Saturday, March 29, 2008

Short Fiction on the Undergraduate Experience

Continuing the ideas from my last post: the following is an excerpt from a project I did for an undergraduate "writing for teenagers" course. Our assignment was to write the first chapter of a book (not the book itself, mind you) which could be marketed to high-school students.

My first chapter, incidentally, was determined to be too "complex" for teenagers to understand, and was judged to contain "too many references."

I'll let the story speak for itself. (It speaks best in Firefox; it'll look all jumbled in IE.)


When Miriam had been in sixth grade, her parents had let her attend a camp for young gifted students. At the time, Miri had loved it; even the goofiness of the icebreakers and the other organized events like Pie Fight and Pajama Day. Now, however, she felt ridiculous.

She had just finished writing in her journal about Orientation Week, the oddly-chosen name for the four days before classes officially began in which first-year students were subjected to all kinds of team-building torture inbetween mini-seminars on important details such as How to Use the Library. The 120 residents of Bryson Hall had all had to run through an obstacle course, sing the Name Game Song, and then sit quietly while a university staff member explained to them how their meal plan worked.

Miri hadn’t known exactly what to expect, but she hadn’t expected this. She had, she supposed, expected something along the lines of Dead Poets’ Society, where intimidatingly charming professors engaged bright young intellectuals in stimulating discourse about life, truth, and the hidden secrets of literature.

Of course, Dead Poets’ Society was actually about a prep school.

This, however, had never appeared in any movie or book about college life that Miri could remember – the experience of being told how to do everything, from using an online card catalog (with which Miri was already rather familiar) to making new friends (Risa had already divided the third floor into clusters, and at the end of each day the clusters met for a few moments to talk about their experiences and play more goofy games). In the meanwhile, there seemed to be continual candy. The RAs were practically plying them with candy. In cluster meetings, every time a resident was able to call anyone else by her correct name, Risa threw that person a Tootsie Pop or a Mini-Snickers. Candy and ice cream and freezer pops – it was still much too warm in the un-airconditioned dormitory.

Miri was baffled, and more than disappointed. She had applied to college, but found herself back in summer camp.


(Yes, before anyone asks, she's got the same name as my cat. ^__^)

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