Sometimes I Teach

A little over ten years ago I was employed in one of my favorite jobs to date- school library manager.

Through my position, I was able to encourage more young readers, and on occasion, worked on collaborative story creation with them.  We created shared worlds inspired by what they were learning in class, and after school, I led a small shared world writing workshop (as well as a kids’ NaNoWriMo and other book-connected events, but that’s a story for another time).

It’s the collaborative and shared writing times that I enjoy most.  Working with the group on a shared theme, or simply writing at the same time, modelling the practice of writing- including stumbling blocks and changing my mind (or is it the story leading me elsewhere?) gives me great joy, and sometimes leads to stronger writing.

In the last few years, I have been able to bring that love of writing to a new group of kids through after school workshops at our local school (my own pay-it-forward project, I never charge a fee for this group).  I dubbed the most recent incarnation “Stone Soup Storytellers”, and we created an All-School play with adapted folktales, including Stone Soup, of course.

Most recently, I brought back the theme of Stone Soup and adaptation for a POV workshop with our Uppers students (grade 4-6, some of whom happened to have originally worked on the Stone Soup adaptation), and with our school adaptation of Into the Woods coming up, we’ve been focusing on fairy tales as our inspiration.  With our Middles (grade 2-3) I simply chose randomizers- but since this is me, my writing took a bit of a folktale path.

I present below *my* stories- may they entertain and inspire your own words.

(Feel free to use the images and links in this post as inspiration and share your own tales in the comments!)

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There is a beautiful tradition at my son’s school involving the gift of a stone that everyone has held and put their loving thoughts into. This is my Stone, gifted to me after our production of Stone Soup Stranger. I carry it with me always, and I always shall.

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First stop, Stone Soup POV tales with the Uppers.  Inspired by The Rose in Twelve Petals by Theodora Goss, we took a look at all the different characters that could have a story to tell in the Stone Soup world.  We brainstormed a quick list of narrators, and some of us used cards from the Storyworld: Fairy Magic: Create-A-Story Kit, either the image, the question prompts on the back, or both.  Can you guess whose version of the tale I began to tell?

Sun shone hot on the dusty road beneath me that day.  Still half green, I shifted under the weight of a passing squirrel.  She jumped to a nearby oak to continue gathering acorns.  I remember thinking they looked like my crab-apple cousins.

Fingers wrapped around me and twisted and pulled me off the branch above me, leaving half my stem behind.  His eyes.  I remember seeing his face reflecting off me reflected in his eyes.  Bright green glowed in brown.

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Next stop, our Middles!  We simply used randomizers to focus our tales.  Using Rory’s Story Cubes as both inspiration and limitation, we rolled the dice and let the pictures guide our tales.

Rory's Story Cubes- a mix of Voyages and Enchanted sets

Rory’s Story Cubes- a mix of Voyages and Enchanted sets: https://www.storycubes.com/

Needing some water to make my soup, I grabbed my cloak and stomped my feet into my boots.  The wind had picked up, and it was still muddy from the previous day’s rains.  As I drew up the bucket from the well, I head a strange tune coming from the woods.  Worried, but curious, I put down the bucket and headed towards the song.  Nestled in a birch grove was a basket with a baby in it, sleeping soundly.  Next to the baby was a pouch that shifted.  Afraid there was something dangerous for the baby, I picked up the pouch and opened it, pouring out the contents.  Glittering in the sunlight that streamed through the branches was a gold and emerald medallion.  Who was this child?  Why was he left in the woods?  And what did this medallion signify?  Puzzling over these questions, I picked up the basket, retrieved my bucket of water, and headed home to make soup for two instead of one.

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Back to the Uppers- this time inspired by a writing prompt from a practice test that sounded to me a lot like the story of The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen.  We watched a brief clip from the 1948 film of the same title* and came up with our prompt- you somehow acquire a pair of shoes that 1) have a Limited Power– they need recharging at some point that is Controls You until you can take them off.  Other than that, imagination was the limit!**

The Red Shoes (1948) – Off with the shoes

(My story was also inspired by a poem*** I had written years ago for my Cracking the Nut collection, hopefully to be in print sooner than later.)

Shoe Stories

Why are there shoes in a stationary shop?

Tucked among bottles of ink, fountain pens, and reams of linen paper were a pair of slipper-shoes, glowing like embers hidden in ash and soot.  Crimson with amber ribbons to fasten them, the dim light of the corner seemed to reflect off them as if they were in the sunlight.

“Excuse me, why are these here?” I asked a leather old man who seemed to blend in with the shelves full of leather-bound journals behind him.

“Oh, they’re fer writin’, like everything else in here.”  He looked at me as if I walked in by accident.

“Oh,” was all I could manage, not wanting to sound more foolish than I already felt.

Looking at them again, I noticed the toes were darkened, as if they had literally been rubbed in soot rather than rosin.

“May I… may I try them on?”

Was that a glint in his eye?  A trick of the light reflecting off the shoes?

“Certainly,” was all he said.

I carefully lifted the shoes and looked for a place to sit and tie them on.  Finding a ladder by some taller shelves, I slipped off my modern boots and sat, my back against old oak shelves full of paper.

Tying the last knot, I felt a jerk of my right foot.  Suddenly propelled to my feet, my toes moved forward, backward, up, down, in loops until I grabbed on to the counter before the shopkeeper.

When I could catch my breath, I looked back.

There before me, glowing and blackened, were the words, “Once Upon a Time…”

Shocked and delighted, I stood and let go of the counter.  No sooner had I let go when my feet—no, the shoes—were moving again.

Leaving my boots, the man, and the shop behind, words in my wake, the shoes carried me off.  Tiles, carpets, cobblestones, dust and dirt, sand and stairs, endless words followed me, gone before I could catch a glimpse.

*  The Red Shoes (1948) – Ballet Sequence

**  I had a crazy idea we could have a mini dance party with this song, maybe it would inspire more ideas:  CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! (From DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls”) (Official Video)

***

With hands of silver and feet of wood,
I am grounded to the page,
I glide over the stage,
Yet nothing,
Nothing,
Remains behind.
No words to remember,
No colors or emotions to be seen, felt.
My face is as blank as the canvases I hold so close,
Page fright,
Dancer’s block,
In the shadows I wait too long and miss my cue.

I write and write and cannot stop,
Yet the words that appear on the page make no sense.
Compelled, drawn, pulled, entwined with the words,
They are the master, I shall wear them until I die.

Promises must be kept
Sacrifices made,
A bit of bone lost to keep,
A gift of love made grief.
Shall we ever dance again, you and I?
Alone, one above, one below,
So totally alone,
Yet the only pas de deux
Is the sole ballerina
And the stage.

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I look forward to the next challenge, whatever may inspire it!

(I’ll share soon the story of my creative writing program.)

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