Teachers Write 7/24 Tuesday Quick-Write

We’ve spent a lot of time this summer talking about getting your work-in-progress moving — developing characters and painting settings and plotting tightly crafted plots.  And I’ve answered a handful of questions about genre: “If I’m working on a story about xyz, do you think it would be best as a picture book or a middle grade novel, or what?”

I’m happy to answer those questions,  but I also want to let you in on a secret. Not everything you write has to grow up to be something else. One of email asked me if I ever write things that “just don’t go anywhere.”  Do I write things that don’t get published?  Gosh, yes. I write things that I hope might be published but that aren’t good enough (or good enough yet), and I write things that I don’t have any plans to publish. I write lots of those things, because publishing isn’t the only reason to write, or even the most important reason, in my opinion. I write to figure out what I think about things, to share those thoughts, to amuse my family and friends, to preserve family stories, and to keep memories just the way I experienced them, including sounds and feelings and wind on my face — stuff that a photograph won’t capture.

So today, let’s write for that reason. Here’s your prompt:

I’d like you to tell us all a good campfire story. It shouldn’t have anything at all to do with your work-in-progress if you have one. This is just for fun. It can be a true narrative — something funny or life-changing or embarrassing or goofy that happened when you were little (my kids LOVE these stories) — or a story you make up to make us laugh or shiver in the dark.

I’ve started a campfire for us with that good smoky smell and some virtual s’mores.

Get writing, and share a few paragraphs in the comments later on if you’d like.

37 Replies on “Teachers Write 7/24 Tuesday Quick-Write

  1. My campfire story…
    My early childhood home was a tiny ranch across the street from a large, somewhat ominous looking colonial-full of three mischievous boys who were forever known as trouble makers!  Truly, the look of the house matched the personalities of the inhabitants!  The scent of trouble belched from its windows and doors quite regularly.  The neighborhood children knew all about the “trouble boys”.  Some how, who ever they played with got bitten by the trouble bug!

    On this sunny summer day, my younger brother Mike and I decided we’d head across the street and venture in to play with the “trouble boys”-a mistake my mouth has regretted for the rest of my life!  
    As we crossed the street cars rarely drove on, we saw the boys playing in the pebble-littered, sandy black dirt where the pavement met the road.  They had their dump trucks, buckets and the tall red tricycle.  The tricycle caught everyone’s eyes!  It was shiny, bright red and screamed “ride me”!
    On this day, the boys made it their mission to demo how they could ride it down the 6 cement steps  that led from the yard down to the street…when your legs are long enough to balance the bike on the steps like ski poles on a slippery slope it was  an amusement park-like adventure!  Needless to say, being the Amelia Earhart adventurous little diva that I was, I couldn’t resist trying out the ride too!

    After the boys made several passes down the steps, I decided to give it a try.  I got on the tricycle and pedaled down the front walkway to the steps of doom.  As soon as the trike started down the first two steps (wait for it) move in to slo mo here-I began to lose balance.  The trike and I parted ways.  It kept bumping and rolling and I flew off of it and landed face first with a mouth full of gravel at the base of the steps!  There was screaming, crying, and bleeding from me, skittle girl who now had a knocked out front tooth, two fat lips And a scraped chin.  Mother came running and immediately called the dentist-he told her to rinse my mouth, wash off the tooth and shove it back up into my gums! I was rushed to the dentist’s office…I was served up with the fare of Popsicles and more popsicles for about 2 days until the swelling went down…those darn trouble boys-that darn trike, those short legs-it all spelled disaster from the beginning! And I have the black front tooth in my kindergarten picture to remind me that when I smell trouble, I should stay away!

    1. Amy,
      Great story. Funny how these childhood trouble stories stay with you forever. Are you still the Amelia Earhart adventurous little diva? She’s probably still in there somewhere. Thanks for sharing. I could feel your pain!

    2. Amy,
      “Some how, who ever they played with got bitten by the trouble bug!” – I love this line, and I am sure that my son has been bitten by this bug.:) I enjoyed the story, and it is interesting how much you can learn about someone from their writing (Amelia Earhart adventurous little diva; those darn trouble boys-that darn trike). Thank you for sharing!

      1. Thanks, Andy!
        I didn’t even realize it was Amelia’s birthday yesterday when I wrote that! There are more trouble boy adventures! They are true! Looking back, I sort of wonder why my mom let us play with them…
        What sort of trouble has your son experienced?

  2. He saw the light change. He heard the horns blast. Time whispered it would be good to move now, so did the angry voice from behind. The one that had changed his name for him to a cuss word.
    But, he couldn’t move his foot off the brake peddle. The desire to move forward had slipped out the open window.
    “Move it you stupid … ” the rest was swallowed up by a mixture of horn and tire noise.
    He felt bad for the people behind him. He knew he wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon. It seemed his heart was the only thing going at the moment. His brain was quickly fading to black. The colors in front of him started to swirl into a mess of haze. Sounds were becoming distorted, as if wax was flowing into his ear canals.
    Was he dying?
    Did he care?

    The light turned red. The light turned green. The light turned red. The cycle of street traffic continued throughout the day. It was five hours before a police car came to investigate the car that had sat through 150 light changes.
    They found a man, eyes blinking, clutching a piece of paper. He would not respond to their voices, or their hands. They asked themselves if he was dying. They wondered if they cared.
    They tore the paper from his hands, leaving about half of it entwined between the steering wheel and his hands. It seemed to be some kind of love letter. But the names revealed in the note did not match the name of the drivers license found in the man’s wallet.

    1. Jamey,
      Your story has such vivid description (example: His brain was quickly fading to black. The colors in front of him started to swirl into a mess of haze.). The descriptions help move the story along and also build the suspense. I love the ending! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Jamey,
      This is quite a cliff-hanger! Is there more to the story? A part 2? I want to know the answers to the questions…why was he holding a letter which didn’t contain his name? Who was the letter about? What was written in the letter that made him lose it?

      1. No second part. It will take away the creepy aspect, but it is a love letter he found in his wife’s purse. His heart is breaking.

  3. A campfire story about a campfire…
    I spent a summer when I was 18 as a camp counselor in charge of a group of little girls. All summer long the other counselors had been spooking each other with stories of ‘Scarface’ allegedly lurking around the cabins at night. Reportedly there had been sightings of him. One night during the week we were to take our small groups and camp in the woods with just our sleeping bags on the hard ground and sleep under the stars. We roasted marshmallows, made s’mores, sang a few songs putting off the inevitability of going to sleep. We had to put the leftover ingredients in crates so the raccoons wouldn’t get them. Once the campfire had gone out it was very, very dark. One by one the girls drifted off to sleep and I was in charge. Gradually the woods became alive with all kinds of nocturnal noises. Could it be Scarface? I was terrified and even more so because I was in charge. All night long there was a scuffling sound as the raccoons tried to get into those crates. As a city girl I was almost as afraid of those raccoons as I was of Scarface. I forced myself to get up and try to shoo them away. There was not too much sleep to be had, and when I got up in the morning I felt like I had dirt in my teeth from sleeping on the ground. For better or worse we were still alive and headed back to camp for the new day.

    1. Kristina,
      Great story! Believe it or not, I have heard a similar rendition of that same story about Scarface, and to be completely honest with you, it still makes me nervous when I’m camping in the woods.:)
      Thanks for sharing!

    2. Kristina,
      Your story reasonates with me! We had 6th grade camp and the told spooky stories at the campfire. I couldn’t sleep after that. I thought the haggy witch was going to come out of the woods to get us!

  4. Camping, on our Honeymoon, (seriously, why did we think that sounded like a good idea?) from Boston to San Diego in a jam-packed Datsun B210 hatchback with scenic stops along the way in a 2 person bright orange pup tent. (Keep in mind my husband was a cityslicker whose idea of the great outdoors was a house on the Cape and my last experience camping was as a Girl Scout…in the 60’s!)

    Our first night was in a KOA in Wytheville, Virginia. There we were, pounding on what the salesperson assured us were things called tent stakes (it’s always good to keep learning new vocabulary) into the soil (that strangely resembled gravel where I come from) with a large rock we found because the salesperson neglected to mention we would need a thing called a hammer to get the tent stakes where they were supposed to go. Across the drive, in the upscale RV section of the campground, on their BALCONY (I kid you not) were two old guys sitting in lawn chairs, drinking beers and watching our lack of progress with what could only be described as glee (long before the TV show this meant unabashed joy).

    After about 20 minutes, one of the guys meandered over and said, “You know you’re putting that tent in upside down, right?” After a minute of stunned silence in which my husband and I tried to think of a good reason why we would be putting up a tent upside down, the old guy started chuckling, unable to hold it back any longer. Before we knew it, we were laughing right alongside him, eventually all of us laughing so hard we were gasping for air. His friend joined us, still chuckling, and they schooled us on the ins and outs of proper tent installation.

    We thanked them for their help but they said they were the grateful ones as we had given them a story to tell around the campfire for years to come. That night we joined them as they told it for the first time. It was one of the best nights of our honeymoon.

  5. I am LOVING these, you guys! Just want to let you know that I’m about to head out camping myself & will be offline for a few days, but know that I’ll be cheering you on from the Adirondacks (and shivering, too – Jamey, that stop light story is seriously creepy!)

  6. Thanks for the prompt Kate. I had fun just being silly with this one. It didn’t end up anything like a campfire story, but I started there. I started wondering what story a frog might tell at our campfire after we’d tromped through his forest to get there. Here it is:

    Clipper’s Complaint
    ©2012 by Wendi Morton

    Once upon a time in a bluey, coolly pond a frog named Clipper was feeling less than chipper.
    Why do they say frogs hop?
    Rabbits hop.
    Do I look like I have long floppy ears?
    If I was sporting ears that looked like take-off mechanisms in a breeze, then I could hop.
    But frogs are slippery, not floppy.
    We need a different word.
    I’d glide, but that sounds like a swan.
    I’d flip, but that’s for fish.
    I’d flop, but I’m not a lazy dog.
    I know, frogs should frosh, not hop.

    On the other hand, I like croaking.
    Croaking makes me happy.
    But, wait.  People have taken all of the happy out of this wonderful word.  Croaking is what some say for dying.  People shouldn’t be allowed to croak.
    People need their own words.  They shouldn’t be doubling up words like they did with hop.  They shouldn’t be stealing words like they did with croak.
    Next time I frosh into the pond, I hope I slosh water on one of those people creatures.  That should frighten them close to frazhizling.  There, ‘frazhizling’ could be their word for dying.  

    No, never mind.  I’ll never convince humans to change their words, so from now on I’ll be frazhizling happily while froshing from lily pad to lily pad in my cool pond.  Ya’ll go do what you want, but, PLEASE, just leave these new frog words alone.  Thanks.

  7. I loved this writing prompt! Here is just an excerpt (didn’t want to bore you with the whole thing):

    This is the best bonfire ever.
    All the Oreos I can eat.
    A warm fire.
    What more can I ask for?

    These are the friendliest campers that I have met in years. They invite me right into their site, and they are feeding me nonstop. Mama and the little ones are going to be so jealous. Maybe, I should save a few Oreos for them. No, I’ll eat them myself.

    The young people are drinking a lot from those cans of Busch. I wonder what Busch water tastes like? And that one girl keeps laughing whenever anyone says anything, even if it isn’t funny. She seems to be drinking the water faster than anyone else. There is another boy who must have an ash in his eye because he keeps winking at the girl sitting next to him. She looks annoyed. Everyone in the group is so happy that I am here. They keep saying that it is so cool. This group of people are so much fun.

    “Good evening!” says the guy dressed in all green. I recognize him. I think they call him Ranger. “Just making sure that all of you aren’t sleeping at this site. Only six campers on each site.”

    All the young people shake their heads, point at other campsites, and tell him not to worry. I guess that is where they are sleeping tonight, but he still looks worried.

    “Quiet hours start at 10:00, so in about fifteen minutes you all are gonna have to quiet it down.”

    If interested in reading the rest, I posted the rest at http://ajswrite.livejournal.com/
    This is based on a true story (that is if the park ranger was telling the truth:).
    Thank you!
    Happy camping!

  8. A Wig for Christmas

    When I was growing up, all I wanted was long hair. I still have long hair envy to a certain degree. When I see someone with smooth blond locks falling down her back, I want to stroke them. I imagine holding my hand around my thick hair and flipping it to my back. The only time I tried to grow my hair long, I failed: Or rather, it looked awful. My hair tends to grow out instead of down. And the downward growth becomes a roller coaster ride over lumpy bumps, not a smooth straight one like the hair of my dreams.

    When I was twelve years old, I came up with a solution to my hair dilemma. I decided I wanted a wig. Christmas was coming, and Christmas is a time to ask for whatever you want. I learned at a young age if I didn’t ask for what I wanted, I would get exactly what I didn’t want. So this year, I asked for a long blond wig.

    There is some embarrassing movie footage of me on Christmas morning in my new nightgown and bathrobe walking around our littered living room flipping my new “hair” to my back. Walk, flip, lean down to look for a present, flip, sit down next to my younger sister to hold her new baby doll, flip. I really and truly had no idea how incredibly ridiculous I looked. My family treated me as though it was the most normal of hairstyles, and I was a normal pre-teen girl.

    My friends were not so nice. On the very same day, I went to a neighbor’s house to see their loot from Santa. I wore my hair. Instead of the glamorous, don’t-you-look-fabulous-with-long-hair treatment, my friends laughed. Brother and sister both told me I looked ridiculous. The wig went into the closet, and I never wore it again.

    When I was fourteen, I got a “Dorothy Hamill” haircut. That’s another story but with a happier ending.

    1. Margaret,
      I can picture you flipping that hair from your description! It made me laugh! I hate-I mean hate my hair in my sixth grade school picture! Ugh!
      Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Late to the assignment, as usual, but if the fire’s still burning, here’s my campfire story. Every summer, the whole family (my parents, my 3 sisters, all our children, and even some of our children’s children!) get together for a week long camping trip with a nightly fire and stories. We always reminisce about the old times and it seems like food is always a common theme. I have told the story of Lloyd’s Italians quite a few times and have captured it in words so it will never be forgotten. Such a simple thing, a sandwich, but it truly meant a lot to me growing up! On another note, the man that owned the store recently died and Lloyd’s Store has been sold and it’s just not the same! Here it is:

    Lloyd’s Italians
    I really loved my dad growing up, but I was always glad when he worked the 3 to 11 shift at the mill. When he was home, we had to “toe the line.” We were always well behaved (to a point) and never questioned his authority. We always did what he asked; his expectations were not unreasonable, just inconvenient. For instance, when we’d rather be out riding our bikes, he would load us into the old blue Ford and take us out to our woods to cut down trees for our winter heat. We’d take a picnic lunch, a jug of water, and work all day long in the bugs and heat. By the time we left the wood lot at the end of those days, we’d have a truckload of new wood that we knew we’d have to stack into neat little rows as soon as we got home. After the wood was stacked, we’d all sit down to a supper of meat, potatoes and vegetables from our garden, and a tall glass of milk. No exceptions. If you didn’t like what was on the plate, the next meal was breakfast.
    The 3 to 11 shift meant we had the whole afternoon “off.” Sometimes we’d go to the Tash’s camp for a swim. Other times we’d ride our bikes to town to swim at the public beach, only to return back home hotter than when we left! And sometimes, we’d ride our bikes to Great Grammy Corro’s house or Grammy Rose’s house for a candy treat. But the best part of the 3 to 11 shift was when mama would say, “Let’s go to Lloyd’s Store and get an Italian.”
    We’d all hop in the old car (hard telling which one it was, we always had some old beat up car with a dragging muffler or an engine that wouldn’t start once we got to our destination). We’d drive 7 miles to Lloyd’s Store. We’d get to Lloyd’s and go inside. The stout, bald headed Jack Lloyd was always there to greet us. I actually thought he lived there. Not only did he sell food items, but he sold shovels, gloves, and tools, too. But we were after the famous Italians. They were all of 6 inches long. Ninety-nine cents each. Sitting right out on the counter all day long. We had to decide if we wanted salami or ham. I always picked salami because it had a spicy taste that made me sweat. I could chew the little bits of pepper in the meat and make my mouth even hotter. When we got home, we unwrapped those tiny little sandwiches and that first bite was the best. It was warm. It was soggy. The oil dripped down my chin. The cheese melted right into the bread. All the flavors soaked into the bread so it was delicious to the last bite. We only got one of those Lloyd’s Italians every few months, but it was always music to my ears when mama said, “Want to go to Lloyd’s for an Italian?”