Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Earthquake Affair: Another Abecedarian Story by Chung Dahm Students (South Korea)

Here is a story my Comp. 100 class and I composed using the exquisite corpse writing prompt our last night of class. Starting with the letter “A,” each new sentence must begin with the next letter in the alphabet. There must also be an attempt at cohesion in the story. All together, we composed four stories. This was voted as best. (Remember, these are middle school aged ESL students.) I’ve copied it verbatim here:

Again and again the children asked their mother to push them on the swings. But their mother, her belly holding yet another child, shook her head, her face white. Children started to find out where their father had gone. Dad was in restaurant with his secret girlfriend. Every other day, he met this secret girlfriend for lunch at this favorite restaurant.

Father!” the children cried in unison when they saw him – one with a shocked face. Girlfriend also stared at the children and asked father “Is they are your kids? Why are they calling you father?”

Ha ha ha,” they are not my kids, they are kids who live in my town.”

I am your son! I am your first son,” the boy cried, his tears streaking his cheeks and rushed home.

John, the first son, went home and surprised by strange man sit closely with mom.

Kelly, I really think you should tell your husband we’re dating. I mean, look at OUR baby!”

Listen to me, we can’t let anyone know about our love-child NOW!” Mom whispered and John the son hide behind the sofa, was so shocked that he cried

NO, it can’t be – Mom and dad BOTH can’t both be having an affair! “Oh my god, what did you mean that both me an your father having affair?” Mom shouted.

“Please tell me it isn’t so!” she wailed. “Quickly, hide Luke!” she said to her boyfriend when she saw her husband coming.

Really, I can’t believe this situation! I heard all things! How can you have affair” said father.

Suddenly the ground began to shake and rumble.

To be continued…


We ran out of time before we ran out of alphabet. But we didn’t run out of fun!

Writing a Poem a Day

Every April I celebrate National Poetry Month by reading lots of poetry, convincing other people to read lots of poetry and trying to get everyone to write a little poetry. I also follow the “Poem a Day” challenge, and this year, for the first time,  completed the challenge by writing thirty-five poems in thirty days.

One trick to writing a poem a day, or writing anything on a daily basis for that matter, is to allow yourself to do it poorly. Because, integral to the creative process is failure and foolishness, hopefully of the playful kinds, and just generally coming to terms with the awkwardness of making something from nothing. It’s all “elbows and knees,” or in the case of writing, passive voice and too many adjectives. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, I also say, otherwise, expectations of perfection will interfere with the act of creation, a process that in and of itself is already perfect.

With that said, let me admit that the poems I’ve drafted this month are all pretty crappy. They are unfinished, awkward, contain trite beginnings and contrived endings, tired images and many clichés.  But maybe, just maybe, there is a line or a poem’s worth of lines that will evolve into something publishable.

For me, generating poetry to use for raw material is all about the “quantity = quality” equation, one that is still sneered at by many. Maybe for writers like Tolstoy, writing the perfect sentence or paragraph before moving on to the next is the best process, but I for one need the actual act of writing to get where I am writing too, and there is a lot of support for this belief. “Writing begets writing” my Graduate Fiction Writing instructor, Susan Rodgers, used to say. It takes a million words before you can publish, or earn, your fist novel, according to Randy Ingermanson. Obviously, for Chris Baty of the NaNoWriMo phenom, it’s about writing 50,000 words in thirty days for one month out of the year. Finally, according to a wiser author than I (whose name escapes me at the moment), you have to write through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff.

But letting yourself write poorly is also about facing the blank page every day and consistently conquering it, “consistently” being the operative word there. That is, writing needs the same consideration as such daily self-care pursuits as eating, showering, and exercising (or meditating). In my life, writing must receive the same priority as a second job, especially necessary though doubly difficult since I am already employed full-time. As a second job, writing is difficult because its rewards are often delayed and are rarely monetary, its process often tedious, and its available time often gobbled up by greedy employers, needy people or insistent errands. But still I write, and still I fail to write, and still I fail when I write.  But the bottom line is, I write.

But let me return to the topic of writing a poem a day in April and say that the best part of this year’s challenge is that after essentially forcing myself to write a poem every day is that it became easier to start. Similar to keeping a well primed, everything I saw or experienced had potential for a poem. And best of all was experiencing something akin to a runner’s high; moment when I felt like I could go on writing forever.


Children’s Day in South Korea (Auli Nal)

Today is Children’s Day in S. Korea, a national holiday, and judging by the two-million people in Pyeongchon Central park today, a big holiday for families. (The number quoted in the previous sentence is an exaggeration – there is no way that many people would fit in PC Central Park. It’s simply meant to connote my surprise over the quantity of people in the park today. Hundreds of people would be a more accurate estimation.) A great number of these people were children.

There where children in strollers, children on bicycles, children on roller blades, and children on skateboards. I guess you could say there were many children on wheels.

Children not on wheels were involved with familial activities such as flying kites, catching balls or playing chase; this despite the limited number of square footage (meter-age) available per individual. Still more families could be seen sitting on blankets on the grass eating picnic lunches or just relaxing with their shoes off. One family appeared to have ordered their picnic food from a restaurant as I saw a man on a scooter delivering them their food. I can just imagine the directions they must have given over the cell phone when ordering: “Ah, yes, we will be the Korean family of  four on the green blanket in front of the blue tent right next to the croquet court.” Made me wish I could speak better Korean.

I can’t imagine Americans celebrating children quite to this degree. In terms of scale and participation, today’s holiday  is more akin to the American Labor Day. Schools are closed for the week, parents take off from work and most acadamies and hagwons are closed, except of course, ChungDahm.

Though many students did not attend class this evening, the ever vigilant instructors of ChungDahm English and Critical Thinking were on the front lines ready to deliver a little edu-tainment to any child who appeared. I took the stance that providing education for chlidren on Children’s Day is the ultimate in celebrating children. The students didn’t really buy it though.

Fortunately, Kim ChungDahm, the fictional entity that makes all upopular rules and decisions at ChungDahm, allowed teachers to pass out candy suckers – a rare treat since we are normally strictly forbidden from giving students food. The irony of this gesture was not lost on the students. Nonthelsess, we were a little less hated as a result.