So what we were supposed to do in the workshop was read our stories aloud, but in the following sequence: paragraph 1 from first story, paragraph 1 from second story, paragraph 2 from first story, paragraph 2 from second story, etc, interweaving the paragraphs from each story so we had an 8-paragraph story of 400 words. What was so curious to me about this exercise was that when I wrote the stories separately, each narrator was a completely different person, yet when the grafs were interwoven, it all sounded like the same "I." And similarities in the stories I hadn't noticed shone through: abandonment, language.
I don't know whether this exercise would work with children, but it might well work with high schoolers.
Untitled (so far)
I don’t know who I am talking to. I don’t know whom I am talking to. Mrs. McHenry knows if I should say “who” or “whom.” She marked my 10th-grade papers for grammar. Never spelling. I’ve always been good at spelling.
We drove into Dubrovnik from the airport. The winding road up the coast offered glimpses of the blue Adriatic, diamonds of sunlight floating on the surface. Thank god they drive on the right side of the road here.
The cardboard sign I made for when I sit on the street is perfectly spelled, but I’m not sure of the grammar. “Im lost in New York City need to get to Richmond, Va. for my mother’s funeral. Please help.” Should I put a comma in there somewhere?
At the hotel I let Dominic talk to the desk clerk. Dominic seemed to inhale languages as soon as he stepped off the plane. I watched him chat up the clerk in his baby-Serbo-Croatian. The clerk laughed, shook her head, repeated some word several times.
I lost everything when my boyfriend took my suitcase. I didn’t notice. I’m napping at his friend’s apartment. Not really napping. I smoked a joint right after breakfast, well, it’s not a joint, it’s crack.
At lunch in the old city, inside the medieval walls, Dominic told me the clerk almost didn’t give us a room because she thought he was Serb. “There’s no Serbo-Croatian language anymore,” he mused. “She said I need a dictionary to translate from Serbian into Croatian.” I didn’t know. I was a typical American, monolingual and condemned to stay that way.
I don’t notice when he takes the suitcase. I don’t notice when he doesn’t come back. I don’t notice when his friend says I have to leave. I notice when he pulls me up from the chair and pushes me out the door. I notice I don’t have my suitcase. I notice when I pawn my pearl necklace so I can eat dinner. I notice how cold it is on the street.
Dominic led me up to the top of the wall, where we walked until we could see the water. I tried to imagine the war, when Dubrovnik was bombarded. Dominic said, “Wait here,” so I watched sunlight drip into the Adriatic, the bright fade to glow, the shades of blue deepen to navy. The stone wall chilled in the dark.