Friday, November 26, 2010

in-class assignments: exam anxiety and Amanda's legs

We used Jamie Cat Callan's Writer's Toolbox ( for a few in-class exercises.

Exercise 1:

We were presented with various popsicle sticks, each with a different type of writing prompt. Choose a "first sentence" prompt at random. Based on the sentence prompt, begin writing a story for two minutes. After the minutes are up, choose a "non sequitur" prompt at random (definition: a sentence that lacks meaning relative to what it follows; can denote an abrupt, illogical, unexpected or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it). Based on the prompt, continue writing your story for two minutes. Repeat with another "non sequitur" and "last straw" prompt.

Prompts are denoted in bold.

The only way John could pass the exam was by cheating. I didn’t know how to help him. We constructed elaborate, paper-thin schemes. We installed small, hidden cameras all over the center. We bought small mirrors and pasted them on the toes of our sneakers. We copied intricate formulas and rolled them up and forced them into the transparent bodies of ballpoint pens.

The plane was two hours late. Subsequently, the exams were delivered to the center two hours late and everything was postponed. It was two more hours wasted. We fumbled and waited and copied more formulas into the crooks of our arms. We prayed that the sweat would not wipe away our inky attempts at passing.

It wasn’t so much that I had been blind to the truth. It was just that I had seen the truth differently. When I was younger, I thought that hard work equated success. Now that we were older and wiser and lazier, we could see that no amount of studying would have allowed us to jump over that invisible threshold. We were doomed.

The lemon sherbert that melted all over the counter
sent my mind into a sugar-induced haze. We sat in the ice cream shop, counting down the last two hours and numbing our nerves with cold sweets. One last hurrah, one last enjoyable sherbert before it was showtime. Maybe I was in denial, maybe I was protecting myself from failure, but John and I never noticed that the clock in the ice cream shop was broken. We waited and waited too long, like a pair of frozen, sitting ducks. So we ended up missing the exam, after all.


Exercise 2:

You will be given four prompts: a protagonist, a goal, an obstacle, and an action. Spend a few minutes writing a story that incorporates these four prompts.

Protagonist: Amanda with amazing legs
Goal: king of the heap
Obstacle: fear of heights
Action: research at library

Our small town lived in a small valley and cowered under the shadow of a mountain. We called the mountain "The Heap" because it looked like a gigantic heap of pancakes, stacked up to the heavens. No one had ever climbed to the top and returned to tell the tale, except Amanda with the amazing legs.

Amanda was before our time. My uncle's best friend's little sister had been in the same class with her. Amanda had legendary stems. They glistened, year-round, unrestricted by pants. Those legs sashayed around the local park, the musty old library, the main boulevard. Male and female eyes moved with those legs.

Amanda was determined to conquer The Heap, but she was crippled by a devastating fear of heights.

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