Creative Writing Portfolio

Danielle Baker

Professor Rochelle


Section 04


In this portfolio, I have not included the revised version of my short story because I don't feel it's completely revised yet and I would rather not turn it in in a state of incompleteness. If you'd like to read the revised version, I can always send it through email when I'm done. I've sat down with this story many times and haven't felt satisfied with how the revisions were going. I understand if my grade takes a penalty for it, I just personally would prefer not to turn in something I'm not happy with especially since this story has become so important to me in the last couple of weeks. It was the first short story I've ever attempted though I've been writing for most of my life. I'd appreciate the opportunity to receive late points but understand otherwise.

I was happy with the first draft and surprised to be happy with it. I usually come back to my writing and want to throw it out after a few days, but this project has helped me understand the importance of revision and sticking with a piece until it's exactly as I want it. This is a new and interesting experience for me since before college, I normally kept my writing to myself.

For the short story, I based the idea off the brainstorming I'd considered over the summer for my first novel. The main character, Daniel, is loosely based off myself and the personalities of my closest two guy friends. I drew inspiration from Janet Fitch's two novels, White Oleander and Paint it Black for the overall "feel" of the short story and what type of story I was trying to create. Fitch writes very dark, beautiful narratives with complex and interesting characters that we can relate to but are also outside the norm. I wanted there to be some uniqueness in the story like that and so went about forming the characters on quirky individuals I knew and then twisting them to become even more individual to the plot.

Sitting down for the story, I knew I wanted the story to be the last day of his life and I knew he suffered from an illness and would meet a girl. The story and details came as I wrote and met the characters for myself. I enjoyed the direction the story went and tried to draw as much inspiration from dreams or other books, like Catcher in the Rye, to take it to a level I would be happy with.

So in the story, the character does die at the end and he's a rather troubled young adult. Just like anyone else, I have been through some struggles in my life and I wanted to write about what I knew. I know about suffering and loneliness and being unapproachable, but I also know about hope and the character 'Ren' sort of represented that for me. The idea of Ren was actually very unplanned and she seemed to pop up out of nowhere even for me as I wrote it. I wanted to write a story that would resound and stick with the reader. I also knew I wanted an audience like me, of young adults with some depth and understanding, but maybe that is because I just doubt anyone would take a writer who is younger than them too seriously. It's hard to explain. Whenever I tried to come up with a direction, I wanted the story to be "important" no matter what, I just wanted it to mean something.

I guess my definition of what is relevant in literature now is understanding the human condition and it's easy for me to do that through the eyes of a suffering young adult because I have been familiar with so many and myself. I wrote from a male point of view to sort of challenge myself and help me broaden my knowledge on that point of view through writing about it.

I'm now working on solidifying the details and remaining true to the characters in my revising. The characters have become very real in my mind and I'm almost contemplating turning this into a much bigger project for myself. Maybe a novel! Who knows.

Even so, I am very happy to have been assigned this short story and find myself where I am now with it. I do think I'm still trying to find my literary voice when it comes to fiction. I'm trying to find a balance between my poetic and narrative voice so I can write with more individuality. That's probably been the hardest struggle for me, is finding a way to distinguish my writing style from that of others.

In my revision of Exercise 1, I just tried to simplify the language to make it more readable. I've noticed I use a lot of the same themes and images of body when creating metaphors throughout a piece of prose, fiction, or anything so I will try to branch out from that. I'm happier with it now because I did feel the language sounded a bit forced. When I sat down with that story, I also focused a lot on developing a character in my head and trying to translate that in a short amount of space. I wasn't sure what the direction of the piece would go, to be honest. I just sat down and started putting down images that I liked in my head and pulled it together.

I noticed that I reused the name Angela in the exercise and short story. Angela is a friend of mine in real life and I took certain aspects of her personality and reflected them differently within those two characters. I believe I did this because she's one of the people I've met that draw a lot of people's interest and controversy. She's dynamic and a bit hard to understand, which I like to write about because then I can go many different directions and I believe it's more interesting for the reader that way anyway.

As a critic, I have maybe just grown to understand that I need to understand that not everyone who reads my writing is going to have the same passion for literature as I do, but that doesn't make their opinion any less valuable. I have become more confident in my critiquing skills and really enjoyed working with the class since we were all at different levels. It took me a bit out of my comfort zone to share so much but I went into it knowing that's what I wanted to do, so I'd say mission accomplished!

This class has really strengthened my connection with fiction writing. I normally stay within the realm of poetry because I had been too fearful to start on anything else. My poetry had begun to dissatisfy me as well so I think this was a really good branching out experience for me. I know I will be writing a lot more fiction than I thought I had planned to so soon, but I see that as a great thing! It's definitely started me down the path I saw myself going, so thank you very much, Professor Rochelle.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Revised Exercise 1

Prompt: 3. Describe a lake or river as seen by a young man or woman who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder.

The Seen

Brushing quickly at her cracked skinny jeans, she stumbled away from the burdened thicket to the edge of the bank. She dipped her hands into the dark waters, bracing herself. They were filled with floating lichen and sinister streaks of color from the moon above her. She hunched over, her feet sinking into the muddy soil. Picking at the grime beneath her fingernails, she washed out the dirt. Softly shaking and breathing hard, ripples appeared in the otherwise silent surface.

The sky held wide and unbroken breadth; the moon its' shiny center. The mist of the fog reached out with malevolent limbs over the lake, curling about her pale wrists and locking. She jerked back, slipping in the muddy growth then jumping to her feet. Insects of varying sizes and layers of armor mischievously crawled across the tops of her shoes and into her clothes. The whispers of the wind softly chuckled as they passed through her hair and under her nose. Her skin began to tremble with the increasing cold. She wiped at her face with a sleeve, feeling a layer of dirt crack off her chin, glancing the horizon of trees on the other side of the water's wide hip.

Her fingers rested on the soft skin above her cheek, seeking the familiar; a warm, clean spot in a place that seemed to hold none. It offered the only comfort besides the dull gray of scattered rock piles and trampled flowers. She stumbled backward to a shallow dip in the grass, wrapping her sleeves around her knuckles like they might keep off the fog. The trees crowded in closely around her, a circle of spectators with twisted branches. The hard curl of their arms posed as if waiting, as they stared with long faces and their crooked knowledge. The shadows at their feet were turning deep shades of black and she saw a flicker of movement behind their backs, deep in the forest. Her heart began to pump in fear as the water mockingly winked at her. The mask of the moon opened its mouth and laughed.

Inhaling sharply, she turned away, pulling out her cell phone. She clung to it desperately, trying to create a small barrier between her and this natural world. He'd told her to wait until the sun was rising, "Don't do something stupid, Angela," but that was hours from now and the laughter of the wind was becoming increasingly bitter. The untamed grass below her feet became itchy, some of it wet and clinging to her ankles like leg hair. Her body began to heat up, as though the guilt was a fire racing up her limbs.

She ripped at her clothes, pulling them over her body and into the mud, unfazed by the watching audience and their increasing disgust. The pile of clothes blended in easily with the dark terrain and if she wasn't careful could easily sink with it, becoming another shapeless mass in the night. Stepping into the cold lake hurriedly, she let it surround her like a blanket, exhaling.

Softly wading to the middle, the countenance of the trees seemed less overbearing from this distance. Her skin became clean with the water, as bright as the sheen of an opal stone. She felt the dirt wipe off her skin as if becoming new. She continued to swim to the navel of the lake, reaching a moment of solitude just as she spotted a house. Sitting on the curve of the lake, a rundown home hid behind a handful of thin trees with a light flickering in the window like a blinking eye. She felt her heart stop. The moon cackled.

They had seen it. All of them. They had seen everything.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Journal 1

Prompt: Time to rant, rave, and foam at the mouth: the piece of mind you would like to give that old so-and-so. This is about anger.

Sleep it off.

There's a lot of anger in the world, just not a lot in this house tonight. Thinking about it is only making me tired and my ears are vibrating with noisy choruses and screaming voices. Angry music, angry people. I thought it would help.

The things I used to get angry about. How people don't act like they "care", how I just don't see it. I ask for more. Why can't you just do it right the first time! He hated it when we would argue. He told me it's how his parents split, but I only listened for a while.

Anger deafen and blinds you.

I fell asleep sad last night and I guess that's what most anger starts like.

Andrea Gibson asked, "Do you think anger is a sincere emotion or the timid motion of a fragile heart trying to beat away its pain?"

Anger scares me because I grew up with it. Angry mother, angry father. I just think about how their faces would distort. Monsters in real life. Their faces turning different shades of red, bodies becoming alien. Even their voices becoming unfamiliar. If anger is a virus, I'm sure I must have caught it.

My dad put his hands around her throat, shoved her down the stairs, grabbed my sister's shoulders, brief, explosive images in my head. My mom grabbing the belt, throwing things at the door, brief, wounding images rotting inside my memory.

I start to shake when I get angry, my lips tremble and my skin turns white. When people are angry with me, I shut down. I hate confrontation. But I know what anger is. I know what it looks like, very aware of its presence sitting cruelly inside my body. The familiar emotion like a bitter ghost left over in my ribcage from a history I'm trying to be better after.

I'm trying to be better.

Sleep it off. That's what I tell myself nowadays.

I made a lot of mistakes, with the first boy I loved, letting anger come out and play between us, letting it consume me. Anger feeds selfish thoughts.

Malnourished and weak, the past few months, anger has lost its grip on my life. I ripped off its claws and placed it in the sunlight to melt. It is ever present, sneaking up late at night where it gains strength sucking on shadows and eating my misery.

Crying. I usually end up crying.

But when I get angry, I just take it out on inanimate things. I take it out on myself. Don't let it escape again. Everything you touch turns to stone. I know that's not healthy. I know anger is normal, not something to be ashamed of.

Anger is only an emotion.

Oh well. Oh well. Oh well.

I'm angry that you raised me like this, how you weren't ready for kids. How we can't ever be sure if were ready. How kids grow up in illiterate homes with parents who aren't ready for the weight. I'm angry for that, angry that I can't be stronger.

Angry to be angry, but mostly sad.

Hi Mom, Dad. You shouldn't have left the door open and you should have left when things got bad again. Mom, you should have told me what happened, not half of the truth but all of it. Dad, apologize. Stop denying the things I used to have nightmares about.

You shouldn't have been allowed to be parents.

I'm angry at fucked up people raising innocent kids. I'm angry for them.

But anger was your weakness, it won't be mine.

I was a bit proud. How hard it was for me to channel anger into this, how much better I've become. How most of it is just resignation. I don't waste my time with anger anymore.

Anger is the enemy.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Journal 2

Prompt: 1. Trapped in Elevator, alone, with a person you would walk across the street to avoid. Write a narrative dialogue.

Four Flights to Freedom

As I was walking into the dorm building, the wind pushed my hair to the other side of my head and I wiped it back with an impatient hand. I was very tired after a short day of classes, but I hadn't been getting much sleep lately so the minutes felt like hours. Sighing, I walked to the elevator door and sat on the chair opposite to wait for its long and tedious descent from the fourth floor. A group of guys entered the lobby, the taller boy in the back faltering a bit and I looked down at my hands, recognizing him in an instant.

My eyes widened in horror, disgust, and agitation. Why is this happening now! I was suddenly irritated, my whole body tensing and my thoughts raced with how much I really didn't want to deal with this today.

I knew this kid. We had met a few months ago in a brief, rushed, and awkward encounter. We hadn't spoken since and I think we both were happier for it. Crossing streets and blatantly ignoring each other in cafeterias; Yeah, we were pretty eager to forget. Heaven knows why, I thought, rolling my eyes as I fiddled with the keys in my pocket, tucking my jacket beneath my chin to wipe off my expression.

He lingered as the rest of the group headed out the door. I cursed my fate, grinding my teeth a bit, keeping a peripheral view of his shoes as the elevator doors slid open. Standing, I questioned whether I should just take the stairs, a few tiny steps to freedom, the door beckoning me like a lover. Then thinking I didn't want to be the one who looked so uncomfortable, I straightened my back and looked forward. With a friendly nod, he motioned me in first and I made some sort of thankful noise in the back of my throat, pressing my lips together in a "we know each other" sort of smile, then leaned against the rail in the far corner, pressed the little button marked "4″, and fished my phone from my pocket. The blank screen was immensely interesting.

The ingrained sociable parts of me were unsure on whether to comment on the awkward situation we had found ourselves in. A simple hello? And maybe he was unsure too. Maybe we were both scrambling with what to do with ourselves as the elevator seemed to rise in what seemed like negative miles per hour. Please hurry, I groaned inwardly and snuck a glance at the green numbers, "2″. Two!

He chuckled with forced joviality and I glanced up at him, our eyes meeting and averting and I let out a snort, regretting even that small gateway to conversation. Shuffling his body uncomfortably, his hips leaned out like a girl's and I narrowed my eyes on the words on my phone, my jaw beginning to hurt.

As I looked at the green numbers again, "3″ then—

A jolt. We both lurched forward with the shock. He smacked his hands against the wall and leaned away from me, letting out a surprised grunt. The elevator had stopped.

The elevator had stopped!

"Oh my god, what happened." I was sullen with disbelief and complete horror, my eyes widening at the buttons, pushing them over pointlessly.

He stammered something like he wasn't sure and I pressed my back to the opposite side, finally meeting his gaze. We stood like we were in the middle of a shoot off and the thought made me irritated again. Before I could say anything, he chirped out, "I'll call maintenance!" and I glanced at the ground, pursing my lips.

Worst. Day. Ever.

I listened to the familiar and annoying dips of his voice and slid down to a sitting position, rolling my neck kinks out, trying to control my irritation.

"Well, this is just terrible." Forcing a grin, I looked in his general direction then back at the ground, covering my face briefly with my hands. I really didn't have time for this today.

"They said they'd be able to fix it soon." His voice was masked and he sat across from me too, crossing his legs.

We marinated in a tense and uncertain silence. I picked at my jeans and considered putting my headphones in, somehow reasoning myself into just remaining still.

"How have you been, Danielle?"

The question shocked me, the familiar use of my name and his apologetic tone of voice. I met his eyes and shrugged. I'd been so bad with words around him and was struggling to catch onto a detached, but friendly answer to his simple question. I can't believe he used to make me nervous. I wanted to scoff at myself.

"I've been okay." I let out a short burst of laughter and tacked on an obligatory, "It's been a while."

"Yeah it has!" He seemed relieved, the volume of his voice rising. "That's good to hear though. I mean it's been so long since we saw one another. I'm surprised we don't run into each other more often like this…" On and on, he rambled.

I remembered the rambling and sat quiet again, nodding in appropriate intervals. He seemed a bit panicked, like a rabbit caught in a trap and I felt my mouth grow bitter with distaste, my smile becoming more like a grimace.

"…I'm sorry I haven't emailed you. I just wasn't sure what to do." His laughter was plastic and he threw up his hands, shaking his head at himself.

I tried to grin friendlier, "It's totally fine. I mean, I've been busy too so." And it's not like I would have replied. I pushed back the urge to roll my eyes again.

He nodded and I nodded and we both looked at our feet.

After a few moments, he blurted out, "This is so awkward!"

I was suddenly exhausted, my anger fizzling out my nose in a heavy breath, "Yep. It is. I mean, I never thought I'd see you again to be honest." I was the only one ever being honest around here.

When he smiled it was more genuine, his eyes twinkling with a wink, "Same here."

I felt myself thaw a bit, understanding that we both understood, the release of the tension like a breath of fresh air. Though, still hella ready to get out of that elevator.

Shamelessly, I started to slip out my headphones, the silence around us filling the small space again. Just as I had found a song, he made a gesture with his hand and shocked me again.

"I'm really sorry, you know. I mean, actually sorry." His grin was heavy. "For how I handled things. I'm sorry."

I tilted my head at him, wondering how I always ended up trying to make the other person feel better, but feeling the need all the same.

"We were both being silly, I think. There's nothing to be sorry for." But I guess there was. Instead, I just smiled soft as he reached out and squeezed my knee, fighting off another urge to recoil.

"Thanks, Danielle. You're the best." I don't think I ever called him by name in the short time that I knew him.

His face was expectant of a response, some kind of extended consolation, but then the elevator lights flickered and the floor began rising. I cried out with relief and jumped to my feet. Four!

We settled back into our unfamiliar roles as the door slid open, my body now buzzing with excitement. Free! Free at last.

Outside of the elevator, I turned and paused.

He didn't exit, just looked at me. Leaning back against the rails with a small, unreadable expression on his face. Perplexed, my tiredness pushing regular social niceties aside, I gave a small wave and rounded the corner. Leaving his awkward figure behind, pulling out my key and pushing the door open, the only thought left in my head,

What in the world just happened.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Journal 3

Prompt: Retrieve a memory of learning to write or read. Write a few paragraphs, in 1st person, using as many sensory details as possible, then repeat in 2nd or 3rd. Compare and discuss the differences. Comparison must be included for credit.

Favorite Thing.

First Person:

Late one night, I climbed into bed with my mom, sitting in her lap as she read a small, paperback romance novel to relax before falling asleep. The ones I guessed I shouldn't have been reading, but she must have thought I wouldn't understand.

And I didn't.

The letters were tiny, unlike the ones I was used to. Even the pages of the books were thinner. I had to pinch my fingers carefully just to pull them apart. The books of Clifford and Spot usually thick like a small tray, with a sentence per page, the paperback seemed very foreign now. Though, I was fascinated by the skinny pages and small shapes, the block of lettering that went on and on, how the sentences followed each other in rows. I took the book in my hand and my mom sighed, letting me, reaching to comb my hair as I pronounced unfamiliar words.

Slowly but determinedly, I sat with each word in my mouth for a few moments. My voice stopping and stalling like an old car, but this was the most fun I'd had all day.

The next morning, she took me to Barnes N Noble and I pulled her hand to the paperback section, piling the little boxes in my small arms. "These are what I want." I grinned up at her, flipping my ponytail to the other side of my face. She shook her head, laughing, rearranged my hair and went to checkout, slipping in a few Junie B. Jones.

Our nights became routine. She waited patiently for the space of her arms to be filled with my curious body. I read out loud in her lap and sometimes on my own until I got better, flipping the pages of the paperbacks until it became natural.

"What do you want to do tonight, Danielle?" My mom would ask, pinching my cheek with a smile in her eyes, my sister asleep in the next room and the rest of the house empty.

"Read!" I'd giggle, snuggling into her lap.

And I meant it.

Third Person:

Late one night, Danielle climbed into bed with her mom, sitting in her mom's lap as she read a small, paperback romance novel to relax before falling asleep. The ones Danielle guessed she shouldn't be reading, but her mom must have thought she wouldn't understand.

And she didn't.

The letters were tiny, unlike the ones she was used to. Even the pages of the books were thinner. She had to pinch her fingers carefully just to pull them apart. The books of Clifford and Spot usually thick like a small tray, with a sentence per page, the paperback seemed very foreign then. Though, she was fascinated by the skinny pages and small shapes, the block of lettering that went on and on, how the sentences followed each other in rows. She took the book in her hand and her mom sighed, letting her, reaching to comb her hair as she pronounced unfamiliar words.

Slowly but determinedly, Danielle sat with each word in her mouth for a few moments. Her voice stopping and stalling like an old car, but this was the most fun she'd had all day.

The next morning, her mom took her to Barnes N Noble and Danielle pulled her hand to the paperback section, piling the little boxes in her small arms. "These are what I want." Danielle grinned up at her, flipping her ponytail to the other side of her face. Her mom shook her head, laughing, rearranged her daughter's hair and went to checkout, slipping in a few Junie B. Jones.

Their nights became routine. Her mom waited patiently for the space of her arms to be filled with Danielle's curious body. Danielle read out loud in her lap and sometimes on her own until she got better, flipping the pages of the paperbacks until it became natural.

"What do you want to do tonight, Danielle?" Her mom would ask, pinching her cheek with a smile in her eyes. Danielle's older sister asleep in the next room and the rest of the house empty.

"Read!" Danielle would giggle, snuggling into her mom's lap.

And she meant it.


In the third person point of view, everything that sounded natural in first person became awkward. I wanted to reword almost the entire thing but I wasn't sure if that was the assignment. Third person also caused me to use my name earlier than in the first version where it only came out in dialogue. Also, basing it around the structure of the first person paragraph, it seemed like the use of "she" would become very confusing so I felt the need to switch that up a lot as well. Since it was a memory, it was more natural to write in first person to convey personal thoughts and I think it came out better in that version. The good part about third person was not feeling the need to take out the reaction to the books and the girl's thoughts. It was easy to substitute in a third person perspective, it just threw off the rhythm in my opinion. Third person also caused me to add tiny details like "older" sister and I had to remember to keep track of who "she" was referring to throughout the sentences. Finally, I would change the title depending on tense because I like it as 'My Favorite Thing' but 'Her Favorite Thing' doesn't work as well for me for some reason.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Journal 5

Prompt: The phone rings and rings and rings in the middle of the night. It keeps ringing after the machine picks up. Finally you answer it—groggy, irritated, and befuddled. It's the call we all dread and yet know will come more than once in our lives …

The narrator's (closest friend, lover, parent, brother, sister, you decide who to kill…) was in an accident, is at the hospital, and will not last until morning. He or she dresses furiously, jumps in his or her car, get to the hospital, cursing at the slowness of traffic, and the stupidity of parking attendants, and arrives at the person's bedside. What happens next? Describe the scene, be detailed.

The person has to die and the narrator has to be a witness. There can be no miracles.

You do not have to use this prompt. First or third person.

Ghost: the apparition of a dead man, soul, or spirit.

(A young man watches his younger brother pass.)

I grabbed his hand, pressing its delicate bones to the side of my cheek. The tops of his eyelids were scribbled with pale lines of blue and purple like a lightning storm or tangled wires. I could see other streaks of blue swimming in the pale breadth of his bottom lip like coy fish, trembling lightly with his uneven breath. I felt my heart fall into my stomach, heavy as a stone; my eyes widening on his features in my attempt to absorb them. His lashes were black like spider legs, flicking their limbs at the sound of the monitors and the dim television in the corner of the room.

I stood quickly, feeling numb. This felt more like a dream; as if I could be sleep walking between the pages of another person's story. My mouth gaped a little, trying to process my inebriated thoughts. I pressed a shaky finger to the power button, watching the sitcom snap off in a thin flash of white light. I blinked, turning back to the bed. The chair. I sat beside him again, the pale blonde of his hair turning gray in the fluorescent.

The nurse appeared in my peripheral, one hand on her hip. She paused, opening her mouth as if to say something, then in what seemed like frustration turned away. She snapped the blinds shut as she passed the doorway, closing it with a resigned click. My shoulders jumped as it hit the bottom of the window.

I smiled broadly then, in privacy, wiping the sweat from my brow with exaggerated motions, clapping my hands on my knees. I smiled at his face, his sleeping form and the little shapes of his bones sticking out from beneath his hospital gown like braille.

"Cam?" I clasped his forehead with a wide palm, unsettling his fine head of silver. His neck bent a bit; my grip too rough, but I couldn't control it. My mouth stretched open like a cave, slipping out spirits and silent ironies. "Ha. Ha. Ha. Cam, you moron." I smirked with the word, my face twisting hard with the expression, feeling foreign to myself.

I swallowed hard, trying to re-balance shaking out my arms and re-positioning myself on the chair. His hand was covered in tape, a small vine growing from his vein, giving or taking life. I clapped my hands on the rail, shaking it. The room slipped sideways, turned gray. His cheek fell to his shoulder and I let out an excited giggle, my voice breaking, slapping my hands under the bed.

He shook only lightly, like a doll at the bottom of a very long string. I stopped, staring. Just watching.

The blue in his lips dispersed across his mouth like paint dropped in water. His eyes fluttered, a sliver of his opal eyes appearing. I felt a cry slip into my throat and get caught there, my lungs caving in or collapsing.

I gripped his hand again and choked, tremors raking my body from withdrawal. I wanted to ask him to stay. Don't leave me. I felt an evil fury slip into my grip, the skin of his hand around mine turning a dark shade of red. Don't.

I could only whisper it out loud.

I waited, not expecting an answer. His mouth trembled and my body lurched toward it, my heart stopping. A bit of drool slipped from the corner of his lip, laced with blood. No words tonight, no answers.

I felt a blankness overtake my body as I watched the saliva move down his chin, leaving a small trail of color. The quiet of the room filling me with a complete and utter amount of nothing. Staring at his delicate features and half grown body. The life he hadn't lived yet dissipating like a cloud above his body, how his eyes closed again, his lids sticking.

Death slipped into the room uninvited, a shadow spilling from the door frame, becoming a cloak on his body. Everything else not making sense, walls and hospital beds. The world slowing down for these brief moments of intimacy.

Reality became opaque.

A noise reached through the static and filled my head; a straight line, green and straight. I gasped, time finding its pace again, sucking air into my lungs, feeling tears sting the sides of my eyes. How long had I been out?

There was a brief knock at the door and then commotion. Noise, lights, voices. The nurse pulled at my shoulders. Her face swirled, becoming deformed. I screamed, shoving her off. Hands gripped at my back, around my waist and someone was yelling. I couldn't stop yelling.

I turned back just as I was hustled through the frame of the door; The light illuminating his cheekbones, deepening the shadows of his face, the stillness of his chest, how the Braille became still as stones, his unwritten story. I stared.

The coy fish had swum into his ears and between the crooks of his knuckles and I laughed now, growing in volume, imagining their playful swimming. My brother was not a pond, I giggled at the thought, the sound turning desperate, as rough hands tried to wrestle me from the room. They pinned me to the ground, knees on my back, calling for stronger men.

Problem was, you can't pin down a ghost.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose

Journal 6

Alumni Poetry Reading

Attending the Alumni reading was an interesting experience. I was glad to see the interactions between the students and professors. The community of the English department is very appealing to me. In the camaraderie of fellow writers, I felt very at ease and excited to see what sort of subjects the alumni wrote about.

Matt Blackley, from the class of 2011, introduced his collection stating the "she" he referred to within his work was a character based off of his grandmother. He decided to share that bit of information starting off and I wondered what I would have assumed had he not said anything or waited until the end. Anyway, it's always nice when an author is personable and honest. He described his own work as lyric, narrative and talked about his themes of memory, nature, the domestic sphere and rooms. I thought the focus on rooms was an interesting concept because the image is a simple one, but once applied to literature can become something very dynamic. My favorite reading was "An Elegy" and I noted him for his brief, yet vibrant imagery. Also, within his writing I enjoyed how he incorporated images of the body into his work.

Helen Olsten, from the class of 2012, also chose to give a small explanation before her works. I thought this was a bit overdone and she could have let the work speak for itself since it seemed mostly coming from nerves. She told us the subjects came from vivid dreams and the poetry she worked on at a UVA poetry workshop. I'm always interested in hearing the different sources of inspiration authors receive because they help broaden mine and my understanding of their work and why they wrote it. I admired in her first poem that she was able to incorporate some humor. I've always found this difficult but it worked well for her. Though, probably unjustly, with that first impression, her last work "The Elephant Holynumbers" took me by surprise and her work showed different sides I didn't expect. I noted them for including dark, sinister, and sensual imagery. I loved the image that inspired "Whale Fall" and was rather impressed.

The last speaker I was able to see was Keane from the Class of 2012. I noted him on his very active speaking. He was the most memorable and read a short story, "Social Graces" based on some awkward life encounters. I think the audience enjoyed how relatable and light hearted the story was. I appreciated the honesty in the work and how for his second piece, "Up the Cemetery Hill", he was able to calm down and use appropriate tone. I didn't learn much from him but it was entertaining.

The reading overall was a fun experience for me. I wish I could have stayed for all the readers and talked to them a bit on their accomplishments since Rafferty introduced them with such good credentials. It is encouraging and also just nice to share an afternoon with people who are passionate about the same things you are.

Danielle Baker

302A Prose, Section 4

Journal 7 as Extra Credit

Prompt: Write a scene or a narrative dialogue or a narrative monologue (NO scripts), starting with one of the following first lines, taken from SF and fantasy novels and short stories that happened to be in my office when I was writing this prompt (OK, one is from memory).

Tried to Walk

"There was once a young man and woman who wished to gain his and her Heart's Desire."

He was young and brown skinned, with a small nose and wide lips. His shoulders curved downward like the elegant bones in his artist hands. Hands that painted suicide notes and girls in skirts, rainbows dripping off animal carcasses, as he chuckled above the canvas.

She was tall, pale, with thin wrists and wide hips. One time, she pressed their palms together and the lines matched up. He blew a flower with gold paint from a straw, bending toward the table beside her. She took the image home without saying a word, careful not to let the paper crinkle.

He sits on the floor, resting his back on the couch, palms poised over the keyboard. He's wearing a loose shirt and a tired smile coming in softly on the monitor. On his table, there are pencil marks and eraser stubs, a ruler. He wipes at his eyes tiredly, pushing the work away.

The room is dimly lit, illuminating his bronze skin and the little dips in his cheek when he smiles. He places his hand on his neck, stretching to the side, his mouth flattening. She watches the way his eyes slide to the side and come back.

A cool sense of pleasure slips down into her stomach as he looks back at her, though she just looks away to her hands in her lap. They curl upward, imagining that shape and she purses her lips, turning the computer off.

He gets in his car, goes to church and school, makes excuses on why he can't hang out that weekend. She climbs out of bed, runs to the gym and starts calling less.

Every night, they meet back in some place. Maybe in their heads, or maybe they just have nowhere else to go. Anyway, they find each other.

He says goodnight the same way every time and she's convinced it's their way of saying "I love you".

He sent her a song and she ignored it. She wrote him a poem, but he never read it.

He didn't love her a year ago, while she was wrapping up metaphors and slipping them into envelopes with the image of his face on her tongue. He didn't love her a year ago, so maybe the post never sent. She is scared to think he could have just picked through his mailbox yesterday, feeling a coldness run her through.

She has told him one too many times and yet he still doubts himself. Asking her to grab happiness and then dodging from it himself.

They are too similar; too fearful; two cowards.

Love gives you a cripple. It is a handicap; with fear of this and that, and a list of things that rot flowers and turn rainbows into rain clouds.

There was once a young man and woman who wished to gain his and her Heart's Desire: strength to walk; to run; to really learn to love a little. They just didn't know how, having been crippled, in fact, by the thing they desired.

Danielle Baker

ENG 302A

Exercise 3 as Extra Credit


Prompt: Time Expansion: write a descriptive narrative scene, which a short amount of clock time (real time) feels like forever (perceived time).

Luck In the Wings

She lay on the ground, blades of grass reaching between her hairs to lightly brush her scalp. She rocked her head slowly, imperceptibly, letting the tips scrape over her skin like a comb, itchy and light. A ladybug landed on her bottom lip and she spit reflexively, sitting up in apology as it shot off. Sighing, she squinted at the sun. The ladybug was still in sight, circling her ankles in a figure 8 motion. She kept her eyes trained to its tiny body. The dash of red as deep as her mother's lipstick; the kind she couldn't pull off. The small spots and wings cut like small tins of eye shadow.

Just then, a group of kids passed through the middle of the field, disrupting her surveillance, throwing a soccer ball hand to hand. The noises rolled easily into the sound of spring and she felt her eyelids flutter back into sleepiness and content. The weather was always affecting her mood too much, she mused. She turned her attention back to the little insect now climbing up and over the folds of her jeans.

In vain, she held out her hand, with the notion of letting the lady bug land on her palm. She imagined it speaking to her, kissing her pinkie finger with luck. That's what her mother used to tell her anyway. The little speck just kept hiking, intent and indifferent to the life beating within its perch, reaching one exceptionally high crease on her knee. Like a mountain to it, she moved just the slightest bit to ease it out and the lady bug stumbled.

Taking a breath, she placed her pinkie down in its path. She didn't quiver, shake or tremble, just waited, as the lady bug continued its ginger steps. Legs slip sliding up the material, catching its feet in the little grains of material then pulling them loose. Step. Step. It looked as if it glided. If she blinked, it would be gone. The ladybug touched its nose to her skin, lightly, turned. Turned back and placed one small leg on a crevice of her finger. Up, up, the little legs followed, reaching the top of a pale shaded mountain, where it wished to stick a small flag, it could only tread toes. It rested, letting its body sink down into a tiny red and black spotted rock, slight as a mole. Then, almost immediately, flickered its wings, stretching. It braced itself, choosing a direction, the soft green of a nearby tree. Taking off, luck falling off the gossamer wings beneath its shell, the ladybug drifted past the girls' shoulder, lightly brushing her cheek. She grinned softly, lying back in the grass, the trail of its' footprints lingering on her skin like the faintest springtime kisses. The sprinkles of luck slipping into her mouth, turning her hair golden.

Spring says hello with the smallest kiss of hope.