Thursday, 10 September 2009

Sinking Our Teeth Into Some Juicy Writing

Recently I came across a book by Brigid Lowry, a kiwi author who writes young adult fiction like Guitar Highway Rose, follow the blue and things you either hate or love. I think most of her novels are set in Australia, but she IS a kiwi :).

Anyway, the book is called Juicy Writing : Inspiration and Techniques for Young Writers. juicy writing
I'd been on the lookout for a while for something like this for Madi, who loves to write almost as much as read. I was especially pleased to find something local. I promised that I'd work through it alongside her, and today we both tackled our first exercise.

The first chapter explains how writers are like gardeners. Lowry writes, You begin by making compost. Gardeners collect leaves, food scraps, lawn clippings and seaweed, but your raw material is words and ideas.

Like gardening, writing is a hit and miss process. Certain seeds will germinate, others won't.

So our first exercise was garden themed, we had a topic and sentence starter chosen from a list at the end of the chapter. Madi chose;

*Two unlikely characters meet in a garden. A girl in a wheelchair? A waitress? A wizard? Something happens during their meeting that changes them both. Tell their story in five hundred words. Make use of sensory detail, because gardens are alive with sounds, smells, textures. Give your piece a fabulous title.

And her starter;

*Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back it seems obvious my mother shouldn't have made my sixth birthday celebration a garden party.

She couldn't stick to the 500 limit, and I'm not a fan of limit's, so I'll just post what she wrote. I've edited out some things, and fixed spelling, but this is entirely her own story.

I can't explain the feeling

Creepy By Madison Morris (Aged 11)

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back it seems obvious that my mother shouldn't have made my sixth birthday celebration a garden party. Yeah, our garden was pretty amazing, like you see in those Home and Garden magazines, but those creepy crawling bugs that crawled on my legs were the reason I never went into the garden again, well, not until last year anyway.

I remember, that as I opened the door to peer out the garden, the summer air hit me. I can't explain the exact feeling, it was like I was not a thirteen year old, but a six year old again. I had to run, the rush pushed at my instincts and I ran. I probably squashed so many poor, helpless bugs, but at that time, I couldn't care less. It was then that I knocked into the ghost that looked like me. The ghost didn't fall, but I did, which was weird because I am top of the class in gym.

The cicadas croaked from the bush, the bees buzzed around draining nectar from the flowers and Maya and June-June barked like they were getting shocked by electric. The ghost's dress ruffled in the wind. I knew she was me, but I doubted I'd ever wear a label dress with high heels. What startled me the most about her was not the pink dress, but the blonde locks she had. My hair is naturally red....but hers was pure blonde. The ghost opened her mouth and out came a gentle whisper, 'She's ours sir.....she's captured....take us to bug form, God.'

God? It's not like I don't believe in him, but I don't not believe he exists either.

I could say that shrinking down to bug form hurts, but it's actually painless. The only problem is that when I went down I saw loads of memories, like that garden party, and the itchiness dug into my leg.

I fell on the ground. So much for good balance. In the ghost's place was an ugly creature. There was green all around me. The ghosts voice sounded like me this time. 'Come, you don't want to miss your fourteenth birthday because you are here so long.' I still had eleven months and twenty days until my birthday, but I saw a shoe through the grass and hurried ahead.

The ghost was either not scared that the shoes were about to squash her, or had slow reflexes, because the shoes nearly stepped on her. I wasn't about to rescue her, because I'm not the most heroic person....bug....whatever. I was suddenly lost. But then I crashed into another ghost bug and it's follower. I realized that all the bugs in America were probably around me. 'Matilda, you have to help us......turn off the pollution.'

And that is when I woke up. Turn off the pollution??? I went outside and mother was putting bug spray through the garden.

'No!' I said to her, 'There's bugs...'

'I know Mattie, now they have been crawling all over the house. And I don't want a bug infested house.'

'But Mom, they don't mean to. Look, I'll spray the garden, okay?' She handed me the can. When she went inside, I threw the bug spray in the shed. I touched my hair, it was blonde. I was wearing the dress and the shoes, it was my fourteenth birthday! Gosh! I was having a garden party and I was dressed like a marshmallow. I ran inside, careful not to squash any bugs...

A good first effort, wouldn't you agree?

As for me, I picked the topic;

*What would your dream garden be like?

And the starter,

*My Grandfather did not believe in flowers...

My Time By Hayley Morris (Aged 30 :) )

My Grandfather did not believe in flowers. He used to compare them to people.

'The bright and beautiful ones are a nightmare to maintain, and the simple ones are as dull as dishwater,' he'd say, 'give me a plain Jane evergreen any day.'

My grandmother would laugh and exclaim, 'Well thank you sweetheart, you sure know how to flatter a girl.'

Looking around my own garden now, many decades later, it was clear that I had inherited my grandfathers aversion to all things floral.

It was only a small area, commonplace with the Victorian styled villas in this part of the city, but plenty big enough for one old woman to enjoy some peace and sunshine. I picked up the pebble comb and absentmindedly made patterns in the small white pebbles beneath my feet.

The girls had been horrified when I had led them out to the zen styled Japanese garden, with moss covered rocks, lush green vegetation and the adorable wooden walkway that bordered the garden, set in the softly flowing stream. Various Buddha statues peeked out of the bushes, and the perfect lines of the pebble garden had gleamed in the sunshine.

'Mum! This isn't practical! What happens when you babysit the kids? Gemma could choke on a pebble.'

'And you know what Daniel is like, he'll drown in the stream!'

'Not to mention the constant trickling noise, you'll live in the toilet. And where are all the flowers, I thought elderly people liked flowers?'

I'd tried not to smile as I had ushered them back into the house, uttering reassurances that I would keep it locked least any tragedy befall their precious offspring.

My mind flipped back to the present, I put down the pebble comb and stepped onto the walkway, enjoying the feel of the cool timber beneath my bare feet. I strolled along, stopping to stroke the star shaped leaves of the Japanese Maple, chosen especially for my grandfather. It's simple beauty reminded me of both my grandparents. I loved my children dearly, adored my grandchildren, but those years of devoted maintenance were behind me.

This was my time, and I wanted to spend it in my garden.


That was harder than I expected. I had inadvertently chosen a first person starter, and I HATE writing in first person. But oh well.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed that little peep at what we are up to. Any inspiring young (or not so young) writers out there that want to join in let us know and we will give you the full list of topics and starters.


debra said...

xoxo I will tell my daughter and see if she is interested. She loves to write.

Hannah said...

Wow, FAB-U-LOUS!!! Maddie has some talent! And you are not a bad writer yourself, Hay (although I already knew that). You both have a gift, I hope Maddie will continue with her writing. I entered a short story competition when I was about her age, and it was such a great boost for my confidence (even though I didn't place).

Sarah said...

Madi, that is AMAZING! I couldn't stop reading your story. I was reading it at a fast pace, so eager to find out what would happen. The first sentence had me hooked and you gave nothing away. You had me till the last word. You should really look at submitting this story - I just don't know which markets. Good luck with your future writing. Don't stop. You have such raw talent.

Like mother, like daughter :) x

jenmorrison said...

Hi there,
We've exchanged comments here and there and I've been following you through several of your blogs, pretty much since I started blogging, and have always enjoyed your posts and your photos.

So when I was passed the "Kreativ Blogger" award from another blogger, I felt I wanted to pass it on to you.

If you want a picture clip of the award, you can grab it from my most recent blog post.

In the meantime, keep up the great work.

Jen Morrison

The Word Party

Loving words clutch crimson roses,
Rude words sniff and pick their noses,
Sly words come dressed as foxes,
Short words stand on cardboard boxes,
Common words tell jokes and gabble,
Complicated words play Scrabble,
Swear words stamp around and shout,
Hard words stare eachother out,
Foreign words look lost and shrug,
Careless words trip on the rug,
Long words slouch with stooping shoulders,
Code words carry secret folders,
Silly words flick rubber bands,
Hyphenated words hold hands,
Strong words show off, bending metal,
Sweet words call each other 'petal',
Small words yawn and suck their thumbs,
Till at last the morning comes,
Kind words give out farewell posies....
Snap! The dictionary closes.