Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

11/10/09

Writing 101

Edie suggested we highlight a favorite writing assignment from a class taken or taught for this cycle of posts. My choices are limited. I've taken two writing classes and have taught none. My very first assignment was easy for a newbie—just write from memory for about 5–10 minutes every day for a week. There was no goal stated, so this was more about process. I'm sure you know what I learned during that time, that ideas and connections develop as you go. The process itself is magic. Below is my first little ditty:

Seed of the stone
At the tiptop of our hill I planted corn. Stairs, built from railroad ties Daddy hauled in the Studebaker, zigzagged to an area he leveled mid-way up the slope. Flanking the stairs and bordering our half-acre were stonewalls he pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. No two stones were alike, and every last one of them came from the old quarry in Rockport on our weekly trips to Grammy’s. Tailgate down, Daddy would lift and bend, lift and bend, unloading his boyhood home to ours.

Up we went with a trowel, seeds, and a watering can. Hen-and-chicks peeked out between rocks on either side of the steps. The flowers, shrubs and trees Daddy planted were on the lower half of the hill. Everything above the flat grassy area was wild. There were no more stairs to make the climbing easy, so by the time we reached my spot we were out of breath.

From this height we could see every yard along Russell Street. The school bus driver said ours was his favorite. Across the street, to our left and right were woods. Behind us was bulldozed land, still undeveloped.

I chipped away at the dry earth making a small hole. My seeds were bright and hopeful against the dull brown dirt. I placed them carefully, covered them over and patted them. All tucked in! After watering we headed back down the hill. All summer long we repeated this climb. We must have forgotten a few times because the corn didn’t grow nearly as high as stalks by the roadside stands.

August was a good month to pick corn. That was when we made our harvest trip. A lone short stalk grew with one little ear. Silky threads hung like hair. Eagerly I peeled back the ribbed green husks. The corn was not like any I’d seen. No tidy rows of uniform kernels. Zigzagged and irregular, mine was a golden stonewall.

6 comments:

betsy woods said...

Christy, what a beautiful memory, a treasure.

Lauren said...

Christy, I like the idea of writing from memory for five to ten minutes every day for a week-- (Actually, longer!) I think I will try this... starting today!

I also love the story/memory you shared. The corn's "golden wall" mirroring your father's was a wonderful interplay of images. Great detail too-- perhaps there is a book in there someday?

Edie said...

Christy,
I agree with Lauren--what a lovely interplay of images, and you know how much I love rocks. Very good writing exercise!

Christy said...

The connection between the stonewall and the irregular ear of corn didn't occur to me before I started, only while I was in the process of writing. Moving the hand seems to get the brain synapses charged.

Lauren said...

That is what is so amazing with writing-- just put pen to paper and who knows what will emerge and what connections are made!

David LaRochelle said...

It's a great story, Christy! I loved the image of tucking the seeds in!

My writing teacher Judy Delton would have us write a 5-10 minute memory at the start of each class and it was amazing the things the class came up with. Several of us in the class still continue to meet and we always begin with this activity. When given a writing prompt and set time limit, something always seems to flow from the pencil. We always comment on why we can't be so productive when we're sitting at home at our writing desks the rest of the week.