attitude and pulled him along, her legs full of energy and anticipation of the next day.
The first day of seventh grade came as a shock. Clarise’s locker was the same one that she had had before, but it wasn’t working. Her friend, Eliza, came up to her.
“Hey, Clarise! Locker troubles?”
“Impossible! Last year, you never once had trouble opening that thing! You were, like, Mistress of the Lockers!”
Clarise grunted. “Yeah. I know.”
Eliza sighed, then skipped away. “You’ll figure it out!” she called. “You always do!”
Clarise wasn’t so sure.
In class, she was presented with a math problem she couldn’t figure out. Her classmates all rolled their eyes, sure that she wouldn’t be confused for long. But when Clarise got nothing done on the diagnostic test because of her obsession with that one problem, she had to have a talk with the teacher.
“Clarise,” the teacher began, “last year, you finished your diagnostic test in minutes. I was expecting something similar this year.”
“Yeah,” Clarise grunted. “So was I.”
“Clarise, I was counting on you to help the other students to brush up on their math this first week. Can you still do that?”
Of course, Clarise knew she should say yes. She knew she would say yes. She had always been someone who helped her classmates, always been the teacher’s pet.
Clarise suddenly didn’t want to say yes. This year’s math was going to give her a headache, she knew.
But her perfect sixth grade self had trapped her seventh grade self. She had to be a model student. She always would.