The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popol Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K’iche’ nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously.
The Common Young Writers Program is a two-week (Monday-Friday) online creative writing program for high school students (rising 9-12). Taught by the editors and editorial assistants of Amherst College’s literary magazine, the summer 2020 course will focus on the short story. Through writing exercises and contemporary reading assignments from The Common, we will introduce students to the building blocks of fiction (scene, character, plot, image) and guide them through the process of writing and revising their own short stories.
This apple I have only just bitten into as I stand in the cool dank store room tastes of November, already old and fading, and my tongue, so often dulled by the anaesthetizing effect of regular wine drinking, red wine in fact, and never white which has always produced a low-level ache in what I assume is my liver and is thus to be avoided at all costs, my tongue, as I said, was ambushed by the apple’s unexpected weariness, yes, a tired and indecisive flavor that was perhaps on the turn, perhaps only a day away from being rotten, its wrinkled skin an obvious warning of what lay in wait as it pressed against the roof of my mouth.
From early morning, Arrayga had been smoking ravenously, cigarette after cigarette, staring blankly at the bedroom ceiling. When she opened the third packet, Kultouma came over and, eyes welling with tears, anxiously inquired: “Arrayga, calm down. What is it, sister? You’re going like a train: puff puff puff. Speak to me, Arrayga. What’s upset you?”
The ride on the train from Kosti, known as “the steamer,” marked the start of the summer vacation. As soon as it began, I felt a mixture of sadness and joy—joy that I would be traveling on the westbound train again, and sadness at leaving my hometown, which rang with daytime noises and the singing of the fishermen on the river. I sobbed when I thought I would never return to the town’s embrace. Had my young heart already surmised that my departure would take me to a faraway country, much farther than my child’s mind could grasp? With my grandmother as my traveling companion, I started to discover the story of my family, the countryside, and the towns where her sisters and the rest of the family lived.
Shazmina’s best friend, Gul Noor, died on a Monday, pinned down under the wheels of a speeding bus on the long road that stretched all the way down to the beach. Or maybe it happened on a Tuesday or a Saturday. Shazmina was never sure about the names for the days of the week. Monday-Thursday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Saturday melted, one into the other, like the trickles of oily water the buses left in their wake.