Non-Fiction

Last Prompt Ever

By Thalia Medrano

I never saw Colorado skies until I walked out from the grotto of a beautiful old Denver Square house as the sun set orange and pink over the dingy low city skyline, where the frayed telephone wires cut dark black silhouettes just above the horizon. I had seen it before in a picture, taken somewhere else maybe, but the same view, and had always wished that the real world could look that way. And yet here I am, finding that picture come to life in the place I’d lived in long enough to grow bored of.

I never wanted to stay in Colorado. I still don’t want to stay in Colorado. But I’ll miss the sky. Maybe I’ll find skies somewhere else. Maybe I’ll find an ocean, a grey one in a drizzly little town somewhere where the sky isn’t as brilliant but it won’t matter because I’ll have the water for a sky. Maybe I’ll have a misty forest like the ones I found in Vermont.

I’ll miss the sky, but I’ll still leave, because I want a different ordinary. Someday, my ordinary will consist of:

  • Fire escapes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Lace curtains
  • A park with a good tree to climb
  • Open documents full of words that mean something
  • Worn in boots
  • Potted plants growing on the window sill
  • Pins
  • A room far off the ground
  • My new sky, be it a forest or ocean

But for the time being, a can appreciate my ordinary for the red walls, the dried flowers hanging from a string above the closet, the strange art from every corner of the world in every corner of our home, the blue, purple, and green trim, the creek behind my old elementary school, the bus on a rainy day, the large chair in the coffee shop, the parlor and the Denver Square house.

Atari Game

By Madeline Dean

Atari2600aAtari video games were once very popular—that’s for sure. But what will they be fifty, sixty years from now? Just a little black box, sitting in a junkyard. Assuming junkyards still exist fifty, sixty years from now. Maybe the world will become some kind of environmental utopia where everything is recycled, and the Atari game will broken into little tiny pieces, a part of everything but nothing itself.

 That can’t happen to writing. It can’t get broken up into little bits. Because, without choice or order, all writing becomes just words. A novel or a Shakespearean play becomes nothing but a dictionary.

So, that’s not to say dictionaries are nothing, but they are just a means to an end. And the end is the collection of all of those bits and pieces–English is a language of miscellany. Here’s a Latin word, and over there’s a Germanic one, and, together, they’re a symphony of emotion.

Itinerary for the Ordinary This Summer

By Madison Hart

Dearest Friend,

You’ve asked what my summer looks like. My summer will be an ordinary summer. But don’t think of the word ordinary and frown. Because I intend to make the ordinary extraordinary. I will turn rolling out of bed in the morning a party–for I have another day. I will turn brewing the coffee into a time of thanksgiving–for I have coffee to brew. I will take making an omelet and flip it into a competition against myself–just to see how perfect I can make it. A shower will become a luxurious cleansing underneath a waterfall. Getting in my car will become like boarding a space craft–for I am off to live adventures and meet new people. I will take my errands and treat them as if I’m on a countdown–for errands always need a little pizazz. I will take washing the dishes and turn it into a karaoke night–for music makes any task grander. I will take climbing into my sheets at night and turn it into a time to ponder my extraordinary day and my extraordinary tomorrow. So, you see, my summer will be extraordinary. Not because of what I do, but because of how I do it. What will your summer look like?

[Attic Ballroom]

By Madeline S. Dean

Somewhere, far below, a car speeds down Colfax, looking at the Noodles or the T-Mobile or CVS. But this room isn’t part of that world. It’s divided off by solid white walls. They curve up where they met the ceiling, like a cave, but without the dampness or the unpleasantness. Just the isolation.

And, is it so impossible, for a room so divided from space, to also be divided from time?

Imagine what this place looked like one hundred years ago. Take the green carpet from the floor, the tables and desks and bookshelves, the conference table in the middle, the fixings of a house for writers.Lighthouse ghost stories photo Madeline Dean

This room was a ballroom, once. A ballroom on the top floor, overlooking the city. Picture the men and women, all dressed in nineteenth century finery, trudging up two flights of stairs, no doubt sweating and huffing and puffing the whole way up. And picture the scene that greeted them—people dancing, drinking, tables set up around the periphery.

In some ways, it’s not so hard. That little alcove might have been a bandstand, with a cello and a violin.

A top floor ballroom must have meant a lot of things. For one, isolation. It must have been just as much of a thing then as it is now. Or even more so, before the house was surrounded by skyscrapers and peeping neighbors. This wasn’t the kind of party you could just come in off the street. You had to be invited, to know people. And, in such an isolated space, the parties must have gone on all night. What was stopping them?

For another, guests had to walk through almost the entire house to get up there. The fancy staircase is in the front of the house, but only the back one goes all the way up. Did they walk through the first floor, with the formal and informal living rooms? The dining room wallpapered with gold? Or did they walk up the nice staircase and cross to the back on the second floor? Walk past the bedrooms?

And, for a third, the party must have dominated the entire house. The music must have been audible on the first floor, and people dancing must have shaken the rafters and the walls. It must have been possible to eavesdrop on the gossip from the second story bathroom or the first story kitchen.

The house is still like that, sometimes. Even with the carpet, the desks and the bookshelves. All of those parties, all of those years ago, have left their mark on the space. The rafters know what it’s like to feel people dancing, the claw-foot tub knows what gossip sounds like, and the back stairs would like your invitation, please.

After all, if the parties didn’t know when to stop then, why would they now?

[Insert Fire Emoji Here]

By Lucy Earl

Okay, there’s this room at Lighthouse that used to be covered with gold, so that when the light hit it, it would light up. So I was thinking, there’s this thing called Lit Fest, I’ll put a picture of the flyer here:

[Insert Picture Here]

And I was thinking that for a workshop at Lit Fest we could have a gathering of people that we put in that room and made them all as small as ants. Little, if you will. And all these people could read, they’d be literate. But even though they’d be small, they’d litter. A lot. And since they’d be the size of ants, you could say they would be litterbugs. They’d litter so much that they’d even litter books, or litter literature. In fact, they’d litter so many books that we’d have to give them bags to litter their books in, or literature litter bags.
And then, they’d have so many bags that they’d have to pile them all together and use 1,000 cubic centimeters of  lighter fluid to _Lit photo Lucyactually set them on fire. Or a liter of lighter literally lit literature litter bags. Now in order to extinguish the fire, they’d have to use some kind of absorbent, granular material or cat litter.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed what I’m doing here, so I’ll write out the sentence we’ve created. The Lit up room had little literate litterbugs that litter literature into litter bags and used a liter of lighter that literally lit literature litter bags that was put out by cat litter during Lit Fest. Now I’m sure you are admiring that lovely alliteration but we’re not done yet. All of the important words in this sentence can be abbreviated by the letters l-i-t…Oh yes, this is where we are heading with this. So, if we take out the useless words like “that” or “during” but keep “Fest” and we abbreviate all the other words with l-i-t, we would have the following sentence: Lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit lit Lit Fest…

Hi. You’re welcome. Feel free to say that that sentence was lit. After all it was literature (as in something published on a particular subject, like “lit”) and I’m sure some people would like to print this out and light it on fire, so it’d be lit. 🔥

[Love Letter]

Dear consistent voice,
You might have not helped me get into the summer writing program at Kenyon*, but, you know what, that’s okay. It’s OK because I’m stuck with you. I know that I will never be without you, and that, no matter how hard I try, you’ll be there. We’re trapped together although we may go everywhere. But it’s always everywhere together. What can I say. You’re my thoughts, my feelings (and) my dreams. I may have ideas separate from you, but that doesn’t matter because my ideas are always thought through you. Like a language. 

Pero, las otras lenguas no son escapas desde ti. Cuando escribo en español, estás aquí también. Tú tienes una voz distintiva, mi maestra de español me dice. Ella no sabe que muchas personas me dicen esta oración. 

You see? It all sounds the same, even in Spanish. I suppose it’s a good thing, though, really. Even if I didn’t get into Kenyon. If I ever write anything and anyone else reads it, it’ll have a watermark. Your watermark. Our watermark. © Madeline Dean. I don’t even need to say it because it’s already there. 

Besides, they say everyone sounds like themselves. Then, they say that I sound especially like myself. Although, I’m not sure that’s true. My stories aren’t (usually) full of. Sentence. Fragments. One. Word. Per. Sentence.

Nor are they full of crazy gimmicks, or exasperatingly sesquipedalian prose. I’m not sure if that second one would help me, but I know the first one would.

No matter. I’m stuck with you. Cool. No matter what I wrote, it sounds like I wrote it. I guess no one’ll accuse me of plagiarism. Except they do. Sigh.

Anyway.

*Editor’s note: Two days after writing this, Madeline learned she was accepted into the summer 2017 Iowa Young Writer’s Studio program. Congratulations, Madeline!

[Dear Story Number 559,]

By Madison Hart

Image of the number 559I regret to inform you…no…that sounds too business like, doesn’t it? Okay, well, Story 559, the truth is, I just don’t have time for you right now. I don’t have time or energy to deal with your indecisiveness, I mean for heaven’s sake pick a plot and go with it already! And, besides, your characters keep yelling at me. Come on! This is just getting ridiculous. You are too unpredictable and disloyal. Yeah, that’s right, I saw you looking at damsel number 207 the other day. Um, not ok, keep your eyes on me, not the words next to you. So, if you haven’t figured it out already, I’m breaking up with you. You see this cursor right here…ya that one. It’s going to drag your pitifullness into the trash folder. Uh huh! I said it. You are going in the trash. And when I have time to address all your little plot holes and put all your characters into time out for five minutes, I will. Wel,l maybe. It all depends on whether I fall in love with story idea number 480 before then. Ok, yes, I’ve been eyeing that rugged archer for months, but what do you care, you have damsels 207-220 eyeballing you all the time and vice versa. So, goodbye, adios, au revoir, sayonara! I will see you when I see you. Have a nice life in the writer dump pile. Maybe you’ll run into the rugged archer’s younger sister while you’re there cause I threw her out too! You deserve each other!

[Love-Breakup: To my Imagination]

By Katy McDonald

To my imagination,

Although the times have not alway been easy for us, I can say with every part of me: without you I would be nothing. You coax the words from my mind to flow from my fingertips onto my computer screen. I will never forget the long, late nights you have kept me company, fighting way my fears and worries because, with you at my side, nothing can touch me. You make the world something new and beautiful. The bare walls of my mind are suddenly filled with life and power. I know that you will not always be with me but that does not mean that you will ever leave me for good. You know when to come home and when to stay away, most of the time. But even when you come to me unbidden I know it is for the best. The history homework can be pushed aside as you take me down another winding road. You have made my life an adventure. You take me to neverland, down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, to Oz and so many other places. Most of our places will be just that, ours forever hidden from the world, but not all of them and that’s what I really love you for. Not only do you make the world a better place for me but also for those around me. You make the light shine on the dark. You give me hope. Without you, I would be truly lost and that is how I know you aren’t really far away. You stay close enough to keep me safe on the nights when there is no one else. I love you with all my heart. Without you, I am only a fraction of myself.  

Yours forever,
Katy

 

To my imagination,

I know that times haven’t always been that easy for us, so I think it is time for me to finally say: without you I would be so much better. You stop my fingers from writing with paralyzing fears of imagining someone one day reading the atrocity I have had the gall to write down. It would be hard to forget the images you conjure of giant spiders and the world being torn apart by any number of disasters. You make the world seem frightening and empty. The empty chambers of my mind are ripped open with death and decay. We both know that you will not be with me forever and that there are times when you leave and it is better for everyone. You go and come back at the most inopportune times. You will distract me from important work pertaining to school when I simply do not have time for you. I’m sorry, I know that this seems harsh, but I think it’s for the best that I finally say this. You will pull me away and into Hades, the dragon’s lair and any number of torture chambers. The worst part is that this doesn’t always affect me, but those around me because some of the places we go can stay between us, but some of them leak out into the world. You scare me, and that’s how I know you are never really gone: my fear is always with me. You will come upon me in the dead of night like some kind of ghoush. Please, I think it would be best for you to leave and return me to myself.

I’m sorry,
Katy

[BOOK REFLECTION ON A BOOK (SURPRISING, I KNOW): LUCY ON THE HATE U GIVE]

By Lucy Earl

The Hate U Give was overall a very intriguing and unputdownable book (yes, that is a word, Merriam Webster said so). Although it was difficult to fully immerse myself into this book when I started out, by the time I reached the middle, it was as if my nose was permanently glued into the spine of the book and would not be released from its clutches until I had read the very last word on page 450 (which is the last page for those who don’t know). The title set me on edge at first, The Hate U Give. The letter “U” instead of the word “you” made me uncomfortable due to the grammar inaccuracy, but more on that later.

Lucy Earl of Young Authors CollectiveReading The Hate U Give was like looking down upon a moment in someone’s life while simultaneously sitting behind their eyes, hearing their thoughts, and marching alongside them as if you had been doing it for their entire life. Yet, the narrative is wrapped up in a tidy novel that manages to contain sentence structures and understandable content despite the aforementioned complications. The narrator, Starr, forces many different perspectives upon you that leaves you on edge while explaining why she’s doing it and making you more comfortable.

Much like “The Hate U Give”  references Tupac’s song “Thug Life” and the deep philosophy around “The Hate U Give” standing for the word “thug,” it allows you to understand your discomfort while still being uncomfortable and also gaining comfortableness, and I mean that in the best way possible. The Hate U Give was a very hard read; it was not that the words were difficult to chew through as they swallowed up the familiar world of punctuation, it was the fact that it was emotionally draining to any human who feels even a tiny ounce of compassion every once and awhile, even to a robot who is programed with a miniscule amount of empathy to fill up space on its hardrive, this book is emotionally draining.

The Hate U Give follows a few moments in Starr’s life that are organized in a chronological structure. The first being when her best friend, Khalil, is shot by a white cop and the couple of days that follow. This section is the hardest to get through because the author, Angie Thomas, expertly portrays the raw and painful emotions that are unimaginable to anyone who is lucky and privileged enough to not have to experience such an awful thing. In this part, a lot about Starr is revealed: she lives in “the ghetto” and when she was ten, her other best friend, Natasha, was killed. After that, her parents decided to move her to a private school where she learned to balance her two lives, “the ghetto” life and the private school life. The second part is the beginning of Starr’s journey to speak out against what happened, and without going into much detail for fear of getting into “spoiler territory,” the third is about Khalil’s trial and the aftermath.  (more…)

[YAC Responds: Thalia & Madison on What is the Purpose of Art in a Time of Crisis?]

[Thalia Medrano]

Is our world in crisis? I won’t lie, it seems to be, and if it isn’t now it will be soon. There’s no particular novelty to this crisis. We’re still dealing with the same old issues we’ve always dealt with, and finding more so called solutions the continue not to solve anything. And in 50 years I can’t help but imagine we’ll be right back here again.

img_5817I read somewhere that meaning comes from repetition; if something only happens once, it might as well have never happened at all. This is seen all the time in the context of religion. How many times have you heard someone say, “If there’s no life after death, what’s the point of living?”

But I say that meaning isn’t rooted in repetition or continuation, and is instead found in change and rarity. And in a time when we are facing the same old issues we always have, we have to seek out something new. Hope comes from possibility, from creation. There’s no value to a world that can’t change.

So remember that we aren’t stuck, there is possibility in everything. History isn’t doomed to repeat itself so long as we keep creating. And there’s no wealth of creation and possibility like art.  

[Madison Hart]

When walls are built and curtains drawn. When the human soul masks its pain. When all the world seems enraged. When the only hues are black and gray. It is then that hearts long for and even needs a splash of color breaking through the rain. The art of hurt is so easily displayed on canvas, paper and a window pane. It is here where mortal enemies bond together as they share one thing in common, despair. When we realize that we’re not all that different, we fall to our knees and humbly exclaim, “we are brothers, we are sisters, let us stand.” This revelation explodes. A country landscape, a colorful myriad of tiles, a poem for the soul, a bench to sit and observe. So, that when the walls crash down and the curtain is torn. When a soul is released from unthinkable pain. When all the world seems peacefully sane. It is then that we see the black hues turn to cherry blossoms and gray’s turn to rainbow sunsets. Then we sit on the bench, the bench with the placard that says, “to my brothers and sisters with whom I stood tall, we made the walls fall.”