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Words from Our Young Authors at Joaquin Miller

This session, our theme was Treasure and Found Objects. We explored all kinds of concepts, from different types of treasure to how found objects can create poetry.

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

Treasure in Mural Park

You walk to your car, get in, and start the engine. You drive around and see a homeless person on the street. You get out, after parking, and confront him. You take out your wallet and just as you're about to give $30 to this poor person, he gets up, takes your wallet, and runs. You chase him, then trip on a tree branch poking out of the sidewalk cement on 5th Avenue in Goldsberry, Texas. You fall, holding your fist up and yelling, "You'll pay for that!"

The homeless person laughs and keeps running. A piece of paper flies out of his pocket, and you wonder what it is. As you go to pick it up, you thank yourself for once: "I am so glad I only put money in there, not any cards or receipts!" When you finally get to the paper, you find it is a map of Mural Park -- a treasure map, in fact. It shows the south end of the park, with the mountain mural, the ducks, and the pond. There is a big yellow X right above the mountains in the picture, on the right-hand side. You also see a bright orange trail running right through the middle.

You decide to go check it out, and you hop back into your car. You know how to get to the park from the years you spent with your children before they went with your sister Aggie. While you drive, you start to cry thinking about the time you spent with your kids.

When you get to the park, you notice that there are only six other people in the whole south end. You wonder why, then get out of your car and ask around.

The first person you encounter, a young student from the University, says, "It has been like this since the flash." You look confused, and he sighs and pulls out a paper from his backpack. You take it and see it is a newspaper with the caption, "Fire Flash Striked Mural Park." You keep reading...

-Olivia

 

From Word Scavenger Hunt - an exercise where we explored the possibilities of imagery and descriptive language by doing a “reverse” scavenger hunt. The instructor provided the object, and students provided descriptive clues.

Brussel Sprouts

My brussel sprouts are sitting on my white, reflective plate. They are watching me, I swear. Those puke-green, repulsive-tasting, poison-carrying vegetables. They just had to be on my plate. Brussel sprouts. Code name for some cold-hearted stuff that couldn't be edible, meant to demolish a kid's happiness, not to mention dinner.

-Luke

 

From What Is Treasure? Creating plot and answering the 5 W’s to describe different kinds of treasures.

The Million Dollar Dress

I was walking across the foggy road, then I suddenly tripped over a log and fell into a revolting mud puddle. I shrieked, because my million dollar gown was ruined. I was so frustrated, because I was supposed to go to the ball, and now I had to return to my castle and clean my gown. There was no way I could change because my father wanted me to wear this specific dress. He'd said: "My mother wore this dress to her first ball; now you must wear it to yours."

I raced into the nearest taxi cab, and it was full of germs and terrible smells. I arrived back at the castle and asked our maid Mildred to clean the dress. She said there was absolutely no way anyone could get it clean. Without any other choice, I would have to wear a different dress.

To be continued...

-Morgan

 

From The Museum of Found Objects - students created their own “exhibit” of found objects and chose one to write a story about.

Fry Dude

Hi, my name is French Fry. You can just call me Fry Dude for short. I have this jelly-filled doughnut that I bought this morning, and this is my story.

2 Days Later

"Help! Help! I lost my doughnut! Do something to help my precious jelly-filled doughnut." I called 911 and said, "I've lost my jelly-filled doughnut." Seconds later, the SWAT team showed up. "Okay, what is it?" they said. "I lost my jelly-filled doughnut!" I said. Then it felt as if time froze like ice.

3 Hours Later

I woke up in a dark room with an incredibly soggy jail suit on. I stood up to the sight of puddles everywhere, a tiny window with bars, and a battered army cot on the uneven concrete. Thud, thud. I heard pounding on the door. They pulled me out of the jail cell, and the world seemed different. I saw a sign with a date on it: the year 2026. Weird, I thought to myself, and scratched my beard. Wait a minute, I never had a beard...

To be continued... 

-Gavin

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

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"I'm not going to make it bos-"

That was it. Another man down. Many people had tried to get the treasure, and many had failed. So a treasure association was built. They hired people who had found treasure in Colorado. They hired a specialist in mapping. That specialist was you.

To be continued... 

-Marco

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

To Find My Way Through

You're standing in your great-grandpa's rusty, dusty, and old-smelling attic. Man! There is so much stuff up here, with old boxes that must be from the sixties. But one box catches your eye: it is labeled MAPS. It's much dirtier than the other boxes, so you think it must be super old. As you look inside, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of maps. More maps than you can carry. One out of all of them catches your eye. It has green, plush trees and beautiful mountains. You can hardly make out the squinty little handwriting, but you think it says Owl Landia, home of the owls. You absolutely love owls, so you say, "I wish I could go there!"

The world jumbles and fumbles, twists and turns. You finally find yourself upon green, plush trees and beautiful mountains. Everything around you is beautiful, and you think to yourself, "I must be in Owl Landia!"

To be continued...

-Julia

 

From You Name It, We’ve Found It - an exercise where students learned about a NYC company that reunites people with items lost in taxi cabs, then wrote stories from the point of view of the taxi driver and passenger.

Ski Mask Switch

1. Joe

Hi, my name is Joe. This is an old tale, about two years old. I was doing my usual route and a man jumped into my cab and said, "Step on it! Time Square!" So I drove, and he said drive faster, so I did. When I pulled up to Times Square, he handed me two dollars and jumped out. "You're going to need more than $2 to survive in New York City!" I yelled. That's when I realized he had left his ski mask.

2. Drew

At the time, I went into the grocery store on the way back from my ski trip. I was hungry, so I tried to grab some ham from the meat counter. BEEP! An alarm rang in my ears, and I realized it was me touching the ham. That's New York City grocery stores for you. So I left, got in a taxi, and said, "Step on it! Times Square!" to the driver. He wore a name tag that said Joe.

To be continued...

-DJ

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

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James Bond, you have a new mission. First you have to go to Till's-Land Island. Then you must go over the Tomb Hills, and then you have to walk aside The Lake. After that you must cross The Bridge, then climb the everlasting, ever-erupting, red-orange, earth-created Volcano. Then walk over more round, green hills, and then you will find the treasure!

From,

Your Boss

P.S. I am pretty sure the treasure is a pigeon with a pack of gum.

P.P.S. I think the bridge might be broken.

P.P.P.S. I am actually pretty sure that there is no volcano.

P.P.P.P.S. Call me at five or whenever you get the treasure.

-Pearce

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

Map

You're walking to the supermarket, but you trip on something. You look down and see it is a map with lots of details. It's a map for a place called Candy Land, and at the end of it is a blue X. Twenty seconds later, you get sucked into the map!

Soon you're surrounded by candy, and your mouth is watering. You look at the map in your hand and decide to find the treasure. First you start near a bunch of lollipop trees, and the dots on your map point out of the trees and southeast. A chocolate river appears, too deep for you to cross. You see a piece of paper that says, build a bridge. You collect some marshmallows and throw them in the river. Then you quickly across them to the other side.

Next there is a big slide. You spin up the stairs like a rabbit, wondering why you have to go on the slide. Then you realize that below you are thousands of beasts, like dragons, mermaids, dinosaurs, and lots of others.

To be continued...

-Dani

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

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To find the mystic treasure, you must swim through the Water of Death with violent waves roaring against you. Then you must go through the exquisite Unicornlandia, where majestic unicorns live with their silver coats and paper-white horns with unique engravings. Then you go through the steep rolling hills, following the map's path to avoid dying (you will notice graves every five steps, if you think death is near and want a peaceful death without anyone stepping on you, simply leap into a vacant tomb).

After that, you must go to the Balking Chickens of Fear, and you will see humongous chickens with their high-pitched, ear-pearcing balks that will make a deaf man hear again. Then go to Bobville, where everything's name is Bob. Run as fast as lightning to avoid Bob-itis and pass safely through the Daggers of Death. Find your way to the Maze of Death, where plants grow together to make a huge maze. Exit the maze and go through the roaring, erupting volcano, where the blood-red lava is pouring down.

Leave the volcano and stay on the path until you arrive at Creepy Hollow, where all you can hear are shrills and screeches of the owls. Go to the red X and try to find your way back. Good luck.

-Samantha

 

From Word Scavenger Hunt - an exercise where we explored the possibilities of imagery and descriptive language by doing a “reverse” scavenger hunt. The instructor provided the object, and students provided descriptive clues.

Something Homemade

As I hunted around the house for an old earring box, I tripped over a toy. "Oliver!" I felt something under my well-worn glove. Success! A box the perfect size.

Rushing around, I found my baby blue paint in a mad paw through the big black paint box. Squeezing the last drops of sparkling paint out carefully so I wouldn't waste the last of it, I smoothly stroked the paint on. As I set the box to dry, I proudly looked over the work I had done. The box shone like Io, the Greek Godess of Dawn, had shone her light on it.

Here came the hard part. Quietly, I snuck into my parent's room. Slipping a diver's suit under my coat, I flashed out. I cranked open my side window and climbed down the rickety fire escape. As I dressed up for diving, I prepared the old boat for takeoff. Once I reached the heart of the ocean, I hooked my rope around the kelp forest trees and leapt off the boat. As I paddled down to the oyster bed, I immediately spotted two perfect pearls. Snatching the pearls, I thought to myself, "That was easy." I had a spare change of clothes on board the boat, and I changed as quickly as possible and rode home.

To be continued...

-Marley

 

From Treasure Maps, Details & Point of View - an exercise where students created a treasure map with lots of concrete detail, then wrote a story about it using the 2nd person point of view.

Bob

You wake up in a dark, misty jungle full of life. You look around and see many jungle trees and ferns. You pick up your REI axe and start hacking away at a tree. It falls to the ground with a thump! You find some vines from the tree and cut them off. You start to make a boat with your axe, hollowing out the tree as you go, and finish just before nightfall.

You set out on the silver sea with glistening water. You must paddle with branches that you found, and it takes two hours just to get out of sight of the steaming island you now dub Breegronkfrizelcrob. It's another two hours before you and your boat reach a monkey-shaped island with a broken sign that says, "Welcome Bob, to Death by Monkeys Island. Meet my evil cat named Fluffy!"

To be continued...

-Hunter

 

From Word Scavenger Hunt - an exercise where we explored the possibilities of imagery and descriptive language by doing a “reverse” scavenger hunt – the instructor provided the object, and students provided descriptive clues.

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The noise in the cafeteria was loud.

The volume in the echoing lunchroom was so ear-breaking, it sounded like 1,000 lions were roaring at different times. Almost like 100 mad monkeys. I wish this noisy lunchroom was like a green meadow with soft, neighing horses.

-Marcella

 

From You Name It, We’ve Found It - an exercise where students learned about a NYC company that reunites people with items lost in taxi cabs, then wrote stories from the point of view of the taxi driver and passenger.

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One day I was celebrating our team's World Cup win. I decided to leave a little bit early so I could go home and play video games with my friends. When I got into a cab with my trophy and bodyguards, I realized that one of my bodyguards was playing with his choo-choo train. I was about to yell at him, but just then a very round pig with a jetpack and a snort-oink translator flew right into the cab.

The pig said, "You shall die, fellow potato!"

"Dude, I'm not a potato," I said.

"Dude!" the pig said, "I'm not a dude. I'm Mr. Round Piggy."

The bodyguards rushed out of the cab, screaming like newborn babies but 500 times higher in pitch.

To be continued...

-Louka

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Words from Our Young Authors at Joaquin Miller

Our curriculum this session at Joaquin Miller was "It’s a Mystery!", and we worked on character development, crafting setting, creating tension, and using concrete details. See some of our favorite excerpts below!

From: The most valuable _______ in the world was stolen!

The Chip

It all started on a very hot, humid day: April 24th at 5am. Joe felt a sharp, heated pain n his face, and suddenly he was engulfed in total darkness. A silent scream emerged from the brown burlap sack. "Be quiet in there," said a gruff and hostile voice. Joe didn't want to get hurt, he kept his words to himself.

Joe woke up in a rusty, dirty building. With his head throbbing in pain, he let out a small groan. It was accompanied by a sharp pain in his chest. "Where am I?" he groaned. "That doesn't matter. What matters is that you give me the potato chip," said the hostile voice. "What chip?" said Joe. "Har har," said the voice, "Give me the potato chip!" "Okay," said Joe, and he pulled out a small, crisp, yellow chip that smelled great. "On one condition," Joe said. "Oh," said the voice, "What is that?" Joe smiled and said, "That you give me a cookie." To be continued...

-Hunter

 

From: Mystery Prompts: This is the story I’ve never told

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This is the story I've never told. I am dead, or at least I was dead, and the only people who know this story are my parents. If it hadn't been for my best friend Juliet, I wouldn't be here today. It all started when I was five. I had a disease that made me not able to run. I kept it a secret, knowing that people would make fun of me. I had tests done plenty of times, but nothing like this: I was at school when I felt someone pushing my back, but it wasn't someone -- it was something, my bones to be exact. I decided to ignore it and keep playing, but it got worse. It started to feel like someone was kicking me in the back. I decided to tell a teacher, and that was when I started to scream I was in so much pain. The next thing I knew I was lying on a hospital bed, drinking cool sips of water and trying to sit up but it hurt too much. I would later learn that my muscle had turned halfway in the middle of my back. My dad told me that I might die. Later, Juliet came and held my hand, and somehow I stayed alive. Just like magic, though if you want to the doctor's version I made an incredible breakthrough.

-Julia

 

From: It Was Missing! writing prompt

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It was missing... Where is it? Where could it be? Help! Where am I? It is so dark and creepy. Oh... I'm in my room with the lights off doing a puzzle. But it's missing, I have to find it. I've looked everywhere. I turn on a light. The scene is going black and white. A few hours later I see something and pick it up with my very strong fingers. Just as I thought, it's a pig hair. Wait, do pigs even have hair? It's Dr. Dumpling, the stuffed pig. But suddenly, there is a THUD! I look outside and see a big ball of homework, my worst nightmare, coming towards me. To be continued...

-Marco

 

From: Creating an unexpected setting (a haunted house that’s safe and fun, a park that’s spooky and scary, etc)

An Unexpected Farm

When Little Jimmy was going to his cabin in Tahoe, he passed a farm that had a blue barn and smelled like rotten hay. Suddenly, as if by coincidence, the car stopped.

"Oh god," Papa Joe said, "The engine blew! Well, I guess I've to fix it. Go play with the chickens, Jimmy."

"Okay," said Jimmy.

Jimmy walked toward the barn. The air tasted wet from mildew. He went inside and heard the sound of horses, sheep, and all the things that were supposed to be on a farm. But when he went further in to investigate, the barn was empty. There was nothing.

"What?" Jimmy asked himself.

To be continued...

-Jordan

 

From … : Creating an unexpected setting (a haunted house that’s safe and fun, a park that’s spooky and scary, etc)

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There was a creepy old medieval castle covered in spider webs with eyeballs dangling in them, and spikes and dark horses inside. I was afraid to go inside, but then in front of my face I beheld the most amazing things: a pink unicorn, round bunnies, fluffy pandas, and a large golden dumpling.

-Gavin

 

From: Creating an unexpected setting (a haunted house that’s safe and fun, a park that’s spooky and scary, etc)

The Circus

When you think of a circus, you think of clowns, tents, shows, and elephants. But not this circus. This circus is different. The clowns wore only black costumes. You can smell heavy smoke, and the tents are full of dirt and bugs. The only food is vegetables, and that tastes like mud. There are no clean bathrooms, only port-a-potties that look like little abandoned jails. The sky is a dark shade of gray. This circus has the best, happiest name in the world, so a lot of people want to visit it. But right as they come in the gate, they leave. The children think it might be a joke, but the parents all say "Get out of there! It's dangerous!" The word spreads, and the circus tries to advertise all of the good things about it. But the advertising backfires. People complain and complain. Eventually it should shut down, but the circus has a secret that no one knows...

-Morgan

 

 

From: Mystery Prompts: Deep in the woods

A Wild Question

Deep in the woods of all woods there lived a mouse. Just an ordinary mouse. She was finishing middle school when she discovered that she was incredibly strong. Over the summer she practiced throwing twigs and could even set her own records. The first record she ever made wasn't very strong, it was four inches. She did six inches the next day. In the morning, she got up at 7am and jumped into a stream to rinse off. She dries off while eating breakfast, usually two blackberries and a pine nut, then she runs to the pond and back. Then she throws a mound of pebbles, until there is only dirt where the pebbles were. To be continued...

-Marley

 

From: Broken Fairytales (retelling fairytales to create tension)

Cinderella: A Broken Tale

In a closeby land lived a hideous guy... or was it a girl? Anyway, there was an upcoming hideous pageant and the winner would earn a hideous prince or princess. But the competition was big. Cinderella's ugly, digusting, pimple-faced stepsisters were so hideous they had bought 50 rags with their prize money from last year's pageant. Cinderella wanted to make the worst impression, so she ran a mile in her filthy rags until they had yellow sweat rings. But it wasn't enough. She wondered if she could ever go to the pageant. Then, all of a sudden, her hideous fairy-dead-mother appeared to grant her three wishes with her magic. The first was to make her ugly. The second was to have the most hideous ride to pageant, and the third was to win it all. The fairy-dead-mother warned her to be back by 4pm. Off Cinderella went, but she forgot about the deadline to return. To be continued...

-Samantha

 

From: The most valuable _________ in the world was missing

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The most valuable person in the world was kidnapped. He was either stolen by Dr. DuckBunnie or the evil society called The Kids. The one thing we know is this: it happened at 5:30am in his underground mansion. But Mr. Pebble was on the case. Mr. Pebble was a fat man with a pudgy nose. He had no hair, and his arms and legs were too short for his body. But best of all, he had a power that made him turn into a pebble so he could dodge bullets and disguise himself. Mr. Pebble went to Dr. DuckBunnie's lair to investigate. It was an old shack covered in mildew. When he in, it transformed into an underground mansion. He checked all of the rooms, except one. When he went into the last one, there was a pressure plate, but fortunately he leapt out of the house just before it exploded. Next, Mr. Pebble went to The Kids' society in Austin, Texas. He walked in expecting nobody, but The Kids were waiting for him. They tied him up in a chair. The rope was old and super tight across his fat stomach. Mr. Pebble quickly turned into a small yellow pebble and hopped under the chair. Then he realized what had happened: Dr. Duckbunnie and The Kids had teamed up to kidnap the most valuable person in the world! To be continued...

-Luke

 

From: Broken Fairytales (retelling fairytales to create tension)

The Two Little Pigs... and the Sassy One

There were these three little pigs who needed houses. One pig said, "My house will be made of dirt." The other pig said, "Mine will be made out of rocks." The two pigs came across another house that was made of steel. They stared and stared at it, and they wanted to steal it. But they couldn't think of how, so they went home to watch the Cinderella Talk Show. In the meantime, Sally the Sassy Pig took over the steel house and placed a flag at the top. When the first two pigs returned, the wandered inside the house and saw Sally sitting on the couch. "Sally!" they cried, "This is our house!" But Sally ignored them.

In another part of town, Wolf was asking himself what he should steal that afternoon. He happened to go by the pig's house and saw the steel. A light bulb went off: "I can steal the steel!" Wolf thought to himself. To be continued...

-DJ

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