Another Letter From the Emperor!

I attended the first class of Kathy Stinson’s writing class/workshop. I was among twelve eager and interesting students who wanted to learn more about writing for young people. There was a good mix of ages, a 6-1 ratio of women to men, and a very good atmosphere.

We started sharp at 7 p.m. Before we introduced ourselves, Kathy wrote a sentence on the board as an exercise in “free writing”. We were to write down the sentence and keep writing until Kathy told us to stop. No pausing for thought, and no revision. The sentence was “Another letter from the Emperor”, and this is what I wrote:

Another letter from the Emperor! War is certain. I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as the crisis has been building daily. The news services have made sure that it is on the backs of all our minds. Soon it will be war, and then all able-bodied men and women will be expected to enlist. We will be sent across the polar ice cap to die on the shores of an ancient land. And I will go.

Why is this? Why won’t I resist? I could give the standard excuses. Draft dodgers are severely punished. Used to be there was somewhere to dodge to; flee north to Canada. But that is not an option anymore.

So I will fight. And maybe I will die. Maybe I’ll have my name on a war memorial somewhere. Or maybe I’ll be injured. Sent home, thank God. To spend Rememberance Day in a wheelchair beside the other veterans while the Governor-General lays a wreath. Or maybe I’ll survive, to drown my sorrows in beer bought with stories of battle. If anybody is interested.

But they always are. Even of stories of the Norweigan campaign.

The news channel has just shown its first propaganda film, of the glories of fighting Vikings. Images of huge, blond, baboon-like men, wholly racist at any other time. But all is fair in love and war.

And back to the letter from the Emperor. Addressed to me, personally, though I notice that the signature is photocopied.

Not bad for fifteen minutes. The rest of the class was spent introducing ourselves, and talking about the various age levels of certain books. We also did a practise workshop. As none of us had brought anything in to be workshopped, we selected one of the free-writing samples: mine. Despite how rough it was, it seemed to go over well with the audience. And they got good practise pointing out what needed work.

This class was a good investment. I’m looking forward to next week.

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