I like to think of May as one of the most amazing months – not only because it’s National Pet Month, but also because May 20 is National Rescue Dog Day in the United States. Let’s face it: Pets are so much more than just cute companions – they are fluffy family and friends as well as endless sources of comfort, joy, and hope. But what about all those animals out there who don’t have a human to look after them, love them back, and maybe even save them from horrible fates?
Tag Archives: Creative Writing
German Distance, American Naivety
As an American writer living in Berlin, I strain to understand and express some of the differences between my two homes. So many exceptions to any rule, no broad-brushstroke of a short essay is going to begin to capture anything but the most basic generalization. Still, let me try. Here’s a story plucked from memory.
What exactly is a travelogue? Or, asked differently, what is it not? A travelogue is not an advertisement that tries to sell specific destinations to its readers. A travelogue is not a guidebook with a list of the top 10 best restaurants or massage places. Rather, a travelogue is a creative narrative of someone’s experiences while traveling.
Travelogues focus on and celebrate the differences in traditions and customs around the world; very often, they’re conversational in tone and filled with funny details (see, for instance, Bill Bryson’s Stories from a Small Island). Good travelogues contain vivid descriptions and sensory details; unexpected, maybe even transformative experiences; and accounts of interactions with local people. Travelogues can also combine fictional and factual elements, as one of the greatest travel writers, Bruce Chatwin (1940–1989), beautifully demonstrated (e.g. the stories dealing with his trip to Australia, The Songlines). Fictional or non-fictional, funny or not – above all, a travelogue must tell a story.
The following two travelogues, written by creative writing students in the fall semester 2022/23, each tell a story. One takes place in the Ecuadorean rainforest, the other in Venice.
What Does the Fox Say? A Simple Tale with a Plethora of Possibilities
When I first read George Saunders’ fable-like tale, Fox 8, I initially felt amused, then sad, and finally outraged. I also felt a blog brewing – not of the book review variety but of the teaching tool/creativity corner variety. For starters, Fox 8 is less of a charming bedtime story for children – who will no doubt enjoy it – and more of a darkly comic cautionary tale for adults. The titular first-person narrator takes the readers on a journey through his life as a fox who lives and forages with his fellow foxes in the forest. Fox forest life is running smoothly until Fox 8 has his first confusing encounter with humans, which results in conflicting feelings.
“My Name” – Vignettes about You
Vignettes are wonderful! Sometimes described as a slice of life, vignettes can be so short that they take away the fear of ending up with a white page. Unlike a short story, there’s no defined beginning, middle, or end with a cast of characters, multiple conflicts, and the ultimate resolution phase. Instead, the vignette’s impressionistic scenes focus on one moment or give a particular insight into one character, idea, or setting.
The Mexican American author Sandra Cisneros is the unchallenged queen of vignette writing, and her collection of 44 vignettes, (1984) is a must read.
50 Minutes That Make a Name
I’m named after my grandfathers: Johann and Juan. My name is Johanna. Throughout my life, I’ve met many Johannas. At my university alone, I know nearly a dozen. It’s led to funny and to confusing situations, but it’s always been something to connect over. On their own, my names are nothing to brag about: Johanna. Gabriela. Hernández. Schäfer. Johanna and Schäfer are common names in Germany, Gabriela and Hernández are typical Peruvian names. Only together are they special. Only together are they me. But – had I been born 50 minutes earlier, my name might have been Paula (find out why at the end of the poem).