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An update from our seventy-fourth Writing Workshop

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday, November 12, plus some of the output published below

This week, workshop assistant Liam Hancock challenged the students to step outside of their comfort zones and incorporate two or more separate genres into a single work of fiction. The young writers were shown a collection of mixed genre works, from Beethoven’s famed Ode to Joy to Lewis Carrol’s “The Jabberwocky,” and then asked to extract the genres present within these masterpieces using even the most minuscule of clues. After a brief five minute warm-up inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s “Self Portrait” and “The Procession” by Henry Miller, in which Rachael and Nami read their incredible work, we moved into our 30-minute writing period. The young writers were asked during this time to write a coherent work of fiction including one genre they conventionally write in and one that they generally avoid. Yueling, Greta, Pearl, Ava, and Peri shared.

The Challenge: Select a genre that you would like to write in. Then, think of a genre you generally avoid. Try to include both genres within one cohesive piece.

The Participants: Anya, Ava, Celia, Crystal, Greta, Katelyn, Nami, Nova, Pearl, Peri, Rachael, Reethi, Yueling


The Claustrophobic Genie

Peri Gordon, 13

My hand caresses the smooth surface of an ancient lamp, chilling my wispy indigo fingers and inviting me to come inside. Distracted, I just barely manage to pull my hand back before I’m transported into the lamp’s cramped little world—maybe for centuries. I’m not ready to get in my lamp yet. I haven’t even chosen a lamp. There are so many of them, stretching as far as the eye can see through this miles-long cavern, each one gilded and bejeweled, and I’m supposed to find my “perfect match.” I’d be happy with any of these lamps—if one can actually be happy to be stuck in one place for so long, even if it’s a miniature palace in there. At least time speeds up inside the lamp, so the centuries won’t really feel like centuries. Still, I’m dreading it—I’m already tired of this metal, metal, and more metal, and it’s only been two hours of searching.

Genies are supposed to be wiser than humans, and yet humans are the ones who say, “All that glitters is not gold” while genies seem to think gold and glitter make life worth living.

I move on to the next lamp. It’s pretty, beset with amethyst, sapphires, and silver flowers, but it’s so tiny I don’t even want to think about shrinking to fit in there. Let’s face it: I am a claustrophobic genie.

I start to simply search for large lamps. It takes a half hour, but I finally stumble across one that’s the size of a pumpkin. It kind of looks like a pumpkin, too: round with a handle that sticks straight up—and yes, the handle would work for a human trying to set me free. Contrary to popular belief, not every lamp has to be rubbed to be opened. I like this lamp: It’s roomy, it’s easy to open, and it still manages to be pretty. The top and bottom are covered in rubies, the middle in topaz.

Knowing I won’t find anything better than this and that I’ll never be more ready than I am right now, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and touch the lamp.

Five seconds go by, then I’m sucked in, screaming, shrieking, and, worst of all, shrinking.

When I open my eyes again, I doubt that I have opened them. I’ve always been told that the inside of my lamp would be beautiful, but all I see is darkness.

“Don’t tell me you chose wrong,” says a rich, malice-filled voice. I blink. Suddenly, a spotlight appears on what looks like a cross between a genie and a human skeleton. He grins as I step back, shutting my eyes and hoping that I’ll wake up back in the gold-filled cavern.

“Chose wrong? You mean, the wrong—the wrong lamp?” I manage to say. 

The skeleton nods. “You’re a wayward genie. You chose based on the wrong factors—size, or beauty, or convenience. The lamp didn’t call to you. You’ll have to pay the price for that.”

“Where—where am I?”

“Welcome to the Lamp of Darkness. Unlike in an ordinary genie lamp, time doesn’t speed up here. You’ll be trapped here for eternity—and suffer through every second of it. No human will ever find you here.”

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