As part of our block mornings in English Lit this year, the A1s got creative! Anyone who has tried to write creatively when instructed to do so will know that it's nearly impossible, but we went ahead and did it anyway! Using a series of baffling tasks to get everyone thinking and writing creatively, we just about managed to keep things spontaneous, and we certainly saw some flashes of brilliance. Here's a selection of some of the best pieces - enjoy!
Firstly, we've got some brilliant responses to this rather strange poster:
(image credit goes to UPenn's fabulously weird avante garde archive at www.ubuweb.com. MUSE loves those guys.)
Oh god. It's gone. where did I put it? Mum is going to absolutely kill me what should I do? Quick think. OK what do people do when things go missing? Well I remember that one time when someone lost their dog there was a poster on the side of the butchers. Okay that's a good start. No time for printing. I've just got to write. I have lost my gorilla mask. That isn't impactful enough. People won't realise how important this is to me if I just write that I’m looking for a boyfriend. I may as well do some advertising while we're here, hash tag single Pringle ready to mingle. No I can't put that. That's a bit too head on. Okay in my picture I need to look fun and cool and funny but also pretty just in case a boyfriend, a potential boyfriend might come along and see it. Okay this one is perfect: it has me and the gorilla mask in it so people know I'm kind of in disguise so an FBI agent won't find out my true identity. I wish my identity was exciting enough for an FBI agent to investigate. Okay now for the contact details. I probably shouldn't put my phone number down because then people will harass me for the rest of time but then I really shouldn't put any of my social media down because I don't want any creepy followers, and my mum is still forcing me to have a private account. Okay I'll just have to use my email. That's really not impactful enough just one email but I have no other ways of people contacting me. It's actually quite fun to write. Okay I'm just going to write it all over the page. Done. I am so clever. Looking for the gorilla mask and potentially getting a boyfriend at the same time. Where can this go wrong? - Emma Balderston
UNDERDOG: Well life’s bit of a joke isn’t it. Paid thousands for the ‘university experience’ and what have I got to show for it? Apart from a student loan that will haunt me for the rest of my life and a pyscho roommate that will probably cut that short anyway? Even my trusty gorilla mask, a staple of many a high school house party has left me. I’ve been here for almost two months now and I can’t definitively say that I have made a single new friend, let alone any kind of love interest. When did my existence become so pathetic? When did I turn from the life of the party to the one that didn’t even know it was happening. F*** it. I’ve had enough of this loner persona, it’s just not for me. I need to get back in the game and if that involves me sticking up posters titled: “Lost my gorilla mask/looking for a boyfriend” with my email on them all round campus that is what I will do. Hiding my intense desperation with a witty joke is sure to get the students on my side. Everyone loves an underdog don’t they…? - Maddie Wright
“She keeps putting this stuff up! What is wrong with her?!” Dan yelled as he ran up to him classroom and tore a poster from the wall.
Jane and the rest those who needed to go to a lesson followed slowly from behind him and looked at the poster, laughing, “Lost my gorilla mask/looking for a boyfriend. If found please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org” with a picture of Dan in a black, curly wig and a gorilla mask with a sombrero on top.
“I swear, I’ll kill my mum if she doesn’t start closing the door on the way back.”
“What’s your mum to do with this?” Jane asked, laughing at the poster.
“If she’d close the door my sister wouldn’t have walked to my room and didn’t see this photo. It’s one of the saves on my laptop.”
Jane frowned. “Why is it one of the saves on your laptop? What is this picture anyway?”
He snatched the poster out of her hands and ripped it apart into tiny pieces. “You wouldn’t know, it’s from last year.”
“I was here last year.” Jane said louder.
“No, a month before you joined this club. It was a picture from one of the guy’s party and I was invited. It was a great one until you wake up to see pictures like these popping out. And why did she write ‘looking for a boyfriend?’.”
“And yet it’s still saved on your laptop? How does she know your passcode?”
“She’s a technician, you know that. She hacks into a everything, she’s everywhere. She’s practically cancer; breaking in and killing everyone.”
“I don’t think that’s how cancer works.”
“Whatever, it was fun times at this party. It was an hour’s drive from school but the popular guys drove us to one of their houses, it was like an after party after the freshers our school put up. The freshers were horrible, whatever the ‘alcohol’ they put up, and whatever the music was playing – bad. Very bad. So those people said, ‘Hey, let’s get a better party at our house’, so we agreed. I’ve tried real booze – for the first time – except there was a huge consequence, which is this photo. It’s not mine, I found it with my friend Mike. It was a basement or some of the sort? It explains why it was so dark that the only light reflected on the photo was from the camera light. We’ve also found a sombrero attached to a wig and I decided to wear Mike’s orange sunglasses. This is how the story was born behind the photo. Except it’s not fun now when my sister puts stuff like this to the public, it’s just an inside joke between Mike and me. Oh my god, she even put my email.”
“Come on, it’s funny.” Jane giggled.
“I can only imagine how many more posters she had put up. You don’t go to this school you only show up at this stupid club.”
“It’s a good club!”
“It’s a boring club!” He tossed the ripped pieces in a bin next to him. They turned back around at the door, where a group of male friends walked past the classroom, laughing and pointing at them. Dan groaned and sat on the desk. “Damn, now they know too.”
“Dan,” she said, sitting on a desk in front of him. “We all have embarrassing photos.”
“Yeah, but you have a brother with common self and he doesn’t terrorise you every time.” He answered gloomily.
“You don’t know that.”
“No, I do! I’ve been at your house, your brother is the most quiet, chilled brother in the world. It’s like you stuck an epiPen with a tranquiliser in him, and he’s older than my sister.”
“Your sister is still a young teen; she’ll get bored of this.”
“She won’t because I give her a lot of attention and she knows it well. Now it’s just a matter of time before people start emailing me as a joke.”
He took his phone out and checked through his emails. “Never mind.”
“You seem to get such posters more and more often.”
“Yeah, it’s because she keeps getting more and more excited. She doesn’t go to this school either, so it’s easier for her to do this kind of stuff.”
“Why don’t you do something similar?”
“I’m too lazy. I’d rather get bullied and get stuffed inside a locker by some pricks than go against my sister.”
“Can’t I help?” Jane smiled. - Ana Pozigun
We also had a response to this intriguing poster...
So there’s this sudden wave of positivity in society right? And everyone seems to be on board, a lot of people have become more productive or opportunistic or whatever, it’s just nice to see how things have changed.
That’s a constant. Change. People get so scared of it that they go through life seeing into the past as far as they can, trying to learn from their own and other people’s mistakes, but you have to look forward and make sure that the mistakes you make in the future are worthwhile. Everyone pins so much significance on faith of any sort, finding religions, higher powers, hobbies to distract them because they aren’t quite spontaneous enough to make something up and go with it.
I put up a small flyer to see if people were interested in it. ‘Self-promotion’, it said ‘Ignore all other flyers’. If you take one, I know why you did it, because you are just spontaneous enough to throw caution to the wind and take a risk on some paper hanging off a wall in the street. To me that guarantees you a place in whatever heaven you can imagine, because you tried something with no thought as to the consequences, all because I pinned the same significance to it that all of us do to our own little things. - Alfie Brigstocke
Next up, flash fiction based on the opening lines of famous books!
This is the saddest story I have ever heard. —Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)
“This is the saddest piece of writing I have ever heard,”, he sighed. I looked at him sternly. “Brilliant,” I replied. He gazed over to me, and then at the window. “It’s just quite depressing” he continued, “Did you really have to write it so… sad?” I sat down on the bed next to him and closed the book, hard. “Well that’s sort of the thing about diaries, dear. You don’t really have a choice on what happens in them, you see.”
“I suppose.” I found this all very frustrating. He’d been asking to read my diary for as long as I’d known him. Perhaps he thought there would be ungodly secrets or even something slightly uplifting. “Look, my life is not a Rom-Com, I just write it how it is. Tragedy and all.”
“Christ, alright, Anne Frank.” I hit his arm hard with my book, as he laughed. He always laughs when I’m angry. It’s quite an annoying trait, really. “Alright. alright, I’m sorry, Cyn.”
I don’t look at him. I know my face is going all red.” “Cynthia, come on, I’m just messing around.”
I stand up. “You’re always messing around, Danny. I’ve just poured my entire heart and soul out to you and all you can say is it’s a bit sad!” I can feel my voice is going quite high. “This isn’t fiction you know. It’s my real feelings, true facts and-“.
“Okay, okay” His voice is gentle and I think I’ve started to calm down. It must have seemed that I had become very interested in my shoes at this point.
And then I realise. The whole reason I’ve become so upset, so defensive at what he’d been saying. “It…it is a bit sad, isn’t it?” - Connie Edgar
I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
I am an invisible man. I’m a reader of a tragic book you’ve written. I’m an audience of your dramatic play. I’m a lantern on a gloomy street we walk by. Every time I’m with you I separate from reality. I become a watcher, an observer. I blend into the background so well, that I start noticing things you never notice.
Your eyes, burning with passion as you talk about people you love and care about. The way you fiddle with your hands when you talk about how afraid you are to lose them. Your beautiful smile, shining like an evening star, as you talk about your dreams that seem so distant in your mind. You are so pure, so whole-hearted. Your intentions so sincere in your movements. You don’t even understand how good a person you are. It makes me want to cry when you become so harsh on yourself. I want to live in the moment, be with you right now, tell you how wrong you are as you scold yourself. But I was too lost in your eyes, your hands, your smile. And now it is too late. You are gone. - Dasha Samanova
I am an invisible man. I’m always there but no one ever seems to notice. I’m always watching but no one ever really sees me. The way I am described by my classmates in every end of year book is the same, “Shy but nice” and or “Should speak up more!”. I’m pretty sure a rumour went round that I had lost my voice box in a terrible accident involving some bleach and a straw. Of course that’s not true but shows the extent to which I am mute to others. A person that cared might ask me “Is living like this lonely?” And my reply could be a magnitude of prepared ones I have stored in my head. Unsurprisingly, I have never had to reply as no one does care. Which you know is fair enough honestly… - Maddie Wright
It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
It was the day my grandmother exploded. I had never seen such a sweet, innocent soul reach combustion point. Her face, filled with anger and rage, purple at the nose, ruby red at the cheeks; I could almost see smoke flooding from her ears. Her crumbling, yellow, rotting teeth grinded together, like the pyramids crumbling, or almost like the ancient tectonic plates, causing a volcanic eruption. Her hand began to shake with fury, and her arms tensed with every second breath. I imagined the air being whisked and whipped into her nose, almost like a brand-new vacuum cleaner. Her eyes were frightening though, with horror, aggression, hostility. With pure fear, I glanced down at the cause, the vase had broken into a million pieces, glaring up at me like thousands of tiny stars in the blackened night sky, in-between which, were my granddad’s remains, just ashes, looking rather like sand. Before I could glance up again, she was gone. BOOM. A thunderous explosion, leaving a rather large mess. I wish I had a brand-new vacuum cleaner. - Emma Balderston
Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)
Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. Hitting a girl. Lying there barely conscious, surrounded by a group of three.
Taking it in turns. Hitting, kicking, slapping, scratching, pulling and pushing.
Her defenceless innocence along with her blood oozing onto the grass beneath them. Completely helpless like an infant and the three relentless in their torture, she had no other choice then to just take the punches. One after another. Her head rolls over to face my direction. Desperation and pain swells behind her eyes, forming small tears of regret that glide down her porcelain-like skin. What had she done to deserve this? Bending down and grabbing her by the throat, one chirps in “The only thing you deserve is a broken neck”. With the last ounce of her energy, the girl aims a large globule of saliva at his eye in retaliation. Sharply pulling away, his hand stained with oxidised maroon… - Maddie Wright