Teachers Write 7/24/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

Today’s Quick-Write is about feelings. (Go ahead…sing it…”Feelings…whoa whoa whoa FEEEEEEEELINGS…”  All set now? Okay.)

Today’s guest author wrote one of my favorite books I’ve read so far in 2014.

Varian Johnson lives in Texas, where he writes YA and MG novels. His latest, THE GREAT GREENE HEIST, is a page turner of a mystery, with a terrifically diverse cast of realistic middle school kids. I gushed more about it here. If you teach grades 5-8, you really need this one in your classroom library. And now…here’s Varian’s quick-write for today!

Thursday Quick-Write: Feelings without the “Feel”

I love emotional scenes in novels. Whether characters are happy or sad or in love or whatever, these scenes tell us so much about our characters’ wants and desires and dreams. However, the best scenes avoid telling us that the character “feels” a certain way and instead use context to show that emotion. From word choice to action to setting, we have a number of tools available to convey the emotional weight of a scene without relying on “I feel.”

Here’s a quick example:

Camilla huddled next to the main building, trying to hide from the early cold front that had brought low temperatures and windy skies. Stuffing her hands into her pockets, she watched as empty potato chip bags and wads of newspaper floated across the sidewalk, and resisted the urge to glance at her phone again.

Finally, the old red Ford pulled into the parking lot.

She marched across the empty schoolyard, her gaze on her tap shoes. She hadn’t bothered to change out of them. What was the point?

She yanked open the door and climbed into the cab. Her teeth rattled as she slammed the door shut behind her.

Her father reached over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Camilla, I—”

“You’d said you’d be here.” She jerked away. “You promised.”

“I know. But we got busy. A guy came in at the last minute and—”

“It’s fine. Whatever.” She turned toward the window. “Just drive.”

 

For this quick write, try to write or revise a scene where characters are showing some type of emotion. But instead of stating that emotion, use everything else in the scene to convey how the characters feel.

Note from Kate: If you don’t have a work-in-progress, feel free to choose a scene from a favorite novel and rewrite the emotions using this strategy, or take a moment in history (George Washington crossing the Delaware, Rosa Parks sitting down on the bus) and write that using this technique. Feel free to share a snippet of your work in the comments!

This entry was posted in TeachersWrite. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

43 Comments

  1. Terry
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Dear Varian-
    Thank you so much for sharing your time and work with us. This is really insightful for me.

    The scene below follows the one I posted Tuesday when Jody challenged us to make things difficult for our heroes.
    _______________

    She opened the door. He could see tan lines from the straps of her sandals like shadows on her bare feet. “Owen? Where are you?”

    Owen wiped his nose on his shirt. “Here.”

    She squatted down to look at him, curled up under his desk, wrapped in his blankie and clutching Doggie. There wasn’t a lot left of Doggie these days. His button eyes were scratched from being chewed on when Owen was a toddler. Stuffing had shifted unevenly, and now Doggie’s head and legs were heavy, the torso was nearly empty fabric. But Doggie’s soft floppy ears could listen to Owen whispering at night.

    “Do you want to talk about it?”

    “No!” Owen buried his head in his arm again.

    His mother wedged herself into the narrow opening under the desk. Shuffling forward she reached for Owen. “It’ll be okay, honey.” She wrapped her arms around his unwilling body. “It will be okay.”

    Molly had bled all over the deck. Marietta had screamed and screamed and screamed. Molly was quiet, and Owen had been frightened by the quiet more than the screaming.

    Miss Amelia had told Owen and Franny to put all the dogs back in the barn and to turn on the air conditioner. Christopher had called the paramedics, then his parents. Miss Amelia had held Molly, the towel wrapped around her leg turning bright red.

    The shelter dogs were taken away to other shelters, to the pound in the next town over. There would be an investigation.

    When Owen closed his eyes, he saw the same thing over and over: blood on the deck and blood on white fur.

    Little Bit was dead.

    It was all his fault.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Hi Terry,

      I really like the point of view at the beginning, Owen’s eyes being on level with his mother’s feet was great. The description of the stuffed dog was perfect too. I can also identify with the “unwilling” body. My six year old has never been good at letting us comfort him when he’s upset. It has to come later when he calms down.

      I have to admit I had some trouble figuring out what was happening with the rest, but I’m sure it’s because it’s a scene out of context and there are a lot of characters I would know if I had been reading the full story.
      It sounds interesting though and I know I had a lot of Grade 7 girls who would love to read a book about shelter dogs. It was a hot topic for us this year.

      Thanks for sharing.

      • Terry
        Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Stefanie-
        Thank you for the feedback. Doggie is directly based on my 10 yr old’s Kitty. (He’s always been very literal.) When he gets upset, I have to leave him alone, which goes against all of my own personality traits.

        And thank you for the honesty about the second part. I’m sure not all of your confusion is due to the lack of context, and it’s important to get that feedback!
        Terry

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Terry, I really liked the paragraph about Owen’s stuffed toy, it seemed to be full of emotion to me and really worked.

      I got a little confused at the part with the blood on the deck. There was a lot happening and I think it took away from the emotion Owen feels when he closes his eyes at the end.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Terry
        Posted July 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Andrea-
        Thank you for the feedback. It is so incredibly helpful to know what is working (or not working) before I’ve become too invested in how I’m telling this portion of the story.
        Terry

    • Jennifer
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Wow! I could feel the emotion in your piece and look forward to seeing what happens next in your WIP.
      I think that since there have been some questions about the part with the blood on the deck, maybe you could include some sort of transition like “Owen’s mind flashed back to the scene on the deck.” Or, maybe you could just move “When awoken closed his eyes, he saw the same thing over and over…” to follow when Mom says “It will be okay.” Then, you could include the information about what happened with the shelter dogs.
      Again, this is a wonderful WIP and hope to read more of Owen’s story!

      • Terry
        Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Jennifer-
        Thank you- fresh eyes are ridiculously helpful. And I appreciate you thinking through a quick revision for me too. I can get bogged down wondering if I ditch the entire bloody section, or if it would make sense in context, or if it only makes sense in my hallucination writing of the early morning…
        Terry

    • Posted July 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Terry,
      The imagery you created for “doggie” was articulated beautifully. I could visualize the stuffing that shifted in the now limp doll. And that his ears were still able to hear provided all the comforting that Owen would not allow his mother to offer.
      I agree with thise who mentioned the need to clarify the scene where he is remembering all the blood, but overall I’m hooked!

  2. Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Varian, welcome! And, thank you so very much for being here. I’m seeing all sorts of buzz about the Great Green Heist on twitter. Congratulations. As a middle school librarian, I keep a wish list active through the summer as I see new titles. I’ve got Green Heist on it. Can’t wait to read and introduce to my middle schoolers.

    My entry is a bit of catch up from yesterday’s “wreaking havoc” and today’s prompt.

    My WIP is a book in verse. My aim is to use different styles of poetry to tell the story of a group of English Language Learner students that discover their middle school library throughout the year.

    Yesterday’s “wreaking havoc” produced lots of words from me….lots and lots of description but nothing good…all just gunk to get out of the way.

    This morning I used “wreaking havoc” to write my story into a series of haikus. I am going to go back through to see where I can use context to show the feeling I want to capture. Here is a short snippet. Sorry if the formatting is crazy….hard to control on a blog. Please just trust that on another screen the format is 5-7-5 as it should be.

    Terror, panic, run!
    Adults with angry faces
    Shout, walk! No talking!

    We wait…silently
    My stomach thinks about the
    Lunch that waits for me

    Oscar mouths to me
    You are in trouble, stupid
    Why does he say that?

    Inside, a blue shirt
    Badge, belt, gun, walkie talkie
    Are waiting for me

    Did you pull this bar?
    Yes, I needed help…he…
    Oh, my god! Oscar!

    Again, thank you…..I will be going BACK to my draft with your advice in mind.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Hi Linda!

      It must be so hard to write in verse! I got really caught up in this from the second verse on, I liked the part about the lunch and Oscar, especially.

      I wondered about the first verse though, because you say, “Terror, panic”, and I’m wondering if there are different words to show this that would make it even more intense.

      • Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        lol! yes, it would make sense that the first haiku didn’t make sense….it’s a snippet. Here’s the backstory—Sonia is new in school. While waiting in line for lunch Oscar pranks her into pulling the fire alarm. He has convinced her it is something that will bring her help. Here are the verses before that set that up. Remember, this is my quick write. I can spend days and days and days on things that have the fewest syllables.

        I don’t find poetry difficult. I enjoy the feeling of painting it brings me.

        here is the snippet:
        He says the red box
        On the wall with the white pull
        Is help for new kids like me.

        I’m scared to have books
        In the lunch room if it’s wrong
        Can I ask for help?

        I pull the white bar
        Electric screaming surrounds me
        Oscar is scared

        Lines of students and
        Teachers, students make lines
        Everyone exits

        Terror, panic, run!
        Adults with angry faces
        Shout, walk! No talking!

  3. Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Varian. I have my copy of the Great Green Heist, sitting on my desk and I’m excited to read it. Especially now. Thank you as well for this timely post. It was what I needed to get a scene I wanted to write completed.

    To set the scene. Hannah and her brother had left the barn yard gate open the night before and she was out looking for the cows that had escaped. Hannah is on her way back after determining that they did head down the road.

    I walked through looking at the ground for something new and interesting, when suddenly a round, brown object tucked into a tuft of grass caught my eye. A smooth stone? No. It was an egg. An egg? My heart beat faster. Could Pluck be old enough to lay eggs. “Pluck.” I whispered, too scared to talk any louder, as if the spell could break. I scooped the egg up gently, holding it in both hands. It was a cold, brown, perfectly-smooth egg. I ran to the house.
    ***
    “Mom! Mom! Where’s Adam? I found an egg in the cluster of trees!” My words spun out of me fast. I didn’t take off my shoes before running to the kitchen, where she usually was at this time. As I turned the corner steely eyes stopped me. Then she turned her back to me, a wall, and nodded, listening, ear to the phone.
    “Sure, I’ll call for you. I’ll tell them you are going to be late. At least, you found them.”
    At least? At least was not a good phrase. I still hadn’t moved. She hung up the phone. She hadn’t turned around yet. “At least what, Mom?” I asked her back. “At least what?”
    She turned to me. “Barrie did find the cows and he’s helping bring them back. Tiffany was down though. A broken leg. She probably spooked when a car went past. ” Her mouth closed, a line across her face. There was nothing more to be said.
    “No!” My hands came up to cover my face. Thwack, the sound of egg hitting the floor. We both looked down. Shell bits scattered. The yellow yolk lay exposed and the clear liquid seeped across the floor. A broken leg meant death on farms. Only two cows were coming back. The plan had been to keep Tiffany. We were going to have two cows from now on.
    “Maybe you can actually clean up that mess.” My mother stated as she walked out.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Formatting went awry in the forum, but…

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Stephanie, I like the contrast between the excitement of finding the egg and then the tragedy. The breaking of the egg is a nice way to show her reaction.

      I’m wondering if “there was nothing more to be said” fits for the Mom’s reaction. Or if you need that line at all, because as a reader I can tell from the line on Mom’s face that she’s upset.

      • Posted July 25, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Thanks Andrea,
        You’ve helped me see that I often say the same thing in two different ways. I’ll have to go through & check that. Interesting revision. I wonder if my brain plays with different approaches & I just write both down. Thanks for helping me see a writing quirk I now believe I have.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Stefanie,
      Feelings poured through your words, without ever needing to be stated. The excitement and wonder over finding the egg, with its’ promise of new life was beautifully captured in her actions. Then the wonderful contrast of her anxiety, fearing the worst from the words picked up from the phone conversation. You could almost see your character trembling as she begged for clarification of what “at least” referred to.
      Finally, the mother’s cold response, (either callous or overwhelmed) is clear through steely eyes and a tight-lipped, non-emotive exit.
      Great execution of today’s challenge!

      • Posted July 25, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Thank you, Greg. I feel like you’re my cheerleader!

  4. Brian Rozinsky
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this concise variation on ‘show, don’t tell,’ Varian. Very instructive. Here’s what I wrote:

    We are in the living room watching a movie, me, my husband and his parents. On screen, aliens threaten feebly to end the world; in our living room, my father-in-law has fallen asleep in his chair. His mouth hangs open, a phlegmy snort rattling his heavy body every few minutes. In my clinical mind, I diagnose sleep apnea and order him a battery of tests. He interrupts what tension the movie has with a snore so explosive he shakes himself awake. He reorients for a moment, trying to make sense of how the story has jumped ahead without him. I’m done rolling my eyes by the time he looks over at me. I offer what I hope is a sympathetic smile – one that says, “You must be tired, and this movie isn’t very good.” He grimaces, then hosts himself up. “Anybody want some potato chips?” he asks absently. It’s nearer to bed time than snack time, my inside voice sneers. No one accepts his invitation, so his only company will be fried potatoes. I jab the remote control to raise the volume. I’d rather listen to hollow dialogue (“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be”) than his noisy munching.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Hi Brian,

      I really like this. You’ve done such a great job of using details. It’s easy to tell how each character is reacting and feeling.

    • Kerri Schegan
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      Oh my gosh, I’ve been in this living room with my own husband and his parents! Great description!

  5. Kristina Paustian
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Here is an excerpt from my WIP…
    “Kasni. Kasni, wake up, c’mon.” She was being shaken vigorously and thought she was waking up at home. She was surprised to find herself on the ground with Garan leaning over her doing the shaking. “We’ve got to get out of here. Can you walk?” She shrugged, but gave it a try. It was painful and slow going, but they managed to make it to the car. “I will drive.” He said as she dragged herself into the passenger seat of her own car. He pulled away with a squeal and sped down the road. She closed her eyes and leaned back with a groan. When she opened her eyes again,they were in front of her house. “You are in no shape to drive. I will have someone return the car.” He looked at her as though he could see down to her soul. “Thank you for helping me. You won’t regret it.” She thought as she pulled herself out of the car. ‘I already do.’

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Hi Kristina,

      You’ve really got me curious about your story with this scene! I’m worried about Kasni.

      I wonder if you could make this even more compelling by adding in some of what Kasni experiences as she comes to realize she’s lying on the ground, e.g. hard surface under her, maybe grit against her hands, etc.

      • Kristina Paustian
        Posted July 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your ideas. That is good advice. : )

  6. Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Varian, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on ways to show emotion. I always wonder how much of a character’s physical reactions to include when showing feelings. Here’s an emotional scene I wrote, trying to avoid “feel”:

    Whisper races beside me on her tiny legs, her head whipping back and forth as she searches for danger. We head past the mailboxes to a patch of grass beside a tall hedge. She stops to do a tiny poop. It’s okay. It’s no big deal. I have a bag.

    While I’m scooping it up—something else I definitely did not agree to—Josh Hamilton comes roaring around the corner on a skateboard. My heart beat pulses in my stomach. I quickly tie up the bag. Maybe if I keep my head down, he’ll just go by without recognizing me.

    The skateboard rumbles closer. Whisper jerks. Suddenly, she streaks away. The end of the leash drops, her collar still attached.

    I forgot to snap the leash onto the special chain.

    “Whisper!” I shout as she runs across the road.

    “Hey, your dog’s loose,” Josh says.

    “Don’t you think I know that?” My heart pounds. I start towards Whisper, but she runs further away.

    No one told me what to do if this happens
    .
    “I’ll help you get her,” Josh says.

    Before I can tell him not to, he zooms across the road. Whisper takes off, running down the street and around the corner.

    I run to the corner after Josh.

    Whisper’s gone. I’ve lost her. I suck in air, my heart thudding at warp speed.

    Josh speeds down the street calling, “Whisper! Whisper!” but I know he won’t find her. Even if he spots her, she’ll be too scared to come near him.

    How could I let this happen? She doesn’t know this neighbourhood. She doesn’t even know me.
    I start down the street but my legs are like jelly. I need help.

    Like a baby, I run for home. When I get there, I’m blubbering and moaning and Mom comes running out of her studio flapping sky blue fingers.

    “Breathe,” she commands. “Deep breaths.”

    I collapse into the chair in the hall, tears pouring down my cheeks. “I didn’t mean to.” I hold out Whisper’s collar, my hand shaking.

    “Calm down. These things happen. Let me get washed up and we’ll look for her. She can’t have gone far. Try peaceful thoughts.”

    I can’t. All I can think about is the terrified look on Whisper’s face and what might happen to her. What if she gets hit by a car? She’s not even my dog. What will Dad think? I hold my breath and count to three, then try to breathe out slowly.

    Mom touches my arm. “Ready? Let’s go find her.”

    Even though my legs are wobbly, I get up, Head for the door with Mom.

    She opens it and there’s Whisper, waiting on the front steps.

    • Terry
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Andrea-
      You build a wonderfully tense scene here, with the heroine first trying to avoid Josh, then panicked.
      The final line evokes such relief, and almost bewilderment for Whisper’s recovery being so easy. I love it.

      The lines that stand out to me as a little contradictory are:
      “I start down the street but my legs are like jelly. I need help.
      Like a baby, I run for home.”

      I’m trying to think of why I’m troubled, and I think it’s because of the two comparisons in 3 sentences (“like jelly” “like a baby”) Her scornful description of herself as ‘like a baby’ is really well supported by the blubbering, but the jelly might be confusing with running…?

      I’m eager to read more about Whisper and your heroine.
      Terry

    • Jennifer
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      I think my heart rate took off when reading this passage! I loved the ending and wonder how this affects the MC from now on-does she get nervous now each time that she walks Whisper? What happens the next time she sees Josh?

      I look for reading more of this story:)

  7. Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    In this scene my MC has just returned home from church. His father delivered a sermon about men being the head of the house and wives were to be completely submissive to their husbands. This is what happened once they got home. I think it is evident what his mom is feeling.

    Jacob ate his lunch watching his mom with amusement. Whenever his dad requested something she got it, handed it to her husband and curtsied with her head bowed before she sat down. As much as Jacob loved watching his mom’s performance he knew it was only a matter of time before his dad would get really mad and start yelling. He could have counted down the seconds. When he started yelling his mom stood up and removed their plates from the table. She scraped and rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher. Jacob looked at his father’s stunned face. His dad had not finished his lunch or his coffee. When he protested her reply was simple. “ I’m being submissive and doing my wifely duties.”

  8. Matt Little
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    The man fidgits under the unforgiving gaze of his computer cursor, ever aware of calendar X\’s amassing against him. Witnesses for the prosecution.

    He must write.

    How did this call to arms, this joyous affirmation of purpose and resolve molt into a blanket of relentless woe? When did a lover\’s urgings become the whip stings of a slaver?

    Click, click, click. The armies of time march, tiny boot heels in relentless report.

    He must write.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      …and he is hilarious!

    • Matt Little
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Concision. Precision. Incision. Excised essence, bleeding and breathing all over the page.

      He must write.

      • Terry
        Posted July 24, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Is it just coincidence that I’m flashing to the one scene I know of the Shining?

  9. Rebecca
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Penelope knew her mother wanted her to say she was going to say goodbye to Gen, but she didn’t want to. She was still mad at her.
    “I am going to find a job for this summer.”
    “I bet the Chu’s will want you to watch the twins sometimes, perfect. Now give me a kiss.”
    Penelope glared at her mother.
    “And when you ask the Chu’s if you can babysit, you will say goodbye to Gen. You two have been as thick as thieves since you were born. This isn’t your first fight, and it won’t be your last. Don’t let her go away upset. I imagine she’s not too happy leaving without you.”
    Penelope glared harder at her mother. Scowled too.
    “I mean it. I know things have been out of sync since your dad lost his job. But now you need your friends. I really have to go, come here.”
    Penelope slowly got up and slowly gave her mother a hug. Twelve year olds weren’t supposed to kiss their mothers. But her mother kissed her anyway, on the cheek since she was almost as tall as her mother now.

  10. Kerri Schegan
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    “WHAT?! NO!” Cora cried. “Mom, I was really looking forward to being in Miss O’Malley’s class! Why isn’t she my teacher anymore? What does this mean?”
    Cora’s mom had a basket full of clean laundry in her hands. “I don’t know for sure, honey. Come help me fold this laundry, and I will call the school as soon as we’re done.” Cora, with the stack of mail clenched in her hands, followed her mother up the stairs.
    In her parents’ bedroom, Cora started rapidly tossing undershirts into her father’s top dresser drawer. “Cora, honey, please do it right, or I’ll have to fold it all over again, and that will only take longer for me to make that phone call.”
    Cora sighed heavily, and refolded the undershirts more neatly. Who cared if undershirts were wrinkly? Nobody sees them! They go under your regular shirt. But Cora knew better than to try and argue with her mother right now. If she wanted this phone call made, she had to play by mom’s rules.
    After twenty painful minutes of folding and waiting, Cora’s mom hung the last polo shirt in the closet and sat down on the bed. She re-read the letter before picking up the phone and making the call.

    • Jennifer
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      I’m anxious to find out why the change was made! I really liked the statement “After twenty painful minutes of folding and waiting.” I wonder how many times Cora checked a clock/watch during this time:) I also like how you had the mom insist on completing the chore of putting away the laundry before making the phone call-it gives Cora more time to think (and worry) about the change. I would love to know what Cora was thinking about this change-did she have any thoughts about why she suddenly had a different teacher?

      Thank you for sharing this piece of writing!

    • Posted July 25, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      oh, please tell me that Miss O’Malley simply got married and changed her name!
      What works: rapidly folded undershirts, sighed heavily, refolded, interrupting thought about undershirts.
      I wonder….does Cora have any ticks/quirks that rise to the surface when she gets angry or anxious or anxry? I wonder if the interrupted thought about wrinkly shirts could underline a behavior that shows how upset she is. I also wonder if that would give Cora more play in this scene? Mom is as dominant in the scene as Cora is. Do you intend that balance? If so….good job!
      I have a niece named Cora…love that name!

  11. Jennifer
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Okay, here goes:) This goes along with a piece that I posted earlier in the week (I’ve given the character a name, but that may change), but I’m just not sure if it works. Any thoughts/feedback will be appreciated!

    Genevieve couldn’t believe that she’d forgotten her math homework again! Standing in the pickup line after school, she searched through her backpack, hoping that her math textbook and notebook would magically appear. After five minutes of searching, Becky tapped her on the arm.
    “Genny, whatever you’re looking for isn’t in there. What’dya leave in your desk today?”
    Genevieve pushed a strand of hair behind her ear before zipping her backpack. She sighed and said, “My math.” Becky shook her head knowingly. “Again?” Genevieve nodded. Leaving her backpack with Becky, Genevieve slipped back through the school’s double doors and started down the hall to room 14. With each step, she mumbled, “Please don’t be in there…Please don’t be in there…”
    But the lights were still on in room 14 and Miss Adams was seated at her desk grading papers. Genevieve tapped gently on the door. Miss Adams glanced up and the space between her brows puckered.
    “I forgot my math. May I get it out of my desk?” Genevieve asked quietly. She was proud that her voice didn’t tremble this time, like it usually did whenever she had to speak to Miss Adams. Thankfully, Miss Adams didn’t say anything, but just waved her hand towards Genevieve’s desk and continued making checkmarks on a paper. Genevieve scurried over to her desk and bent over to peer inside. She grabbed the thick textbook and her notebook and straightened up.
    Genevieve didn’t know what suddenly possessed her, but as she walked to the door, she whispered, “Have a good evening, Miss Adams.” Miss Adams didn’t look up from her papers, but she just flicked her hand, like she was swatting at an annoying fly, before marking something on the paper in front of her.
    Something flipped inside of Genevieve and suddenly she felt angry and hurt. Why didn’t Miss Adams seem to dislike her so much? What had Genevieve done to the teacher? Suddenly, Genevieve wanted an answer. She paused in the doorway. She could feel her face warming up, but didn’t walk away.
    “Miss Adams.” The two words squeaked out. Genevieve cleared her throat. “Miss Adams.” This time, the words were louder and Miss Adams sighed.
    “Yes, Genevieve?”
    Genevieve stood up straighter and clutched her math books to her chest. Miss Adams marked a grade on the paper and then reached for another. Genevieve paused.
    “What do you want, Genevieve? I am busy and you’re supposed to be in the pickup line.” Miss Adams’s red pen continued to slash through the answers on the paper. The movement of Miss Adams’s pen briefly distracted Genevieve. Then, Genevieve shook her head.
    “Miss Adams, why don’t you like me?” The words spilled out of Genevieve’s mouth.

    • Jennifer
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      I apologize for the formatting not carrying over-I really did have paragraphs here:)

    • Posted July 25, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Oh, Jennifer. I’m typing on Friday morning. I really hope you come back to find my comments. I absolutely connected with this. It’s what we all really want isn’t it? We want to be liked by our teacher. We want to know that we aren’t dislike or discounted by them. I really think that some of us (perhaps the more emotional and dramatic of us…ok, me….) have spent years proving a teacher right … that we are worthy of their time/attention/like. I know that the teacher in this snippet is named Ms. Adams. But, I want you to know her real name is Mrs. Tantillo. She told me that I would not do well because I was lazy and didn’t follow directions. Well, she is right about following directions. I’m terrible about that…but not following directions I now know has led me to wonderful, wonderful side journeys and stops that never would have happened otherwise. And, I spent the summer of my rising 4th grade year doing projects with my grandmother to practice following directions. I took one of those projects to show Mrs. Tantillo on the first day of school the NEXT year because it impacted me so much. So, Jennifer, keep writing this story. It’s important. I need it and so do many other kids.

  12. Posted July 25, 2014 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    A has been.

    That phrase has dogged me for weeks. Never spoken, but hanging breathlessly in the air as I pass by classmates in the hall. They don’t need to say it. Their eyes betray them. Glancing down, averting visual acknowledgment as our paths fail to cross. Since quitting the team, I’ve become a specter of past glory. The swagger, the adoring glances, the buddies hanging on, have all swiftly faded away.

    Opening my locker door, I catch a glimpse of Kristine around the corner, who not too long ago gave me a personalized split heart necklace. It reminds me of what I was. Of what I had been. It’s silly to still be wearing it, considering she hasn’t returned a call or text for several days, but I can’t seem to let it go. Burying my head into the locker, I catch wind of her playful, flirtatious giggling and I begin to accept the fact that she’s fawning over Maddox, our all-state pitcher that the scouts have also been drooling over.

    Sis was right. Kristine wasn’t into me. She was into my reputation. Dating me made her popular.

    And it hits me.
    I’m a has been,
    who never was.

    • Posted July 25, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      what works:
      “glancing down, averting visual acknowledgement, burying my head”
      What I wonder is:
      Can some of the description tighten up in action? “since quitting the team I’ve become a specter of past glory” like can a memory of running in to home…create that?
      I really, really like the last line…it’s poetic! Of course I would like it.
      I would like to know more about this guy. I sympathize with him.
      And, it’s kinda tough to critique you. You have a finished “feel” to your writing. I want to make sure I stay in shape for a writers group 😉

  13. Posted July 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Varian: Just now finding some time to catch up with my reading and writing. The Greatest Green Heist has piqued my interest. The quick write prompt has me learning and growing. I may have included too many identified emotions in what I wrote. Sharing what I wrote for the Thursday Quick-Write. Thank you.

    Sleeping for about an hour, Sue awoke to a blinding snow storm that required the two vehicle caravan to trek along at a snail’s pace. The decrease in speed limit on the Interstate was necessary for the safety of the travelers. However, a planned estimated time of arrival, for an overnight stop, would require some serious adjustments with the travel plans.

    The nap was a reprieve from Mom’s stern words and her expressed words of disappointment with her daughter’s selfish attitude. Blinking her eyes, without revealing her attempts to wake from a deep slumber, Sue thought she was dreaming. Or so she wished. Such a nightmare. This move was not what this 17 year old dreamed of.

    While an extended nap would bring additional respite from the tension between Mother and daughter, Sue knew this was not a dream and that the impending punishment was inevitable. She kept her head buried in her pillow, propped against the car door. The winter coldness seemed to penetrate through the window of the station wagon, despite the warm air blowing from the car vents. Pulling her jacket over her shoulders for some warmth became a bad move.

    “Sue, your help is needed! I can’t see the road very well. Do you see your Dad and Jill? I sure hope we have not lost them! I can’t see the truck!” Mom always seemed to express herself using a commanding voice that Sue despised.

    “Mom, I’m tired! Can’t you see I am trying to sleep?” Once again Sue’s pleading attempts produced no relief from her weariness.

  14. Jennifer
    Posted July 26, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your encouragement and support:) Your positive comments are especially meaningful because for many years, I didn’t think that I could write anything worth reading. I had a horrible experience in a writing class and it took a long time (years, really) for me to put it behind me. I went from being an enthusiastic writer who filled up notebooks with stories and ideas to being fearful about writing fiction. I had things to say, but because of that negative experience, I hesitated to put any those ideas down on paper. As a result, I’ve spent the last few years focusing on professional writing. Your comments have helped me realize that I can (and should) continue to write fiction.

    I also want to thank you for sharing your experiences with Mrs. Tantillo. I admire how you handled that experience so that instead of letting her comments and attitude define you, you used her criticism as a catalyst to show her that she was wrong. It takes a lot of initiative to work all summer like you did and I hope that she recognized your effort and praised your resourcefulness when you showed her your summer project. By the way, I’d love to hear more about those projects:)

    • Jennifer
      Posted July 26, 2014 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      This comment was supposed to be a reply to Linda M.’s comment, but I had many issues with posting. I apologize for getting it in the wrong place.

  • Find Kate Online