American Short Fiction is part of a larger nonprofit organization, Badgerdog, which runs creative-writing workshops for children and adults. The workshops are amazing places; they combine rigor and the joy of discovery—discovering writing that’s out in the world, as well as discovering one’s own voice on the page. Recently, Education Programs Coordinator Jess Stoner brought the story “The Duck of Your Life” by Katherine Valentine Jaeger—our second-place winner in our shorts contest—into a high school classroom. Jess writes:
High school students are intimately acquainted with writing from the “I.” So I wanted our Badgerdog high schoolers to read and write in response to a story that showed them how to do so many things: to take point-of-view from an oblique angle, to use repetition to lull a reader into a surprise, and most importantly, to see that a story can make you laugh at the same time it makes you feel uncomfortable and sad and silly. Katherine’s story did all of those things and reading it aloud with the students was such a great experience. They were so into it they stood up to read it, and of course, one lucky writer go to say “shit” out loud in class, which was a pretty big highlight for everyone involved (myself included).
You can read the original story here. And stories that emerged from the classroom are below. (It’s wonderful to see the way the students interact and play with Katherine’s story concept and structure. They really get it.)
Two stories from Manor Excel Academy High School in Manor,Texas
“The Zebra of Your Life”
Say you have a male zebra who tells you he is in love with you & wants to give you the world. But he’s broke. So he starts to deal poop. You get tired & sick of all that & him being in the animal jail & you leave him. You want him back a month later—but he’s moved on & has a family.
Say you have a zebra that’s a quarterback and gets drafted into the NFL. He plays good for the first couple of games. But he gets sacked & breaks a leg. He’s out for the rest of the season. He’s afraid & alone so he eats Cookies-n-Cream ice cream all day while watching Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Say you have a zebra who is on America’s Next Top Model and Tyra says she smiles bright through her eyes. In the end she loses.
Say you have a zebra who has a friend who has no white stripes & is all black but acts white on the inside. You try to be like her, but they say you’re too loud & ghetto.
Say you have a zebra who thinks she can sing and decides to go on American Idol. Simon says she sucks & she breaks down. She tries again & gets the same result. So the Zebra gives up & goes toAmerica’s Got Talent & gets great feedback & in the end wins. The zebra goes to Simon & tells him to shove it up because she made it.
“The Bunny of Your Life”
Say you have a bunny and you called her Delilah. You love her very much but you can’t go everywhere with her. Delilah is almost alone all the time. You stop caring for her. Your job and your boss are pushing you to do better. You didn’t have time. You forgot about your bunny. Delilah. Dying, she runs away and never comes back.
Say you have a bunny her fur is pretty pink. Her eyes are sparkly and her ears are long and slender. Everyone loves her except her father bunny. Jumping and hopping happily in her box, her dad says “you’re ugly.” But she goes on doing what she loves. Not listening to him or what anyone says.