At the end of the semester, I always like to include a wrap-up exercise for one final creative writing task: “It’s a Wrap” – which also seems to be a fitting way to say goodbye to the American Studies Blog this September. Here’s how the task works:
Select endings from novels or short stories without revealing the original source. These are some of my favorite choices:I really, truly wish he hadn’t said that. I keep thinking about it. I can’t stop. I don’t have anything else to add. I just wanted to make sure I had the last word. I think I’ve earned that. (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
“It’s because I’m concentrating on my thesis, I don’t worry about other stuff. Nobody asked if Freud checked the use-by date on the milk.” “They didn’t have use-by dates in the early twentieth century.” It was incredible that two such dissimilar people had become a successful couple. (The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion)
Through the windows a strange subterranean light was rising, barely distinguishable from darkness. I felt change far beneath me, moving deep beneath the surface of things, like the plates of the earth blindly moving in their black traces. I found my bag, and my car keys, and I let myself silently out of the house. (Transit by Rachel Cusk)
…Also I’ve begun to feel he’s the only person who knows anything about me. Maybe because I’ve never hit anyone else with a bottle, so they never got to see that part of me. Neither did I come to think of it. It did make a mess; but then, I don’t think I’ll ever be a very tidy person. (Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood)
Ask participants to write a piece of short fiction (350–700 words) using the selected ending as a prompt for beginning their stories.
Keep your promise and reveal the original literary sources to your participants once they’ve completed the task.
In the following story, “Who’s Getting Crowned,” the ending from Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader inspired me to create a meeting between the Queen and her most loyal subjects. Enjoy!
Do you love going to the movies? Do you enjoy watching ‘Behind the Scenes’ clips and documentaries? Do you like a good novel? If you can answer any of these questions with yes, you should at least consider putting Tom Hanks’ debut novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, on your to-read pile. If you can answer all of them with yes, you should probably go and read it right now. (But finish this review first.)
Is it okay to dog-ear or write in your books? This question remains a heated topic among readers. I always thought it was stupid to care what others did with their books but preferred to leave mine in their original state.
This all changed for me when I started reading Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong’s words were so beautifully constructed that simply reading them didn’t feel enough. I wanted to force myself to linger. I wanted to embrace the parts that had touched me, wanted to firmly secure the passages I’d later return to.
Or, less dramatically, I wanted to mark my book.
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?
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.
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.