What could go wrong?

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A woman who can’t die for 70,000 years becomes president and gains access to a window from which she can see the entire world. What could go wrong?

So began the very first Young Writers’ Workshop.
As the 14 participants and three instructors got to know each other’s names, they crafted a story that began with an almost-immortal president whose window to the world leads her to allocate a large amount of the nation’s budget to help other countries. The American people aren’t real happy about this, and she is impeached and removed from office. Having little education, she tries for a career in fast food, but is fired from McDonald’s because she can’t figure out the whole flipping burgers thing. She then tries to assassinate Bill Gates, who causes her impeachment, with a banana peel. She travels to Antarctica, makes some penguin friends, and decides to solve global warming, which, as it turns out, is being caused by a giant asteroid that is hurtling toward the earth. With the help of NASA, she saves the day, becomes a hero, marries Tom Cruise, and lives happily ever after…albeit with a perpetual heart attack that she can’t die from.

Needless to say, I think it’s going to be an exciting week.  

The main goal for today, according to director Katy Karlin, was to work on storytelling and plot.

The crazy story stemmed from a whiteboard prompt: “If a genie granted you three wishes, what would they be?” The group chose the three most interesting wishes on the board as the backbone of their story. As they went around a circle, each person had to say his or her name, repeat the names of everyone before, and add another piece to the story by saying what could go wrong.   

In addition to breaking the ice, the activity was also intended to lead to a fundamental question in fiction writing: where do conflict and plot come from? The answer (or one of them, anyway): from somebody wanting something.

To put this principle into practice, every workshop member grabbed a prop from our selection–they included a boomerang, a baseball glove, a hat with a feather–and started a story in which the prop provided the point of conflict.  The result ranged from a retelling of the Snow White fable to a Depression-era youngster who finds a movie ticket that takes her to another world.  The young writers really used the object in imaginative ways, and worked on their ability to put tension in their stories.

To round out the morning, the participants split up into groups of 4 or 5 to work more closely with one instructor. The groups will be working with each other all week, so they each came up with a creative name for themselves: The Dark Spellcasters, The Glitterati Stars, and Hank’s Squiggly Meeses. 

Overall, the instructors—and I—were very impressed with how eager the participants were to share their work and interact with one another. We look forward to the rest of the week!

 –Lacey Brummer, Program Intern

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