September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Victims of terrorism and war from around the world will join family members of September 11 victims for a joint speaking tour in the days immediately before and after September 11, 2002. The “No More Victims” tour, co-sponsored by September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the American Friends Service Committee, will place the human dimension and experience of the 9-11 attacks and of war at the center of the national debate over the "war against terrorism." In doing so, the participants hope to educate and to raise public consciousness about the meanings and consequences of the war by providing a thought-provoking dialogue in counterpoint to other, more ceremonial, remembrances of September 11. “In joining the 9-11 families with the voices and stories of others who have suffered around the world since September 11, we hope to shatter some of the illusions maintaining that ‘war will solve our problems,’” says tour organizer Joseph Gerson of the AFSC. “We firmly believe that the real lesson of September 11 is that war and violence are the problems, not the solutions.”
INKLINGS: Writing Well & Profitably for Books, Film, and Stage
This month: Islands in the Stream (of Consciousness)My nephew was melodramatically mortified when his Internet privileges were suspended for a week. "You may as well send me off to an island!" he groaned, convinced that seven days without a chat room would render him a social outcast.
Young people, of course, aren't the only ones who have become dependent on modern conveniences. All it takes for me is an unsettling afternoon with my mail server, a power glitch from a bad storm, or running out of cartridge ink on the same day my agent is waiting for me to send the latest book revisions. Could we ever go back to manual typewriters or-even worse-pen and paper after being so spoiled by technology?
The following writing exercises blend pop culture, imagination and core values into a forum where participants can explore how much-or how little-their environment defines who they are. Developed for a summer workshop for teens, even those who have been penning plots for much longer will find some new escapes for their flights of fancy.
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What is it about an island that makes it such a popular backdrop for literature, television, and feature films? Is it the isolation from society at large that allows the stranded wayfarer to reinvent himself? Is it the challenge of human survival, to draw upon one's strengths and inventiveness in order to create a safe and comfortable habitat? Or is it just the preference of the author to deal with a finite number of characters on one small patch of ocean-view real estate?
IT MUST BE FRIDAY
Back in 1719, Daniel Defoe was intrigued by the real life experiences of a man named Alexander Selkirk and, accordingly, penned a similar tale called THE LIFE AND STRANGE AND SURPRISING ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE. With only his wits and a few meager provisions to sustain him, Crusoe set out to forge a new existence. Companionship was brought his way in the form of a native who, without the hero's intervention, might otherwise have ended up as the appetizer for a tribe of cannibals.
Your Assignment: To your knowledge, you're the only survivor of an accident at sea and have washed up on an uninhabited island. There's enough natural food available on this tropic isle that you know you could stay there for a fairly long time until rescue comes. A few weeks pass and one day you suddenly encounter another human being. What does this person look like? Where did they come from? Did they just arrive or have they been living there longer than you have? Does he or she speak the same language you do? Is this person hostile or friendly? These are the questions you'll need to answer as you write a short story describing everything that happens the first time you meet.
Extra Credit: Hollywood wants to make a movie about your adventures. Write a synopsis of what's going to happen in this movie and who you'd cast as yourself and the other island inhabitant.
What does the vintage TV series LOST IN SPACE have in common with a classic novel written by Johann David Wyss in 1812? In addition to the same surname of "Robinson," both stories explored the theme of a family unit literally getting blown off course and ending up in a strange, scary world they hadn't packed for. For Wyss' core characters, the SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, it was an exotic South Seas setting replete with exotic animals, pirates, and enough raw materials to construct an elaborate, multi-branch treehouse. The Space Family Robinson, stranded on an uncharted planet, didn't have to worry about building a home from scratch (they brought their own) but they did have to contend with some of the network's doofier-looking extraterrestrials every week and a conniving stowaway named Dr. Smith.
Your Assignment: Love 'em or hate 'em, families are something you're pretty much stuck with for life. Imagine how you'd feel if you were stuck on an island with them for three entire months! There'd be no hanging out with friends at the mall, borrowing the car to go to Santa Cruz, or even having your own room. Write a conversation in which you, your siblings and your parents have gathered around a campfire for your first island meal and are trying to decide what the "rules" will be for living in this new environment. What are the strengths and weaknesses that each member-including you-will bring to the group's survival and level of morale?
Extra Credit: What do you think that living on an island with your family will change about the way you look at your life on the mainland after you get back? Write a letter to your best friend on your first day back in civilization and describe your feelings.
GINGER OR MARY ANN?
It has always defied explanation why five people would feel compelled to pack so much stuff for what was advertised as a three-hour cruise with The Skipper and his little buddy, Gilligan. From the opening credits, the SS Minnow didn't look to be that much bigger than the 20-foot cabin cruiser my parents owned and which felt claustrophobic with half as many passengers and a small dog. TV buffs have additionally pondered why it was so easy for everyone else (including astronauts) to regularly get on and off the island at will but the seven stars just couldn't seem to figure it out. Suffice it to say, the cast did provide fodder for a "guy debate" which has managed to endure longer than the series itself; specifically, would they rather date Ginger or Mary Ann?
Your Assignment: You've just been hired by a television studio to write a comedy script about seven strangers who end up living together on an island in the Pacific. From the following list, pick seven characters, assign them names, and write a paragraph about each one, including any quirks which distinguish their personalities.
A Construction Worker, A Ballerina, An Accountant, A Jewel Thief, A Teacher, A Homeless Person, A Postal Worker, A Waitress, A 5th Grade Math Whiz, A Travel Agent, A Cab Driver, A Lawyer, A Video Store Clerk, A Hairdresser, A Corporate Executive, A Zoo Keeper, A Sailor, A Shopkeeper, A Rabbi, A Gardener, An FBI Agent, A Championship Chess Player, A Game Show Host, A Politician.
Extra Credit: Write the first half-hour episode of this new series.
In 1979, Walter Farley's book, THE BLACK STALLION, was adapted to a feature length family film. In this story, a young boy and a magnificent black horse are the sole survivors of a violent storm at sea. They form a tentative alliance of trust in the first half of the film which will subsequently enable them to win an impossibly cliched and against-all-odds horse race in the second half.
Your Assignment: The bad news is that you're going to be marooned on an island. The good news is that you can have one animal of your choice to keep you company while you're there. There are only three restrictions to what you choose: (1) with the exception of birds, it can't talk; (2) it can't possess the size or ability to transport you off the island; and (3) you can't kill it and grill it.
Extra Credit: You are now marooned on a different island and come across an animal that does not exist anywhere else in the modern world. It can be prehistoric, mystical, or even from another planet. Assuming that you will be rescued and can take this creature with you, write a story in which you explain what you will do with it when you return to civilization.
HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, WILSON
Time takes on a whole new meaning to Tom Hanks' character, Chuck, in CAST AWAY. An efficiency expert for Fed-Ex, Chuck's view of the world and of himself is turned upside down when he washes ashore on the tropical strip of land that will be his home for the next four years. Two things sustain him in this lonely environment. The first is his love for his fiancÈe whom he hopes will still be waiting for him if and when rescue ever comes. The second is his affection for a volleyball he has named "Wilson" and with which he carries on one-sided conversations to keep from losing his mind.
Your Assignment: Instead of another human or an animal to keep you company for however long you are a castaway, all you have is one inanimate object. What is it, what name do you give it, and why is it important to you? Describe how you and this object spend a typical day on the island.
Extra Credit: A meteor storm has seriously crippled the intergalactic station you have been living on. Your only chance for survival is to take one of the space pods and hope that you have enough power to make it to the nearest star. You take a last look around and realize you can only take one memento with you. What is it going to be? And how will it help you keep your sanity as you wait for someone to rescue you from your "island" in darkest space?
Former actress and theater director Christina Hamlett is the published author of 17 books, 98 plays and musicals, and over 250 magazine and newspaper articles on the performing arts, humor, travel, and publishing. She is also screenwriter for an independent film company and is currently teaching an online script-writing class through WRITER ON LINE. Her latest book, a humorous essay collection called "HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CO-WORKERS ARE FROM MARS & Other Tales of the Workplace," is available at www.zeus-publications.com