Writing the Novel with Carolyn Cohagan 2021
Writing the Novel is a class designed for campers who want to work on a long story. You can imagine that for a novelist this class is a favorite to teach. We work on story structure, character development, inciting incidents, and finding conflicts big enough and interesting enough to sustain an entire book.
This summer’s group wrote wildly imaginative pieces in different genres. I was consistently impressed by their storytelling abilities and use of language. Please enjoy their work! - Carolyn Cohagan
By Sofia Avalos
My steps echoed quietly as I made my way down the dark hallway, the only light coming from the slowly fading aura lamps lining the walls. The disgustingly familiar smell of sweat and dirt-tinged blood shoved its way up my nostrils and the thunderous roar of the crowd grew louder as I reached the light at the end of the corridor. Right before I exited the tunnel, I took a steadying breath and checked that my simple wooden mask was still secured and covered my face. I brushed my gloved fingers against the top of my head to see if my charcoal gray hood was still in place and hid my ivory-colored hair from view. Then I stepped out into the light. The screaming and howling of the audience became deafening. As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I began to pick out the familiar sights before me. The tall, chainlink cage that separated me from the shifting mass of people outside of it was swaying dangerously as audience members banged their fists against the metal and attempted to climb the structure to get a better view. Already a few simply masked and face-painted spectators sat precariously atop the cage trapping me in. Harsh light shone down from the cavernous ceiling above me and onto the dirty sand beneath my feet; blood spattered the ground in random patterns and erratic splotches. A few teeth, some not entirely human, lay scattered on the floor. The stench of body odor and dirt nearly made my eyes water. Finally, my gaze landed on the most important thing before me: my opponent. Through the slits of my mask and the haze of dust kicked up from previous fights, I could see that he was twice my size and built like an ox. Long greasy bits of hair hung down around his face and what seemed to be a pair of tusks protruded from his jaw. When his yellow-eyed stare locked on mine, he licked his lips and his bloodied mouth split into a grotesque smile. I sighed and then glanced to my right where the short Match Handler stood clutching a red flag in his hand. He nodded curtly to me and to my adversary before raising the fraying flag above his head. He held it there for about three seconds, letting the suspense build. The crowd
shrieked even louder as they waited in anticipation. Finally, he dropped it. I saw the crimson stain of red flutter to the ground in slow motion. As soon as the fabric brushed the bloodstained sand, the man before me charged and swung his meaty fists at my face. I evaded his eager punches with ease and nearly laughed. This is who they were going to make me fight? Beneath my mask, I smirked. This was going to be easy.
by Avital Cuevas
I push a piece of rubble of of my head i open my eyes to see rubble everywhere what used to be a beautiful council room I suddenly remember everything i jump up as fast as i can bits of rubble and dust fall of of legs i race across this new wasteland i hear a voice “qin?”it says “Jacob???” I say turning. Too understand what just happened you might need to go back a little to twelve year old me crouching in my school's auditorium looking for a pencil that i dropped during morning announcements my mom was late as always so i had a while to do whatever i heard the door shut i jumped forgetting i was under a chair now with a searing pain on my head i keep on the side of the while hoping no one will see me technically i wasn’t supposed to be here i see my reflection in the window and gasp my hair is glowing shoot! I hear voices``so i’m thinking we blame my bad grade on the weird kid who sits next to me and then daddy will feel bad and buy me a gucci purse” I began to panic that’s the voice of sarah cort she is the spoiled brat of the school and the last person i need to find out that i am a alien I hear my phone rigginging i stare at it please don’t give it away please don’t give me away i think I hear the voices coming closer i can’t get caught the conceal could have sent anyone but they chose me if i fail this i will expose all of the alien community and on top of that i will have let down the whole community and the council members they might die! No, there is no way I can’t fail! I remember the day my mom gave me the earrings i was only four but there had been some talk about the utopia ending so my mom had rushed out to the store to get me the earrings she had told me to click on them if i ever needed to be at home please work i think while pushing the button a few seconds later i am at home thank goddess that was to close “Qin! You're home” my mother says rushing up to me, her long flowing silks of her gown following behind her “you didn’t think i would miss meridiem do you?” i say while my little sisters run into me “hey guys do you like your dresses?” I asked, smiling “yes!” my youngest sister lilian said “but can you help me do the french braid you always do for me mommy and daddy tried but i looked more like buster than anything she said pointing to our dog buster “yah pets are like one thing that humans have that is cool” said my oldest sister walking into my room she was her smile was glowing more than her dress “whoa what's turned you into a grin” i ask laughing as my sister now turners her face into a giant goofy smile “just happy that we can family celebrate meridiem together now that the utopia is no longer threatened” she says helping lillian zip up the back of her dress a hour later we are all ready “ready?” my dad asked us ready we all say turning and stepping into the portal to the court.
By Lauren Geller
I wouldn’t say killing her was a pleasure of mine, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it because then I would be lying. Seeing her on the floor was like my hopes and dreams finally reaching back into my body. The sun shone a little brighter, the grass was a little greener, and the birds sang a little more beautifully, but let’s go back to chapter one of this Grimm fairytale.
My parents met in a small drugstore in town. They both wanted a Coke, because it was the hottest day of the year, but my dad got to it first. My mom was disappointed, until she saw my dad outside the drugstore on a park bench offering her a cup of the soda. It seems like a romantic love story. Girl meets guy, they fall in love and live happily ever after, right? Wrong. They dated for about eight months before they were engaged. A month before their fairytale wedding, my mom found out that my dad was cheating on her when she was going to tell him that she was going to have a baby, me. My mom was heartbroken, but they didn’t call off the wedding because my dad was going to marry the other girl. Plot Twist! My mom had an emergency birth when I was born because of a car accident. I was born three months early and mom didn’t survive the procedure, so I was sent to live with my dad. My father and step-mother were horrible to me, a classic fairytale, and made my life a living hell on earth. It was mostly my step mother who locked me in the basement for days on end without food or made fun of me for my looks. She always said it was all because my good for nothing mother should have never had me and I spent all of their money to stay alive. I could tell that even my own dad didn’t love me, because he told me at least once a day. My horrible, really evil step mom made me cook, clean, and take care of her two nasty dogs, Amara and Amon. I looked it up and both their names mean devil, go figure. I was never allowed out of the house because I was untraditional and abnormal.
We lived in a one-story farmhouse, without a farm. My stepmother always said that she was too pretty and perfect to scoop up horse poop and feed pigs slop. There was a barn, though. I would spend some of my freetime there, playing pretend with the mice and cockroaches. There were huge wheat fields right in front of my house where I would make wheat-crowns and pretend to be the queen of the fields and my throne was high in the trees. These were the days when my parents left for hours on end and forgot to tell me. Other days I had to run three and a half miles into town to get milk, eggs, meat, and other ingredients for the meals I would be serving to my parents and then walk back. If I didn’t run on the way to town, my stepmother would scream at me, saying,
“You ungrateful jerk. You were trying to steal my money. We thought we would have to call the police to find you and that takes money that we should be spending on ourselves, But no! Little Niomi needs all the money to herself. If you got lost and died we would no longer have a maid!”
So much love in that house. But if I ran back home, something would break and then I had to go back into town and I would end up being yelled at, too.
Then one day, I was told to pack my bags because we were going to travel to New Camden so I could attend the School for Unruly Girls. This is not a Harry Potter story where I learn my magical abilities or Mathilda where I learn my worth because I was a child prodigy, no this wasn’t hell on earth, it was just hell. Everyone had the same clothes, brown and army green checkered knee length skirts, a white collared shirt, grey sweater vest with the school emblem, a snake, and a brown tie. We also wore Mary Janes and ankle length white socks. On day one, the teachers had us dye our hair the same shade of ugly brown. There was oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and fruit for breakfast everyday. We always had to have protein, grains, and fruits or vegetables on our plate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wore these tragic clothes and ate these unoriginal meals seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year. The School for Unruly Girls also had a summer program to get ahead on lessons and have limited “fun” around the dungeon-like campus. SUG was also a kindergarten- high school program and I started when I was five, my step mother got rid of me for the rest of my life as a minor and because I would be an adult, I wouldn't need her anymore. It was a cruelly genius plan, if I do say so myself.
My teachers would gossip about me and stare at me during their lunch breaks. They would comment about how thin I was and that they rarely saw me eat. It was like I was a zoo animal on display for their pleasure. They noticed how I went to the library during recess, not to read but to look around at the covers. I would stay in my room during holidays and watch family’s hug in the courtyard. I’m not going to lie, I was a depressing kid and all of my teachers noticed, but did nothing about it. That was until I met Ms. Clarice in ninth grade. In high school we had a choice of electives, Home Ec, Woodshop, or Greenhouse. I picked greenhouse because everyone picked Home Ec and I was more of an introvert.
I stepped into the classroom on the first day and saw a plump, old woman with kind eyes and a pink smile packing up. She seemed shocked when she saw me in the doorway.
“I am so sorry. I’ll be leaving soon,” she said
“Oh no,” I started “I was just looking for-”
“Home Ec is in the classroom to your right. Hear all of those giggling girls?”
“No, I am looking for Greenhouse,” I said, confused.
She dropped her books on the floor and I ran to help her pick them up.
“Really? You chose Greenhouse over Home Ec? They always have open seats.”
“I’m not really a… Home Ec type of person,” I responded
“Ah. Same here,” She had gray hair and wrinkles on her face, but it was a kind face, a face that I would remember for the rest of my life. She took me across the campus to a small, beat-up, brick building surrounded by overgrown shrubs and flowers, vines and ivy. There were statues that looked at least a hundred years old. The most magnificent part was the glass roof. Sure there were windows but when we walked into the tall classroom, the sun hit the glass just right and a rainbow appeared at my feet. I couldn’t help but smile. Plants and fruits and vegetables were everywhere, growing out of the ground and the vines were climbing higher and higher across the walls, trying to reach the ceilings. The little amount of tile you could see was blue and white checkered across the room. The rest was covered in dirt or in the shadow of the huge bright-as-the-sun yellow sunflower. There were smaller ones beneath it but this was the most natural thingI i've ever seen. I spun around, laughing, and said,
“I have never felt at home anywhere except here!” I was ecstatic to be here. Mud-covered cabinets that held tiny, colorful seeds and sinks lined with watercolors and fertilizer.
“They tried to cut my department, but I grow most of the veggies and fruits for the dining hall, but I haven’t seen a student in over a decade.
“I have no idea why,” I told her. “This place is more magical than Home Ec in its best,”
The smell of the greenhouse was sweet and hot. I could smell the warm mud, but somehow, it comforted me. It reminded me of my early childhood in the countryside of Denver. There was always humidity in Denver, even though it was always cold. I slowly spun around the room, taking it all in again. I was flooded with deja vu from the fields. I walked towards the back of the room and Ms. Clarice offered me an old Def Leppard tee shirt and I put it on over my uniform. I put my long dark brown hair in a ponytail. We were allowed to grow our hair any way we wanted, but there were a few limits.
“You might want to put your locket and earrings in the lockers,”
“I’m okay,” I responded. I loved butterflies. My mom might have not given me a name, but she gave me a beautiful gold locket with blue and purple butterflies. I put a picture from an old photo book I stole in my dad’s office. I also added a picture of myself. It felt like I had a connection with her somehow. I kept it on and my earrings, too.
The room was dim and dark, with no light when the sun went behind a cloud. Ms. Clarice offered me a fresh blackberry. My favorite! The bittersweet fruit exploded in my mouth and I never wanted to leave. Ms. Clarice introduced me to her Venus fly trap, Ivy and taught me about water amounts and types for each plant. The orchid needed ice cubes and the pink flowers needed sparkling water. From that day forward, I spent my free time and recess in the greenhouse. I would learn about plant anatomies, grow fruits and veggies for the dining hall, and spend time with Ms. Clarice. She was the closest thing I would ever have to a mother. I chose greenhouse next year for sophomore year and when I entered the room, I asked Ms. Clarice,
“When am I going to learn about poisonous plants?” She pretended not to hear me.
“I am the only student in this class. When can we learn about poisonous plants?” she sighed and put her hand across her forehead, like she was thinking long and hard about how to answer my question.
“If you can give me three well thought out answers to that question and they are valid, strong answers,” she sighed again. “Then yes,”
City of Secrets
by Jasper Lapenn
Ahhhhhh, I breathed in the salty, stale air of the tavern, free of the cold that gripped the outside world, I closed the door, covered in peeling gray paint and stains, the hinges creaked. I saw a man with a greying beard and a large, brown cloak, entertaining a large crowd in the back, I bought myself some ale and drank, sour. I decided to listen to this man's tale, he said that he had worked for the king, he spoke of strange things, how could this man, who said he worked for the high king go spilling his most confidential secrest without a second thought, I had to find out who he really was. When his tale was over the crowd, thinking it was all made up, cheered, this man was going to tell me who he was or else… I thought as I strode through the crowd searching in vain for his brown cloak, in a crowd so big and so many people dressed in the same color I soon gave up hope, but then I saw him slip out of the tavern and silently shut the door behind him. I ran forward throwing the door open, I flew out onto the snow, I saw him dash around the corner almost as if he knew I was tailing him. I sprinted forwards but lost my footing on the slippery snow gripping the cobblestones, getting back up I looked around to see where he might have gone, nothing. But wait there he was, between the baker's shop that sold ridiculously overpriced muffins and the cobbler's house I ran forward and saw him hesitate at the end of the alleyway. This allowed me to catch up with him… Thwoomp, the sound of his body hitting the floor echoed down the deserted streets, I grabbed a knife. “Please let me go” I heard a high pitched voice scream, “ha I said nice try, no crappy fake voice is gonna fool me!”
“No, dont hurt me please” the voice said “I just wanted some bread.”
“Some bread?” I repeated, “Spilling the king's secrets don't get you bread.”
“That's a matter of perspective,” said a voice from underneath the hood, this was his real voice, the voice of the gray bearded man from the tavern.
“ Come friend join us,” was the first thing I heard when I woke up,
“Who are you?'' I asked, looking behind me.
“I thought that was apparent.” he said from underneath his hood.
“Wait, you're the guy from the bar! The one who knocked me out!” I scrambled up and threw a punch at him.
He dodged, “relax stranger. I knocked you out so I could bring you here.'' For the first time I examined my surroundings I was in a large stone room with a large wooden table covered with a fraying white tablecloth, ale and food piled on it in mounds. All around me people in serving uniforms were talking and playing around. I even saw one guy playing a song for some dancers, “Don't fall in love with the traveling girl, she'll leave you broke and broken hearted!”
“Where am I?” I asked the man behind me
“We are in the servants quarters underneath ‘The Pit’” The Pit, was another name for The Castle.
“Wait… if you're a servant then how do you know the king's secrets that you spilled at the tavern?” I asked
“I am no servant!” The man removed the hood of his cloak,
“Lord Sebastian!” I exclaimed when I saw his grey beard, large
nose and face, covered in knife scars. “What are you doing, spilling secrets like wine!”
“Its time.” he replied
“Time for what”
“Time to fell the king. You have seen what he does, he must be taken down. You could be a very valuable asset in our endeavor.”
I thought for a moment, this would be hard and dangerous… but the reward...
“I will help, but . . . I want . . . 2.5 billion.”
“Type?” the man asked
The man laughed
“MEN!” Captain Baldwin shouted “get the ropes! Steady, steady, THROW!” The 2 men on either side threw their ropes to the people on the dock and we eased in. I disembarked and looked around, the streets still smelled terrible, the buildings were mostly in shambles, good to be back. After dropping off my stuff I headed to the tall tower in the middle of the city and opened the door, I had only taken one step in when I had to duck, “you!” A man, nearly 7 and a half feet tall and covered in animals pelts roward. He punched again. “C’mon” I said.
“C’mon what!” he responded, you think you can waltz back in after 10 years! After betraying the brotherhood!”
“I have news” i responded
“I don't care!”
“But do you care about 1.7 million gold and a new king installed on the throne of Citharn?”
“Explain,” he demanded.
“I will, but first, get the rest of the brotherhood to meet me at The Shaylot at dusk.”
“Will do,” he said and stomped off.
“Ahh, friends, we are gathered here today to discuss–”
"I don't care what we're here to do as long as it involves smashing your head to a pulp,” Three Eyed Eyo said.
“Booooooooooring,” Zagan respond
“You think that he can just swagger back in here after everything he did and not get any punishment!”
“No. I don't think that but I think face smashing is a stupid idea. I vote... execution. All in favor say ay”
“Ay,” said everyone in the room, even Arch
To be continued . . .
by Leah Panga
I pace back and forth examining my plans. None will work. I’m running out of options. If only dad was here. He’d have the access and permission, but for all I know, he’s probably dead by now. I check outside, it’s the same deal. Protesters marching through the streets and the guards showing them home. Not in a pretty way. I run to the kitchen, maybe something there will be useful. I check the cabinets, nothing but spices. I open all the drawers at once, just to make things a little faster. Nothing in thee either. All the rooms have nothing but junk. I sigh the only option I have are one of my plans, which all have no hope.
“Arav,” my sister calls.
That’s not a good sign, my sister never calls me so precariously. I rush to the bedroom, which isn’t so far, considering that our house is more like a hut. One bathroom, one bedroom, and one kitchen. All we need to live. My mother is lying on the bed, four mats on the floor. I sit beside her, my sister on the other side.
“What happened”, I ask.
“Her temperatures rising,” she says, dipping a hand towel in a steel bowl filled with ice cold water.
“Arav, you need to go soon, or she may not make it.”
Her voice is calm, but her eyes are filled with worrisome.
I sigh. “I know Dhriti, I know,” and then I pause for a moment. I never dare to ask this question since I don’t want to believe the outcome, but I need to ask it now.
“How long does she have?” My voice all shaky.
“I don’t know, maybe a few weeks, few months,” she says, not a quiver in her voice.
“Give me your best bet,” I tell her.
“2 months, maybe another half month is she holds on,” she looks at mom.
Mother has always been there for us. Even when dad had left. “Are you positive,” I ask. She nods her head, and I trust her.
Before the British had taken over and made all these crown rules, we owned tons of books. Most of them were about health and science. Mom had made sure we knew what to do in case of a medical emergency. Dhriti had memorized all the info from the health books in hope of becoming a doctor, and it’s a good thing she did. Even if she won’t become a doctor anytime soon.
She was always smart for a nine-year-old. Getting straight A’s in class and offers for move up in grade, but that was when we actually had school. “Arav,” Dhriti calls, her voice breaking my thought, “tell me you have a plan in place.” I want to lie straight through my teeth and say yes, but the stakes are too high. Besides, Dhriti can tell if I’m lying, she’ll catch me right away. I say no.
“Let me help then, let me tag along,” she says, a hint of eager in her voice.
“No,” I say, “it’s too dangerous.”
“Look around you Arav, there’s danger everywhere, and we survived this long.”
“Who will take care of Mom then, I certainly can’t.”
“Her symptoms will stay the same, they won’t get worse for another month or so,” she tells in her matter-of-fact voice.
“It’s too risky Dhriti,” I say getting a little frustrated. She senses my frustration and backs down slightly.
“Please Arav,” she pauses as if this next piece will hurt.
“Every time I treat Mother it seems like there’s no chance she’s going to make it.”
The piece does hurt. It slices right through my heart.
“At least let me help devise the plan.”
Her voice is soft now.
We head to the kitchen and grab all the spices out from the cabinets. We have no paper or pens to sketch out our plans, so we draw with spices. Dhriti grabs the turmeric powder and I grab the chili powder. After a while we view the two plans. Both are good. Dhriti’s is more sophisticated and lengthy while mine is, lets just say, not that great compared to Dhriti’s. We go with Dhriti’s plan.
Dhriti explains to me what I should do but knowing Dhriti she probably has a role in all this too. So, I straight up ask her, “What’s your role in all this?” To my surprise she explains and with no fear at all. I guess that’s why my parents named her Dhriti, it means courage. The plan starts tomorrow, so until then, we wait.
My shift begins at five in the morning, I work as a tailor. A lot of my friends back then would tease me saying stitching and weaving are for girls, but who knew, it came in handy. I head toward my station. I feel the grains of dirt and rocks jumping in my sandals, The sun is starting to rise, illuminating the area. After 15 minutes, I’m face to face with the castle like dungeon, made with irregular white shaped stone. This place was originally a lookout, and it did it’s job well. It even spotted the British coming, with guns in their hands, and higher technology that we could never obtain.
I can never forget the panic in the area when the gong had echoed. People gathering the food they had and scurrying their kids to the basement, where they hoped they would stay hidden. The ones who joined the army quickly put on their gear and grabbed their swords. It was the last time I ever saw my dad. I shake the thought away and walk inside the castle like dungeon. The smell of coal hits me, piercing my nose.
The miners shift collides with mine, so I smell coal for all the days I work. Which is pretty much every day. I take a few steps forward and turn left where an oval shaped sign greets me at the entrance of the room. It says “sewing” in black, bold, capital letters. The white in background has become all dirty now, looking like a rusty tan color.
The construction crew’s shift has just ended, and that’s my cue to start.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Stars, Diamonds, and The Course of the Universe
by Lucinda Tedesco
It is beautiful. It is beautiful and rough and wildly imperfect. It smells cold and earthy, like if you pulled back the broken stone and the loose-packed dirt you would find layers of untouched ice. Pristine, and spotless, and never-ending. This place has the kind of rich beauty that make you think of Lyon and Marseille, but unlike these places, it looks real. It’s dingy, and un-sanitized in a way that isn’t rustic. And the buildings look like a tsunami has gone over them washing away the color. The effect is incredible, but a little foreboding. The people are just as real as the town with tired faces, and jeans that look like they were made before the Industrial Revolution. I look where we are going and concentrate on reading the street names to calm myself down. Even now, I remember the street name. Little did I know it would change my life. “Place De Mairie” it was called which was pretty enough, although I Didn't have very much time to think about it considering what I saw next. The first thing I noticed was the light. It was soft and hazy and beautiful, like a Sofia Coppola movie I watched for film class. After that everything else about the scene flooded my head. The woman in her old-fashioned night-dress kneeling on the ground. The modest, kitchen with porcelain crockery and then the flowers, planted in rich, healthy soil in a rainbow of rouge, and vermilion, and peach, and lavender. It was a lovely garden, yet it would have been perfectly average if not for the fact that they were growing out of the floor and the woman seemed to be tending to them.
by Vivi Won
I’ve worked my whole life for this moment. I’ve waited four whole years for these two minutes.
I’ve only dreamed about this moment, but it’s finally real. My thoughts interrupt me when I hear my name being reverberated around the arena. I look at the judges’ table and I watch them as they are still deciding the score from the last competitor. In the meantime, I take a deep breath and think positive thoughts. I close my eyes and block out all the shouting and echoes coming from all over the stadium. In my head I imagine myself doing my beam routine that I’ve been practicing everyday up until now. I’ve remembered this routine so well I basically can replay it in my sleep. I imagine myself doing a perfect backflip on the beam. Sticking the landing, perfectly. I envision myself doing my whole routine without a single flaw, acing every move, until I suddenly see myself fall. I don’t know where or how it happened so I start to panic. The thought sends a shiver down my back and I feel my breath being taken away from me. This has never happened before. I was so busy panicking, I didn’t realize the judges’ were calling my name to start my routine. I freeze. I feel my confidence level drop and feel a wave of overwhelming fear hit me. I try to push the negative thoughts out of my head, but they’re stuck and I don’t know what to do. Right now, the last thing I should be doing is panicking. At this moment I should be as professional as possible. I have done this routine hundreds of times and I’ve trained to be prepared for this moment. But here I am rethinking my life choices, questioning my well being, and regretting being here.
I nervously look up at my family. My parents, my little brother and sister, my grandma, and my aunt. I feel so guilty; they’ve traveled so far, across a whole ocean to get here. A lot of my team members’ families didn’t even think about coming here, so I am beyond lucky to have my family here to support me. My family has sacrificed their time and money just to be here. And then here I am letting my family down and letting my nerves get the best of me. I see them looking over at me. They have enthusiastic looks on all their faces, but when our eyes meet their expressions change. My parents look at me with a concerned face. And at that moment I knew I'd let down my parents. My parents have always been my biggest cheerleaders. They’ve supported me ever since I was a young girl. Like when I told my parents I wanted to become a gymnast. They signed me up for all the gymnastics classes I wanted. At that time, my family was struggling with money but they did whatever they could to help me achieve my dream. The only reason my family is financially stable now is because of me and my career. I have built a successful career for myself and my family. I remember the first time I got my first paycheck for an endorsement. I gave it to my parents because I knew they were struggling. They now call me their lucky star. Basically, I am my family’s only hope and if I wasn’t as successful as I am now, I’m not sure what our lives would be like.
If you told me yesterday that I would be panicking at the beginning of my beam routine at the Olympics I would laugh and think that you were crazy. Well, here I am. Panicking at the beginning of my beam routine at the Olympics. It probably didn’t look like I was panicking on the outside, but on the inside I was for sure. On the outside I probably looked like an idiot because I couldn’t move a muscle. I was frozen. This feeling was so weird because I’ve never had stage fright or anxiety. I’ve never frozen or panicked on the spot, especially when it came to gymnastics. I’ve always been a performer. I loved being in the spotlight. So, now you can see how I would be so confused. It felt like the whole world had just stopped. I couldn’t hear anything and I couldn’t see anything. It was like I was in a quiet pitch black room without any way to escape. My breathing started to hitch and it felt like I was going to be sick. I closed my eyes, hoping this was all a nightmare. I always imagined my Olympic debut to be perfect, but this, this was far from perfect.
Amongst all of the cheers and shouting of the crowd around the arena, only one of the voices comes out clearly to me. It’s my sister. Her encouraging and loud voice suddenly snaps me back to reality. I realize that my envision of me falling during my routine was just a thought. It wasn’t real. And now I would make sure it didn’t happen. I forced a smile on my face and started my routine. It went well, I did every move pretty flawlessly, except for that my legs were shaking half way into the routine. During my performance I wasn’t thinking about anything. I was just making sure I was doing my moves like how I envisioned them before my whole panic attack, except the part where I fell.
It was the second day of the Olympics. Me and my team were on the tram heading towards the Arena. Last night, when I was in our dorm, my parents called me, they comforted me and told me to forget about earlier that day. They told me everything was alright and said that I was great. But, I knew they were just saying that because they were my parents. My team members also comforted me, but again, they were only doing that because they’re my members. Nobody is saying the truth about how badly I really screwed up. Last night, I didn’t sleep much. I practically had a nightmare about what happened earlier, so I could barely keep my eyes open right now. I took a deep breath and looked out the tram window, trying to let all negative thoughts out of me. I took a second to take in the view. Japan was really pretty. The weather was nice, just a little hot. The skies were a perfect light blue with many clouds and the cherry blossom trees looked beyond beautiful. I assured myself today would be a good day and yesterday was just something to forget about. I wasn’t too confident, but I felt as if I was confident enough to look confident. Suddenly I felt a hand rubbing my back. I looked next to me. It was my team member, Allysa. “You alright? You look down.” She said, comforting me. Maybe I didn’t look as confident as I thought. “Don’t think about yesterday, you were great anyways. Today is a new day. Things will go better.” I wouldn’t say her words helped me a ton, but they helped me enough. I smiled and thanked her. Maybe she was right. Things couldn’t get worse than yesterday, right?
Soon after, our tram was pulling up into the Arena. I felt as if my heart had jumped out of my chest. I was practically shaking, thinking about the most negative things, I tried not to, but the memory of me screwing up yesterday kept replaying in my head and it haunted me. We went through the athlete entrance where all the competitors that are performing go through, instead of going through the regular entrance. I felt so cool going through the athlete entrance. I felt like royalty or something.
We got dressed and did all of our makeup in our dorms, so once we made it through the athlete entrance, we just walked right into the arena. We were one of the first teams there. The Russia team was warming up on vault, while the Chinese were stretching on the floor. We were still in our warm up suits so we took them off and were left in our red leotards. Our leotards have these really annoying sequins. They hurt me so much. Like if I’m on my back stretching or doing my floor routine, these sequins will jam themselves into my back. They’re really pointy and so annoying. Get this, they’re also covered all over the front of my leotard and on the sleeves. It’s not fun. I would really like to have a talk with the person who designed these leotards. I’m not sure if I hate these pointy sequins more or my performance on beam yesterday, probably my performance.
The Arena’s air was filled with chalk dust. I kept on coughing and chalk dust kept on accidentally going in my mouth. It also smelled like feet and sweat. I’ve gotten used to this disgusting smell by now since I’ve been doing gymnastics for over 7 years. I could hear the other couches yelling from across the arena. Today I’ll be doing the event bars. Bars is my favorite event so I really hope I do well. At least I know I’ll do better than yesterday, is what I hope. I get my bag and put on my grips. Grips are used to enhance the gymnast's grip on bars that prevent you from getting blisters and rips on your hands. I make a disgusted face because once I put on my grips a sticky, sweaty feeling meets my hand. My grips smell like feet, just like the arena.
After putting on my grips people start pouring into the Arena and the seats are almost filled. I’m sitting on the benches with my team, preparing to start our first event when I suddenly hear my name being shouting behind me. I turn around to see my family. Although, I can barely see them since they’re so far away. But I can still see that they’re cheering like crazy and smiling ear to ear. I smile back and wave to them. My little sister, Abby, was holding up a sign that had my name in big colorful letters. I smile once again. At this moment I forgot all of my bad thoughts. I had my family cheering for me and that means the world to me. My sister also wants to become a gymnast just like me, so of course she looks up to me as her role model. I remember when I asked my family if they wanted to come to Japan and watch me in the Olympics my sister started freaking out. I smiled at the memory and then turned around to focus on the competition and prayed I wouldn’t mess up like yesterday.
To be continued . . .