Object Exercise- Part 1

This is the first part to a writing exercise I learned in a fiction workshop.  The point of this exercise is to find some object of personal meaning or value to you, write out all of your personal attachment to this object (how you came by it, why it’s important to you, etc), and then write another story about the same object that has nothing to do with your personal relationship with it.  Not only is this then a great exercise for creating a story, but it also helps writers to detach themselves from their work.

This is the non-fiction portion of that exercise.  The fiction part should be out this Sunday.

There is a magenta frog which sits atop my printer.  Only its top side is magenta; its underside—all the way up to its lower jaw—and the area around its stickered black eyes are beige.  Between the magenta and the beige a thin, red piece of fabric runs; it serves as a mouth, or possibly lips.  The frog certainly doesn’t appear anatomically correct, as it sits almost a foot high.  It stays seated perpetually—could it jump, the height would be tremendous.  Its skin is made of some velvety material, and the webs of its feet are seamed in.  The frog’s nostril holes are two black knots.  The frog is cheaply made, and would not have lasted the past six years had it been owned by a child.

Continue reading



Here’s another exercise, a non-fiction one, which came out of conversation at Cousin Hugo’s.  The idea was to recreate an experience when we’d been drunk, or in some way out of control.  Seeing as some of us had never been quite so drunk, the idea expanded to be a time when we’d done something to surprise ourselves.  This is my touching childhood memory which came as a result.

I don’t recall ever having been out of control, and I’ve never been drunk because I know being drunk puts you out of control.  This isn’t to say I haven’t surprised myself by doing things I didn’t previously think myself capable of.

In second grade I was called “crybaby Hannah.”  I hated this name, but unfortunately it was appropriate.  It was getting to the point that I cried so much even my parents worried.  My Dad was constantly telling me I had to toughen up and quit crying at every little thing, which of course made me cry and frustrated him further.  My brother just told me about Bruce Lee and martial arts moves, and my guess is he was trying to give me a feeling of empowerment.  One afternoon was spent telling me about “the sweep,” when you went down and used your leg to sweep your opponents legs, and effectively knock them down.  He warned me, however, that as I was not Bruce Lee I shouldn’t try this move unless I was already on the ground.

I was forced to have more contact with my peers because both my parents worked, so after class they left me in the care of the after-school program.  None of my friends from my grade attended the after-school program, and all of my bullies did.  I had managed to make friends with some of the younger kids, so it wasn’t like I was continuously picked on.  Through distraction and avoidance I managed to avoid being antagonized most days.  I say “most.”

One afternoon a friend and I were wandering through the Prairie-Pocket, a tall patch of grass that concealed you from the supervisors.  I think we were playing Pocahontas.  Two of my bullies came to the Prairie-Pocket against our wishes.  My friend thought a good way to ward them off would be screaming at the top of her lungs.  This seemed like a good idea to me, so I stood alongside her, screaming my heart out.

Screaming produced the opposite of the desired effect, in that we provoked the boys instead of making them leave.  Tommy, the worst, marched right in and pushed me to the ground, demanding I shut up.  I hit my head on a brick and had the wind knocked out of me.  I wanted very much to cry.  My friend had left, and all I could see at first was Tommy leering and calling me a crybaby.  He was trying to provoke my tears, and he would have succeeded had I not looked up a little more to see my leg lying right next to his.  I was in perfect position for “the sweep.”

To this day I don’t know went through my head.  It wasn’t anger or vengeance (that came directly after).  It was a calm decision—just a simple “okay” and sweep.

I knocked Tommy onto his stomach, attempted to pin him and demanded (with such cockiness that I surprised even myself) that he say “uncle.”  He recovered himself, though, and he would’ve beaten me up worse if both our friends hadn’t run to the supervisors.  Both Tommy and I were made to sit in separate corners, but I remember being held in a sort of reverence that day by the staff and other kids.

I was extremely proud of it when my mom picked me up, and I told her all about it.  Neither her or my dad seemed very pleased, but I wasn’t punished.  My brother shared my pride, and congratulated me on the successful execution of “the sweep.”

Few people called me crybaby after that.  I still cried a lot, but they left me alone.  They knew I could snap and sweep, and no one wanted that.