New Writing Lab Final Assignments

Here you can find the stories we wrote as our Final Assignments in the course CREATIVE WRITING ONLINE WITH ELIZA ROBERTSON.  Click on the links and the PDFs should automatically download.

ANDREW Bound by Blood and Bone

DOMINIC DEATH FM

SARAH Birds that Sing

RACHEL Auguries of Circumstance

PETER The African Leper

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26 thoughts on “New Writing Lab Final Assignments

  1. Peter, that is a fantastic piece. Autobiographical and yet, elegantly descriptive. A blind man could tell you have lived that. You must be very proud, not just of the story, but the life you have lived. Humbling.

    Dom

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      • Peter. That was a fascinating piece giving a unique insight into live in post-colonial Africa. I still remember as a child in the 1970s being inspired by priests and nuns who had served “in the mission field” – most commonly sub-Saharan Africa. I am guessing that this tale reflects your own experience? Was your choice of names for the leprous soldier by any chance inspired by Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram in 2 Kings 5? Your descriptions transported me to an expansive and very different world. I too have always loved H. Rider Haggard and I was right back there – although maybe a century or so later! Thank you.
        Andrew

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    • Rachel.
      That was a delightful piece with bursts of brilliance! I have not visited the USA beyond Disneyland but your piece encapsulates the vastness of the country, the wonder of nature and the eccentricities of some of the people. I will return to this and no doubt uncover additional nuggets of loveliness!
      Andrew

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  2. Rachel I enjoyed your piece America through English eyes and then the understanding and empathy-climate, politics, art, whimsy. I once drove that very road to visit The Grand Canyon and remember the shift in temperature and the snow-well done

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  3. Rachel – As a British person currently living in the US, I was so looking forward to reading your piece and it definitely didn’t disappoint! I find your style so lyrical and engaging, and the way you describe some of the nuances of US vs UK life are just perfect. I just loved that you start off with the weather – a British preoccupation for sure! The stereotype is absolutely true. We are obsessed with it and yet we get none of the extremes that they see on a daily basis in the US – just this week we have had two tornado warnings here in Kansas and people carry on as if nothing is happening. I can only imagine the pandemonium this would cause in the UK!

    I found the way you describe the vastness of the country really spoke to me too – I do find one of the most striking things when I travel anywhere is the overwhelming emptiness that a lot of the country is made up of, with cities often suddenly rising out of the barren landscape. It is vaguely disconcerting when you come from a country where a little village or town is always just around the corner!

    I also loved the way you talked about the history of the US, and particularly the sentence ‘History carried in the head does not ache like history living in the bones.’ I find that generally Americans have such a strong sense of their country’s history and identity, and are extremely proud of it, as short as it is! I think it gets emphasised very heavily in school here. I do find it interesting to talk about this kind of thing with my husband, especially given the current political climate, as he is American but spent many years in Germany as a child, and then again after leaving University. His perspective is interesting as someone who is American but can look at it through European eyes too.

    I just had to laugh when you talked about driving absolutely everywhere – even down the road for dinner! I remember this most vividly when we lived in Georgia for a short time when my husband was first back in the US after living in Germany for some years – I couldn’t believe where people would drive! Literally 1 minute down the road to get a drink at a bar… there wasn’t even an option to walk from our apartment block to the complex of restaurants and bars 5 minutes down the road as there was no pavement and no crossing over the 6-lane road, so they drive everywhere! Some people even had golf buggies to go to Walmart at the end of our street. I was shocked!

    Anyway, sorry for rambling on but I found your piece so evocative, particularly given my current living situation! Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll get my assignment up here soon…

    Suzy

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    • Thanks Suzy! It is particularly great for me to have ‘Auguries…’ read by a British person who is living in America right now. When I was in Arizona in January this year it was my first time in US and for that reason my impressions were vivid and have stuck in my memory. I did also have many photographs, some of which I referred to for certain details in the story, but the UK v. US conversations and my reactions to the differences in national attitudes (like you, I was shocked by the way towns and cities can be laid out so as to DIScourage walking!) were purely from memory.

      Reading Sarah’s ‘Birds that Sing’ I in my turn felt that the story resonated with me for personal reasons. What is interesting though is that I assume the story is set in present times but it actually resonates with me from a period in the late 1990’s when I had several friends/colleagues from Eastern European countries. Those countries had been gradually opening up since the end of the Communist era and musicians were freely able to come and study in the UK. After they had finished studying though they were often in a quandary because for various reasons they did not want to return to their home countries but also did not have employment status in the UK. The character of Hanna reminds me of some of those friends as they were then: the underlying insecurity of their position somehow crept into other kinds of insecurity, indecision, under confidence. Yet they had courage and talent too. And I love the way you have drawn the character of Lucy – confident and free of those insecurities herself but having so much empathy with Hanna.

      Rachel

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      • Thanks Rachel 🙂 My grandfather was Polish so I often lean towards Polish characters. I’m trying (and struggling) to learn the language. After the referendum last year I found the attitudes and hate crimes towards Polish people and other EU workers disturbing. I also think a lot of people now are wary of bringing children into the world but I was struck by something when I read A Thousand Splendid Suns recently, where the main character’s father says something along the lines of ‘One day Afghanistan will need girls like you’. So the story was an attempt at something hopeful 🙂

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  4. Dom, disturbing and an absorbing insight. I wanted to know more about “what went before”. The cat is beautifully drawn. Well done

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  5. Sarah – I feel like Birds that Sing is great in the classic short story way – taking a moment or single scene and illustrating it so it breathes life and tells a whole much broader story. It’s so well calibrated – the dialogue and description feel naturalistic but never arbitrary. Perhaps most importantly, by the time it finished, I felt differently inside – moved, enlivened. Beautiful work, be proud!

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  6. Dom, I’d missed these characters so much! So great to see them again, and your evocative writing. What a wild journey! I’m curious as to how you plotted this out – it flows like a river and just sucks you in, but it seems too long to have been written in one long session and then edited. Echoing Peter, some of the images here are breathtaking. I got chills as the story built. The way you build mood is scintillating. Argh- this is good!

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    • Thanks you. That means a lot. Glad it has stuck with you. Sorry I am bit late to the party as it were. Been tinkering with a possible fantasy piece and have been drafting some cover letters for agents. I’ll email Rachel and get her to upload the first 2000 words if you are interested? I think Andrew may be!!!!!!!!!

      Dom

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  7. Ahhh Rachel, I loved Auguries of Circumstance! I don’t always find it completely easy to visualise places when I read but it just felt like you were taking me on a journey, I could imagine it all so clearly. I think it’s beautiful the way the journey comes full circle, back to the starting point at the end. Your writing style is always so fluid and evocative, and the descriptions of the snow at the beginning were stunning.

    I particularly loved this line: ‘Maybe humour has its own horizon though, a point at which its frothy surface meets the cold grey line of reality.’

    Amazing stuff 🙂

    Sarah

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  8. Dom, I really really think there needs to be a whole book or even books about Jared 🙂 I love these characters and your use of language as always is beautiful. Echoing Sophia, the way you build the mood here is brilliant, I loved the song playing on the radio and the way you interspersed the story with lyrics – so eerie. Also, Flint is awesome, I’d love to read more about him!

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  9. Dominic! Wow! I want more! You should write for Doctor Who! Please post when your first book comes out. I shall want a signed copy.

    So where to start. The story is as usual utterly gripping. I love your use of the radio and of music to change the mood – and particularly your use of combining the incongruous to heighten tension. The use of Oranges and Lemons coming through the radio to carry the story forward to a climax was brilliant. You hint at ancient, dark magic accessible through the mundane – appleseeds and butter. The only fault was that … I want the rest of the story!!

    Keep it up mate.

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