Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Gypsy in Me

It’s been a long time since I was an elementary school student. Back then we were rarely allowed to write. When we did write, we were always given a writing prompt. Not many other instructions, just, “remember to use paragraphs and proper spelling.” Thankfully, times have changed a lot since then!

Anyway, one prompt was something along the lines of, “I was walking in a forest...”

My little brain decided I could hear gypsy music in my story. Now, I was a blonde, blue-eyed, middle class, naive little ten-year-old. This story was all of a page long (handwritten - way before computers). In it, I followed the gypsy music and soon saw fire glowing. As I crept closer, the music intensified in both volume and emotion. It was sad, so sad. As I neared the clearing, I saw the old man playing his violin while his caravan burned. I knew his wife had died, and he was burning the physical objects so he could keep the memories.

Sappy, overwritten, overly-dramatic drivel. And all in one page :)

But, it was a powerful enough attempt for me to remember all these years later. In fact, I can still see the scene perefectly in my mind's eye. Probably one of the first signs I’d need to write. Which of your childhood stories have stayed with you?


  1. Bad stuff. I wrote awful, terrible, dreck. Unicorns. Rainbow Princesses. Snivelly Poetry. I did win a 1st Prize ($100 Savings bond!)for a Mother's Day contest in 2nd Grade for an essay about Why My Mom is the Greatest. I plagiarized lyrics from "It's a Jolly Hollyday" from Mary Poppins. ("When the day is grey, she turns it upside down") No one was ever the wiser. Feel guilty about that.

  2. I laughed all the way through your post, Jenny! I'm picturing rainbow princesses riding unicorn spouting snivelly poetry.

    Now I wonder how long it will be before I get that song out of my head!!!!

  3. It's so funny...I wrote fantasy when I was a kid (I read a little fantasy then, but mostly mysteries like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.) So lots of fantastical stories I've still got in a notebook. But I like your gypsy one. You might have something there!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. That's cool that you remember the story (and the images) so well. I remember a story I wrote in 6th grade, about a boy who ventures on a submarine with his friend to find the lost city of Atlantis. I remember the music I listened to as I wrote it, how fun it was to create an adventure, and even how long it was. Somewhere near 60 pages. I guess even back then I aimed for LONG stories.

  5. Elizabeth, I loved, loved, LOVED Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when I was young. I read Trixie Belden as well, but don't remember her as clearly. I think those books, along with the Great Agatha Christie are the reason I love to write mysteries!

  6. Cindy - that's awesome! I can't believe you remember the music as well. 60 pages - that's huge :)

    Maybe it's time to venture into sci fi and rewrite that Atlantis story!

  7. I wrote a story about a little girl living in a orphanage in the 1800s. She and her friends form a club, escape and had adventures around London. I'm sure it was awful.

    I also wrote a play for my class every year from grades 4-8 and forced my classmates to be in it! Everyone moaned...but many were disappointed in grade 9 when I was able to take Drama and so didn't need to write plays in order to act!


  8. A little bit of Dicken's influence perhaps?? Or is that the correct time frame? I can never keep all those dates straight.

    It sounds like an awesome adventure - and a pretty big undertaking for a youngster! Must have been a blast to write :)

    I love the fact that you wrote plays and got your friends to act in them. My friends would have run screaming in the opposite direction! Although I was so painfully shy at that point, I'm pretty sure I would never have told anyone I'd written a play in the first place!

  9. In grade 3, it was writing prompts and the kid behind me always put frogs in our 'pass it back' stories.

    Grade 9, I had matured to people getting run over, then chewed up by the car's dual exhaust system (backed over the guy for effect). Of course, the song blaring from the stereo was 'Another One Bites the Dust'. What does that say for my psyche? Yikes! To be honest, my writing partner and I were trying to get a reaction out of our teacher. We did. He did this crazy little spazz out dance. Not sure if the fact that it was somehow satisfying says good things for my psyche either...

    Thank god I don't have to go back to grade 9.


  10. I'd forgotten all about the 'pass it back' stories! They were REALLY bad :)

    It may not say much for my psyche either, but I would have enjoyed the spazz out dance too!

  11. Until about age 13, the brief given at school for a piece of writing was always so restrictive that subject and style were both decided for me.
    After that point, when assignments consisted of just an idea, or a title, the floodgates of my creativity were opened.
    Personally I recognised early on that when assignments were read out to the class, it was going to be either embarassing or entertaining, so most of the stuff I turned in had a strong vein of humour running throughout it. I found that making my classmates laugh AT my stuff was a sure-fire way of stopping them laughing ABOUT my stuff.
    It got to the point where my contemporaries actually started looking forward to hearing and reading my work, so that when I finally decided to drop the humour and I moved onto more serious genres later on, I had a waiting audience amongst my peers. Of course, at that time, I was sensible enough to still restrict my output to subjects that I knew would appeal to that audience. I suppose then that I became a marketeer around the same time that I became a writer.

  12. Aaah! The dreaded read-aloud. My personal nemesis as a shy and awkward kid. Thankfully our teachers didn't do it often.

    I'm so impressed you were not only able to cope, but find a way to thrive! Awesome.

    It's hard to believe how poorly writing has been taught at different times. My personal experiences were generally not very good. I'm very careful with students in my class to make writing a positive and fun experience - at least I hope!