Writing Challenges, Frogs and Trumpets

Last week, the writing challenge here was to create haikus. I don’t usually write poetry, at all, but I took the challenge and created 5 of them: Mt. Rainier, Elephant, Meditation, Sunset and Beach.

Then this week, on Monday morning, the guy who organizes the morale events in our team, sends us an email announcing the date, time and place for our end-of-year team lunch and giving us some details of the event, that typically included lunch and a white elephant gift exchange. This year, though, he added one more kick to it, to try to make it even more fun. The name of the restaurant we’re going is Haiku, so we said that everyone should bring a haiku of their own to read it aloud at lunch and the intensity of applause would tell the winner of the contest. I’m still deciding which one to read next Friday (feel free to vote on one by leaving a comment, if you’d like ;o)

I thought it was so cool that he came up with this suggestion right a week after I wrote my first haikus ever! So I replied to all with a link to a website that helps with the counting of syllables and with suggesting some synonyms for some of the words you wrote, just in case…

My manager is a funny character. She, like me, is an immigrant in the country and a non-native speaker of the English language. But I guess her difficulties with the language are much bigger than mine, and she seems aware of that. I say that because every time she cannot understand something on a document, be it from work or from her kid’s school, she comes to me to ask for help.

Then, when seeing my reply about the haikus, she first said there is no way she could do one (I guess she can, actually, but oh well) and then she asks me to help her come up with an idea for a creative writing essay for her son. Me? Creative? ok, ok, I’m probably more than she is. I did feel flattered with the request, so I decided to help.

Here’s more or less how it went at the beginning:

By the way, do you have any idea for writing a creative story for 5th/6th grade?

Hum…. Creative? You know… my sister is a writer, I chose to be a translator.

So she’s the one with the creativity, I’m the one with the technique… (I also used to review her books until I became a mommy and had no more time to spend on it… ;o)

But I can try to think of something, though…

What’s the kind of stuff/story your daughter like?

Something mystic, scary, romantic?

I guess you/she could start by selecting a theme, based on her interests first. It’s easier when you write about what drives your passion.

As I said I’m not a writer, but I do blog, and I must admit all my posts are around the same basic themes, because that’s what I know what and how to write about (they’re more descriptive than story-telling….). And that’s why sometimes I adventure myself on the writing challenges (like the one I participated last week to write haikus), to get a bit away from my comfort level.

But when I was in school and I had to write creative stories, I remember I used to always write mystery/fantasy stuff. Like something weird happens to kids and they have to investigate why and what happened.

Hope it helps somehow…


Thanks. The assignment is to write a essay between 100 and 250 words, using any form of three of these five words in a creative story: stump, trumpet, water, tire, dawn. I guess the hard part is about a creative idea what to write. This is for my son. Do you have weird things for kids? He can pretty much write down things that he familiar with and things that happened, but lack of “creative” idea that is fresh…

Ok, now things seemed easier. We had a size constraint and, the most important, words that would help think of something.

stump            trumpet            water           tire                 dawn

The tire was the hard one. But stump, water, dawn and trumpet made me think of frogs, after all they do live by the water, they do like to hide in stumps and they’re more active at dusk and at dawn, when they croak, which could be compared to a trumpet.

So I wrote back with a cute picture of a frog playing a trumpet and the following idea:

Frogs are active at dusk and down, and they like to live by the water.

So he could go either poetic or silly (or both ;o) and talk about frogs playing the trumpet at down from their stump homes by the water….

But the boy apparently likes stories that are more scary or intense than froggies playing trumpets by a pond… we chatted and she explained that he has already written one, but some people who read it thought it not to be too creative, so she was trying to help him write a second option. The first story was about a nightmare that seemed real. Yeah, yeah the world is full of stories about realistic nightmares, but to be honest I see no issue on having another one. If the nightmare itself is good and interesting, then why not?

But I still felt I could help him a bit more, with some less lame idea that would be more fit for his personality

Another one, (much) darker, which seems to be more in sync with him (but still using my froggy)

Car hit’s the tire on a stump, rolls, falls into the water of a pond. People are trapped, unconscious, inside. Car sinks. Bubble, bubble bubble. Then silence, broken only by the frogs playing their trumpets on what sounds like a funeral march…

Later at night she sends me his essay. Cute. He did take the idea of the car hitting a stump and falling in water, and he did include some froggies at it, but he changed enough to make me actually fell proud of him for allowing himself to change a suggestion freely.

I won’t reproduce his essay here, because it’s his and not mine to share, but that made me want to create an essay of my own.

So I made this my own writing challenge: to write a essay using 3 of the 5 words: stump, water, dawn, trumpet and tire. Here it goes:

The radio plays some old Beattle’s song

“She loves you, yeah yeah yeah…”

Chris is driving home after a hard day of work. He feels tired and eager to get home and crash on his bed until the next morning. Then it would start all over again: wake up still tired, get to a boring and badly paid job, work all day, come home tired again to have a bite and fall asleep again.

The road between work and home is dark and winding, going along some woods and a lake.

There had been a small wild fire a few months back that cleared the woods a bit. In some parts the old trees gave place to burnt stumps and the lake could be seen from the road. That was in summer.

But today it is fall and it’s raining hard. The rain makes it even harder to see the dark path. Suddenly, Chris hears a big bump. The car’s tire had hit a stump. In the impact Chris hits his head and go unconscious. The car rolls several times and falls into the lake.

Chris is trapped, still unconscious inside. The car starts to sink. It sink slowly, but the area is deserted, no one sees it and comes to help. Chris does not wake up. The car is still sinking. More and more, until it goes completely under water.

Bubble, bubble, bubble…………………….

Now there is silence, broken only by the frogs’ croaking, like trumpets playing a funeral march…

Frogs playing the trumpet

Yeah, ok, that’s a bit of a sad story. I did not really want to have Chris die, but I decided to be true to my own suggestion.

Later, she also sent me the original first essay, the one about the dream. The guidelines were different and on that one he was supposed to write a creative story that included the following two phrases, one to start the story and the other to end it.

  • I couldn’t believe it…
  • Before I could do anything to stop it…

I must admit I like the dream one better than the froggie one. I did feel happy that he took my suggestion, but in the end, I still liked his original one more. Maybe it does reflect his personality better than having to write based on someone else’s idea…

In future posts I’ll try to create 2 more essays: another one, much lighter, for the trumpeter frogs, and one for the second option in the school exercise.