For many months I had emoticon envy. In three-way texts between Sean and Linda, I watched them communicate with smilies, frownies, animals, foods and even small piles of poo (with eyes). One night at dinner my friend Beth changed my phone settings so I had emoticon abilities too.
“Look who is one of the cool kids now!” I messaged Sean and Linda followed inexplicably by a revolver, hypodermic needle, pencil, monkey covering its ears and that small pile of poo (with eyes).
Linda immediately replied with a fictional story behind my emoticons. “And the coach pulled his gun out of his duffle bag and aimed it at the kids shooting up behind the bleachers. ‘Stop monkeying around’ he said…”
Thus began our exchanges of random emoticons and the short stories they tell.
On our one Teachers-as-Writers Saturday a month, I wake up and never know what my class opener will be. I like it that way because it’s always spontaneous and inspired. Since today was the day we’d be reading the chapter on voice from Ralph Fletcher’s book, What a Writer Needs, I decided we’d write emoticon stories with voice for our warm-up.
Messaging several strings of emoticons to myself, I wondered what would become of these combinations. How might a gas pump, a dentist’s chair, a slice of pizza, fries and a baby bottle be synthesized? I took a screen shot of my emotostories, printed one for each writer and set off for class.
After choosing a set we each wrote for ten minutes. We could use all five emoticons or just a couple. They could be resequenced or reinterpreted as the writer saw fit. Here is what I drafted. Do you recognize the catalyst for my emotolit from the opening image?
It was July 17th and I remember that because I’d written: Adam–Dinner on the calendar square in hot pink pen. Adam the Vegetarian was going to make me dinner. Growing up in Omaha with a steakhouse on every corner, I was not, shall we say, excited about this meal. In fact, I had a back-up T-bone in the refrigerator.
He arrived with a handful of wildflowers tied up with lavender ribbon and I thought, “Laura Ingalls Wilder would love these.” But he was charming and energetic as he sliced and salted the eggplant for the Parmagiana he would make. “It needs to sweat,” he said.
At that point I splashed a heavy pour of the wine he’d bought into my stemless glass.
“Save some for the marinade,” he winked as he told me about his hike that day.
Leaning on the kitchen counter, I watched him work through the lens of my friends. He was muscly, fun, thoughtful, healthy and yet all I could think was, “How much of that red wine does he really need for the marinade?” He exhausted me.
Dinner was fine if eating sweaty vegetables is your thing. About thirty minutes after though my stomach lurched and bubbled dangerously. We were playing Yahtzee and I fingered the die on the coffee table. If an even number landed face up I’d sprint for the bathroom. Odd number? I’d walk slowly with my legs close together.
My writing group is full of talented, wonderful people who laughed at the right moments and hummed in appreciation of others. What I liked best about my piece was that it took me by surprise. I didn’t expect this cranky character to start complaining to me about her vegetarian suitor. She intrigued me.
Now I’m curious what students might do with EmotoLit. How might this stretch their writing muscles?
I invite YOU to share your own EmotoLit story for fun in the comment space below. Pick from one of mine or choose your own combination. Surprise yourself.