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Author: Beth Randall

Friday Blog

After discussing in media res in class last week,  this morning we used a prompt for an in class writing exercise that would start us in the middle of things. Here are two we liked:

She dropped the mask and everyone gasped. They hadn’t expected her to actually do it. It was a joke; everyone dared each other to drop their masks all the time but no one actually did it. Until now.
She looked at them, her soft eyes set above purple bags that suggested how tired really was and an indentation from where the mask had sat ran across the bridge of her nose. She pulled the pins from her hair one by one, setting them on the table beside her until a small mountain had accumulated. And then she smiled. Everyone gasped again but this was not out of shock, but awe.
The masks were supposed to make things easier, make everyone beautiful but they had been wrong. This one girl, with an ordinary face and wild hair, was more beautiful than any mask. She was brave and happy, and when she smiled, you could see it. One by one, the others pulled the masks from their faces, pulled the pins from their hair, and then they smiled. And they were so  beautiful.


She dropped the mask and everyone gasped. The mask was porcelain, and heavy. Its glaze was cracked in places and dots of color were just barely visible crowning its brow. When she dropped it, she thought for just a moment how beautiful it was, and how long it must have taken someone to make. She’d promised her mother–promised– that she’d be careful with it. Now that it lay in shards on the floor, she was surprised to find that she wasn’t thinking about what her mother would say. Only about someone’s hands bending the mask into a shape, taking pleasure in its form. And, she remembered a doll she’d had when she was five. Susan had come over, and of course,  sh’d had to show the doll to Susan, who always wore pink skirts and barrettes covered in plastic gemstones. The doll’s face had caved in when it slipped from Susan’s hands, and Susan had just stood there, looking at it.
That was how she felt now. It didn’t matter that the mask was from a rare collection and that her mother had to bend the rules to get it for her for Show and Tell. It didn’t matter that it was worth over a thousand dollars, and was over a thousand years old. when she looked at the split pottery, all she saw was her own five-year-old face, tear-stained, as Susan must have seen it. Somebody had made this mask. Somebody had loved this mask. And it was broken.
The teacher rushed in with a broom and dust pan and tried to salvage what was left. She just stood dumbly in front of the class. The teacher handed her the fragments in a Ziploc bag, and, quietly, she sat down.

Friday Blog

It’s here– the end of the year vocabulary test! We’ve been playing with these words all year and the challenge of retaining 92 new words has been a big one but well worth our time. On Wednesday, in preparation for today’s test, we made groups of words that “felt” like they went together and created stories around them. Here’s one we liked, featuring derelict, saturate, putrescent, dwindle, harpy, lamia, brazen, and eclectic. We called this the “Teen Dystopian Novel” group.

The derelict building might have once been part of a grand estate. It might have once housed important guests visiting a manor house that long before ceased to exist. Or perhaps it was the home of a well to do family, sheltering the sleeping heads of sweet children before the roof collapsed and left the uppermost floor exposed to the elements. Years of rain had saturated the floorboards, leaving them dangerous to walk upon and smelling of the putrescent stench of rotted wood and the decaying bodies of small animals. They must have lived there before we did, turning the attic into their home before dying in their beds. I wonder if we will face the same fate, lying down for another restless night only to reach an even deeper rest than intended. I suppose it is preferable to never returning. We don’t know what happens, or rather, we won’t admit what happens. Instead we turn to the fact, what we know for sure.

There were eleven of us when we found the old house.
Last week there were eight of us.
Marna didn’t return yesterday.
Now there are seven.
It is my turn.

The rations we had managed to collect are rapidly dwindling, although less so now that there are less mouths to feed, so every other day we send someone to go gather what they can from the forest that twist toward the sky.  There are rumours about the creatures that lurk there: harpies, lamias, the- no. Thinking this way doesn’t help. Sometimes when I start to think about them, I turn my thoughts instead to a rebellion. Perhaps it is brazen for me to think that way, but I don’t care. If the people who are supposed to help this world let children disappear and fend for themselves, then I don’t care if my thoughts turn to a war. We may just be an eclectically thrown together group of kids, but we could do something.

Friday Blog

As we do every week, we started today with a free association writing exercise. We’ve been reading about narrator point of view for homework and today the two merged:

The brain. Da mask. Damask. Shakespeare. Now to write using different points of view as the narrator. She continued writing, her pencil moving across the page as the words appeared. (Omniscient narrator.) She felt happy because she found writing from different perspectives interesting. (Not omniscient, intrusive narrator.) Beth was also writing and Cade. They all wrote together. (Limited narrator to a small group.) Although they didn’t know it, everyone else in the world was, at that moment, also writing. (Not limited.) So, my pencil keeps on going like it’s repeating the same words but from different points of view. (First person.) Perhaps you are wondering how much longer I can write about the fact that I am writing. (Second person.) Well, the answer is I can’t because I can’t remember any more points of view except free association and epistolary. This is not a letter, and I already did free association in the beginning. Bye.

Friday Blog

20170505_103128Today’s exercise was to write for three minutes on the question: How did this turtle knickknack get on this windowsill? Here are our responses…

*They had left a window open. One open window, on one house, on this one street. The same street that I happen to be on. It was Fate! I wondered what the people would be like. Will they notice me? I hope they will. Beneath the window is a flowerpot. I can reach the flowerpot. I can reach the window. Looking into the open gap of the window, I met the eyes of a little girl with dark hair and pretty eyes that sparkled like my back. She smiled. I smiled too. She noticed me. I’m going to be so happy here.

*Pamela had always loved sparkles. Ever since she was a child, she’d been obsessed with them. So, when Rachel saw the sparkly glass turtle in the shop window, she knew it would be the perfect present. There were other glass creatures, but turtles were Rachel’s favorite. The small creature seemed to wink at her, saying, “Look at me! Take me home and put me on a desk!” So, with a rush of delight, Rachel did just that.

*With a sickening shatter, the turtle with coppery sparkles was slammed through Rachel’s bedroom window. It was so loud that Lucky (the only one in the house) could hear it, despite being deaf. He bounded up the stairs only to see a figure through the shattered glass on the street below. It was…

*He was once alive and could walk upon the skin of the earth. Back in the time of magic, before science and rationality had shone their light into all the dark corners of the world. In the time before, there were no rules preventing a transparent turtle filled with glittering copper chips from existing, from living. So, he could walk and feel the sun. Now, after the advent of the new world, he remained motionless on the windowsill he had come to rest upon when the laws of physics suddenly became immutable.

Friday Blog

After our Shakespearean vocabulary quiz this morning, we returned to last week’s storytelling and vocabulary in-class exercise.  Here’s one we liked a lot:

The cloud of dandelions perched lightly on the edge of the hill, the, at a strong gust, rose up and was disseminated through the town. The people in the town, especially the children, looked up in awe as the soft white fluff rained down upon them. One child, who had just been informed of magic and could not be convinced it was fake, took this as the final proof needed for magic to exist. In the park, a group of teenagers were playing soccer when they encountered the dandelion fluff. One boy stopped, looked up and kicked his shoes from his feet. He grabbed his friend’s hand and twirled him around. All of their friends laughed and, in turn, took off their own shoes and joined the impromptu festivities. In this way, dancing barefoot became quotidian.

Friday Blog

As we enter the final quarter of the year, we’ve been focusing on reviewing this year’s vocabulary list. So, for a fun Friday morning exercise, we write one sentence featuring a vocabulary word at the top of a sheet of paper,  one on the bottom, then pass the paper and have a second person connect the two sentences.  Here’s one that we liked from this morning:

He gave her a brazen smile and, flexing his muscles, leaped backward off the rock into the lake. She blushed and g;lanced down, both pleased that he would flirt with her and  furious that his arrogant confidence could still induce her cheeks to redden. After they left the lake, his lazy “later, babe” still echoing in her ears, she decided to write down her feelings. Yes, a letter. She would tell him exactly what she thought and he would finally know her, see her. When it came time to find a place to leave the letter for him to find in the rented summer cabin, she became stumped. She found herself staring, trance-like, into the junk drawer. The eclectic jumbling of hairbands, keys, gum wrappers, and coins seemed to contain her personality in a way the letter had not.

Friday Morning Writing Exercises

This week we decided to evolve one of our favorite in-class writing exercises, Exquisite Corpse, into a group storyteller exercise. Each person writes a sentence. Unlike Exquisite Corpse, all of the sentences are visible while the story is written.

Here are a few of our favorites:

The butterfly landed softly on the tip of her outstretched shoe and she froze so as not to disturb it.
“Hello, old friend,” she whispered.
In a croaky, timid voice, the butterfly responded…
“Um… wrong re-incarnation, I think you have the wrong butterfly.”
“I think you’re right, sorry,” she responded.
She missed her friend. She must if she was seeing them everywhere. “Maybe the next butterfly,” she thought as she watched the current one stretch and flutter in the sun.

Solid objects are good for making sculpture, but liquids and gases aren’t.
Who would have thought?!
This is why I vowed to be the first artist to create a sculpture only out of liquid. I’d show them!
I studied the arcane art of magic intently, seeking a way to control the essential nature of liquid.
After many nights and days on the subway or in between shifts at work, I had read through the entire “Book of Liquid Magic” PDF she had printed from the deep web.
Eventually, I realized that, to quote the PDF, “Water doesn’t work that way.”

The eagle’s sharp talons clicked against each other in anticipation.
Its beak, gently turning either way.
The fish glittered like a ripe cherry in the bottom of the pool.
The fish was so beautiful, so the eagle decided to be friends with it.
It was an unlikely friendship for sure, the predator and the prey, but who was to judge something as pure as true friends.
So, the eagle and the cherry-fish rejected all the haters and opened up a detective agency together, solving all sorts of wildlife related crimes.

For the Birds!

Today, we read some favorite poems and realized we had a bird theme going for the day. I asked the students to write a bird poem in five minutes and we liked the results:

a rotting wood sign
i see it through my window
he Bellows out
I see him through my window
a snake Recoils, ready
i see him through my window
Do garbage people wake up very early
i see through your window
why haven’t you done your dishes?
–Cade Giordano

Cocked quick movements,
Swift like sunlight
Flashing through ragged leaves in winter.

Feet, clawed,
tiny, strong,
perch, grasp,

A small body made large by
Spread wings, impossible to
Follow with the eye.
Just, in a corner,
a rustle of movement,
like following the flickering light of a firefly.

A few Feet away, a glimpse into its eye.
–Clara Brandt

wings flutter like a Beating heart
filling the planet’s Internal skies
creating their own woRk of art
their night flight reflected in Dusky eyes
–Beth McDougall


We’ve been studying poetry and I asked the students to try and write sonnets: 14 lines in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme. Here are two examples that we liked a lot. The first is a Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet and the second is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet.

Sonnet: A Flower Pot
by Clara Brandt
A flower pot is such a strange design,
As though a flower could by means be kept.
Its roots will grow til up the sides it’s crept,
Defying any who might call it “mine”.

It’s human nature designating lines,
Across which we proclaim no one shall step.
But soon, as all our bluster proves inept,
The flowers, small and steady, reach the sky.

As soon as one decides what can’t be done,
Proclaiming using strong authority,
It’s seconds at most until there’s one
Who shall refuse submissive harmony.
Yet as each old clay pot, now cracked, is flung,
Another’s thrown upon the potter’s wheel.

Lyfe, Spelled with a “Y” Because I Am Edgy: A Sonnet”
by Cade Giordano
My black backpack is much too big sometimes,
It is the right size for a bouquiniste.
I have a new bike. I’ve fallen two times
Yesterday when I was biking up east.

Within my backpack, the tools to fix it.
Maybe its huge size is not a problem.
During the ride home the road was moonlit
My new bike was fine but I felt solemn.

I got home, the dishes were in the sink.
Oh well, I will get to that tomorrow.
The night, horrible! No– I must rethink
The night, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

I bike during the day. I think at night.
Should I bike at dusk and bring a flashlight?

Lucky’s Blog- 11/29/16

Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everybody!  Hope you had a good one. So, before vacation…

Prompt: We drew a card from the storytelling deck that said “travel agent was wrong”.

Students were given five minutes and here a two we liked:

She is sad. She does the weird human mouth twist that she does when she is happy, but she is not happy. We are somewhere different. Whe is she sad on vacation? Sure, is not most exciting place I have been, but soon we will go home to the nice smelling place with the happiness. She does the mouth twist again but  this time it is less sad. Maybe she would be happier if this place smelt like me. I rolled around, sending up a shower of fluff and dust. She made a soft noise and laughed, water dripping from her eyes down her face.

I can’t believe Pam agreed to take me to the Squirrel Convention in Squirrel

Town. There is going to be all types of squirrel cooked different ways, I am so

excited. Pam is making me go a travel agent; I guess she doesn’t trust a dog booking

our plane tickets. It was time to pick up our tickets from the travel agency. I enter

the agency and approach the lady at the front desk to receive our tickets. The lady

hands us our tickets. I look down at the tickets and then I realize the tickets are for a

round-trip to Squid Town. “These are tickets are to Squid Town not Squirrel Town!”

I bark at her. The women sheepishly apologizes but all I can think about is how I’m

going to tell Pam! Well, I hope she likes squid!