The Quality of Things

Well, readers, we’re nearly upon the last day of the Workshop, which means our young writers have started to turn their attention towards the final day’s reading. Although the reading is the culminating point of the week-long workshop, it isn’t the only aim of the week. Among other things, we here at the Young Writers’ Workshop hope that our young persons continue to write long after Friday comes and goes.

Yesterday, I posed the questions: “Where do you go to find inspiration? Is it a location, books, your past life, or someplace else entirely?” Of course, it’s a trick question: all of these are places to find inspiration. Moreover, all of these can (and should) inspire one another. In writing and in revision, different points of inspiration can enter a story, poem or play. They then meld, mingle, or oppose one another and the creative work grows. It becomes something more complex, strange, and beautiful. As today’s visiting writer, Madame Groove, put it, inspiration doesn’t always come to you: sometimes you have to make your own. And what better way to do that than taking a few inspiring items and putting them into the same piece to see what happens? Our young writers did exactly that for much of today.

As you may remember, our visiting writer from day one, Catherine Trieschmann, had the young writers improvise a scene, using a jellyfish as a point of contention. As one could expect, their performances were funny and more than a little silly. But why was that? As Catherine put it, “Just the quality of the object will dictate the nature of the story.”

What happens then if you introduce in additional objects—a lot of objects, actually? Things can get pretty wild.

The young writers began by choosing one object that our instructors brought in from a table of knick-knacks, oddities, and doodads.


on earth do our instructors find these things?

Our young writers then went off to find a quite place in the Beach Museum to begin drafting. While the young writers took a break and left the UMB Theater, Dr. Katy Karlin, our Program Director, placed an additional object by the originally chosen object.

After more drafting that included both objects, the young writers, as a group, told a story inspired by the items left on the table. First, they formed a circle. Next, one person started telling a story with a random object. Then, they passed the object to the next person, who picked up the narrative. As the collaborative story grew, the instructors added twists and turns by tossing new objects into the circle, each new object finding a place in the plot. By the time the story came full circle, it reached its conclusion.


deep-sea divers helmet, a plastic hamburger, and a pig. What do these have in common?

The whole group then headed over to Kansas State’s Hale Library to write in the infamous and beloved Great Room, also known as “the Harry Potter Room.”


place feels so writerly, so academic.

All that writing sure takes it out of you though. Luckily, our guest speaker for the afternoon was a kind of writer the kids didn’t expect: a songwriter. Aliyah Stephens (a.k.a. Madame Groove), our visiting writer, is a DJ, music producer, singer, and free-style rap artist. She introduced the young writers to the basics of song writing, reviewing the relationship between the melody and harmony. To illustrate her explanation, she played examples that ranged from The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” to Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” to Rihanna’s “Needed Me.”

With a better understanding of songwriting, the young writers wrote their own songs to an instrumental version of Madame Groove’s “Breathe.” In groups of three, in pairs, or on their own, the young writers began composing their own tunes.

After they put down a few verses, Madame Groove asked the young writers to perform their jams—most of which were raps.


They rapped about their favorite game to play at the workshop.


about the dwarf planet (or full-fledge planet, take your pick), Pluto.


Some incorporated back-up dancers.


And others rapped about…spoiled Gorilla’s milk?

All in all, it was a fun and creative song playlist. I’m sure you can expect all of our young writers to drop their first single soon. 

While they’re still undiscovered stars, do yourself a favor and come see our awesome young writers read their work. 

When? Tomorrow. 2 o’clock.

Where? The Mary and Morgan Jarvis Wing of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.

Why? Here’s a better question: Why on earth not?

And while you’re at it, do yourself another favor. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. I guarantee it’ll brighten your day. 

-Hunter Gilson, Program Assistant

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