Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Exercise

Using one of the first lines of poetry listed below, write a short piece of fiction or non-fiction (at least 200 words):

1. Sundays too my father got up early (Robert Hayden)
2. Rebellion shook an ancient dust (Leonie Adams)
3. The cat went here and there (William Butler Yeats)

Happy writing!

Susan Wells Bennett


  1. My apologies to L. Adams. I love her poetry. Here are some 200 odd words that begin with her genius.

    Rebellion shook an ancient dust from within. He wasn’t about to huddle in the dirt and be a bystander to the horror for another second. An impulse, hidden so deep inside him he didn’t know it existed, was forcing him to stand on his exhausted legs. Gripping a stick in his bloodied fist, he stumbled after the ringleader. As he was about to strike, a crushing strength devastated him from behind. His neck was circled and squeezed. But the uprising was still building in him.

    He clawed at the beefy swell of muscle that held him inches off the ground. Kicking his legs, he managed to connect his Nike running shoes to his attacker’s leg. He could hear someone speaking but the words were lost in the sound of his own blood trapped in his head. For a terrible instant, the arm tightened and twisted. And then it was gone and he was face first into the sand and ash. He lifted his mottled, distorted face and puked. The herd of ruined boys laughed at him as he got to his knees.

    “Doctor, stay down. He will kill you. And your body will rot. And your family will never know what happened to you here.” The words were spoken slowly.

    Robert didn’t even glance at the man who offered the warning. Rebellion and adrenalin fueled his actions. His hands were sifting the desert for a rock to use as a weapon. The baseball size stone rolled away as the bullet entered his back and blew through his ribs and one lung.

  2. Shelly, this is very good. I'd like to know the circumstances of this violent confrontation. I think your second-by-second account of the fight was well drawn.

    Excellent work.

    As promised, below is my work for this exercise. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as well done. It turned into a non-fiction meditation on me:

    Sundays too my father got up early, unable to keep himself in bed any later than five o’clock. It didn’t matter that there was no job to go to; he simply had to rise.

    My mother always slept late, perpetually unable to pull herself from under the covers until nine o’clock or later. Their incompatible internal clocks occasionally caused friction in the house, but there’s something to be said for a few hours alone in your own home every day. My parents have been married for more than forty years now, so it can’t be too detrimental to a relationship.

    I think the “alone time” is one of the reasons I love being a fulltime writer. Not that I don’t adore my husband – quite the opposite. I just happen to be one of those people who needs to be alone for a little while every day. If I’m not, I begin to feel claustrophobic in a way that a mere “tight space” could never make me feel. I suppose God had it right when he didn’t give me children; from what I understand, the whole concept of “alone time” must be abandoned when a small human joins your household.

    Nevertheless, I wish sometimes that I’d had children before I became so comfortable with being alone.


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