Monday, February 29, 2016

WriteFest Writing Exercise 1: Setting

Last week, I went to Houston to the WriteFest conference and took a 4-day workshop on speculative fiction with Cassandra R. Clarke. Houston was great--good food, great art--and the workshop itself was a wonderful experience. Cassie's discussions of writing were down-to-earth and inspiring, and she did a great job of fostering a community within our little group. And WriteSpace Houston is full of smart, fun, supportive writers ... I now want to start something like this in Oxford.

Anyways, here's my first writing exercise, based on Cassie's prompt about setting: Think of a place you either liked or hated from your childhood. Describe it, being careful to include some of the emotions you associate with this place.


I’ve run away from my mom in J.C. Penney’s again and I’m hiding in one of those circular racks of clothes, crouching down in the middle. I turn around, glancing out the slivers of space between the baggy shirts and polyester pants. People mill around outside my hiding place; a woman drags her son, red-faced and screaming, by the arm. A man stops to consider a tie, flips it over to glance at the price, walks away.

I am safe. Hidden. Quiet as the eye of a hurricane amid the bustle of the shoppers and the hum of the smooth jazz. Even when a middle-aged woman comes to thumb through the clothing, pulling out a hideous printed dress and holding it against her, she doesn’t notice my pale face shining in the gloom. If she did, she might shriek, or laugh—it’s happened before. But not this time. I press against the side of the metal frame, letting my head sink back into the clothing until it covers everything but the tip of my nose, the way I like to pretend I’m drowning in the tub.

I can see my mom over in the corner; she hasn’t noticed I’m gone yet. She will, though; when she does, my pleasure will be diminished by a spark of anxiety and guilt, pressing up from under my skin until the only recourse is to duck between the hangers and reveal myself to her, hugging her legs tightly and smiling up at her so she’ll forgive me and still buy me an Orange Julius later. But for now, I am a tiny god huddling in a dark circle, watching the world go by, gleeful in my invisibility.

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