Passion

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up. Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves. When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K.

Writing Prompts

One of my resolutions this year was to start writing more stories, so I’ve decided to use the blog to help me do that in a fun way. I’ll pick two or three prompts and write a short story instead of a book or movie review. If you like the story I’ve started, feel free to comment your thoughts or any of your own prompt suggestions. I also hope to get blog readers more involved with the site, so we’ll see how this experiment goes. Hope you enjoy!

Prompt: Write for 5 minutes with your eyes closed. Start with “I remember”.

     I remember the sound of the wind as we soared through the air. I felt light as a feather, flying next to you. So calm. So free. I let out a scream to release the breath from my lungs. It was so relaxing. More so than I’d ever felt before. I could no longer see you as you zoomed ahead through the clouds, but I heard the pulse of your heartbeat in my head. Steady and full. We were connected. Two beings made into one. You were mine and I was yours. There was no other way to move than with you.

     The tree branches brushed by my ears as I flew by. Then, I froze. There was an unusual sound. A buzzing in my ear. It persisted, getting louder and louder, until it was all I could hear. The noise battled against the wind, fighting for my attention. I called ahead, but there was no answer. You were gone. Suddenly, I couldn’t hold myself up any longer and I fell. Thrashing through the trees, I called out to you. I wanted you to save me, but you weren’t there to catch my fall. With a crash I landed, crushing my wings beneath me. The last sound I heard was of your breath, racing with mine, until it slowed to a stop.

I really like this prompt because it allows the reader to let out their thoughts without stopping, and it’s just a flow of continuous writing that comes from absolutely no planning. You simply write, freehanded. I’m not sure why bird-like creatures came to mind, but I was very interested to know that this story was the first that I thought of.

Prompt: The eye color of humans changes with an individual’s current emotions. One person is born without this trait and is mistrusted by many people.

    My eyes have always been blue. The color of sadness, most seem to think. But I liked to believe I have a shred of hope in them, even though I’ve only noticed one day when they happened to pulse a bright gold. Other than that, it’s always been a blue tinted world for me.

     I bet I would be the biggest freak in school if it wasn’t for him. No one knew his name. Everyone just called him “Gray”. His eyes never changed from the black and white light that was colorless, emotionless. As the outcast of the school, people often joked why they weren’t just blue and miserable or even black. But nonetheless, his gray eyes made him somewhat of a haunting figure in our sea of pinks and yellows and reds. Even the teachers whispered behind his back, afraid they’d have the very pleasure of him in their class. To be around the ghost was to associate yourself with the unfeeling, uncaring portion of society.

      At least I had feelings. At least I could walk around all day knowing that I had a soul. Sure, everyday was sulky, but at least there was color. I wondered what it was like to see with no shades of anything, no pigment, no idea of what the world really looked like. Everyone said he’d been born a freak, but no one really knew for sure. One thing I did know, not to get in the way of the boy who felt nothing.

This prompt just seemed like an interesting topic. I didn’t have a plan for this story either, so I chose to interpret it this way.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Adventures in Ilvermorny (Creative writing: Short story)

In the spirit of learning more about the  magical world in the U.S. with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I decided it would be fun to write a little short story on some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). Enjoy!


      Jane had been dressed, packed, and ready to leave since 4:30 this morning. And while waiting for her mother to get ready to take her to the airport, she had brushed her teeth six times and continuously rearranged her chestnut bangs until she gave up in a huff and left them down. Jane was going to Ilvermorny for the first time, something she had been dreaming of the entirety of her eleven years. It was also the first time she would be without her mother, the first time she would leave Florida, and her first time going on an airplane. There was a lot to be nervous about.

     When Jane and her mother finally got to the airport, her mother knelt down and looked into her daughter’s matching honey colored eyes. Her eyes became glossy as she whispered, “Jane, don’t worry about a thing Ilvermorny is going to be the best times of your life, and I can’t wait to hear which House you get into. Don’t think you have to be a Pukwudgie like me, because all of the houses are wonderful. Don’t forget to write darling, I’ll see you soon!”. Jane felt herself get teary eyed as well and was only able to nod and hug her mother one last time before she turned towards the terminals.

      Her ticket, unlike other tickets, had a shimmering red and blue Ilvermorny stamp which was invisible to No Maj’s. As her mother instructed, Jane promptly pressed the stamped ticket onto the oddly shimmering wall at the end of all of the terminals. Before Jane had time to worry that it wouldn’t work, the shimmering wall glowed more intensely and like a magnet, pulled her onto the other side. With a slight yelp, Jane was on the Ilvermorny terminal going from the Miami to Massachusetts.  

      Witches and wizards from ages 11 to 17 sat, ran, and laughed in the terminal, waiting for boarding. Jane chose a seat in the corner and watched all of the kids, trying to see if she could tell what house they were in. She guessed that the small framed, black haired, 15 year old looking boy listening to music was a Horned Serpent. Jane looked over at a tall girl chatting loudly, wearing a basketball tee, and speculated that she must be a Wampus, when suddenly the girl caught her eye and said, “What? Have you never seen a witch before?”.

      Startled, Jane just looked at her blankly. A boy who had similar red hair to the girl, looked over to Jane and said reassuringly, “Don’t mind my sister, she’s just being a jerk because she’s nervous”. The sister immediately interjected with, “I’m am not! I just….hope my roommates aren’t lame…”. The boy rolled his eyes at his sister and holds his hand out to Jane, stating, “I’m Cyrus, and this is my sister Eyla”. Jane hesitates before shaking the boy’s hand and firmly replying with, “Jane”.


To be continued! (P.S.) Many of these Ilvermorny descriptions will be false as there is little information about how Ilvermorny operates and really looks like. Thanks for reading!

-Ava K.

Creative Writing: Original Beginnings

For this month I decided to write the beginning of my own two short stories instead of writing a traditional book or movie review. I hope you enjoy!

Rain. It hadn’t stopped. Continuously, it poured from the sky, drenching the lawns and flooding the streets. I haven’t been outside for weeks because of it. No one could get anywhere. It just kept coming as if the crying sky wanted everyone else to be just as miserable.

I mean, it got its wish. I was officially miserable. With dimmed lights and a dreary view, I only had one thing to keep me happy during my days in isolation.

Sammy. My little brother didn’t understand the meaning of the oncoming rain. He almost liked it. I didn’t understand why. The constant pattering on the roof was enough to drive me crazy within the first few days. But the innocent child loved it, hoping to see a rainbow when it finally cleared. That’s innocence for you, waiting for the bright colors on a gray day. I didn’t have that luxury. I knew it would be a long while until we saw any light, if we did at all. It’d be a miracle to get outside of this dark house.

—————–

I had always been told not to walk alone at night, but I had never been told why. My imagination was left to run free with what would happen to me. What were the chances that a monster would take me? How did I even know something bad would happen? I had no idea why it was such a terrible thing; I just know it was. My mind was filled with the memories of my parents locking my door every night, trapping me in isolation once the sun went down. Now that I thought about it, I didn’t really remember what I did at night. I didn’t remember falling asleep or fighting to get out. I couldn’t even remember anything right after I was shoved into the room and all the light went away. It was as if my mind had shut down and wouldn’t let me access my thoughts or feelings. And when I woke up, the first thing I had always seen was my door. The whole situation wouldn’t have confused me so much if the wood hadn’t been cut through on the inside with claw marks.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

Event Recap: Teen Writing Workshop with Shannon Messenger

shannon_messengerMany of you heard Shannon Messenger speak at the Mission Viejo Summer Lovin’ event last summer.  On Thursday, September 14, 2014, there was another event at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library.  Her teen writing workshop drew over 60 middle schoolers.  Messenger taught us some of the fundamental steps for beginning writers.  She explained characterization and world building as well as plot methods.  Within an hour, I began to feel like a better writer and reader.

One of the first things she recommended was to know your characters and to treat them like real people.  From her personal experience, she advised that you shouldn’t care what people think of you for saying in a conversation, “I want my character to do this, but she won’t let me!”  This cracked everyone up.  As Messenger continued, with a smile, she said we need to know our characters like we know ourselves by asking our character five questions:

  • What does your character want?
  • What does your character need?
  • What is your character afraid of?
  • How does your character feel about himself/herself?
  • What is your character hiding?

The next topic she addressed was building your story’s “world”–big or small, rich or poor, or even fantastic or realistic.  You also need to add in the history, culture, technology, transportation, and government.  The history can be pretty easy.  If it is a fantasy story, you can just make it up, but in a realistic fiction or historical fiction, you may need to research the location.  Culture consists of art, music, fashion, and sports.  The technology means acknowledging the inventions appropriate for your time period.  She advised that transportation can be tricky.  Is your character old enough to drive?  Or do you need to come up with some other means of moving from place to place? Finally, you need to define the type of government, laws, currency, language, and social structure.

The last big topic was “how to.”  Shannon Messenger said that adjectives are one contributing factor to a best-selling author’s success. Use your sensory words to describe different aspects of your town.  Such as, “She saw the blue sky and smelled the fresh scent of pine and evergreen.  As the aroma wafted to her nose, a memory flooded into her mind, and she heard her dad cutting down a Christmas tree for their house before he left for the army.  The scene brought tears to her eyes, and she felt one stray salty tear find its way into her mouth.  She tasted its bitter remembrance.” Using sensory language envelopes the reader in the scene.  In addition, Messenger recommended keeping an “idea journal” to keep track of your great ideas.  Messenger concluded by wishing us good luck and advising us to listen to the stories within us.

This was one of the most helpful writing workshops I have attended.  Shannon Messenger is one of my all-time favorite authors, and you can read my review of her Keeper of the Lost Cities series here.

-Maya S., 7th grade

Role-Play: An Interactive Form of Creative Writing

photo by flickr user LMRitchie

photo by flickr user LMRitchie

It’s time to take a break from my normal book reviews and introduce the world to a fantastic hobby of mine: role-play (RP for short).

What’s role-play you ask? Well role-play is basically creative writing with a friend. It can be done face to face, or over e-mail or text or social networks or even phone calls. It’s a great hobby that helps expand your territory of creative writing that can be done really anytime and anywhere.

I figured it’s just be easier to give you step by step instructions for role-play and explain it along the way also. So here we go!

  1. Find someone to do it with. Role-playing is typically done with two or more people, since doing it by yourself isn’t as much fun, and is more just creative writing than actually role-play.
  2. Choose your characters and settings. The great thing about role-play is that you can do so many things with the characters and settings. You can choose characters and settings that already exist from TV shows, books, movies, etc. or you can make up your own character/setting! Or, my personal favorite, combine the two! You can be a character created by someone else, and your friend can be her/his own character, and vice versa. You can combine things from your brain and things from somebody else’s brain into one great story. There’s great exercise for your creative writing in all alternatives. By playing a ready-made character, you get to think of things that character would do in situations that never happened in their original story. When writing your own story, you typically change something. It helps by thinking of things that character would do that he/she was not originally intended to do.
  3. Create a story. With role-play, you can’t plan out the whole story. You just can’t. However, you can plan the main base of it. Either you or your fellow role-player (or both) write a paragraph setting the scene, vague plot, and tone of the story you are about to role-play. It’s like a first paragraph of a chapter. There are endless possibilities with this one.
  4. Role-play. Once the first paragraph is written by someone, a different person continues. When writing role-play, don’t write for somebody else’s character. Just write your character’s thoughts, what your character says, what your character is doing, etc. You can carry on the story however you want, as long as you are controlling only your character and things that are inanimate or parts that aren’t assigned to anybody. Once you’ve written your part (try not to make it too long or too short, but it doesn’t matter much if the person you’re role-playing with doesn’t mind), the person/people you’re role-playing with continues the story, and it goes back and forth. Since you don’t have control over the entire story, it’s a great exercise for creative writers or people who wish there was more to a book/TV show/movie/etc. If you’re doing it live with somebody, it’s great for thinking on your feet, and practicing improv and/or acting.
  5. Make it your own. When it comes to role-play, there aren’t many official rules. Just have fun, and customize it to your own! Try making characters you use reccurringly! It’s lots of fun, I promise!

So get out there, and have fun! If you have any questions, comment them and I’ll answer. Happy role-playing!

-Danielle L., 6th grade

Sites That Make Writing Social

notebook_thislyrelark

photo by flickr user thislyrelark

Reading books is one thing, but writing them is a whole other thing. I think one of the biggest problems that would-be writers face is that writing can be a lonely business, and it’s not just the hours spent writing, but also for young writers, the lack of a fan base. While it’s always important to write for yourself, having readers that can give you feedback and keep you going when working on a long project can make a world of difference. Thanks to the Internet, it is easier than ever to start gathering this fan base.  Websites like Wattpad and Figment and even deviantART are all great for young writers who want to get their work out there.

Each of the websites I mentioned have pros and cons, and they can all be extremely useful resources for writing.  While I have experience with all of them, Wattpad and deviantART are the two that I have the most experience with. Wattpad and Figment are dedicated literature sharing sites, while deviantART focuses on art as a whole, not just literature.

wattpad_productshot-02Between Wattpad and Figment, Wattpad is my favorite. Wattpad allows you to post books either as one large piece or divided into chapters. My favorite part of Wattpad, though, is the fact that it has an app. When you want to read stories the app is amazing- you can even download books for reading offline, just like a typical ebook. You can also write your stories on-the-go using the app. Wattpad also features forums which can be great for getting feedback and getting help if something in your writing is stumping you. You can also send and receive comments as well as private messages. Overall, whether you want to write, read, or connect with other writers, Wattpad can let you do that.

figment_screenFigment is similar to Wattpad in that it is a dedicated literature website. Like Wattpad, you can publish books in chapters. One of my favorite features on Figment is that is allows to post chapters in a draft forum that can only be read by people with the specific links, which can be great for getting feedback about the latest addition to your story. Figment also has a great group system for connecting with other writers. Another nice feature of Figment is their frequent contests. Even though the chances of being the one chosen as the winner out of all the submission might not be great, just the process of entering can be helpful for developing writing. Figment doesn’t have an app like Wattpad, but overall it is still a solid choice.

deviantart_screenFinally, there is deviantART (DA for short). deviantART isn’t a literary focused websites, but rather includes all forms of art. There isn’t a way to specifically post “books” but it does accept literary submissions which can be contained in folders and keep together that way. I think deviantART really shines for getting poems viewed because of the way that they are published. The big thing that I really like about deviantART, though, is how social it is. While Wattpad and Figment allow for communication, DA really has a sense of community. There are groups, forums, private messages, comments– the list goes on. It is this social interaction that really makes DA a worthy place for the literary inclined. If you’re looking for someone that will be there for you throughout the long haul of writing, deviantART might be the way to go.

Overall, the face of writing is changing. No longer does one need to get published to be read by others; now anyone can get their work out there for the world to see.

-Angela J., 12th grade