Well, readers, we had another action-packed day at the Young Writers’ Workshop, this time filled with writing short stories. This morning, our writers used skills learned from yesterday’s visiting playwright, Catherine Trieschmann, to create short plays within their small groups.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Pressing pause on this activity, we were visited by fiction writers, Amy Scharmann and Vincent Poturica as well as their adorable 8-month-old daughter, Avery. An alumna of Kansas State University in English (BA ’10), Amy’s work has appeared in Amazon’s Day One, Subtropics, TriQuarterly, New Orleans Review, and The Masters Review, among other venues. Vincent’s work has appeared in the New England Review, DIAGRAM, Western Humanities Review, Hobart, and New Ohio Review, as well as other journals. They are currently moving from Long Beach, California to south-central Kansas where Vincent will be teaching creative writing at Pratt Community College. Both Vincent and Amy’s enthusiasm for writing and working with young writers created the perfect atmosphere for a morning of learning, writing, and sharing!
“Is your style consistent throughout the story?”
Sam reads “The Taxi” by Russell Edson aloud to the group.
How do we create stories that make sense? Vincent and Amy emphasized that by focusing on clarity, a consistent style, and logic, writers can “make sense.” They used flash-fiction—an extremely brief piece of fiction, typically totaling a few hundred words or less—to help the young writers practice this skill. Focusing on clarity, style, and logic, Amy and Vincent guided the young writers in creating a collective flash-fiction about a man in an attic.
Whoever catches the orange writes the next line!
Now it’s Riggs’s turn!
The young writers settled on the title, “Next in the Attic.” While the story is a great piece of writing, I sure do advise keeping the lights on while reading this thriller!
I’ve never told anybody about the man who lives in the attic. But recently I began to hear footsteps that get louder and louder by the day. Nobody but I dared to go up there with the constant creaking and shifting of the house. Of course, I’m still not entirely sure that this man is alive. What with his frizzy hair and papery skin, I couldn’t have told you if he had any eyes. I could have sworn that he used to have eyes, but one day they disappeared. He never talked, and I don’t know if he was mute or not, but one day I heard murmurs up in the attic. All the evidence of his appearance suggested one thing: that he was a zombie. The footsteps and murmurs continued for a while, but one day they just stopped, and I decided to go up and investigate. On the way up the stairs to the attic, I heard a loud crash. It startled my parents, and they asked me what was up there. I told them it was only the neighbor’s cat. My parents pointed out that the house next to us had been vacant for months. Sounding surprised, I said, “Oh, it must just be the cat that I fostered into the house last night.” My parents didn’t seem very convinced,
But then there was another crash. I told them I fell down the stairs. My parents, growing concerned for my well being, decided to check out the noise upstairs in the attic. But to my surprise, as sure as to theirs, the attic was empty, as anyone would expect. Then, overwhelmed with worry, I finally worked up the courage to tell my parents that I’d been keeping my dead brother in the attic for the last six years. “You’re grounded!” they exclaimed. That didn’t make my dead brother very happy, and we heard creaking come down from the attic. Sooner or later we were dead. Take it from me, as I’m next in the attic.
After writing this collective story, the young writers wrote their own flash-fiction with the stipulation that it could only be five to ten sentences. While this task was daunting for the young writers at first, they quickly got to work and produced amazing pieces of fiction.
With our visiting writers’ advice in mind, our young writers spent the afternoon practicing their new skills, returning to the plays they began in the morning. After reworking (and performing) their work, they swapped plays with another group. Then, each group was tasked at recreating their newly acquired text into a short story. The young writers worked hard together to bring clarity, logic, and a consistent style to their reinterpretation of the text.
“It’s your lucky day. I have a new song, a Top 100 hit called ‘Running with Scissors’ that I’ll sell at a discount rate.”
“I just want to see different points of view. After I hear Melinda’s speech, I’ll decide on a side.”
To get rid of a bit of energy, the instructors ended the day with a good ol’ fashioned game of “Ah-So-Ko!” Now, if you followed along with our blog last summer, you know that this game is a Young Writers’ Workshop favorite. In this fast-paced game players try to follow along with the motions and words; however, if they mess up, they’re “outta here!” We have some very competitive young writers this year!
Sierra and Ava work hard to distract Sam.
I must say, readers, today our young writers produced some great pieces of
writing and had a ton of fun in the process. To hear some of these great works as well as others, be sure to come to our reading at the Mariana Kistler Beach Museum on Friday, June 30th at 2:30pm.
-Kirsten, Program Assistant