An update from our sixty-eighth Writing Workshop
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday, September 17, plus some of the output published below
In this workshop, we covered the idea of ‘sense of place.’ The students learned that sense of place is a literary device that not only evokes physical, objective descriptions, but also uses vivid imagery to capture the thoughts and feelings of a character about a certain place. We studied numerous example of sense of place within literature and music, including Jack London’s Call of the Wild and an excerpt from Claire Rinterknecht’s story featured in the March 2020 issue of Stone Soup. Students participated in a brief 5 minute write in which half of the class described a place as a neutral narrator and the other half described a place through the lens of a character. Pearl, Greta, Nami, and Peri all shared their incredible work before we moved into our half-hour writing period, during which Peri, Yueling, Pearl, and Ava read. Overall, we had a blast kicking off this fall semester and look forward to more great work yet to come!
The Challenge: Describe a place or a setting in which a story will take place.
1) Describe as the omniscient narrator, like the art director for a movie set description including lighting and mood.
2) Write from the point-of-view of a character. This is the skeleton vision of the place (lighting, sound, feeling, etc.) as appropriate to your vision.
The Participants: Anya, Ava, Celia, Cora, Greta, Nami, Pearl, Peri, Reethi, Sofia, Yueling
Pearl Coogan, 10
Cold howling wind whipped through my fur, blowing endlessly. The deep snow crunched under my paws, stretching as far as my keen blue eyes could see. Snow-covered mounds that were once grey cliffs rose out of the white sea, not a hint of rock visible on them. Farther beyond the once-cliffs were the towering mountains, also covered in snow that was continuously piling higher and higher. The streams that ran and pulled in spring were now completely frozen over with ice. Everything was beautiful.
But like many things, the looks of the tundra didn’t say much about the tundra. I couldn’t see or smell any other animals except the six other wolves in my pack, all of them my relatives. The prey, even the caribou, had disappeared like all the other animals, having hidden in their snow-covered burrows or migrated south. To make it even worse, the falling snow prevented me from seeing far. I was an Arctic wolf living in my Arctic habitat with a thick winter coat, but I was still shivering. The snow, though beautiful, covered up all of the hare’s burrows and even rocks that I could fall and hurt myself on. Hunger, as ruthless as ever, gnawed at my stomach. But I had survived one cruel Arctic winter before and could live through another, even if I wasn’t thriving.
“Taiga!” My cousin Icicle called, standing on top of one of the snow-mounds, clearly trying to find prey like me and the rest of my pack. But, unlike me and the pack, she wasn’t a good hunter. At all.
“Leave her alone, Icicle! She’s a much better hunter than you,” Icicle’s mother and my father’s younger sister Snowclaw growled.
Icicle bowed his small head and padded down from the mound he was standing on. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He was still young with plenty of room to improve his hunting skills and Snowclaw didn’t seem to like him at all.
Smelling a wisp of deeply burried hare, I started digging into the endless sea of snow. The smell grew stronger, more vivid, as I dug. Crackly brown grass started to appear, a hole in the middle of it. Lighting up, I started digging in the hole.
Surprised yellow eyes glared at me. The snowshoe hare leaped up and started sprinting away from me, but he was tired from his hibernation and wasn’t use to running in such deep snow. My paws pattered on the ground, barely touching the snow before they lifted up. The howling wind was even louder and stronger as I ran, flurries snaking down faster. Suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. Suddenly the Arctic winter wasn’t as menacing anymore.
My sharp fangs sank into the hare’s neck, sinking deeper and deeper. I knew my teeth, once gleaming white, would be stained with blood for days. But I didn’t care.
Once I had thought that in the winter, the tundra was a cruel place. A menacing place. An evil place. But now I knew that it wasn’t so terrible. There was still prey but you had to work to find it. There was still warmth but you had to rely on other wolves for it. There was still water but you had to break through the ice to drink it. After all, why would nature make the tundra so cruel that the only good things about were the looks.
Holding my head high, I trotted back to my den with my pack following me. My aunt and uncle had brought down a caribou and my brother had caught a bird, so combined with my hare, there would be plenty of food to go around. Maybe not as much as the bounty of prey in spring, but enough to thrive through the not-so-cruel arctic winter.
To Let Go
Aditi Nair, 14
And I let go. It happened to be a fall much similar to the ones I’ve seen on T.V, and I was ready–well, sort of ready. The adrenaline came to me like a lightning bolt, but I know that this was the best scenario, if any at all. It felt like the world was racing to greet me on all sides, and everything moved so fast, and I could feel the blood rush to my face, and I felt the weight on my heart lifted off, and I could smell the wafted fresh dew on grass, and I did not see my life flash before my eyes. Were my eyes closed, and why can’t I open them? And if this is really the end, why doesn’t it feel like it, and what would have happened if I held on? This is it, I thought, and I slowly came to the dreadful realization that I never completed my ever-going bucket list. I thought I was ready. I thought that this was the only way, the only way I could have saved her, but what if I hadn’t?
Peri Gordon, 14
The palm trees are having a funeral
A funeral for my pride.
Their slender, spiky leaves
So green that they could vomit
Are shaking their heads at me.
Yesterday, I was as tall as the trees
Or so said my ego.
But now their regal trunks
(The color of chocolate mousse
A delicacy I do not deserve)
Look down upon me
And I am no longer their equal.
The sand once nestled between my toes
But now it pokes at them
Reprimanding me for treading on
This shining ground
The bright, briny sea once thought I was brainy
Awaited my visits
Borrowing heat from the sun
To lap at my legs with warm water
Like an eager dog’s eager tongue.
Now it thinks I have lost my mind
And borrows light from the sun
To shine it in my eyes
So that I am reminded that light is too bright for me
That I am not worthy of it, that I am meant for darkness
So that I go limping away
The scent of salt pushing at my nose
The sound of the crashing waves pushing at my ears,
Telling me, “Go faster! Go faster! You are unwanted.”
And the seagulls that once flew circles to greet me
Now speed through the sky
Faster than before,
Their wings pushing away the air I’m breathing
Their beaks sharp and prepared to attack
Their bodies smelling like corpses
Like the dead corpse of my pride
That the palm trees are having a funeral for.