During one amazing, writing-filled week, “John”(as our group dubbed itself) created work that ventured boldly across the wide range of storytelling. These bold, young writers (all high-schoolers) invented their own cities, wrote poetry, horror stories, romances, tales of sibling rivalry, and the beginnings of what could be their first novels. While their body of work is diverse, they are all united by their devotion to and exploration of the character “John,” who took many different forms in their writing. This group of writers crafts tales with precision and passion. They are undaunted by the hard work and courage it takes to sit down and put pen to paper, and they are also willing to constantly revise in the name of creating a better experience for their readers.
Over the course of our week together, we explored the “Seven Cs” system of story structure, read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and learned how the elements of motion, status, and time can be used to create living, breathing characters. The students also embraced unstructured writing time and were free to use their own writing templates. Oftentimes, they would bring their notebooks on breaks to hone their latest work. It was a pleasure to teach them, even though it was only for a short while. I know every member of John will be writing great things well into the future.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
My Latest Invention
My latest invention is to fix the mess I already made, but it might be too little too late. We will find out sooner rather than later.
I see a dark cloud. Now the man is approaching. I scoop up my tools and break into a run. Just two more bolts, and the invention will be done. I collapse behind a tree, panting, and try to screw in the bolts as fast as I can, the dull rumbling getting louder as I work. Then there’s a small whirring, and my invention slowly lights up a dim electric glow, illuminating my face as it slowly starts to spread, encapsulating my body.
The vitality of my youth comes flooding back in a raging torrent, and now I know I can win.
A loud, audible bang and a flash of bright light. My first invention finally works, but as my second invention slowly melts and scalds my skin, I know it’s too little too late.
I dreamt I saw the northern lights with you
and the moonlit sky was ours.
Your face lit up brighter than any star I’d seen
and you laughed.
In that moment, it wasn’t so bad to be human.
To be so, so small,
but to feel all too much.
Now I see it.
The small things I didn’t pay any mind to are flooding my mind
and they feel like regrets.
The sunlight cutting through the trees over the stream.
That was a truly beautiful day, wasn’t it?
It was a shame I couldn’t quite see it.
It hits me in my reminiscing
I don’t want to leave this unlikely paradise or birdsongs and pain.
I can only hope I’ll be back someday.
I guess that’s what this world does best.
Bill was packing his clothes into his suitcase, and his family was doing the same. He was getting ready for his family camp trip. Finally, they were on the road.
Bill’s family finally arrived at the camp. They were just moving into their campsite when they met a stranger. He told them the campsite was haunted because an evil samurai master was buried there, but they decided not to listen.
The family got everything into the campsite, and they started setting up their tents. Just when they finished the first tent, Bill’s dad, John, said that he could go run around and take a break.
Bill was running around the open field when, all of a sudden, he caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a really faint person in heavy armor looking straight at him. He decided to go check it out, but when he got close, the person disappeared into thin air. He got a little bit spooked and decided to go back to camp and take a nap.
Bill woke up to the sound of meat patties being grilled. He quickly got up and realized he was going to have hamburgers for dinner. After dinner, it was getting dark, so they decided to call it a day.
Bill was sleeping when, all of a sudden, he heard the sound of footsteps outside of camp. He slowly got out and saw nothing. When he was just about to head back, he saw the same ghostly person again in the woods. He decided to go check it out again.
Bill was running towards the person to investigate, but he disappeared again. He got really spooked and ran back, but a huge tree fell down, blocking his path.
Bill tried to get over the tree, but then he heard the sound of a Japanese kurikata being taken out of its sheath. He quickly turned around and saw nothing.
In this city, there are many houses, houses of all different shapes and sizes, houses with towers and spires, houses with thatch roofs and one window. There are modern houses with chic lighting and unique layouts, houses a kindergartener might draw with the triangle roof and the two windows. These houses are grouped together, layer upon layer, ascending the slopes of a giant pyramid.
These houses are all black. In fact, everything in this city is black. There is a giant canopy above this city that blocks out any sunlight. There are no parks, no forests, no lawns. Only houses, houses upon houses, in no particular order with no particular purpose. The people living in this city are the same. They wear black clothing, and hide their faces behind long black hair. They stay inside their houses all day, big and small, simple and complex. There is no sound of cars, nor traffic. No wind or rain. No sun or stars. In fact, the only color that is anywhere in this city is a bright, bright red rose planted next to a singular gravestone on the top of this pyramid. The only time of year anyone comes out of their house in this city is always in the beginning of the year, when the air is sweeter.
A lone girl with long, straight black hair down to her waist, wearing a black dress, comes out of her house. The parents can usually be seen with their faces pressed against the window, grief and sorrow clouding their eyes. The lone girl slowly makes her way up the pyramid. As she goes, she sprinkles seeds onto the ground around her. When she reaches the top, she reaches down and uproots the rose, dark and wilted. She crushes the dried up petals in her hand and releases them into the wind. She then reaches down and plants a single seed that she has been saving for a long, long time.
The city of Papama cannot be seen from above. Low-hanging clouds of smoke shield the withered land within the city. Oily canals sit static, breaking up the ground into a grid. Workers dressed in dull jumpsuits hack away systematically at the wilted trees along the water. The brittle, lifeless trunks are tossed into the sickly canal and bubble briefly before sinking out of sight.
One man, bones jutting against his pale skin and hair thinning at a rapid pace, stumbles around in the darkness. John, that’s his name. A name no one will remember after he falls into the water this very same day. His bones will meet all the rest that sit comfortably at the bottom of the canal. Short, square houses sit along the waterline, triple locked for fear of the skeletons that may crawl out of the depths.
A city covered in smoke and fear. That is Papama.
The City Underwater
The small submarine dived into the vast ocean. Radar on the ship had picked up a signal there, and the signal said it was huge. When the submarine dived down, they saw something. They saw a city. The city was sitting on the bumpy ocean floor with tall structures. But something didn’t seem right. It looked as though it had been abandoned.
The scientists found a docking bay, and got off into the skyscraper-like building. Water was dripping everywhere. Chunks of stone cracked off the wall, and even some scorch marks were visible. They did some searching and found a guide to the city. Every year, the so-called “citizens” would modify their DNA and mutate themselves into something that was described as an evolution. When the scientists looked at the picture, evolution didn’t come to mind. It was more like a monster. This got them worried. The picture seemed to show a creature that looked like the devil with brown goat-like horns, the feet of a horse, and yellow shining eyes that looked like it came straight from the abyss of hell.
The scientists were sweating all over, and hugging each other to stop their trembling. They grabbed the guide and started heading back to the ship. That’s when they saw a red hot fireball flying through the dark, blue abyss. It hit the submarine straight in its fuel tank and created a massive orange-white explosion. The scientists stared in fear and awe. Then a citizen’s head popped up from the middle of the explosion. It looked like the one in the book. It spoke in a language the scientists had never heard before. The scientists were now confused and scared, the worst combination of feelings. Then the creature charged forward, raised his hand and said a terrible word in his language. A ritual-like circle of energy popped into his palm, and the scientists blacked out. Before that, a scientist named John saw a sign. It said Xylophen.
Meet three best friends — Dylan, Robert, and John. Robert is tall, dark, and handsome. Dylan is the quarterback for the football team. He is smoking hot and has hair like Fabio. John is the cool guy who looks like Dally from The Outsiders.
Three best friends who tell each other everything. But Robert has a secret. Robert is gay and has feelings for Dylan. He can’t tell John because John has a big mouth. John is also gay and has feelings for Dylan. Dylan is not gay though. One day, Dylan borrowed notes from Robert. As he was flipping through the pages, it made him sick to his stomach. It said Robert + Dylan = Love.
He didn’t know what to do, so he went to John’s house and told him. John told him to stay away from Robert. A few days later, John confessed he liked Dylan. Dylan was shocked. He thought about everything and realized he liked him too, so he went to John’s house and, without saying a word, he kissed him. However, Robert was watching. As he watched, tears fell from his face.
The End of a Friendship
Once upon a time, there were two brothers named Rutherford and Samuel who lived in Detroit, Michigan. The two brothers were friends the first years of their lives. They would play hide-and-seek, they would play board games, and they enjoyed each other’s company. However, when Rutherford was eight and Samuel was six, Rutherford came home with a new friend named John. John was impolite and rude. He went into Samuel’s room and destroyed his toys. When Samuel complained, John punched him in the face and ran out of the house. When Rutherford was trying to find John, Samuel punched him in the face.
When Rutherford was thirteen and Samuel was eleven, they would not look at each other anymore. Their rooms were on separate floors and separate sides. Each had set up locks to their doors plus booby traps along the halls to keep the other away. Each of the boys ate their own breakfast and went to different schools. Their parents had the boys put locks on their doors, but when they would come out, one would punch the other and shove them into their room and board the door shut.
After five years of fighting and yelling, the parents eventually had company over. Dinner started very pleasantly with good conversation and peaceful understanding. However, when their mother mentioned their darkest secret, fighting, the brothers were outraged and ran away from home in two directions. They had nowhere to go. They only wanted to be free of their horrific home life.
They never met again, not for fifteen years, until they each spotted each other on the Brooklyn Bridge. Samuel tried to say childhood was over and that it was only one day that ruined it. Rutherford was saying it was Samuel’s fault that he punched back. Rutherford tried to shove Samuel off the bridge, but Samuel tripped him with his left leg, and Rutherford, unable to swim, plunged into the dark, cold water, never to resurface again. Samuel was so horrified that he had killed his only brother that he kissed the world goodbye, plunging into the water. His hand stretched out to the last light of the world until it vanished, and his life, as well, vanished into the water.