In earlier posts, I discussed how I’d used the seasons as a gateway to vivid, powerful writing with my 6th and 7th grade students. After discussions about the literal and figurative characteristics of and associations with each season, students thought about symbolism. What does each season seem to represent? How can I revel this in my writing? With the characters? With the setting? Then it was time to write! Here are some of snippets:
When I saw the first leaves beginning to fall, I had known that my days here were numbered.
It scared me that I had to leave so soon. Barely anyone here knew, with the exception of my boss, Travis. He was the one who had been kind enough to give me a temporary job cleaning up at a food court while I was searching for something better. Back then, I’d never expected to grow this attached to this run-down town. But I had. I loved my peaceful walks to the bus stop alone in the early afternoon, and I loved talking to the vendors at the court. Even picking up trash every day wasn’t so bad.
Fall had come early this year. The days grew shorter, and with them, so did my time in the place that I had come to love. Walking to the bus stop one day in the cool, crisp air, I wondered when I should tell my friends at the food court. I resolved to do it today.
I stood at the bus stop, so distracted with thoughts of what I was going to say that I nearly missed my bus. I ran on board, tripping over my own feet and nearly falling face first into the aisle. Finally, I settled into my seat, mind wandering. The bus came to a screeching halt at the next stop and the doors swung open. A gust of cold air rushed past me, chilling me to the bone. When had it gotten so cold? I wrapped my arms around my skinny frame, trying to give myself a moment of warmth. The bus doors closed and it rocketed on down the street. I looked out the window and saw the vibrant colors rushing by. They were so beautiful, but I knew they wouldn’t last.
He was indecisive. When he had everything in front of his very eyes he was unable to choose which direction to take. Then, it was nearly impossible to venture into the deep part of his unconscious mind locked away. But finally, after a year of not visiting that part of his mind, he was forced to feel the curse of regret.
Snow scattered the damp ground in thick dollops. An icing. A diamond in a lump of coal. Pools of brown water swept by him.
The path ahead was misty, yet the trail behind was clear. Barren trees stood resilient in the biting winds. Yet, it was still and quiet. As if all the world was giving him a moment to stop and think. This was the moment when the past year all smashed into one second and one thought. He looked into the hazy mirror of brown pool of water and found himself dreaming of the past. Why couldn’t I let myself be happier? I should’ve spent more time doing the things I love.
His little feet pressed against the dewy grass. As soon as possible he bolted for the hills. His hand-me-down shorts fluttered in the morning breeze. I opened my car door and stepped down from the seat. Taking in the sunshine, I grabbed the basket from the car. The old wood weaving reminded me of my childhood. When my mother used to take me and my brothers out to a picnic.We’d spread out our blanket and eat as a family. I started my trek up the hill. I heard Conner panting behind me.
“Did you bring Willy’s baseball?” I hollered to my husband.
“Of course,” replied Conner.
Willy ran circles around me. All his energy had been bottled up over the winter and now he was going to explode. I panted my way up to the hill, and then sank to the ground, resting my back upon the gnarly tree that had stood there for centuries. I pulled out a water bottle and drank. The cool liquid was refreshing after the long, humid car ride. I stood back up and walked to the other side of the tree. My eyes rested upon my signature. My name sat next to my brothers in a line. I felt the engraving with my fingers, remembering all the memories my brother and I had together. All the times we’d chased each other, hugged each other, and even punched each other.
I stared over the hill into the distance. The Hudson River poured across the country side. Its waters so full of life. A group of canoes paddled down the stream. I’d traveled that way before. They were in the easy stretch. But in a tenth of a mile up stream, they would be in some really rapid waters.
I placed the basket on the ground. I opened up the latches and took out the blanket. I laid it down on the grass. It was clean, fresh from the store, but soon to be soiled with stains and mud. Willy wasn’t the cleanest kid, nor the most observant.
It can be challenging for young writers to develop short stories. Prewriting exercises, like thinking through the symbolism of seasons, are so important to help drum up energy and excitement for writing. It is in this phase, where sparks begin to fly, setting the stage for powerful writing.
Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member and a part-time instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University where she is also a doctoral student.