Friday, October 30, 2009

Fears Into Fiction--HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Poetry Friday and happy nearly-HALLOWEEN!
Today we have THREE rather bloody poems and a lesson plan / Writing Workout!

Let’s start with a scary song! With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm, written in 1934 by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee is one of my favorites. It’s about the ghost of Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Here’s a 1938 recording featuring Cyril Smith (2:25 minutes).

Now that you're in the mood, let's talk Halloween.  Here’s one of four of my limericks that are included in the fabulous how-to-teach poetry book for teachers, WRITING FUNNY BONE POEMS by Paul B. Janeczko

by April Halprin Wayland

Once was a ghost dude named Dave,
Who lived at the beach in a cave
On Manhattan Beach turf
he invisibly surfed
scaring up some gigantic rad waves.

© April Halprin Wayland

* * * * * *
That’s one way to look at Halloween. But Halloween can be scary...right?  So let's try writing something scary.  I'm going to start by telling you one of my secret fears...

I’m terrified of writing something that’s mediocre. Of writing something that’s ordinary, common, average, inferior, second-rate, uninspired, amateurish, middling, undistinguished, unexceptional, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian, lackluster, forgettable.

(Thank you, Thesaurus—you may take a bow.)

If my fear were a monster, what would it look like?

It's a blob. A beige blob.  With blood-shot eyes. It's as big as a refrigerator and hunches on the rug blocking the window. It smells. Like a wet giraffe. It has tuna stuck between its yellowing teeth and a runny nose, and it's dropping Snickers wrappers on my clean carpet. And it JUST KNOCKED OVER MY OBAMA DOLL which was carefully balanced on top of my stuffed dog!

What do I do to this monster? What do I say to it?  Or maybe I'M the monster.  THEN what do I do?

Here are two Halloween poems that came from this weird funny, one scary:

by April Halprin Wayland

I’m pushing you out, so GO AWAY—
don't touch that chandelier!

I’m airing out my office
from the last time you were here.

You smell of ink and blood and death
and seventeen kinds of fear.

My hands still shake, my headache’s back
and now my stomach’s churning.

I will not play with you anymore.

(Hooray! I’m learning!)

© April Halprin Wayland

* * * * * * * *

by April Halprin Wayland

I push open
the heavy door.
I take out the cleaver, the machete,
the switchblade, the scalpel, the penknife,
the X-acto knife.

I plunge my arm into the oily black pile of drafts
and haul one out.
And though it screams a thousand deaths,
I stab it over and over and over with the cleaver,
hacking it in two.

Then I amputate.
I sever. I cut.
I carve.  I slice.
I mince words.

I take a breath and step back to admire my bloody work.
Then…I drop it back into the oily depths,
pack away the knives,
wipe the black spots off my desk
and leave.

I close the heavy door.
I will come back.
To do it all

© April Halprin Wayland

* * * * *

Writing Workout / Lesson Plan—Fears into Fiction

For ages 7 through adult (or younger, with individual help.)

Objective: This lesson teaches beginning writers to find story and poetry ideas from their deepest darkest fears.


1) What are you afraid of?  Make a list of at least five things that scare you. Are you afraid of snakes? Of flying? If you’re an author, are you afraid of rejection?

2) Circle the one that scares you the most…or the one that you can’t wait to write about.

3) Make this fear into a creature.  Try to include as many of the five senses as possible--how does it sound?  How does it smell?  Maybe your fear of heights is a moldy grey vulture who hides in caves, makes snarky noises, and wears high tops…or maybe your fear of the dark is a neon green monster with sticky skin and garlicky breath that whispers evil things in your ear.

4) Write a story or a poem about this creature. You might want to speak to it or yell at it. Dialogue is fun to read aloud. Wouldn’t it be neat to YELL at your fear?  Or maybe YOU'RE the creature!

5) Share your writing with someone.

And…even though it’s Halloween…even though you’re scared…write with joy. And remember to breathe.

all drawings by April Halprin Wayland


Mary Lee said...

I love the vision of your bloody, violent revision work! "Mincing words" made me laugh! Just be careful that you don't do a "hack job"!!!

Jeanne Marie Ford said...

Mary and April, thanks for getting my day off to an excellent start. My monster would knock over my Obama doll, too -- and, unfortunately, has done so too many times in real life.
Happy Halloween!

Carmela Martino said...

April, What fun! I love your comments about facing fears, your evocative poems, and your great illustrations. But I'm going to keep away from you when you're revising!

post notes said...

The beige monster! That's who creeping behind my computer...

Anonymous said...

Love the surfer limerick! So Southern California...

Kelly Polark said...

What a wonderfully fun and thorough post!
Love the ghost dude too!

laurasalas said...

What a fun post, April! Love that poem about hacking, carving, and mincing words.