So it’s the night before the AYWI May event (the Peer Critique Seminar), and I have a knot in my stomach, because only three students have confirmed their attendance.
What will we do if only three students show? I think. How much fun can it be when you and a co-facilitator are reviewing work with a mere three students?
Um, the answer would be: tons.
We were all so into the short story and poem we studied and discussed before we began peer critique work I didn’t think it could get better. And then, it did. The students’ work was soooo good (and I will add here with not just a little pride that all three students are Summer Writing Intensive participants); and the dialogue among us so genuine and appreciative and constructively critical—this event reminded me of what AYWI is all about: bringing dedicated young (and young at heart) writers together to explore the art, craft, and skill of creative writing.
It also reminded me that numbers don’t matter. Passion does. Talent does. Laughter and intelligence help things along, too. When you have all this, a great time will be had by all present, whether three students are present or thirty.
I am trusting more and more in the spirit and purpose of this organization—so many people have expressed support; we have 16 literally OUTSTANDING students participating in the Intensive; and our events have already been so much fun for me. So much good is coming to and from all this.
Nope, it isn’t about numbers at all; but paradoxically, that exactly why we are attracting all the right numbers of people who are making the institute a truly wonderful organization, one built on passion, talent, laughter, intelligence. Synergy.
So it’s days now (days!) before the Summer Writing Intensive, and I have butterflies pop-lockin’ in my belly, because16 students have confirmed their attendance. How will we fit in everything we have planned? I think. How much fun will it be when my co-teacher and I are reviewing work and dialoguing and field tripping and reading aloud and learning during Master Class with them?Read More
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please enjoy Ms. Olivia Lowery’s short story, inspired by writing exercises performed at the April 2012 Fiction & Poetry Seminar.
They say that every living thing is free in this world, to do as they please even so from the very beginning- except for the scientists. We were always the ones who questioned- supposed to question- the whereabouts of everything, the blueprint of Earth. But the only thing I question is myself; the blueprints of my own self-image, which I never knew very well in the first place. I haven’t made a single contribution to the community in a long time-what, two to three years- my telescope remains unused, its purpose lost and the windows outside show a blank sky, a metaphor for my current state of mind.
As I slumped down, against one of the walls in my observatory, I sighed and stared up at the vastness of that simple sky. My windows showed me the tips of the Ginkgos, discussing a past embedded in the soil, as the wind intermingled their leaves and the faint, tail ends of clouds that the wind had dispersed. I had been diagnosed with depression- the disease of the masses nowadays- and I was to take at least one pill-more or less depending on my mood- to suppress my depression, that which stemmed from the question of my existence. As I reached up to grab the orange bottle, my attention shifted to a far off object meandering through the sky. Ignoring my medication- I hadn’t been seeing much of an improvement lately anyway- I stood up and strode over to the window, leaning on its refurnished steel and looked out broadly across the horizon. The glare of a morning’s sunlight blinded me, glazing my eyes over with the gaze of the sophisticated light. How long ago had that been?
Nevermore, I peered outward at a melancholic, morning sky: Doctor told me to stay away from those thoughts too. He said they were too empty, full of voids, that’d drive me to a point I shouldn’t even consider, just like that day. The object was coming closer, and I could just make out its details – it looked it was having a hard time flying, its wings short yet stately and sumptuous. As it barreled closer at a fast descent, I stumbled out of the way as it gave a last flap through the window and collapsed on a forsaken lab desk, scattering the loose papers about abruptly and knocking away a few dusty beakers, the glass puncturing the morning’s unanswering silence. Looking at it closely, I could tell it was a crane and an albino one at that; can’t be too many of these, I thought. I sighed and took out a cigarette- a habit taken up during my depression years as I called them- lit it, and took a deep drag, gazing down at the crane. I peered down, incredulously, looking into its eyes, I saw it had the same disease as me; his detached appearance only furthered this notion. No sounds but its acute breathing underlined with the bold highlights of strained whistling, spilling water drops into this frozen moment. Stepping around the table, I was able to get a better look at its wing: it lay at a distorted angle, a pinprick of bone protruding from somewhere deep within. I silently traced my forefinger along its feathered body, and I felt the murmurs of its shivers, radiating through my system, into my own body. I drew it closer to me, enveloping its cold self into what little warmth I could provide.
A year in animal-structure basics back in college told me that the crane had a broken wing, might even be fractured. The course also told me that this crane was very rare, very much so that I knew it was genetically altered. Contemplating over this, I took another relaxing drag, releasing a flare of grey essence; gotta love that Newport taste. I could keep it here, hidden and somehow nurse it back to health- because that’s what astrology scientists do, they take in mutant birds and help them out- or, I could kill it for dinner, sell it on the black market, or give it to a friend or a zoo or something like that. I leaned back against my filing cabinets, looking down at the bird- it had become unconscious, no doubt to the pain- and I decided, why the hell not? It’s not like I was contributing anything on nebulas- hadn’t wanted to since those questions drove away my sanity- and I was getting bored of lounging around my lab all day, doing nothing worth an award, much less a newspaper article.
I tossed the cigarette into a teak ashtray-corrugated by the overflowing, crippled hours of smoke and nicotine- and flung my lab coat on; if I was going to do this, I might as well start. Since college was so long ago, I took a trip over the Harvard’s Cabot Science Library to check out any information on birds, anything that could help, really- one of the many perks of being a former student, all-hours access to its exquisite and extensive library. I shuffled restlessly among its lacquered shelves and feverishly written works of all sorts-leaving with an armful of material, all due on the 18th. The sky had turned its face to evening by the time I left, the light haze of twilight swathed with the departing rays of a day’s gilded light. The faint silhouette of a waxing moon was visible along with the blinking indents of some hundred stars, like beacons holding the duty of watch. And I could see my past up there, along with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor; that was my whole past, dreaming of discovering new formations and calling them my own. Dreams…the few things I longed for as a child…What happened to those few precious dreams?
I headed off to a pharmacy nearby, to buy bandages, medial tape, splints and some packs of instant coffee for myself. Arriving back at my observatory, I found the crane to still be lying on my lab desk, although it seemed to have moved at some point; its dilapidated appendage hung away from the rest of its body, as if dead, serving no use. Why did that seem familiar? I winced and gazed at the tiled floor-beyond it; dropping the bandages, the bag entirely, I stumbled to the floor, in a disheveled heap, crying and choking out exasperatedly, my voice hoarse and racked with all the words I never said, the things never talked about…the floodgates were finally breached. That’s how it was, when I reached my limit, my use for discovering; parents declaring me a disappointment and the community, a flop. I had been used, and came out undone. And as they left me I began to question myself, training the very definition of myself into something obscure.
I lay there, on the floor of my observatory for a long time, in such an angle, so that the moon was visible to me in it s milky, luminous splendor. The crane’s wing had finally been dressed by yours truly and it had even regained conscious, though calm, it was now laying on my chest, asleep with the occasional coo escaping from its sallow beak; we were one and the same. I just decided to keep the darn thing- I had already built an emotional attachment to it anyways; perhaps it was because I was a bachelor without a family. I could use someone to live for, even if they weren’t human, their companionship was all the same, and, I was tired of being depressed, tired of feeling lifeless, and having to ingest medicine just to have the willpower to live. Glancing upward at the moon, I relaxed and let out a wholesome sigh; things would get better. They always do.Read More
The ability to be alone with your thoughts and then put them to paper (or the computer screen) truly is a gift.
Doing so in a group, however–especially a group motivated and energized by the common goal of literary expression–is nothing less than a purely joyous occasion. I don’t know about the other participants, but I could feel my thoughts melding, and then melting , and then molding themselves into those of a sweetly skinny 7th grade character named Jean Jones wearing a stiff red plaid uniform two sizes two big and a single streak of purple in her otherwise mousy brown hair. (She told me her name while I was writing.) This process of creating a character and knowing what her story is, it can take me weeks of excruciating writing, rewriting, and rewriting.
But there’s something about the synergy of being part of a group attuned to a common goal: sitting at that ordinary table surrounded by some extraordinary young writers, I had more ideas than I knew what to do with, and the channel through which my characters speak, it was clear. Like, I could see Jean’s small, pudgy hands (her only curvaceous body parts), and I knew that her palms were sweating; that she has the kinds of hands that are perpetually moist, and that she wants to get that gland operation that’ll stop their profuse sweating as soon as she moves out of her parents’ house (they won’t hear of any kind of surgery. Damp hands do not an emergency make, they tell her firmly.)
I can only hope they fed similarly off the Flow. If the persona poems we wrote together were any indication–that’d have to be a resounding YES. (Click on the tab above titled “to read.)
All I know is–I’m pumped and ready for more synergystic inspiration, sure to present itself at our next event! Check back soon for details on our upcoming May event.Read More
My hindsight’s 20/20 vision,
I saw clearly,
When you took a leap of me,
And when you realized
I couldn’t be your parachute,
I wanted to tell you
And I want you
To keep me, because
I hold trust.
I told you I’d catch when you fell
But I didn’t and I’m the reason you screamed
“Why did the sky fall down?
I waited for your help but you didn’t make a sound.”
I don’t know what to feel. The feeling
Is quite overwhelming if I do say so myself.
Have faith in me,
So we can be,
I would love,
To have helped my dove
And things would be better.Read More
Always trying, without a sound
Some say that my life is easy
But they don’t know how it is
Sentenced to a life of escaping the rules by which everyone else follows
Then suddenly gone with a single loud pop
Such is the life of a balloon
And yet, I sigh and carry on
When the string loosens and my chemical releases
I feel that I’ve found a peace of my own
Only to re-mode, and to start over
The helium inside, gives me another ride
And to the process I dedicate, my whole life.
I remember the first time I
Was tied arounda child’s wrist.
If I can bring such happiness to
And such sorrow when I leave,
Then do I only cost a quarter?
What is it worth?
The smile of a child…
What am I worth?
So buoyant, so tired.
Watiing for the string to loosen
Waiting for the loud popRead More
that much I have
but when my purpose is gone from this life
stood up and died away
and yet my own self is only beginning a
–clocks and years working for an ultanium purpose–
(not even I know)
from where, of this point
Straws lie on a riverbed and so, too, does my past,
whereas, if I am to mo
a future becomes aware of me
But who chooses my future?
Surely not me.
I am beating to my own drum
in a band of arteries
that don’t belong to me
working long hours in some
no time for rest
I beat on and on,
even as thickness grows around me
and I am lonely.
Sometimes I want to stop and ask–
ask, why am I–how do I–
but I can’t hear beyond
my own beating.Read More