By Jess Wisloski
The classroom snacked and listened silently as Joy Peterson introduced the task: “write creatively, for seven minutes straight…using one of these prompts.”
The quiet fifth-graders began to bubble up once she introduced the ideas, a set of uniform writing prompts that were being looked at across the state of Vermont that day.
Last Friday was Vermont Writes Day, a classroom tradition started in 2009 by the Young Writers Project, to honor writing and the importance it plays in school, work and life.
Peterson’s group from the Sterling House at Williston Central School participated in the project this year, which had the students write a piece and then upload their stories to a public blog. Williston Central School was one of about 100 schools, as well as nonprofits, businesses and individuals that took the time to write on Feb. 10.
Catherine Saladino, 11, wrote about a takeover of the earth, in first-person, on a day when she woke up to find the sky turned orange. “Almost like it was angry. The sky is almost always cloudy where I live so maybe I just didn’t notice that it had been orange all along. No that seems weird. It has always been blue. I walked downstairs and saw my parents watching the news. “School’s canceled” My mom told me. “Why?” I replied. I thought that maybe something really bad was going on. “The government hasn’t told use yet,” said my mom.
“I love writing the creepy – not creepy – but mysterious stories. They’re fun to write, coming up with the stuff and seeing how it unfolds,” Saladino said. “I really like adventure books and I kind of want to write big adventure mystery books,” she said.
Writing submitted by students can be found on vermontwritesday.org, although there are no names attached to the stories; they are organized by prompt.
The prompts involved a story starting with “I just knew;” write a letter to a newborn baby about the world as you see it; use five not-connected words — callous, pickle, spell, snail, firefighter; answer the question, “Do you ever feel like throwing your smartphone as far away as you can? Why, and what happens next?”
Students could also write as an antagonist, or “bad guy,” about a mysterious object found at a thrift store, or about whatever they chose.
Abigail Niquette, 10, who opted to use the five words prompt, said she loved doing the free writing in class.
“I just love doing writing and making up stories, and just getting into it. I love doing this. I didn’t know they had this,” said Niquette. Her story was about a girl trying to read a book in her yard, being constantly interrupted by her sister, her pet, and her mind’s own wandering.
I continued on my page, The magical witch, Harellga, whipped up a special spell. “I’ll give this to Jane, and then she’ll know..” Hellgra cackled an evil laugh. I looked up, Lissy was standing there. I swear she is quieter than a mouse.
“Wanna pickle?” She offered, holding out the jar. I was confused.
“Sure?” I said. I took a pickle and silently chewed. Lissy sat down next to me.
“What you reading?” she asks.
“You ask a lot of questions,” I tell her.
The Observer will publish selections from the Sterling House and Joy Peterson’s classes in upcoming issues.