Session C: Joy Seekers with Marissa

Ms. Marissa’s Joy Seekers Workshop

What does it even mean to seek joy? These young writers and I spent a week of workshops answering this question, looking for joy and delight in a mix of typical and not-so-typical places. Most of us could agree on the joys of summer – cold treats, swimming pools, going on trips. But what about what objects bring us the most delight? Or what our imaginary worlds would be like? How about the best made-up animal? Those answers were as varied as the writers in this group and as the pieces they’ve chosen to share. Below you’ll find loving odes, magnificent metaphors, and tales of wondrous lands. We all hope you find joy in them, too. 

Ode to Coco

Coco is a little stuffed dog,

He is and is not alive;

He’s furry and squishy and black and white,

White that glows at night.

Coco is my really special buddy,

His back is a pillow;

Coco’s nose will never be runny,

Unless he bathes with a fellow.

Coco is a shooting jet,

Speeding faster than light;

The black mask around his eyes,

Helps him see at night.

Coco is a little stuffed dog,

He is and is not alive;

He’s furry and squishy and black and white,

White that glows at night.

Abby G.

An Ode to my Diary

My diary is wonderful

I can save all my memories in it

It’s a camera that records all the most important events in my life

Outside is a book jacket with a couple of stickers

Inside is my life

Represented by words swimming through the pages

Inside is my emotions and a couple of secrets

Things only I know and will only share with the diary

It’s a treasure of imagination

The diary is my book

Of life and its things

A timeline of me and only me

Words cannot describe it

The magic of a memoir

So I can only cherish it

Feeling grateful I have it

So my diary is more than just that

It IS my life and taking a huge part of it

So I will always keep it

To remind me of my past

Sumedh Malshe

Pencils

Pencils are utensils 

Pencils are stencils

Pencils are bright

Pencils seem right 

Pencils are nice

Pencils look like dice

Some Pencils stink

While others are pink

Pencil might be slow 

But go with the flow

Pencils are utensils 

Pencils are stencils 

Aalap Paranjape

My smiley swimsuit

Dear smiley swimsuit I can’t

thank you enough

You keep me moving in swimming 

I even learn things with you that are new

Smiley swimsuit you always make me smile

I swim in the pool oh sooo cool,

I feel so free swimming in the waters of the little sea!

And friends swimming with me.

Dear smiley swimsuit you have a rainbow smile and little cute eyes.

I hope I fit in you for a while.

Anagha K.

Letter to a Hologram

Dear hologram,

I love how you remind me of the days I was in Florida. You make me think of the beautiful beaches, shells, and animals. I once saw whales on my trip, and thanks to you, I remember that like it was yesterday. The dolphins in the hologram remind me of a time I went to Mexico and swam with dolphins! Your accurate representation of the animal is astounding, and I adore you more than almost any object. You are stunning and magnificent! I love how you don’t just remind me of one vacation, but you remind me of many. The amazing food, people, and scenery of these places makes me love that you let me remember those places. You have made me grateful for the amount of vacations and trips I’ve gotten to go on. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me.

-From Siya

Siya Naik

Lost Lands

Once upon a time in a dark and gloomy forest, there was an elf kid. She was trapped in a tower with lots of other kids like herself. The tower she was trapped in belonged to a witch. The world that the elf, the kids, and the witch lived in was unlike any other.

         In this world there were witches, wizards, elves, humans, and lots of other races too. There were also different kingdoms with kings and queens. In the part of the world where the tower and the kids were, you just had to obey the king or queen and that’s it. There were basically no laws. That’s why everything was so crazy in this part of the world. The Spooky Forest was in the area of the world where the witches lived. The witches were a mad race and the Witch Queen was the worst of them all. The wizard’s part of the world was pretty weird and you would never know what to expect. There were melting books and lots of secret tunnels. The main part of the wizard’s area of the world was a mystic forest full of magic flying puppies and giant mushrooms. The wizards were quite tall and they always had a beard. The elves’ part of the world was pristine, clean, and white. Their national animal was a chicken and their land was made of ice cream . They had to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. It was a law in the elfin kingdom. There were also rumors of Ice Cream Giants in the north. The elves were normal sized and had pale skin and straight hair. Also they had pointy ears. They called the sun The Great Ice Cream. The humans were normal beings but their part of the world got melted by Chul Luls which are small fire-breathing ants, so the humans had to retreat underground. Now their part of the world is a scorched wasteland.

        Now, back to the girl. Her name was Elvie. She was just about to get up from her position on the hard stone floor of the tower when the witch who kept her and the other kids in the tower came in. Elvie and the other kids who were trapped in the tower were there for days. All the time she was there she was allowed only one meal of fried octopus soup a day. It tasted horrible but she had to eat it. It was very different from her usual ice cream. Since she was positioned right next to a small window she at least got to look at something besides the tower. As the days went by she saw the usual sausage rain and snow cone blizzards that were expected. She watched as the moon became a full potato in the sky at night. As the Witch came in, Elvie saw her big orange curls of hair. Witches always had to have orange hair. That was one of the only laws here:  witches must have orange hair. All the hope she had before immediately vanished. “Come on and get up,” The Witch said. All the children got up hesitantly. The Witch led them downstairs to the yard of the tower. The Witch made all the children stand in a line. There were at least fifty of the children. Then the Witch took her wand and turned a boy into a pink sheep. “Oh no,” she said “I’ve gotten the wrong wand, the sheep spell will wear off soon!” The Witch clearly thought they couldn’t hear her but the children could.

         Just then, chaos started. The Witch said, “Oh well, I’ll just have to make do with this.” She cackled madly and pointed her wand in all directions. A bunch of pink sheep appeared. Someone managed to get a gate open and all the remaining children ran out that way. Just then a fleet of Porsches came up on the driveway. They got the children and Elvie into the Porsches. They then got carts for the pink sheep who were slowly turning back into whatever they were before and towed them away. Elvie then saw her dad driving one of the Porsches and said “thanks dad.” Her dad gave her a thumbs up with a grin. Then they all got home to the elfin kingdom just in time to see The Great Ice Cream set.

Aadya Munshi

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Session C: Mindfulness and Writing with Ana

Mindfulness and Writing was a distinctive combination of emotional and creative learning. Students studied the mindfulness principles of observation, description, and participation and then applied them through analyzing, writing, and presenting literary work. In one short week, they produced poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction—and cultivated a community that I already miss immensely, built on each teenager’s unique contributions and a collective commitment to vulnerability .

Some students are even brave enough to share the fruits of their imaginations publicly. Accordingly, below you will find a very present observational poem by Stavya, a dramatic descriptive nonfiction piece by Angelica, and three thoughtful stories about participation by Kat, Alena, and Aradhana. I hope you enjoy the written works of these mindfulness mavens! 

Ana B. Freeman          

Badgerdog Teaching Artist 

Ana B. Freeman (They/She) is a lecturer at Texas State University. Their poetry has appeared in Bi Women Quarterly and their nonfiction and reviews have appeared at The Spun Yarn, Odyssey Works, and Theatre is Easy. Her fiction has been published by Stone of Madness Press and Electric Literature.

As I Sit on My Roller Chair

As I sit on my roller chair,

I see my laptop,

Containing this very poem.

I see my notebook.

I see my pen, which

Wrote the draft of this very poem.

I see my mother 

Cooking our lunch.

I see my dog sitting

And gazing at my mother’s 

Cooking.

As I sit on my roller chair,

I hear my dog refusing to sleep.

I hear my father

Talking to colleagues.

I hear my typing as I write

This very poem.

As I sit on my roller chair,

I feel the keys of my laptop used to write 

This very poem.

I feel my pen.

I feel my mouse.

As I sit on my roller chair, 

I smell the smell of 

Pencil shavings floating

Lazily through the air.

I smell the smell that

Lingers on the inside of a new car.

As I sit on my roller chair,

I taste my pen

As I chew on it,

Deep in thought.

As I sit on my roller chair, 

I can see, hear,

Taste, smell, 

And feel many 

Things.

Stavya Dwivedi

Tricycle Trouble

💢⚠️CRASH!!!⚠️💢 

My tricycle fell to the bottom of the stairs! 

I was six years old, and it was a Thursday night around 5:00 PM. I’d been about to ride my tricycle to the park with my mom and brother, who were on bikes.

I had just gotten my trike out of the apartment. Outside, there was a ramp for wheelchairs, bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc.… but for a dare from my brother (which turned out to have been a joke), I rode down the stairs. My forehead crashed into the pavement below, getting battered and bruised. There was a lot of blood, and we went to the doctor’s office.

  Luckily, there were no open scars, so I didn’t need stitches. But it was definitely a traumatizing experience, and I most definitely learned not to do that again.  

Angelica Xu

Tallest Tower 

It was a cold December afternoon in Mrs. Howard’s classroom. Today was a “Free Day Friday.” The students were very excited because Mrs. Howard always chose something fun for Fridays. Mrs. Howard showed the kids some spaghetti and a package of marshmallows. The activity was called “Tallest Tower.” The point of the game was to build the tallest tower using only hard spaghetti and marshmallows. 

Everyone was paired up. Janet was pleading to be with her friends, but she was paired up with her least favorite person in the class, Edward. Edward didn’t mind being partners with Janet; he just wanted to get the job done. Once everyone was given materials, they were allowed to start. 

Janet noticed that her best friend was only one table away. She called to her, walked over to her, and began talking to her. Janet’s friend’s partner didn’t really care because he wanted to build the tower on his own. But Edward was not very pleased. He did need help because his arms were kind of short and his hands were all sticky from the marshmallow bits. He did call Janet over many times, but she ignored him and continued to talk with her friend. 

Beeeeeeep! The timer went off. That was Janet’s cue to head back to her seat and act like she had been helping the whole time. When she got back to the table, she was confused, as there was no tower to be seen, only piles of broken spaghetti and ripped marshmallows. Janet asked why there was no tower and Edward explained that he couldn’t do it all on his own. Edward told her that she had been talking to her friend the whole time and no one was there to help him build the tower. Janet rolled her eyes and said he just hadn’t tried and had wanted them to lose. Edward was peeved, but before he could get a word out, the bell rang. 

Janet walked out the door, leaving Edward looking lifeless in the classroom. He realized that no matter what he did, Janet was not going to say sorry, or apologize in any other way. Edward grabbed his stuff and slowly walked out the door, into the hallway, and out of the school.

Kat Hejl

When You Don’t Participate…

“Class, settle down! I know this is a museum about ancient Egypt and you’re all very excited. I think out of every class I’ve ever taught, you guys care about ancient civilizations the most! Now, please be respectful and listen to our tour guide, Mr. Greene,” said Ms. B.

A mix of “okay” and “alright” sounded through Ms. B.’s seventh period class of seniors.

“Thank you. I’m Mr. Green, your tour guide, and I will be showing you around the Texas Ancient Egyptian Museum. First off, we have…yes, um…what’s your name?” began the tour guide, before being interrupted by the class clown, Tony.

“I’m Tony. Also, do astronauts wear their spacesuits in the rocket when they go into outer space, or are they naked inside the rocket?” Tony asked with a smile. The question sent a fit of giggles through the class.

“Um, no, they wear clothes inside the spaceship. But we’re not talking about that right now. This is a museum on ancient Egypt. Alright, let’s get into the importance of the Nile! Follow me into this river room, if you will! Now, over here, you will see–” Mr. Greene was interrupted yet again by Tony, who squatted down, made a concentrated face, and made “pew-pew” sounds with finger guns.

“Pew-pew! Pew-pew!” said Tony. The entire class laughed again as Ms. B. gave him a look. “Sorry, I just thought that this room looks a lot like a battle from River Wars,” said Tony, back upright. The tour guide sighed and spent the next few minutes talking about the Nile and its significance to the Egyptians.

“…so that’s why the Nile was important. Any questions? No? Alright, I’ll give you a few minutes to look around and explore this room on your own. Feel free to touch our marvelous decorations, but please don’t touch anything behind glass–Tony! Please don’t touch that,” the tour guide explained.

“Whaaat? It’s pretty! See?” Tony said, showing off the artifact. A few classmates of his giggled.

“Yes, Tony, I see! I work here! Now please refrain from touching things behind glass, as I was saying,” Mr. Greene said.

“Okay, okay,” said Tony, putting his hands up nonchalantly. 

A while later, the class stopped the tour to eat lunch outside the museum, and Tony realized he had forgotten his lunch.

“It’s alright, Tony, I have an extra lunch packed just in case someone forgot their lunch on the bus,” Ms. B. said with a smirk, reaching through her bag to find the extra lunch. “Tony? Hey! Over here! I have an extra lunch,” Ms. B. said, waving him down as she saw Tony walk away to a blue taco food truck.

“It’s alright, Ms. B.! I got money for tacos!” Tony called out from a distance, waving his ten-dollar bill at Ms. B.

“Tony! Get back here at once! I’m not authorized to–”

“Chill, Ms. B.! I’m a legal adult. I turned eighteen last week, remember? It’s not like you can forcefully bring me back to school. I’m going there by choice!” Tony said, back talking Ms. B.

“Well, you are still of school age! Now, please come back here. I don’t want to have to repeat myself twice,” Ms. B. said calmly but firmly.

“Fine,” Tony sighed, and walked back over to Ms. B. and the rest of his classmates. Tony unhappily ate the PB&J sandwich and drank the juice Ms. B. gave him.

An hour later, Mr. Greene led the class into the tomb exhibit for the last part of the tour. Tony zoned out on what he thought was a bench in the corner of the room, and fell asleep. 

When he woke up, he looked at his watch, which read “5:43.” His classmates were at home by now! The museum had closed!

He felt a rumble beneath his seat. He fell off, and saw a mummy come out! He gasped and stood frozen. A hand reached out, pushed him in the tomb, and shut him in. He tried to open the tomb, but then he remembered that before he fell asleep, the tour guide had said the tomb was five hundred pounds! Tony gave up and died. So when you don’t participate…

Alena Jaweed


Beloved Seeds

“Hey, Zara! Over here!” Zara’s friend Olivia calls to her.

“Hey! What’s up?” Zara asks.

“Mrs. Wilson wants us to pair up to plant sunflower seeds in the school garden. Want to be partners?” Olivia asks hopefully. 

“Sure!” Zara replies, but her mind meanders back to when she was six years old and planted a mango seed on her grandparents’ farm in India… 

“Mom, Mom, can I please go see the farm with Dadi?” Zara begged her mom to let her go with her grandma. 

“Okay, fine, but please don’t get too dirty. We have to–” 

“Yes! Thank you!” Zara cut her off. She ran out the door, pulling her Dadi along. 

“Woah, Zara. You don’t want to get your old dadi too tired,” Grandma laughed.

“Sorry! I’m just so excited!” Zara replied, out of breath. 

As they approached the flowers, they were welcomed by a swarm of a million bees. Zara screamed and grabbed Dadi’s arm. She tried to run and dodge to protect herself from getting stung, but her grandma stopped her. 

“The bees are our neighbors,” she explained. “They are the reason these plants are able to thrive.”

“But they are attacking me!” Zara squealed in fear.

“No, I promise they will not hurt you. If you don’t bother them, they will not bother you.” 

“Okay…” agreed Zara.

The beautiful fragrance of cardamom pods rushed up to her nose. The sight of bright red tomatoes captured her eyes. She plucked one off the vine and squeezed it. Tomato juice hid the smudged ink from the markers she’d drawn with. Over in the distance, she saw cows grazing in the grass, mooing as they loped around the field–the music of the farm tickling her ears. 

“Oh, Dadi, I love it!” Zara exclaimed.

“Then you are going to love the fig and guava trees,” Dadi said laughingly.

The two walked over to the orchard. The fig trees were right at the entrance of the orchard grounds. Within a second, Zara was already climbing the fig trees to search for the fruit. Dadi instructed her not to pick any green figs because they needed more time to ripen. Zara plucked a few figs and handed them to her dadi, who put them in a basket. After about fifteen minutes, Dadi told her to go back inside so they could make a nice jam with the figs Zara had picked. They traipsed back over to the house and immediately started working on the jam. Zara served it to her cousins, who visited later that evening.

A few weeks passed by and Zara’s vacation was almost over. She’d spent most of that time on her family’s farm. Zara had become attached to the farm and wanted to contribute something of her own to it. 

Her family ate dinner, savoring the homey food they would not get to eat again for a few months. After dinner, Dada, her grandpa, brought out mangoes. Everyone took one piece each and ate it silently. 

Suddenly, Zara blurted, “Can I plant a mango seed on the farm?”

“My parents used to plant mango trees here, but they stopped after the demand for our figs went up. We needed the extra land to plant more fig trees,” Dada explained. 

“I’m sure there is space somewhere. Please?” Zara asked hopefully. 

“Okay, why not? We will find some space tomorrow morning. Then you can plant the seed. It will be your own special tree,” Dada said. 

“Thank you!” Zara replied. 

The next morning, they found an empty area near the back of the orchard. Zara and her dadi prepared the plot for the seed. They dug the hole, and Zara placed the seed in the center. Now all they had to do is cover it up and wait. 

“How long do we have to wait?” Zara asked. 

“A few years. Trees take a long time to grow and mature,” Dadi replied. 

“Okay…’” Zara said with uncertainty.

Every day, she went out to her mango tree, hoping to find that it had grown. Zara had to fly back to America after a few days, which meant she wouldn’t be able to watch her tree grow. Dadi told Zara that she would send her pictures when the tree started to grow. 

Weeks later, there was still nothing. Not one leaf. Soon, Dada and Dadi got so involved with other parts of the farm and selling their produce that they forgot about the mango tree… 

Come to think of it, I forgot about it for a while, too. The tree must have grown by now, and I haven’t even seen it yet. The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is ask about my mango tree. For now, I should focus on planting these sunflower seeds. I know I’ll be able to see these grow. 

Aradhana Arora

Badgerdog Session B: Flash Fiction (7th-12th grade)

The Bestsellers

It’s Badgerdog tradition for each workshop to choose a name, and this high school flash fiction workshop settled on The Bestsellers. Though this name was rather tentatively agreed upon, it seemed more and more fitting as the week went on. Every time students shared their work with each other, their peers would marvel at how great it was. There were common refrains of “Wow!” and “Why is everyone so good at writing?” “Because you’re all Bestsellers,” I would quip. 

In our week-long summer camp, we took a tour of the conventions and possibilities of flash fiction. We discussed the art of subtext, implication, and leaving things unsaid (or, in the words of one of our workshop members, leaving the reader “thinking space”). We considered how to write titles that say a lot, even, in some cases, telling a “story within a title.” We also considered the difference between genres: what poetic meter, imagery, and form can offer to flash fiction and even how the difference between these genres may not be so clear-cut. You’ll notice that some of the students’ work includes both prose and poetic sections, inspired by a hybrid form known as haibun, which blends prose and haiku. 

And all the pieces rise to the challenge of flash fiction: telling a satisfying story in under 1000 words. 

Lauren Kinney

Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Lauren Kinney is a writer and musician in Austin, Texas. Her fiction, literary criticism, and multidisciplinary work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, 7×7, The Turnip Truck(s), and elsewhere. Her song “Travelling” was published in Vol. 2, No. 1 of The Turnip Truck(s), a Notable Special Issue of 2016 selected by Leslie Jamison in The Best American Essays 2017. She received her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she works at the L.A. Review of Books.

Maybe I Don’t… 

Although there are many things I own and love. My clothes, my books, and all the other random items that, for some reason, I’ve grown an emotional attachment to. However, there are a few things that I could probably just do without. I sometimes wonder; maybe you don’t need that faded Despicable Me shirt that’s 4 sizes too small anymore. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to the deformed piece of clay that your third grade self once called an “art project”. Maybe it’s time to move on from the bright red Spider-Man sunglasses that you thought made you a cool kid in 2013. And don’t even get me started on all the stuffed animals in your room that you’ve definitely outgrown. 

And those ugly pants

And your baseball uniform,

From 2009

And maybe that hat

And those shorts from 4th grade too

And the stale jelly beans

On second thought, I need to clean out my closet. 

Harris Pemberton

The Wandering of a Mind 

Most of the time, I could do without the dark. I get the chills, and jump around, or feel at ease. And sometimes they mix and I don’t sleep. It depends, like it depends if we’re born at all. It depends, like it depends if we live to 1, or 2, or 200. I see things lurking in the dark, that aren’t really there. And I know that there aren’t. But I still feel like they are. I hear the crack of a stick, and my mind wanders. But not the good kind. It wanders about the fact that it could be, or not be, ok. And I know, it’s ok. But I feel like It’s not. And that is scarier than I think, until it’s dark outside.

Most are not scared of

The dark that lurks around, no

Matter what, it’s there.

Most are not scared of 

The sun going dark now, but

That brings chills, and fright.

Most are not scared of

What their mind comes up with in

The dark, musing night.

Hannelore Sederholm

Deafening Love 

I had been watching them quarrel through the window every single day. My neighbors were a young couple that had moved in next door to us after they got married. For the first 4 months, everything was silent and they were in love with each other, but then after the fourth month, they started to get irritated with each other and eventually started to hate each other. Recently, they have decided to keep their love for each other alive, by scheduling one hour every day to argue and pour out all their hate for each other, so that the rest of the day, they can stand each other. I personally think that this Idea is a very innovative and effective way to keep love alive in marriage but my sanity says otherwise. Yeah that’s right!, as much as I liked their idea, I hated the amount of noise they would make during the argument sessions and, the worst part was that they used to argue at the same time that I would do my homework. Today was the day, I had had enough of their loud yelling and cursing, as I got into my car and started to drive to the police station in anger, I immediately turned around as I came to a realization that I couldn’t complain, they had been too kind to me and always loved making conversation with me. I came to a conclusion with myself that I just love my neighbors too much and as much as their arguments can sometimes make me want to pull my hair out, I like their deafening love. 

Vivaan Bansal

Attention 

I got my dog when I was maybe three or four. My parents let me choose the one we got. While my dog isn’t like most others, that has never mattered to me. He’s got rusty gold metal for skin. And his face is made of buttons and metal scraps. Pier is just like any other dog in the sense that he likes to eat and run outside. He also loves watching Disney movies with me, which I never mind. Pier is my best friend, as I’m homeschooled and tend to move a lot. He’s one thing that has never changed. 

I was taking Pier on a walk as usual, he began to walk in a different direction, turning left rather than turning right like usual. I follow Pier until he stops right in front of a building. ‘Jace high school’ the building says. I was standing there for so long, I had barely realized that the school bell had rang. Kids rush out of the building, starting conversation with their friend. Pier being the playful dog he is, runs around trying to catch the attention of anyone he can find. Eventually he does find someone, the person plays with him for a second before telling Pier to follow them as they look around the campus. I watch as pier continues to push for attention.  I ran up to them, ready to claim my dog who took finding a playmate a little too far. 

“Pier,” I say as a way to catch my robotic dog’s attention. My dog runs towards me. 

“I’m Kylie,”’ someone says in front of me. I look up from my dog to see the person Pier had previously been playing with. 

“Nice to meet you. I’m Leah,” I reply. 

“Are you new to town? Do you go to school here?” Kylie asks. 

“My family and I just moved here. And I’m home schooled at the moment.” 

By the end of the walk home, I had a new friend. I walk into my house, and Pier has a visibly happy face. I realize this was his plan all along. 

Makayla Burlingame-Moore

It Came… 

We don’t know where they came from. Asteroids came and dropped across all continents, high radioactive asteroids. Governments started to take these asteroids and began major research. Instead of experimenting and finding a solution to the current worldwide problems, they decided to research how to use the mysterious objects as weapons…  Countries of the world began arming themselves with these weapons of destruction. Constant debate and tension in all parts of the world over resources. The black gold underneath the ground ran dry from the earth and flooding in all parts of the world due to extreme heat fell upon this world. The end of the world came sooner and sooner. But there was a breakthrough, after years of endless and relentless research we found out that there was a way to use these weapons as bringers of peace and technology.  De-escalation was called upon by all peoples of all kinds. These weapons were now being used as energy sources to this world. A seemingly boundless energy source. The power of the sun was at our fingertips, money and power underneath our fingernails. Floating cars became our way of transportation. Just one cell size of this energy was able to light up New York for one whole year. But this tremendous and immense growth came at a great and costly price. People became power hungry, taking and fighting over the energy. And this energy we took was now arming itself, it learned from us. 

It is now the year of 2077. All is lost, all resistance to this force is put down. People figured it would be a waste of manpower and resources to even fight this force, we became its slaves. It used us for experiments, it researched us, just as we did to them. It’s like making a creature only for it to be tested on and then killed. This energy began to multiply and eventually take over and dominate our world. 

Now if you see this, I am from the future, take heed and stop this from becoming your future, if you make something a weapon it will always stay a weapon. And we made it a weapon. 

Ian Lum

How I learned not to believe in perfect endings

The wind rustled the leaves of the tree I was sitting on. My legs were aching from gripping the branch too hard, and my palms were slick with sweat. The only light in the house was from the one window on the upper floor, where two figures paced and gestured with their hands.

I had been watching them quarrel through the window, and now one of them moved out of sight, ready to leave. The taller one grabbed the other’s arm. I heard scattered muttering and the words “they haven’t changed,” and then the shorter one relaxed a bit, turning away.

They were important to me, but I could only barely hear them, couldn’t intercede on the argument that I knew would end in disaster.

I had been watching them quarrel through the window, and now they were both sitting on the small bed, one of them crying, pushing the other’s comforts away.

“It doesn’t matter that they haven’t changed—you’ve changed.” one of them said. I gripped the branch harder with my legs. I was invested now; I wanted to hope that if I sat here, watched them, it would be alright.

The water cup in one’s hand spilled, and their yelling resumed, feet stomping, eyes wet, fists pumping down to the ground.

“… fix everything!” 

The taller one hit the wall, and then grimaced from the pain. They weren’t nothing; people scoff at lover’s quarrels but this wasn’t meaningless even to me, an outsider. 

I held my breath as I readjusted my sweaty palm.

I had been watching them quarrel through the window, and now they were both pleading. 

“…I don’t want…”

“…just see this my way, what we had…”

I felt a raindrop on my hair, and soon they were everywhere, soaking the bushes, the grass, and the last of my hope.

Their yelling had resumed, and the rocks this ship was going to splinter on were just ahead.

Grabbing something off the table, one of them pointed a finger at their partner in a final accusation.

I don’t care!

As the door slammed and the one who remained slumped in tears, I knew that statement was the opposite of the truth.

Katya Murkes

For the Forgotten and the Remembered 

She knew she had to get away, before unfamiliar words would start to spill from her mouth. Only a few syllables away from everything, and knowing that she had almost made it, had seemed to hurt more than if she had never tried. Recklessness, obsession, and greed were words she lived by without fault. She wanted all that she could work for, and all that she could possibly get. Her world, however, wasn’t as easy for people to recognize. The very words she had been waiting a lifetime to hear had been silenced at the tip of their tongues, and everytime she would be reminded once again of how dispensable she really was.

Twilight settled and light dispersed

Into the horizon

It was so her

Irritable and young

For adventures beyond youth

If she could make her mark

Before she stepped in the track of another

She picked up the bottle of pop left at the counter, and quickly flashed it by the scanner. “Would you like anything with that?” she said rather instinctively, almost as if by reflex for her. She passed him the bottle, letting out a long sigh as she watched him leave the store as the hanging bells on the door chimed. She realized she was alone once again. 

With a few clicks of a button, she used her fingernails to dig out the dollar notes from the cash register, and swiped them one by one, counting her earnings for today.

How had it all come to this?

The star chasers, those that had lived their lives as dreamers, bore with them the responsibility and burden to carry the fallen ones on their own shoulders. Surely their lives couldn’t be much better than her own. She knew how it felt, to sit with a thousand memories, without a single person to share one with. Being forgotten may hurt, but it doesn’t come close to being blinded before being able to take a glance at the city nightscape. Just looking over the peak, watching the moment just before the sun collapsed and light gave way to the shadows. It was enough for her.

She stopped by the well on her walk home, reaching into her back pocket, and flipping the coin inside. She could hear the clatter when it had hit the bottom, as she had walked away. 

Slinging her backpack over to her front, she shuffled her hands, insearch of the book inside. She ran her fingers over its matte cover, feeling the words one by one as she walked through the lonely night.

She tipped her head to the side and looked down, as if pondering the possibilities if she were to fall. Perhaps her ‘Knight In Shining Armour’ would be there to rescue her, or a bed of flowers would appear just seconds before she hit the floor to bask her in their fragrance. Or perhaps, the most likely but least favourable of outcomes would be death knocking at her door. She knew that they had never spared her a glance, but would they really be so indifferent to her disappearance? If her crown were to be upright or crooked, nothing would change in anyone else’s eyes. And so she did what she had been doing from the very beginning. Falling. Falling desperately with hopes that there would be someone to catch her before she hit the bottom.

And so, in the break of dawn

Before she could mutter her last goodbye

She thought she had seen a dim figure falling beside her

“You did a good job.”

Vyjayanti Vasudevan

Swim 

240 Masonry Ave. 

CA, San Francisco 94105

April 9, AIR 07 (2061)

Dear Readers of the Past, 

Technology has evolved enough for me to write to you. Don’t let your world become like this. Powerful things without a heart and love of real creatures can do terrible things. Don’t give heartless objects a mind. Oh, and, please, if you don’t know how to swim, it would be a good idea to learn how. This was my experience. Don’t let it become yours. 

Whatever it was, I didn’t know if I liked it. It too closely resembled a spider. Well, either was a humongous Daddy Long Legs or a tiny-headed, spindly-legged octopus. Whichever works. Both are creepy. It moved with an oddly satisfying (and terrifyingly creepy) mechanically clicking and its orb-like eyes glowed red. It’s not unusual to be walking down the street and to be confronted by a Death-loving, manic-robot-assassin. Damn entrepreneurs. If only they had actually KNOWN what they were doing. AI had reached its breaking point by 2054. The world had reached its breaking point moments later. Robots flipped our world into an apocalypse. Those who stand in their way are pretty much disintegrated in a max of 10 minutes depending on the robot strength/durability/etc. I, unfortunately, had just accidentally rammed my car into a stubby scholarly, important-looking robot crossing the street. It flipped onto its back and clawed at the air for a moment before righting its spider-like body. I tensed, clutching the steering wheel tightly, the robot scurried onto my windshield and plunged its dagger-like pincers into my bullet-proof windshield. The Robo made one pitiful scratch on the window and its angered expression made me laugh maniacally. Reading robot expressions is not actually possible, but it’s funny to imagine an angered face. The Robo cursed a bit in its flurry of beeping and then smashed its pincers into my windshield again. After 7 more jabs, my windshield was beginning to crack. Okay, gotta fly. I rotated the jets using a small control panel on the dashboard until they were perpendicular to the ground. As I rocketed skyward, straight up into the air, the robot slipped off my dashboard and into the fury of electric blue flames my jets released beneath me. I usually like the on-ground roads because there’s so much air traffic as it is. Most people like the air-bus now rather than driving. Lazy fools, I thought scornfully. But then again, I need a robot to peel my oranges so maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty in calling people lazy. I landed on the newly installed Launchpad at the nearby Shell gas station. I drove off the landing strip and continued my way to the Robots Work and Repairs shop. I passed the Children’s How to Build a Buddy: H/R (humans/robots) Love for Life class on how to build robots and parked in front of the Robots Work and Repairs. I was murmuring “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” as I made my way into the store whirling my keys around my fingers until I was stopped at the doors of the shop by two deluxe-looking robots.

“How can I help you, Sir?” I asked politely, catching my keys before they went flying into the robot’s face.  

The robot just stared at me. That was when I realized that Government Robots only show up when they want to kill somebody. Behind me, a person got out of their car and was making it into the shop when they dropped their bag of chips. The robots turned their heads to look at the poor bloke scooping up his chips. And, that’s my cue to run, I thought. I scurried to my car, flung open the door, and leaped into it, shooting into the air moments later. The guy collecting his chips squeaked and ran away, but his forsaken chips were roasted by my jets. I got a head start by about… eh, 3 seconds but that wasn’t going to help me and I knew it. I flew high above San Francisco and toward the wide bay. Robots can’t swim, I thought. I almost laughed at my own brilliance. I adjusted my rear-view mirror and winced terribly. Then I almost laughed again. This time, though, I was laughing at my stupidity. That was the only thing robots and I had in common. None of us could swim. The two robots were literally right behind me now. But, I didn’t speed up. I slowed down. I slowed to tempt the robots into chasing me more blindly. To have them see the light at the end of the tunnel, and then for them to realize it was an explosion instead. Soon, they were close enough to hack away at the back of the car. They wouldn’t change their minds now, I would die, or they would perish. Their target had been acquired.  

So that was when I did it. The scariest thing of my entire life. I turned off the car’s engine, still directly over the bay, close to Treasure Island. I never had loved the water but maybe, all I needed was a little adventure to get me going.  

It’s AIR 7 now. (7 years since the Artificial Intelligence Revolution) The plan worked, obviously, and I’m alive. The robots had sunk as if they were made of osmium. I learned how to swim during those two hours of flailing helplessly in the water until a little tourist boat came bobbing along and I clambered onto it. This was my story. Now you tell me yours. 

P.S. There’s at least one thing to look forward to in the future: Robots to peel oranges for you. 

Thank you. 

Yours Sincerely,

Saanvy Desai

Session E: Journalism (3rd-5th grade)

The Detective Journalists understand the importance of asking questions, interviewing reliable sources to uncover the truth and diligently pursue the real news. We read articles and listened to podcasts to decipher which ones were the most believable (you can always count on National Geographic to report on animal activities). The detectives chose a topic they were interested in—Deforestation, Overcoming Allergies and How to Train Copycat Dogs, for example—and wrote the true facts from online research and parental interviews. But for our final assignment, we delved into the world of imagination (“fake” news or just hyperbole?) to create crazy podcasts. So, sit back, suspend your belief for a brief time and enjoy The Detective Journalists’ scripts as they follow clues and report to the nation.

Terri Schexnayder

Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Terri Schexnayder is a teacher and a writer. She found her passion for writing when she was a young girl, the second oldest of ten siblings. Schexnayder created neighborhood mystery plays, short stories and logged endless diary entries. Her favorite writing moments are with her Badgerdog students, which she has done since joining the nonprofit in 2008. She is a graduate of St. Edward’s University, English Literature, summa cum laude. Published in 2019, her first book, A Majestic History: 100 Years of the Paramount Theatre, captured the beauty and events of Austin’s downtown landmark. She is writing her second book, a memoir about selling radio advertising in the iconic Austin of the 1970s, while juggling the life of a single mom. 

Cats Rob Labrador Library

Nainika: BREAKING NEWS! The vicious cats are robbing our Labrador Library, which contains the most expensive books in the world! 

Sam: Meow, Meow 

Nainika: I’m going to interview Edin, the dog librarian. Edin, what do you say to our listeners? 

Edin: GRAB THE DOG TREATS AND THE CATNIP, EVERYONE. We need to lure them out!

Shreya: Let’s steal those books quickly before they catch us with catnip! Hey, I am the leader. 

Noooooo, come back you silly cats! We haven’t finished taking the books to our secret lair 

Everyone: Hip, Hip, Hooray for Edin—she saved our library! 

Edin: Thank you, everyone. 

Sam: (Annoyed Cat Noises

Written and produced by:

Edin Carlin

Nainika Pradip

Samantha Rosson

Shreya Siddhant

Blue Pigs Attack America

Narrator: Blue flying pigs fall from the sky! They are eating a lot of stuff!

Sound Effects: [Pig snorts] [Chomp Chomp]

Narrator: They are now attacking people who are running like crazy!

Newsperson: Let’s ask someone on the street. How do you feel about the pigs?

Guy on the Street: The pigs are so crazy. They have super sharp teeth, are blue pigs … They are aliens!

Narrator: An army has arrived to kill the pigs. They are shooting their guns at them.

Sound Effects: [BANG! BANG!]

Narrator: The pigs are flying away!

Newsperson: The world is saved! You can now come out of your houses.

Narrator: The pigs come back again! 

Newsperson: They are with humans now! The pigs take off their wings and turn pink.

Interviewed person: AAAAHHHH!


Written and produced by:

Lawrence Ding

Arjun Ramanathan

Siddhant Shreya

Charles Wang

Badgerdog Session E: Mindfulness (7th-12th grade)

On the first day of workshop, we discussed the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence. We discussed poems by Ada Limón and Robert Hayden, focusing on their use of literal and figurative language to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing poems of gratitude.

On day two, we delved into the first skill of emotional intelligence—recognizing emotions. We discussed a short story by Tommy Orange, focusing on his use of craft to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing short stories focusing on identity and community.

On day three, we delved into the second skill of emotional intelligence—understanding emotions. We discussed poems by Patricia Smith and Natasha Trethewey, focusing on their use of poetic form to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing ekphrastic and persona poetry.

On day four, we delved into the third skill of emotional intelligence—labeling emotions. We discussed a poem by Philip Larkin, focusing on his use of cliche to convey emotion. We finished class by writing and sharing poems that reinvent cliche.

On the final day of workshop, we delved into the final two skills of emotional intelligence—expressing and regulating emotions. We discussed a short story by Karen Russell, reviewing all that we learned about emotional intelligence throughout the week. We finished class by revising our creative work and sharing our revisions.

Ruby and Gayathri’s poems, which you will encounter below, and the rest of the poems, short stories, and essays shared in workshop, are extraordinary for many reasons, not the least of which, their mindfulness. I am proud of and thankful for their creative work as well as the generosity and enthusiasm they had when creating it. I have no doubt that their work will resonate long after you are done reading.

Joshua Balicki 

Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Joshua Balicki is a graduate of the University of Iowa and an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin where he is a James A. Michener Fellow. He teaches at the Iowa First Nations Program at The University of Iowa and is an editor for the Iowa Prison Writing Project.

Untitled 

Before you were born, you were a twinkle in the shimmering eyes of your parents 

You were the swishing of your mom’s flowy skirt as she danced and weaved 

Before you were born, you were the hollow bounce of a leathery ball on a slick, wooden court that smelled like home 

You were the crinkle of an old book’s worn paper being flipped through 

Before you were born, you were a glossy, red mixer incorporating ingredients together to make a perfect batch of mouthwatering butter cookies 

Before you were born, you were the hard work and love of many before you

Ruby Airhart

Untitled

Sunday mornings are dusting,

sweeping, vacuuming, organizing. 

To me, just another fun day.

As I slip into outdoor clothes, 

rushing out the door, 

my Mom’s voice, “take care!”

When I play and play, finally home,

on the sofa gulping down a huge glass of water,

I take a huge breath, filling my lungs with the aroma.

It’s my favorite food.

My Mom’s cooking lunch.

After my Mom drops me to class,

when I’m back, the house is clean as a whistle.

While my Mom cooks dinner, I bathe

then eat.

With a full stomach, I brush my teeth. 

Before going to bed, I take a peek at my Mom.

I hadn’t seen her sit the whole day.

Now she’s getting clothes from the dryer. 

I walk to the big pile of clothes. 

I take a moment thinking about my Mom.

The only magic that I witness every day.

Then I start folding the clothes, 

one by one. 

Gayathri Anilkumar

Badgerdog Session C: 9AM Mythology (4th-6th grade)

What better than a child’s fairy tale? In this mythology workshop, we studied the Popul Vuh, one of the most important indigenous texts of the New World, along with classic myths from Ancient Greece and Rome. We read multiple versions of Narcissus, then wrote about a character who was too vain. We read a Norse myth with the trickster God Loki and one of my favorites: Orpheus and Eurydice. The campers used their own knowledge of Chinese myths, their experiences, and their imaginations to build incredible worlds ripe with magic, fairies and hilarious narrators. We also worked to listen constructively and provide feedback to each other’s writing. We aimed to make each other laugh, to inspire each other, and enjoy our time together. 

Rachel Gray

Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Jerry the Robot                       

Once there was a toy that every kid wanted. When kids have the toy they love the robot. It was a toy robot but over time there was new stuff coming out so the robot lost its popularity and it felt sad. But it became famous again because the robot had a jetpack and new attachments to it. Then at the year 3000 the world ended. The companies were so big it drained the oxygen from earth. There was too much co2 and it melted the earth.

Aidan Pierce

The Adventures of Mike the Monkey

Mike was shocked when the beam hit him. He wasn’t growing horns, he wasn’t transported inside a witch’s hut… What had happened? Had he received superpowers? 

Before I can tell you that, I need to go back an hour before…

This story begins with a man. He’s an average man, nothing too special. He currently doesn’t have a job, and he can barely pay the rent for his apartment…

Which somebody is trying to destroy to build a giant arcade.

He hears the noise, waking him up. “HEY, WHAT’S ALL THIS???” He shouted as loud as he could. But it was no use, because they couldn’t hear him over the noise.

In frustration, he quickly packed everything just in case, and went down to speak to 

the manager. But when he got there, they had disappeared!

He went all the way back up to his room and started hearing the noise yet again. He looked out the window and saw them there. “What…?” He said weakly, scratching his head. He walked out of his room… And the noise stopped.

Confused, he went back into his room, where the noise continued. He stuck his head back out of the room. Silence.

He continued by poking his head in, out, in, out, in, out.

He simply wanted to have a nap, so he moved his bed so that his head was sticking out of the room.

ZAP!

“What was that..?” He said, shaking. What was actually happening was that a UFO had punched a hole in his roof and was now zapping him with a beam.

Mike was shocked when the beam hit him. He wasn’t growing horns, he wasn’t transported inside a witch’s hut… What had happened? Had he received superpowers? 

He got out of his bed, feeling dumb. He found himself thinking that a simple equation like 1+1 was 11. “What…” He tried to say. Instead, a strange blurt came out. “AAH!”

In fact, everything he tried to say ended up coming out as “OOH OOH AHH AAH!”

He looked at his hands and screamed like a monkey. HE WAS A MONKEY. Being broke, he decided to steal things in monkey form. He robbed a bank, took some woman’s wallet, and even stole money from the cash machine at Pete’s Pets! (Poor Pete)

Lots of police cars chased him as he swung in the air. “HOW IS HE SHOOTING WEBS FROM HIS TAIL!?” One of the cops yelled.

That’s right… Mike wasn’t just any monkey… He was SPIDER-MONKEY! To be more precise, EVIL spider-monkey.

The cops couldn’t hit Mike with tasers, so they threw blades at him. One hit him on the head, knocking him out but luckily not killing him. He was put in jail, just where he deserved to be, and everyone lived happily ever after (except Mike.)

Brandt Eggers

The Man, the Town, and the Spring

Once, in the cold town of Nome, there was a hot spring.  It was the only way to get warm water, and it was how the citizens stayed warm during the winter. One day, a wealthy man came and said “I am the wealthiest man, so I am the leader of the town,and the spring is MY property. My first decree is making you pay taxes to use the water in the spring, and whoever objects gets thrown into prison!” Well, the townspeople didn’t like that. But they let it slide. But over the years, the man’s crimes were too great, so the townspeople began a revolution against the man. They stormed the mansion, threw the man into the damp, grim prison, and burnt down the mansion. When they found the money and gold, they donated it to the homeless and the needy. The next day, they celebrated their newfound independence by having a festival. Obviously, the central piece was the spring, which was now a fountain. 

Andrew

Rivers of Milk

Hot chocolate bombs,

bursting through rivers,

rivers of milk,

with a taste as sweet as silk.

Marshmallows love it, 

they say, “oh, this is the life!”

while exploding from the chocolate shell,

exploring their new home.

With the winter outside the window,

and no summer sun,

what could be better than the snowy fun!

Primrose

You notice a field

where flowers await

for the rightful time to stay awake.

A red robin beside me,

perched on a branch

stares at me with those hopeful eyes.

You notice the trees

against a brown and red fort

lay under it and old oak tree

expanding its roots under the primroses

and making the primroses as majestic as could be.

Isha Ladha

The Greedy Farmer

Once there was a farmer who was barely getting enough money to pay for food and shelter.  One day he went outside to pluck and replant the crops when he struck something hard.  The farmer dug around and pulled out a…. pot.   The farmer looked at the pot perplexed.  He finally went inside and put the pot down and headed off to the market.  At the market the farmer sold his crops for 51 gold coins.  The farmer was happy because for once in his lifetime he had some extra money.  

With his fifty gold coins he bought enough food until the next harvest.  The farmer went home and put the extra coin in the pot, had dinner, and went to sleep.  The next morning the farmer woke up, ate breakfast and then checked on the one gold coin.  But the one gold coin wasn’t in the pot, instead there were two gold coins in the pot.  Startled, the farmer took out the 2 gold coins and put them back in the pot.  The two gold coins clinked and fell in the pot where nothing happened.  The farmer had lunch, had a nap, had dinner, and fell asleep.  The next day the farmer woke up, had breakfast and checked up on his now 4 gold coins.  

This continued and at the end of summer the farmer had a vault of gold coins.  The farmer now had a mansion and servants to do everything he asked.  One day someone knocked on the door and asked to talk to the farmer.  As the person went in the farmer sat down on his chair and asked the stranger what he wanted.  The stranger sat down and then told the farmer, you know that you are stealing money right?” The farmer was confused.  All he needed was one gold coin and he could make as many as he wanted. The stranger explained that the pot duplicated the money by taking the needed money from other people.  

The farmer dismissed this and demanded the stranger get out of his house and go back to where he came from.  the end

Jahan Patel

Sonic Boom

A kid has seen a sonic boom on TV. He decided to search up Sonic boom. Here is what he learned: “Sonic booms generate enormous amounts of sound energy, sounding similar to an explosion or a thunderclap to the human ear.The altitude of the supersonic vehicle affects how far sonic booms can travel. They’re heard based on the width of the “boom carpet.” The width ends up being about one mile for each 1,000 feet of altitude. Most bullets make small sonic booms when flying through the air, which to our ears sound like a loud “crack!” For the special forces, that makes it hard to be sneaky about what they’re shooting and doing.The power needed to move an object faster goes up roughly as the cube of the speed – so the energy per-linear distance travelled goes up roughly as the square of the speed. That energy goes largely into the sonic boom; it will be louder when the object is faster.” He printed it out on the printer and computer and showed it to his friends. ”DID YOU GET THAT FROM THE INTERNET!?” They screamed so loud that the boy’s eardrums almost split in two!

John Kim

West-Field Meadow

Violet was reading in her normal reading spot in the west-field meadow, but today something felt different. Distracted by this strange new feeling she decided to go explore the meadow. She came across a pond with tadpoles, a patch of yellow and pink flowers but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Then suddenly she saw a beautiful tree with golden leaves and next saw a pink light blink, then purple then yellow! She tried to chase one of the lights and suddenly came to a patch with tiny little mushroom’s.

She looked closer and realized that those mushrooms had tiny little windows and doors inside. She peered inside the small windows and saw a fairy cooking what looked like tiny pasta! She took a peek into the next fairy house and saw tiny fairies reading tiny book’s! It was a fairy book club! She looked into the next mushroom and saw a fairy’s ballet studio with lots of little fairies with tulip tutu’s! She took a glance into the next mushroom and saw fairies having a tea party with a purplish-blue tea! “That must be bluebell tea, not sure how good that would taste though.’’ She then saw tiny dragonfly cars with fairies driving it and hopping from one mushroom to another!

She couldn’t believe her eyes. She was enchanted and entranced in this new world. Then she heard a zap and felt her eyes get heavy, and suddenly she fell to the ground and hit her head. When she woke up it was dark outside and she was back at her usual reading spot under a big oak tree. She was very confused. Was the fairy real or was it all just a dream? 

Misha Patel

2173 MEGA MAC SCANDAL

The year is 2173 and McDonalds is going crazy. They released the mega mac and the ads made it look like the best triple-triple burger ever made although the burger in reality is a squashed piece of garbage. McDonald’s scheme has worked and their goal is to scam people. But, the angry populus stopped buying McDonalds and went to buy other fast food franchises. McDonald’s bought Culvers and Sonic is going SSSSSPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEDDDDYYYYY their delivery is transferred via quantum tunneling. So Wendy’s buys Sonic and In-N-out but McDonalds is broke from so much scamming and Culvers becomes itself. Also since Sonic is 2fast4U Sonic also becomes itself. How many kingdoms? Count them; 1, 2, 3. 3 kingdoms but they’re not kingdoms they’re fast food franchises (idea from oversimplified.) The war of fast food has begun. For 35 years nothing happened until Sonic did an invasion of Culvers which fell in 20 years then they renamed it to sulvic and invaded Wendy’s and did it successfully and reunited the food franchises. Just remember this all happened due to Mega-Mac :). 

Thomas Gong

Badgerdog Session C: Novel Writing (5th-8th grade)

My first novel was printed in a mix of purple and blue ink. It was forty pages long and bound with a three-hole-punch and a plastic school binder. I was ten years old, and I still remember the title, The Dreamers, and the dream-world I created. After that, I was hooked. I never stopped writing stories, and it became my fiercest passion.

These workshops were filled with young writers who share this passion, and it was an absolute honor to help on their paths as novelists. Writing a novel is truly a feat, involving loads of planning, time, revisions, perseverance, and imagination. We spent these workshops discussing the journey a book takes to get published, how to build complex characters, where to get ideas, creating in-depth story outlines, and writing compelling opening scenes. The results are some truly un-put-downable stories, found below, (not to mention an amazing poem sprouted from our free-writes). I applaud these writers for accepting this adventure, much in the way our protagonists must accept their calls to action. I hope that these writers all have smooth sailing along the way as they continue these works-in-progress (but that their characters have a difficult, stressful time full of high-stakes and unfortunate twists)!  

Marissa Macy

Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Terror’s Throne

Karina shifted uncomfortably on the chestnut wood chair, stood up, and perched on the window seat of their penthouse in Maine, watching her mother walk into the door. Minutes later she heard the sound of high heels clomping up the stairs.

“Hi,” Karina answered absentmindedly, the click of a doorknob interrupting the silence.

“Working on a test?” Chloe Chen nodded at her daughter’s papers.

“Yep.” 

“Well, remember. Never give up, that is the worst thing you can do. The fears you don’t face become limits,” her mother encouraged. Karina rolled her eyes. When did Chloe become such a poet? 

Hours later, Karina had finished dinner and was ready to go to bed. She went through the nightly ritual with her two brothers of praying for their father, who had disappeared on a so-called job interview and never came back. 

“Pleeeease,” Kevin whined. “Daddy gets us ice cream. Mommy never lets us have ice cream cones.” 

Joshua scowled.  “Whatever. Wish for something real.” 

As she fell asleep, she felt something change. She wasn’t in her own bed anymore but somewhere else. A dark room with a dim light. And in the light was her father. She couldn’t see anything but the back of his head. “Father,” Karina called faintly, her voice echoing off the walls. When the figure didn’t move, she tried again. “Father!” 

A bright light blinded Karina’s eyes. She blinked a few times, rubbed her eyes, and woke up in a cold sweat, her pulse quickening. “Hmm,” she murmured, looking around the room and finding herself still in the safe canopy of her own bed. The numbers on her alarm clock read 4:04 AM. The error number, she thought. Odd. She then turned to the window and saw a faint light glowing from the Chen Lighthouse as the numbers switched to 4:05. 

“Huh…” Karina began when reality sunk into her. 

Her father was trapped in the lighthouse. 

#

The next morning, Karina woke to the sound of her mother talking quietly. She got up, still dazed from the night before and took her time going down the elaborate stairway and down to the kitchen.

“Hey, honey, sleep well?” 

“Um…” Karina knew better than to bother her mother with nightmares. “I guess,” she finally answered. “And, Ma ma, can we please visit the lighthouse? Pleeease?” She gave her mother her best puppy eyes. 

Her mom didn’t answer immediately. She exchanged glances with Aunt. 

“Please can I?” Karina added. 

Instead of answering, Chloe just muttered something about it being too dangerous. Karina narrowed her eyes and squinted at her mother, confused. Normally, being the older one between her and her younger brother, she was allowed to do as she pleased.

#

RING! RING! RING! The sound of her alarm clock pierced her ears. Karina snapped awake and snuck out of the warmth of her covers. She snuck downstairs and opened a window, avoiding the security system, and tiptoed out, hoping the light was still there. And there it was. At the very top of the lighthouse, that dim, purplish glow, after her family name. She should be allowed to go. Chloe just wasn’t being fair. 

But still, Karina had made it. She ran over, opening the door to the lighthouse, which, to her surprise, was unlocked, stepped inside and climbed up the tower, following the glow. As she got closer, she felt a certain pulling as if telling her to come closer, almost as if the wall itself were whispering, come, come. Come closer, my little girl. Karina yelped, bounced back, and rushed down the stairs in terror, shoving the door of the lighthouse behind her and jumping into the window of the penthouse in record time. 

“I was scared this time,” she whispered.  “But I’m coming back no matter what Ma ma says.”

#

The next morning Karina woke up to the sound of someone coughing. She ignored it and felt for the first time an urge to go to school, to escape the horrors of home. 

For the rest of the day, she couldn’t sit still, but she immediately perked up when she heard the front door creak open. Instead of coming upstairs to greet her, though, her mother stayed downstairs. All Karina could hear was the hushed whispers between the two women. 

“We have to go,” she heard her aunt say. “There’s not enough money in the bank for this.” 

“The children will worry. They shouldn’t,” her mother said firmly from downstairs. Even though Karina sensed the tension in the room and knew that they were trying to be quiet, the echoing was unavoidable. She glanced at her brother to see if he was listening. 

“I know, I know,” her aunt prompted. Karina imagined her flapping her hand. “But the fortune isn’t going to keep up, even with both of us working. And with Carter gone, we have much less income.” 

Karina sighed. It was true. Their aunt had fortune from decades ago, but it was running out and everybody knew it wouldn’t last. Closed-door conversations came up much more often than before. And even without a fortune teller, she knew that if she didn’t do something, they would be in trouble. 

To be continued…

Angelina Wang

The Twists and Turns of Tala Reyes’ Life

I rode my bike home from a dull Friday at school with my best friend Amelia. We were riding on the Callaway nature trail. One time when we were riding, Amelia’s bike glided through a puddle, and she was caught off guard. She steered into the bushes. That is where we found the perfect place for a treehouse. My brother Asterio promised to help build it, but he hasn’t done it yet.

“Are you doing anything this weekend?” asked Amelia. 

“I was thinking we could work on the treehouse,” I said. 

“Maybe? Well, I’ll see you later.” 

The trail split, and I went right, and Amelia went left. 

Let me introduce myself. I’m Tala Reyes. Before I was born, my mother and father lived in the Philippines. That’s where they were from. And then my parents got married and moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. My mom gave birth to Asterio, my older brother. Then six years later, right after I was born, my dad died of a heart attack. My mom moved back to the Philippines out of sadness, and our Uncle Buwan takes care of us. I’ve never even talked to my mother. I’m ten now. Asterio is eighteen. 

I looked forward on the path. I quickly stopped my bike and looked in front of it again. There was a nice big toad. I picked it up. “Hey there buddy!” I said to the toad. I looked at his foot. I screamed. I recollected myself and picked up the toad. Yep. It was missing one of its feet. It looked gross, but the poor thing needed help. I put the toad in the basket attached to the front of my bike. I started to cycle home.

#

I walked inside and immediately put the toad in a terrarium, next to other animal rescues I have proudly done. I have toads, frogs, voles, and mice. I turn on my MP3 player. Taylor Davis. I was in the middle of playing along to “Starfire” on my violin when my brother walked into the room. I stopped my music quickly and put my violin in its fire/waterproof case. I am embarrassed by my violin. I know it sounds silly, but it’s like singing a solo. 

“You know you shouldn’t hide talent, Star,” he called me Star because, in Filipino, Tala means “goddess of stars.” I tried to look innocent. I’m not that good at acting though. 

“I couldn’t care less about the violin. Really!” 

Asterio looked doubtful. “So, what’s up?” 

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. I feel like I don’t belong. Cheyenne is great. I’m not good enough.” 

Asterio thought. “Maybe you’d change your mind if people noticed you more.” He held up a flyer for a music contest. 

“A music contest and concert in front of the whole city? No one would pay a nickel to see me play! I don’t think so.” 

“Please? For me? And for yourself? Pakiusap?” 

“What does that even mean? You know I don’t speak Filipino.” 

“It means please.” 

I sighed. “I dunno… I’ll think about it.” 

Asterio smiled. 

“Now out of my room!” I ordered. Asterio walked out.

#

“Kids! Come here!” yelled Buwan. Asterio and I came into the living room. 

“What’s that?” asked Asterio pointing to something Buwan had in his hand. He answered. 

“It’s a letter from your mom.” 

“Wait, what?!” Asterio shouted. We were astonished. We hadn’t heard from her in ages. She was practically a stranger to me.

“What did it say?” I asked boldly. 

Uncle Buwan read the letter. “Well, looks like you two have a new baby sister.” 

Asterio and I looked at each other. “What does that mean?” 

I wondered that too. 

“It means we are going to the Philippines.” 

To Be Continued…

Calla Snyder

The Incredible Adventures of George The Pigeon

CHAPTER ONE

“And Pigeon 520 takes the lead!” the announcer screamed as Pigeon 520 flapped his wings harder and harder until he pushed ahead of his opponents.

Captors could understand the excited announcer, (waving their money in the air in excitement, for they had all placed their bets on Pigeon 520; even the likes of nuns who never gambled) but not Pigeon 520. All he knew was two things: 

  1. Pigeon 520 was not his name. He went by George, thank you very much. What a boring name his cruel captors had chosen for Pigeon 520 -Sorry, George. How horrible George’s captors were, which led to…
  2. If George didn’t win this race, his captors would take out the feared rod of terror. It would boom loudly, and one of the deadly pellet shaped items would penetrate his feathers and his life would be over. (In fairness, George didn’t care much about his feathers. He thought his plumage to be too scrawny and light to attract Sally, his crush -much less, any pigeon. But he did care about his life.)

All those thoughts passed through George’s head, and he winced. George didn’t believe he could actually flap his wings faster than he was doing currently, but he put every ounce of energy that he had left in his body.

“And Pigeon 520 takes the cake -or rather the seed!” the announcer boomed. Perhaps you are wondering how the announcer manages to repeatedly say “and” at the beginning of his sentences, for it seems all captors learn as children that this is not alright to say and, but, or any short word at the beginning of a sentence (though now it is perfectly acceptable). But the truth is, acceptable or not, that it was simply in this particular announcer’s nature to talk loudly even at home and start any sentence with a short word. Anyway, back to George.

George squealed indignantly as the crowds roared with either excitement, disappointment, or a mixture of both, practically falling over each other to pay off their bets, or receive their gambling money (most likely the second, especially in the excitement department). George shook off the squeal, attempting to hide it in a cough. Of course, neither of those behaviors would catch the empty void of Sally’s attention. 

Sally was a fierce, female pigeon who he longed to have an alliance with, although in truth, George wanted far more than that. George had been in love with Sally ever since he set eyes on her at his first pigeon race, quite like every other pigeon in the world. But Sally could also give what no other pigeon could give George: freedom. Sally was the most gifted guide out there and lived a dual life: helping racing pigeons escape one day and coming second in races the next. She could help George escape the horrible life of stressful pigeon racing, though her help was controversial: more than a few times, she had dropped a pigeon in the middle of a mission to save her feathers (which, George noted for the billionth time, were quite beautiful). 

George wanted to go see Sally, but she was standing by her usual spot at the snack stand, where the ground was sodden with a captor’s version of pellets. Except George knew from a snuck bite that they were far more delicious, oily but not too oily and salty but not too salty. However, Sally was nonchalantly eating a French fry while pigeons gawked at her beautiful plumage. These pigeons just happened to be the ones who teased George for constantly winning races. Luckily, Sally was not paying attention.

So, George let himself be swept up by his captors, put in the large mesh carrier, and taken into the back of a rumbler. Though George had been in rumblers countless times, they never seemed less menacing as the putrid smell from the back of the rumbler, which made bile rise in his throat. George had to wrap his wings around him in an attempt to block out the growing rumbling sound. In the mesh carrier, he had no room to allow his wings to spread. Instead, George plopped down, curled his wings around his body, and attempted to fall asleep.

CHAPTER TWO

“Get out of my space!” Henry snapped, jabbing George with his wing. George winced and scrambled as far away from Henry as he could get, which wasn’t far, given the smallness of their cage. It was a traditional iron palace bird cage, and while it was tall, allowing George and Henry to flap their wings for a split second, it lacked in ground space. 

“Sorry, Henry,” George muttered and rubbed the spot where Henry had poked George. 

Henry was George’s cage mate. As far as looks go, he was average with the trademark smooth grey feathers on his body and head, while green and pink feathers were on his neck. A purebred Armando pigeon. Which was exactly why their captors paid half a million dollars for Henry. However, what they didn’t realize was that Henry was horrible at pigeon racing. More important to George, Henry was also a horrible pigeon. He bossed George around, made him give most of his pellets to Henry, and teased Maggie. How George longed for Maggie to be here right now. Maggie could tell George that he was okay, that Henry was simply jealous of George’s many wins, that he didn’t need to be worried about getting shot by the rod of terror. Except that Maggie had been shot when she stopped winning. It was only a matter of time until George’s winning streak would run out, he’d stop placing medals, and he’d meet his sorry end. He had to convince Sally to help him run away.

“Well, leave me alone next time,” Henry’s voice broke into George’s thoughts. “And give me your pellets.

GLOSSARY OF PIGEON WORDS

Captorhuman

Rod of terrorgun

Rumblertruck

To be continued…

Elizabeth Nation

The Intervals of Saira Mehra

Chapter One

“On your mark. Get set. BEEP!” The whistle blows, sending the swimmers off to compete in the 100 IM category. My kick is steady and swift. I’m working extremely hard to make sure my technique is on point. I hear faint cheers from my friends and teammates which immediately invigorates me to keep going. I’m almost there. Just a few more strokes and–

My phone buzzes. 

Monday mornings can be so vexatious, notably when you are absorbed in such a captivating dream. I come downstairs to have my breakfast. Mama made samosas, my favorite Indian chaat. My family is in the living room drinking chai and having a conversation. 

“Good morning Saira,” my mom greeted me. “Your samosa and chai are on the counter.” 

“Thanks,” I replied and went over to my backpack to pack up for the day. 

“Saira, have you completed studying for your science exam?” my dad asked. 

“Yes, I did it last night. Plus, my friends and I are going to review it together on our way to school.”

“Good. Best of luck.” 

“Thank you.”

I think I’ll do well on the test. Last night, I called my friends to discuss the test review with them, and we all felt prepared. My parents are always on their toes when it comes to my studies. My dad is a doctor, and he aspires for me to set myself in the medical field too. To be honest, I’m not passionate about medicine like my dad is. He has taught me some basic fundamentals about it, and based on that, I wasn’t intrigued by it. My dad told me to at least dip my toes in it before I make my final decision. I assured him I would, but I’ve already made up my mind. I aspire to be an athlete. My dream is to swim for the Olympics. 
To be continued…

Aradhana Arora

Untitled Novel

“We’re going to have to move to Los Angeles because I have a very big movie deal there that I can’t pass up. We should also get out of this small apartment and move into a bigger house,” said Dad. 

“If that is what you think is best for this family,” said Mom. 

“I think it is, what about you?”

“Well, Tate may not like it. Since this is like her favorite place to be, I guess it would be good for her to go to a new place. She could definitely use some more room to walk around and not be squished in her room all day. If you want to do it then I will do it”.

“Thanks!”

Tate woke up from her dream and was not happy that she was dreaming these bad things. “It can’t be true, I can’t,” said Tate. Tate went back to sleep, still hoping that it was just a dream and not real life. 

The next morning was a very nice day. The sky had lots of puffy clouds and the trees were moving in a little bit of a breeze. Tate woke up with a big yawn. She got dressed and went to the kitchen for breakfast. Today, the breakfast was toast with butter, one of Tate’s favorites. She ate up, hoping that today would be a better day, and it would not be one of those burnt toast days. “Oh, hi Dad. We’re having toast for breakfast. It is really good!”

“I bet it is…”

“I wanted to ask you something.”

“Oh sorry but I have a work meeting soon, but you could ask me later. Thank you, Sidney for breakfast!” said Dad.

“You’re welcome,” said Mom, as I called her, or as Dad called her, Sidney.

“Yes, thank you so much for breakfast Mom,” said Tate.

“You’re welcome, and come here. Can I have a favor from you? Can you walk down to the trash can and come back up,” asked Mom.

 “Sure!”

“Just make sure you don’t talk to anyone and come back up quickly please! Or then I will be worried and think you got lost”

“I will be back quickly, don’t worry.” I opened the door and went out as I was closing the door, mom had one of those faces that moms have when they are worried about their kids. But I am twelve, so I feel like I am old enough for her to trust me. 

I walk down to the trash cans and see someone else there too. But I remembered what my mom said about talking to people, but it was really hard because they looked like my age. My way of not talking to them was staring at the ground. Then, I opened the trash can and I saw like a thousand flies come out. They flew out really fast which surprised me a lot because normally none fly out or if some fly out it is normally like ten. I put the trash in the trash can. I started to walk back up the apartment stairs back to our apartment. But I can tell you that I definitely was not as fast as the flies flying out of the garbage. I was probably walking up to our apartment more like a sloth.

“Where have you been? I was starting to get worried about you. And what happened to your hair and clothes? They were all nice, but now they look really dirty. Did you have a fight with birds? Even if I did not tell you to not do it doesn’t mean that I wanted you to fight with them,” said Mom.

“No, I didn’t get into a fight with the birds. Flies started to fly out of the trash can like crazy when I tried to put the trash bag in the trash can,” I said. 

“Okay, well, maybe you should shower up and change into new clothes before doing anything else. Then after you do that, we can work on your school work.”

“Okay, Mom.”

I washed myself off and put on new clothes that my mom bought me. I went into the kitchen and found her reviewing my schoolwork. I was really nervous about doing school right now because I didn’t practice over the summer. My mom thought I did, so I am hoping school is not going to be too hard even though I didn’t practice through the summer.

To be continued…

Kaitlyn Dillingham

The Birthday!

In big bold gold

Not sounding like a scold

A letter addressed

Should I stress?

All that it says

Is “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”

It starts to form a rhyme

And I ponder until bedtime

All that is said is “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”

Arriving with the letter that contains the rhyme

A woman opens the door

And I see bookshelves galore

All I want to know is know who sent the letter

A bird comes in and starts to peck her

She motions over and walks away

Should I stay?

I walk into the house

And see a tiny mouse

And wonder who sent the letter, “108 W Covington Street, Tuesday at 9 pm. Arrive on time”

It’s Tuesday, and dark, so I can’t see the sign

I get bumped on the head

And realize I’m suddenly in a bed

The kind women questions

“Why are you in the wing for detention?”

And I realize why they sent the letter

It was for the one and only…Mr. Setter!

I realize it’s Mr. Setter’s birthday

Also New Year’s Day

After a final sprint for the staff room

All the students clap for you

You tell them it’s just you

And they make room

You see the birthday man

And he hogs up the fan

Watching the New Year’s Parade

After, you play charades

You eat the cake

Then line up to shake

And wish him a good birthday

He wishes that his birthdays would be like this day

Says “Farewell”

And rings a bell

Soon enough the party is over

And it’s the boring old staff room all over

You arrive at home

And don’t want to roam

And fall asleep

Kunal Khandhar

Superpower City

A long way away, every human has a superpower. Some speak to animals while others shoot lasers out of their eyes. No matter what your power is, it is unique and special.

Let’s take the whole world and zoom in on a little town called Griffinsburg. Here, a girl named July lives and has a wonderful life as a normal kid without superpowers yet. Her tenth birthday is coming up soon, as you may have guessed, it is in July. It is currently June 28th, and her birthday is July 9th. 

The thing is, when she turns ten, she goes to the magical judge and is given a brand new superpower that nobody has been given yet. 

“Daddy?” said July.

“Yes?” said her daddy.

“What superpower do you think I am going to get? I hope I get—actually, I don’t know what I want to get. I just don’t want a bad power.”

“Well, your guess is as good as mine. But maybe you could break the previous record and get the same as your mother or me. So levitation or super strength?”

“Maybe, but I kinda want to get something new.”

“I get it, so did I when I was a kid.”

“July! It’s time for flying skateboard club!” yelled July’s six-and-a-half year old little brother, Henry, from downstairs.

“Coming!” yelled July.

She tossed on her backpack, gave her daddy a great big hug, waved goodbye to her pet axolotl, Nebula, and went downstairs to walk Henry to his flying skateboard club. Henry was already holding his flying skateboard when she got down.

They closed the door and turned onto Maple Street, then took a left on Railway Road where there was the skate park. July hugged her brother, and then set off to her friend Poppy’s house.

Poppy was the same age as July, and she was about to get powers as well. July got to Poppy’s house, and they greeted each other with a big hug.

“I missed you! I haven’t seen you in so long!” said Poppy.

“Are you sure? We just had a playdate three days ago,” said July.

“I know, it seemed like an eternity. Right?”

“Good point.”

“Anyways come inside! My mama said we could make chocolate chip cooooookies!”

“How fun!”

July came inside, they got out all the ingredients and Poppy’s mama’s magical cookbook out. Then they began to bake.

“Poppy?” July asked.

“Yes?” Poppy answered.

“What superpower do you hope you’re going to get?”

“Oooh I don’t know, maybe levitation?”

“Poppy, that’s not possible, remember that is my mama’s superpower.”

“Oh right! I remember now!”

“Poppy, the question?”

“Oh yeah, right. I don’t know then? What about you?”

“I don’t know but I want something to shoot out of my hands.”

“That’s cool! I still don’t know what I want.”

They put the cookies in the oven and waited.

“What do you want to do while we are waiting?” asked July.

“We could play ‘Super Power Guess Who?’” answered Poppy.

“Sure!”

Once they got set up, they drew a card and began. July drew mind reading and Poppy drew super speed.

“You can go first,” said Poppy.

“Okay. Let’s see… Can yours help you see something you can’t normally see?” asked July.

“It cannot,” answered Poppy. July put down the no longer possible answers. “Can yours help you get to places quicker?” asked Poppy.

“Nope,” said July. Poppy put down the non-possible answers “Can yours help you get to places quicker?” July asked

“Yes,” answered Poppy. After July put down all the answers that couldn’t be possible anymore, she was left with two tiles: teleportation and super speed. “Can yours help you see somebody else’s thoughts?” asked Poppy.

“Yes,” answered July. There was only one1 that could do so she had one tile left. July had to guess the right answer this question or Poppy would win on her next turn. “Is yours… teleportation?” asked July.

“Nope! Yours is mind reading, right?” said Poppy.

“Yup. You won!” said July.

Just then, the timer for the cookies went off. Both girls ran downstairs as fast as their legs could carry them.

They enjoyed some cookies then July had to leave to go and pick up Henry. 

“Bye Poppy!” July yelled.

“Bye July!” Poppy yelled.

After July had picked Henry up and brought him home, she started something she had been wanting to do for a long time: fill out the form the magical judge had given her. There were a few simple questions about her personality.

The first question said, “What is your favorite animal?” July put down a sea turtle.

The second question was, “If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would those words be?” July wrote animal lover, fun, and patient. She hoped they would accept animal lover as one of the describing words.

The third and final question was, “Do you keep secrets?” July put down that she didn’t.

#

It is a week later, and now the date is July 5th. Poppy gets her power today. July went to her horseback riding camp then came home. After ten minutes, she heard a “knock, knock, knock,” on her door. She ran downstairs as fast as she could and opened the door to a smiling Poppy.

“Poppy!” July yelled.

“July!” Poppy yelled.

“What did you get as your superpower?”

“Drumroll please!” Poppy said excitedly, “Flower power!”

July was confused. “Flower power?”

“Yeah,” said Poppy, “the ability to make plants grow!”

“I guess that kind of makes sense given your name is Poppy.” 

“True. I never thought of it that way,”

“I can’t wait until I get my powers.”

#

Four days later, it was finally time for July to get her power.

Before July went to get her power, she said to Nebula, “Wish me luck!”

July walked into the room where the magical Judge was, with butterflies in her stomach.

The judge examined July’s form for a good few minutes, and then in the blank space at the bottom they wrote “water powers.”

Once they handed the form back to July, a dome of water covered July but didn’t get her wet. After a few seconds, the water turned into mist.

To be continued…

Lexie Yankeelov

Badgerdog Session C: 1PM Mythology (4th-6th grade)

In this one-week mythology workshop, students in grades four through six learned about tricksters, monsters, and constellations. We began by writing stories based on a “Merperson” selected from a collection of images. We then read and analyzed a prose poem by Matthea Harvey called “The Backyard Mermaid.” In Zoom breakout rooms, students worked together to identify vivid verbs, intriguing nouns, and points of symbolism in the poem. This led into the exercise of listing mythical creatures we know (and researching about some that we didn’t). Choosing from their lists, each student wrote a poem or a story about one such beast. We also responded to a prompt that had us creating unique animal-creature hybrids and writing about what would happen if these strange monsters met each other!

Our discussion of tricksters was fueled by two animal trickster myths: “Raven and the King Salmon” and “How Dog Won Fire.” In these tales, we saw how certain characters utilize intelligence and cunning to outsmart others—but, more importantly, we came to see that myths often tell about the earliest times and about how certain aspects of the world came to be. We had a chance to watch a video of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” being read aloud and followed along with the words on the screen. Although “The Raven” is not an easy poem to understand, we still garnered a lot of meaning from it, and it served as a great example of symbolism. Ravens, after all, are quite iconic in many cultures, and they are often found in myths. Exploring what the raven in Poe’s famous poem might represent was quite a treat. 

Rounding out the workshop was a lesson about constellations. We learned that two of the most known constellations, the “big dipper” and the “little dipper,” are contemporary names for what are also called “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor,” which translate to “greater bear” and “little bear.” We talked a little about the myth behind these nighttime outlines and how humans have always looked to the stars and wondered about what is above. We drew our own constellations, and then each student interpreted the drawing of a fellow workshop participant! Everyone was asked to imagine being an archeologist who was discovering the tomb of a lost civilization’s king or queen. If a peer’s constellation was found inscribed on the tomb’s wall, what story might explain the starry pattern’s shape? What might this tell us about what the lost culture valued most? 

It was a blast engaging with some diverse literature and sharing our own work with one another. Myths demonstrate one of humanity’s greatest truths: we tell stories to understand ourselves and the world around us!

Aubrey Ward
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

The Cyclops and the Monocle

A cyclops who lived on a deserted island lost his monocle. He searched the whole island only to find it broken. He was sad because he couldn’t read his favorite comic books.

There was no eye glass shop on his island, so he swam to a different island in search of a new monocle. Luckily, he found a monocle in a glasses shop. He needed money to buy it, so he offered to shine all the glasses in the shop for money. He could read his comic books again because he was able to buy the monocle.

Calum Haley

The Jungle Dragon

The Jungle Dragon flies across the whole jungle, spitting fireballs left and right, searching for something special. The Dragon has big, giant wings with very sharp claws. The land that the dragon lives on has cyclopes, goblins, and one dragon. His goal in life is to eat a golden grape to become immortal. The dragon fears humans because humans try to hunt him for his rarity. He flies away when he sees humans. He needs a type of plant to survive, but he hunts and searches for the golden grape. The plant is called the Japanese fire flower, and that’s where he gets his fire powers. Also, the dragon likes to collect shark teeth. When he was a baby, he was friends with a shark, and that is why he collects shark teeth. Would you like to meet The Jungle Dragon?

Ethan Chang

The Vark

The Vark would love to go to the surface, but he can’t. This is a Vark: half vampire, half shark.  The Vark is an agile swimmer, but he can’t see sunlight. If he does, he will DIE. Even at night, the moon is too bright for the Vark to swim up. This is why he has never been seen. He lives on the bottom of the sea. When there is a new moon, he is able to swim up to the surface and visit Poseidon. Poseidon loves when the Vark visits. The Vark is very funny. Whenever the Vark visits, Poseidon has to put a bite-proof vest on so that he doesn’t turn into a Vark. The Vark sometimes turns things into other Varks, but then mostly eats them. The Vark’s flippers are like a penguin’s. This is why he can surf with Poseidon. But, on October 3rd, 1865, Poseidon wasn’t there to greet the Vark. The Vark locked himself in the cellar of a sunken ship and was never seen again.

Ian Copeland

The Sharkefant’s Diary

Making storms. Punishment to animals. This is my daily life diary. Day after day, I do this backbreaking drudgery, becoming even more bitter than ever. This is all because I’m a sharkefant. I wish I weren’t. On the outside, we appear melancholy, furious, and like we have many other “down feelings.” It is very hard to find a hopeful or perky sharkefant because most of us have negative feelings. We sharkefants guard the Underworld of the Organisms. All living organisms except for gods and humans go to the storm clouds after they die. So, we have to see if they pass the badness test. Every time an animal or plant comes through the lightning gates, we stomp our feet onto the clouds, creating thunder, lightning, rain, blizzards, hurricanes, and even hail. I, however, don’t do that job. Since I am one of the youngest sharkafents working here, I have the job of punishing the animals that die mean and cruel. It’s a hard life, not at all like that of the gods who live on Mount Olympus. The storm clouds only pass by the home of the gods once or twice a month, you know. Why do I have to be a sharkefant? Why are we forbidden to go anywhere besides the storm clouds? Let me guess: just because of our smelly breath and the loud snarls we make? Snarls are an instinct; they automatically happen, just like breathing and blinking for humans. Why are we treated like prisoners because of our ugly looks and our swampy, slimy skin? Huh, a weird way to be treated. Today, my mom has grounded me in the bathroom, just because I felt sad for a rabbit that stole carrots from the wealthy to survive. That caused me to forget to make a hurricane and give the rabbit punishment! When this happened, the rabbit came back to life, and I got punished by Zeus. I don’t know why Zeus dislikes sharkefants 100%. Maybe he was the god who persuaded everyone to think that sharkefants are dreadful creatures. I am making my mission to convince Zeus that sharkefants can still be positive.

Madisen Kang

La Llorona 

A night

In Mexico

You should never go out after

Dark

The Warnings ring in your ears

The Stories

The Tall Tales

The Myths

The wind is wailing

Except…

That’s not the wind

You start to

Run

The trees are reaching out

Except…

That’s not the trees

The water is running towards you

Except…

That’s not the water

The cold wind chills your spine

Except…

That’s not the wind

Branches grab you by the shoulders

Except…

That’s not the branches

A dark veil of mist swirls around you

Except…

That’s not mist

In your mind, you start to disappear

Except…

That’s not just your imagination

The myths are true

The warnings are true

La Llorona has come

 For you

Olivia Rose Gonzalez Kraft

Monster Story

My monster sounds deep and dark. My monster looks like a wolf. My monster feels soft and smells like rotten flesh. My monster is Fenris wolf. Fenris wolf lives on the island of heather the flower. He was trapped by the Norse gods. Heather wards off evil, and Fenris wolf is surrounded by it. His greatest desire is to break free of the rope Gleipnir and start Ragnarok/doomsday. He is a son of Loki, and his brother is the world serpent.

Owen Schultz

Banshee

Banshee a haunted little girl who died of screaming

Banshee haunts churches making anyone inside them perish

Banshee sneaky as a black widow spider in the middle of night

Banshee her lost soul somewhere in the darkness

Banshee her looks are a girl with fierce red eyes pure white skin and hair like an albino

Banshee smells like a nice warm breeze victims clueless that it’s a trap

Banshee tastes so bitter that we start screaming in terror and pain

Banshee sounds like a soft breeze when uncovered sounds so terrifying you would turn to dust

Banshee feels like cotton candy but hands sticky like superglue something you can never get off

Banshee the one who haunts you

Saisha Singh

Alex the Cyclops

The cyclops named Alex was asleep in his cave. He opened his big yellow eye and stood up and tightened the rope around the waist of his tunic. It was a beautiful sunny day, but because he did not like sunlight, Alex put on his sunglasses to block the light. He then went to the heavens to see if he had a new mission. He was in charge of keeping other creatures safe. 

Alex talked to Hermes to see if there were any creatures that needed to be rescued. Hermes said that there was one dragon that was stuck in a cave and that the dragon’s wing was caught under a huge rock, so he was unable to fly away. Alex saddled up a griffin to fly to the dragon, and, using his extraordinary strength, Alex lifted the rock and freed the dragon. It had a broken wing, so Alex asked the griffin to call his flock to lift the dragon back to the heavens to get its wing fixed. 

After a long and exhausting day, Alex went back to his cave to eat his favorite meal of fruits and vegetables, brushed his teeth, and went to bed. It was really dark in his cave, so he fell asleep immediately.

Wynn Adame

Badgerdog Session C: Journalism (3rd-5th grade)

Once upon a time, my generation depended on a handful of media outlets to know what was happening in the world—Walter Cronkite on TV, the favorite rock ‘n roll radio station or the local newspaper. Now, we are bombarded with “news” from a variety of sources; oftentimes, reported by, literally, “the guy on the street.” So, how do we know what is factual and what is fake? “Journalism: Sleuthing for the Truth” allows students to delve into the world of interviews, research and writing to discover how to create news stories for print, podcasts, or play! For our final assignment, that is exactly what we did—had fun!  Two teams of journalistic detectives wrote and recorded their “fake” stories, adding sound effects and excited voices to share the breaking news with listeners. Enjoy these scripts and audio recordings.

Terri Schexnayder
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Pizza Town Strikes Gold!

Yuni, Anchor: Breaking News!!! The town has gone crazy! This is Yuni of the JUNGLE Explorers, reporting from Station Adventure. Today we found gold, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds in our Pizza Town! To share the background of this landmark day, meet my friends, a Parrot named Owen eats Pizza …

Owen: CAW! CAW! We found it! We found it!

Yuni: … and Hu-Die Peachy, an explorer in Pizza Town. Let’s go down into the cave.

Owen: BOOM! CRASH! RUMBLE!

Yuni: Hu-Die, tell us what happened today. How did this all come about? 

Hu-Die: Following up on the rumor about a mysterious cave, my team investigated it. Once we entered the cave, as far as we could see there were obstacles like quicksand and booby traps. By the time we finally made it through, it was almost midnight. The jewels glowed with an eerie light.

Yuni: We will share these riches with the whole community by putting it on a giant water fountain. See you later!

Owen Aslot

Yuni Lee

Hu-Die Patel

Raining Dogs (But no Cats)

Stella, Anchor: Hello, my name is Stella here on the streets of Austin, Texas. It started to rain dogs that came in all colors and sizes, both cute and mean! Let’s go to my weather woman Abby for more details.

Abby: On a sunny day, no clouds gathered but suddenly, it started raining dogs. (Woof! Woof!) But not one (Meow). Every time the lightning struck the ground, it turned into dog treats.

Stella: Now Alena, sports woman, will tell you about the recent games.

Alena: Hello, Alena here. Wow, what an amusing story! I also have some crazy news for you. True crazy news. Hey, did anyone watch the basketball game between the Longhorns vs. the Raptors last week? The Longhorns beat the Raptors by … get this … 163 to 24! Crazy, right? Honestly, I think the Longhorns are just purely super-human! Anyway, switching to football. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Miami Dolphins by 128 to 68. Seahawks, I have one question for you—what is the meaning of this? (Laugh) I mean, that was a huge beatdown you gave those flapping little Dolphins. I’m convinced that sports teams are now becoming superhuman! What do you guys at home think? Alena, sports news, singing out. Back to you, Stella. 

Stella: Well, thanks, Alena. The government has informed us that any animals stuck in trees will be brought down. (Woof!) That’s a signal to stop.

All:  Stella. Abby. Alena. The Magical World.

Stella Aguilar

Abby Guo

Alena Maryam Jaweed

Badgerdog Session C: Flash Fiction (7th-12 grade)

Our one-week Flash Fiction course went by in a flash! It was an honor to work alongside these eight students. This brilliant group of young authors possesses endless amounts of creativity and wisdom.

From our very first day together, I was blown away by these students’ careful consideration of our reading materials and by their eagerness to share their ingenious, entertaining flash fiction pieces. Their respect and admiration for one another and for our artistic space allowed them to explore endless amounts of both individual and group-cultivated creativity.

Throughout the week, these fearless writers explored the practice and benefits of writing for fifteen minutes each day, created complex fictional characters, and built animated worlds in under a thousand words.

I am incredibly proud and cannot wait for the rest of the world to read their dazzling and small but mighty creative flash fiction pieces.

Robin Bissett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

The Dam

As he approaches the creek, he thinks about all the fun he’s going to have. “Oh boy!” he thought. When he gets there, though, he realizes that the water isn’t deep enough to play in. 

At first, he’s angry that he can’t play, but then he has an idea. I’ll just build a dam! 

So, with hours of work ahead of him he starts gathering materials. A couple dozen sticks, half a bucket of mud and sand, a few rocks and some leaves. Then after hard work he can finally enjoy the water. As time passes, the dam holds up, but the sun does not. He feels confident in the dam’s ability and starts to head back for the day. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” he thinks to himself. 

The beginning of the next day, he heads back to the creek and the dam. When he gets there, though, he sees a lot of fish swimming around the dam. He realizes that the dam prevents the fish from swimming down the creek. He immediately feels bad for the fish and starts to tear the dam down, then he stops. 

He thinks about what’s more important, the fish or swimming? The fish of course! Right? But I spent so much time! But the fish! But the dam! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! He tried to tear it down a bit more but stopped again. He had to tear it down or the fish couldn’t swim! He tore it down and felt bad. 

He walked along the creek for some time. He then realized that the creek got deeper further down and so he started swimming again. He no longer felt bad, and he forgot about the dam.

Blaise Barbier

Lost Glasses 

Earlier today a man lost his glasses. He had searched every inch, every nook and cranny of his house, and was positive that he had not left them somewhere else. After searching for an hour straight, he finally asked his wife to help him find his glasses. His wife took one look at him and started laughing. When he asked her why she was laughing, she asked him how he could see so clearly, and that was when he realized where his glasses were the whole time: he was wearing them.

Darryl Tang

A House Has Gone Missing

Nobody knows where this house has gone, but at 2:00 pm on Sunday, an entire house went missing from News Boulevard. We are still unaware of its whereabouts, if someone just destroyed it, or how it was moved. Police are on the scene now. Jim, take it away. Thank you, Carol. I am here in the spot where the house disappeared. (Empty area behind Jim with police tape and several inspectors and police cars). Not even the inspectors have a clue on how it went missing, and back to you, Carol. Thank you, Jim. We will catch you up on any news about the house if any happens. Now onto our next story: Does the Queen of England actually have a secret area under the palace with clone pods, dimensional rifts, and Darth Vader? All that and more, after the break.

Eric Zolidis

Thoughts of a Dandelion Seed

An unread grammar book sat before me. I carefully opened it, scanning the first page, my eyes flitting from word to word. It was a dull, boring read – but I had to read it. It’s important! If you want to write better, you need to know grammar, my mother had said. But as the words slurred together, a blurry mess of black on white, I rested my head against my hand, my elbow against the table. I stared at the painting of the dandelion that adorned the left wall, my eyes staring at the slightest details – the shading of the clouds, the feathers of the dandelion seeds as they floated in the breeze. Reality faded away, giving way to the world of my mind.

I felt myself floating away in the breeze. A little, tiny thing in the universe, flying away. Flying away to an unknown place, with no way to control where I was going. Clutching onto the stem of the seed, I didn’t know where I would drift off to, just that it would be somewhere. Wherever I landed, I would try to sprout, I thought. If I was that dandelion seed, I would try to sprout. Be it in the desert, a rocky mountain, a beach, a meadow – I would sprout, and create seeds myself to be blown into the wind.

My eyes refocused, and my thoughts centered once again on the blue book before me. I blinked, the words clearing momentarily, before I lost myself again, my thoughts enveloping me. 

If I am just a little dandelion seed, then why am I doing this? Nothing I will do will change how I fly. I will never be able to control the breeze. Why am I doing this?

I set down the book and rested my head against the cold glass table, the crystal chandelier shining facets of light onto my face. I imagined myself in a different world. Here, I was the ideal version of myself – smarter, prettier, kinder. I imagined myself as this girl that wasn’t me – this girl I thought I could never be. 

Why couldn’t I be that girl? Nothing I could ever do would get me there. I was just a dandelion seed, getting carried on the wind, while she was a lioness, storming forward in a path that she set out for herself. I could never be a lion. How can a dandelion seed be a lion, after all? No matter how hard I could sprout, I would never be as strong or powerful as a lion. 

A tap on my shoulder jolted me out of my reprieve. It was my mother, and she stared at me curiously.

“Are you done reading or not?” 

I glanced at her a little shamefully. “No.”

“Well, what have you done?”

My ears turned red. “Nothing.”

“Well, hop on it!” 

I opened my mouth, hesitated, and then sighed. 

“Why, though?” 

“So that you can be who you want to be, of course!”

Liesel Park

The Language of Flowers


A girl of 14 ran every day. She ran away from the thoughts in her mind. Ran away from her home and her family. But in an hour, it would all be back again. She would live her life with the loud sisters and fighting parents. But for one hour, she could get away. 

Kayla Annaliese Stoll ran all the time. Running wasn’t her passion; it wasn’t something she had to do. She didn’t even have a desire to do it either. But she still had a reason. Her family. It wasn’t just her twin sisters. Genevieve and Liesel fought so much about every little thing. Their fights were loud. They threw words at each other as hurtful as the surface of the sun. But their parents didn’t care. Mom and Daddy would have serious, quiet hushed fights. They wouldn’t talk to each other for weeks at a time. They wouldn’t coordinate their schedules. They just simply would talk. At all. It made Liesel miss dance. Genevieve missed acting. But nobody had to worry about Kayla. All Kayla did was running and studying. 

Once, Kayla was taking a new route through her small town of Essex, Connecticut. Posted by an alleyway, a flyer for a free photography and cinema class at the Recreational Center. She grabbed her iPhone out of her pocket and called the number on the flyer. Anything could be better than hearing fighting all day and all night. 

The next day, Kayla walked to the Rec Center with nothing but her phone in the pocket of the red sweatshirt she was wearing. Once she reached the Center, she went straight to the classroom super quietly. She was good at being quiet. The class lasted the whole summer. Once a day from 9 to 4. Soon, Kayla fell in love with photos. She walked dogs for weeks to save up for a camera. Once she bought it, she wouldn’t put it down.

Kayla met people from all over her town. Sue Ellerby loved taking pictures. She would take them of her four kids and two cats and their birthdays and graduations-not the cats. Mr. Cobbleway loved posting pictures of what he cooked and baked on social media. And Everleigh, a college student on summer break, had a vlog about her life at Stanford, studying to be a surgeon. 

For the first time in her life, she had friends. Kayla wanted to be like these people. She wanted to vlog and cook, and most of all be confident, with self-belief. But she was still timid little Kayla when she was not in room 213 at the Rec Center. 

A couple weeks before class ended, there was a huge assignment. Making a movie. About something you loved. Sue was making one about her family. Mr. Cobbleway’s was about food. Everleigh’s was about her passion for medicine. But Kayla’s only passion was photography. And there were about 3 other students in the class already doing that. So, what did Kayla do? She ran. She went and sat in the big field of flowers. All kinds of flowers grew there.  And no one even owned the property! Kayla always made-up stories about who planted the flowers. Too bad I can’t make my video on these- wait, I can! Kayla spent the whole two weeks editing, filming, and brainstorming about flowers. On August 16th, she was finally ready to present. But there was one problem. The title. When everyone else was presenting, she thought and thought and thought. And she found the perfect name. 

That day, Kayla walked home proudly with her second-place trophy. Everleigh was first. Sue third. Mr. Cobbleway was fourth. She stopped short at the house. Would her family talk to her? Congratulate her? Be… Proud of her? So, she waited outside, by the stairs to the deck. 

To her surprise, one by one, each of her family members came by on the deck. They persuaded her to tell them about her class and her video. And Kayla didn’t hear a single whisper or scream. It was happy. She told them that the title and movie reminded her of them. It was called the Language of Flowers.

Neerja Bathla

The Final Piece

Expendable. Unneeded. Useless. Lost as water is lost in a rainstorm. Gone as fleeting moments of happiness are gone. Just one piece in a sea of many. Longing to be found. Longing to have a use, a purpose. The puzzle piece was left, forlorn in a drawer, a dark abyss devoid of positivity. Acceptance came quickly, like ants to sugar.

A glimmer. A small ray of light like a ray of salvation. Light flooded the cupboard like water pouring from a bucket, bringing a sense of importance. An object lowered into the box, grasping the piece, a feeling of newfound joy washed over the piece as a tsunami would wash over a city. It was lowered into its place, completing a stunning image. The moment lasted for eternities.

Nico Georg

Dream Wanderer

Lost. He was lost in a dream, and he couldn’t get out. He tried to jump off a building, but he opened his eyes, and he was standing on the ground. He tried to slap himself, but his hand just passed through his face. He tried to wake up for hours and finally after hours of failed attempts he was exhausted. He fell asleep and… woke up just as his alarm clock went off.

Ved Hoskote