Friday, April 18, 2008

The Test that was Fun to Take

We opened the mailbox yesterday when we arrived home and to our surprise, there was actually something in it other than credit card offers, catalogs addressed to "Current Resident", or Hy-Vee Advertisements.

My "writing assesement test" finally came! You may remember my mentioning this in a previous post "Me? A Writer...Perhaps." taking a random step towards a long-held dream of mine to write a children's book. I was beginning to wonder if my request got lost on piles of other "not really important things" on a desk somewhere in Connecticut at the Institute for Children's Literature.

I immediately opened the envelope fully expecting to see a "fill in the bubble" test that I have to use a #2 pencil to take. Nope. I found, to my delight, a wonderfully formatted, 5 page test that acutally looked fun! I could use pen, pencil, or what have you, to complete the test. To boot, it was completely based on my creative instincts. There is no wrong answer! I don't know why I expected a boring college-type test format. It was a test for the Institute of Children's Literature. I was also pleased to discover that the course (assuming I'm accepted) is, in fact, a correspondence course. So, I won't have to move to Connecticut, although I hear it's a beautiful state.

I'm almost done with the test (I can take it at my pace, too) except for the very last question. They ask me to tell a story from my childhood. That should be easy, but I'm already having writer's block...oh, boy. The rest of the test was a breeze. I got to pretend (I like pretending) that I was any age I wanted to be to answer the questions....answering them, of course, the way that particular age of my choice might answer. For example, one of the questions was "If you could be any one animal, which would you be?" I chose to be 12 1/2 years old and I wanted to be a unicorn, whose name was Starswept. Because unicorns are unique and beautiful and mysterious, even though some people say they aren't real, my 12 1/2 year old imagination claimed that as the very reason for their mystery and beauty, for the mystery of them is their beauty. See, I told you this was a fun test!

Then, I had to fill in the blanks of a small paragraph they gave with whatever words I wanted! Can it get more fun than this?! It was similar to a Mad Lib but, different enough...I wasn't required to think of an adjective, noun, verb, etc. Phew. I was glad, for once, to be asked to think outside of the box and allow my mind to roam freely with creativity! I filled out the blanks and was VERY pleased with the results. One small paragraph with blanks here and there...and I had a whole scenario in my head! I had conjured up a story to go with my new paragraph!

While I was taking the test, I was waiting for a sauce to boil for dinner (it over-boiled...imagine that) and Jim was working on the car. When he came in, I begged him to fill out the blanks of the same paragraph. I wanted to see how different or alike our minds worked. I had to convince him that anyone can write or create before he took my little challenge.

Here are our paragraphs, Jim's first, blanks noted with bold italics:

Johnny gazed across the purple waters of the little pond now in the late evening sunshine. He searched the surrounding shoreline for signs of his birchbark canoe, hoping to see it drift into view before the sun set behind the darkening forest. He could hear dinner being prepared from the house just behind him.

Johnny gazed across the shadow-filled waters of the deep canyon pond now in the orange blanket of the evening sunshine. He searched the trampled and muddied shoreline for signs of the deserted canoe, hoping to see it drift into view before the sun set behind the whispering forest. He could hear the lonely clinking of his mother preparing her evening tea from the house that once was filled with jovial clamor.

Two different paragraphs. Two different stories.

I told Jim I interpretted his as being a story about a boy, Johnny, who built a birchbark canoe with his dad. His dad went out to test it on the water and when he returned Johnny could go for a ride with him, but Johnny was worried that it would get dark soon, and dinner would be ready and he would have to wait til the next day to enjoy his new canoe.

Mine...well, oddly enough, while expanding my story's plot, I got teary-eyed. My Johnny was gazing across the water mourning the loss of his father, who took a canoe ride to a neighboring village and never returned. Johnny's father has been gone for quite some time now as you see his mother prepares her nightly tea alone, as she has done since her husband has been missing. As a reader, the void becomes more obvious during the portion, "...from the house that once was filled with jovial clamor." Sad, I know. But, I was elated that, from filling in the blanks of one measly little paragraph, my mind could be stimulated to such ideas! It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing/creative ability!

Me? A writer...perhaps.


HonorMommy said...

Beautiful are a born writer!

However, I think Jim's paragraph was more about how hungry and tired HE was than anything about Johnny :-D.

Jana said...

Sarah- I hope this is the beginning of your becoming a famous chidren's book author...and from reading this I wouldn't be surprised if it came true.
...and to think that I could say some day- "yes, I knew Sarah Engle" :)

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