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Portfolio

December 21, 2011

This has been a really interesting semester for me, and I really enjoyed this class. I hope that I was able to make some improvement; I think I did, particularly with the creative nonfiction and the poetry sections of the course. I was sad on our last day…I felt like I still had a lot more to learn. Not that you needed to teach more, but that I needed to learn more. I found short story writing to be extremely difficult. I don’t like “Kayla’s Story” because I don’t really like the topic, don’t like how I’ve executed it, and just think it’s not that great. My short short story, however, was much easier for me to write, partly because I had already done it and partly because I loved writing it in a sensory way. I chose not to give it a name because I didn’t want to give away the location, but now I feel like I maybe should because no one will know where it is otherwise. I will put it in a comment if anyone actually wants to know.

I loved the readings that we had to do. I am a huge fan of twisted fairy tales and never thought that anything of merit, that people could study, was written along those lines. I don’t know if you remember, Professor, what you said to me on my first portfolio, but I will never forget it. It means a lot to me and I am truly going to save that and keep it with me. I thank you for this semester. I wish that there were more teachers, and people, like you because the world would be a much more interesting and better off place. Good luck in the Peace Corps and wherever you go afterwards.

 

Kayla’s Story

Kayla clambered up the steps of the stoop and began banging on the door. A stern looking old woman answered and looked severely at Kayla. “Kayla’s been so excited to see you all morning,” Emily said to the girl’s grandmother. The woman swung the screen door and allowed the three of them in. “How is everything, mom?” Kayla’s mother asked. “Oh, it’s fine,” the grandmother responded. Kayla ran to the den and looked at the shelf where a beautiful dollhouse stood. The dolls were delicate with sweet faces and all of the furniture was hand-painted. “Don’t touch it, Kayla,” the grandmother warned. Emily pulled the little girl away, inviting her to the table for lunch. Kayla began banging on the table and singing a song she’d created on the spot. “Little girls do not make such noise,” said the grandmother. Emily looks at Kayla’s mother, who winces and shrugs.

After eating, Emily took Kayla to play while the women spent time together. “You need to discipline her,” the older woman said. “Yes,” said Kayla’s mother. Emily knew Kayla’s grandmother had her own particular opinion on the proper way to raise children. She rolled her eyes and zoned out of the conversation. Not like she speaks to me anyway, I’m just “the nanny”. She smiled at the little girl playing quietly with her blocks. It seemed that no matter how she was behaving, her grandmother always found some fault. Too loud, too clumsy, too careless…what?!

Emily turned to grab Kayla’s juice from the diaper bag and a loud crash sounded behind her. “Oh, no,” Emily groaned. She turned to see Kayla, tears in her eyes, staring at the pieces of the broken dollhouse. “It’s broked,” she said, before her body started to heave from sobbing. “I told you to keep her away from that,” the old woman said deliberately. “I’m so sorry, mom”, Kayla’s mother said, “It was just an ac-” “No, it wasn’t an accident. She’s a terribly behaved child. Always getting into things she shouldn’t be!” The grandmother’s voice rose. Emily picked up the girl and attempted to calm her down. The crash had startled her, and the yelling was not making it any better. She brought Kayla into one of the bedrooms and sat with her on the bed, listening to the fight from the two women. Emily couldn’t make out all of it, but understood for the most part that Kayla’s grandmother had very strong opinions with how children were to be raised, and found Kayla’s mother’s techniques extremely lax. Sorry that she actually has a positive relationship with her kid. It was hard. Emily got that Kayla’s grandmother loved her, but how could that ever be perceived by someone so small. She heard the voices die down, and heard Kayla’s mother say goodbye. She came into the bedroom and asked Emily to bring Kayla, and that they were leaving. She looked to find the little girl had fallen asleep.

 

 

Short Short Story

The clean air fills my lungs and makes me feel refreshed. Not like back home, where breathing too deeply feels like some sort of contamination. Even though it’s clean and pure, it’s thick, and I can taste it. I can taste the salt from the river and the green from the trees. I like to close my eyes and imagine this air covering me like a blanket. I’m safe underneath it. I hear the rustling of the leaves and crackling of fallen branches. The dogs are running around crazy and reckless and wild. There aren’t any fences here. They could never do this at home. As long as they love you, you don’t really need a fence. They always come back. The sky is so bright, and the clouds are blinding. It’s painful to be out without sunglasses, but it’s so beautiful. It’s brilliant, actually. Beautifully brilliant. It’s warmth you can see. I smack my arm at the prick of a mosquito and immediately start to itch. The mugginess is the worst part of being down here. And the bugs. I don’t know how they manage to make their way inside, but they always do. I could never live here full time. They skeeve me too much, but for now it’s alright. I walk down to the dock; the sand and broken shells crunching and poking my bare feet. I always felt that the correct footwear was no footwear, and here that’s completely acceptable. Putting my toes in the water sends a shiver up my back, but the heat was draining and this brought me back to life. I listen to the dragonflies as they hover over the tall grass, and the tap-tap-tap of the woodpecker. A door swings open, I hear my name, and it slams shut, bouncing on the frame. Time to come in for dinner.

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One Comment
  1. jenny permalink

    Hi Rachel. I’m glad the class leaves you with the feeling of having more to learn; I’m actually leaving it with exactly the same feeling. I can’t wait to teach this course again because I feel I’d do a much better job the second time around. Still, I agree with you that it was an interesting and productive semester. Thanks for your kind words, and I do indeed remember what I said on your first portfolio—I don’t say things like that lightly. I’m glad it resonated with you. If you like twisted fairy tales (and who in their right mind doesn’t?), check out Jeannette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry. She’s one of my favorite authors, but her earlier work (wch I like better than her more recent work) is quite different from what she evolved into. ¬The Passion is another favorite of mine.

    I’ve seen how hard you worked on and reworked “Kayla’s Story,” and I agree with you that the product isn’t necessarily your best writing. That’s actually fine, since in the process of trying to write this story, you must have learned something about writing, and whatever that was, that’s the important thing to be gained from this experience. How did you choose this subject and why didn’t it work out for you? What did you want to say in this story and is it possible that that message belongs to another story, one you haven’t written yet or are avoiding writing for some reason? This is an example of the kind of self-interrogation that can turn this into a fruitful writing experience.

    Your shorter story is, as you say, full of lovely sensory details; in fact, all the senses are elicited here. To me, it sounds like Florida—at least I have that “I’m so relaxed, oh wait, the bugs are gross” feeling whenever I’m there. So, that’s actually a bit of conflict within the author. How could this conflict be elaborated upon within a plot, do you think?

    You’ve been an excellent student in this class, Rachel—attendance, assignments, classroom presence—all conscientiously and thoughtfully done. You’ve earned an A.

    My best to you!

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