The L.V. Rogers annual 24 Hour Write gives young writers a chance to put aside homework and worries for a day and channel creativity. This year, 20 students from different grades gathered in the school library at noon in an oath not to leave the premises until 12 the next day, when each of us would hand in a short story and head home.
To get the creative juices flowing, we began with a guest speaker: Leesa Dean, a creative writing teacher from SelkirkCollege. She spoke to us about creating art with restrictions; a useful topic considering we would have tight word limits: 800 words for the younger grades, and 1,000 for the senior category. After a short writing exercise under her direction,involving ridiculous records of calls to 911, we received our prompts for the day.
The prompts were a combination of things; we chose phrases from vintage magazines and pulled objects from a leather suitcase. The objects which varied from teacups to plastic dinosaurs, had a suspicious air of being picked from the selection of props in the school’s drama department. Armed with a laptop and a memory stick to save our story, we began the write.
After two hours of straight writing everyone’s fingers get a little bit cramped. At 3:30, the school showed no signs of life but a few custodians, and we were free to roam. With the gym to ourselves, a vicious game of dodgeball ensued followed quickly by a round of Sardines throughout the school. After a dinner of enchiladas prepared for us earlier by a kindly foods class, everyone’s inspiration was running out, and it was time for another guest speaker.
Cyndi Sand-Eveland handed out fortune cookies and taught us, using the obscure fortunes in them, about creating conflict in each sentence in our stories. We learned how much of our story to use establishing characters and premise, and dove back into our writing.
The guest speakers helped to inspire us, and, since both have found success in the writing world, gave us courage that we could one day do the same. They provided some good tips on how to follow in their footsteps!
Many people wrote late into the night, and woke up early with a desperate need for caffeine. Thankfully, a cheery announcement informed us of breakfast, and we stumbled to the cafeteria to the sight of our principal Mr. Huttemann in an apron, making a feast of waffles with berries and cream, bacon and fried potatoes. The featured item at the table was most definitely the coffee. The hours of the morning slipped by quickly, and before we knew it we were printing out our stories and returning our prompts.
While this write is a contest, there is no real sense of competition during the 24 hours that the students spend together. When the stories are finished in the morning, everyone makes edits and contributions to each other’s stories, sitting in collaborative circles and passing around precarious laptops for constructive criticism. By the end, everyone knows one another’s stories inside out, and each work feels like a team effort. It is a wonderful way for students interested in writing to meet other like-minded people and learn from each other. Everyone leaves at the end with something they can be proud of.
Gillian Wiley is a Grade 11 L.V. Rogers student. Her column appears here once a month.
Below: Students who participated in the 24 Hour Write received breakfast whipped up by principal Tim Huttemann.