Written April 21, 2020

And just like that, we’re back to class. Well, not exactly. We still aren’t supposed to leave our homes and school is still cancelled for the rest of the year. But as of Monday, April 20, Front Street Writers is happening again.

I got an email from Ms. Berry on Friday with a letter attached, explaining the plan for the rest of the year. We will be using Google Meet, which is similar to Zoom or a group Facetime call, to see each other twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Our teachers will continue posting daily writing prompts for us, giving us excerpts of things to read for discussion during our virtual meetings, and putting us in pairs to further explore specific genres, topics, or pieces that interest us.

Unless we have work to catch up on in order to improve our grade, the work for the rest of the year is optional, but encouraged.

We also have a google classroom now, where our teachers can post links and questions for us to answer, some about how we would like the class to work and some just for fun, like which kind of animal we most would like to communicate with (after much thought, I choose cats, seeing as I have two and maybe they would make good conversationalists in this time of isolation).

On the Monday of our first meeting, my internet was still down, as it has been for at least two weeks now. So, I drove to the library parking lot to use the WiFi, along with my sister, who also had a virtual online class to attend. The sun was blazing through the car window as I squinted at the computer screen, trying to connect. After some trial and error involving my lack of knowledge around technology, I set my computer on the dashboard, moved my seat forward as far as it would go, and joined the online meeting.

I knew I missed Front Street Writers, but it was surprising the sense of relief I felt from seeing my teachers and classmates again. While I have talked to my teachers via email and my friends from class using snapchat and text messages, I hadn’t actually seen any of them until our meeting. Looking at all of the different rectangles together on the screen, each with a different student or teacher, made me feel connected and not so isolated as I have felt in the past month.

After talking to each other a bit, our teachers told us about the structure of our meetings, beginning with the question of the day: if this were a potluck, rather than an online meeting, what food eaten in the past six weeks would we bring? Our potluck would have a lot of macaroni and cheese. Fortunately, we had a little variety—both Annie’s and Kraft brands.

Part way through the meeting, my computer froze for at least ten minutes. I came back in time to hear the end of what was I guessed either a poem or a fictional piece. The character was irritated. We then wrote our own short pieces, in about ten minutes, guided by Ms. Scollon. We began by writing about what our character—or ourselves, if we preferred to write about us—was anxious or angry about, and what that felt like. I had to think quickly, and decided my character was anxious because she was certain that someone she was counting on to help her run away from home was not showing up. I added the detail of her hand-painted orange shoes since I wasn’t sure where to start.

We then introduced another character or idea into our pieces. For me, this meant a text from a girl named Flora, whom my main character ignores. From there, we introduced a new perspective and finished with a broader idea, trying to look out at a bigger picture or the world as a whole. I began to think that starting with hand-painted shoes was not the best idea, but I tried my best to give them meaning.

Writing something quickly like that is fun when I can ignore the ideas that must be thrown by the wayside. At least this way I have the idea for nearly a complete story, rather than having started something I may never know where to go with.

My computer froze again toward the end of the class, and I came back in time to share the first line of my piece, “Cara stands at the edge of the street, staring down at the plain white shoes that she painted red and orange flowers onto three days ago,” and hear lines from a few others. The meeting ended with several people, including our teachers, leaving as planned, and my friend and I scrambling to figure out how to end it on our own computers (apparently you have to click the “hang up” button).

The next day, there was a question posted in Google classroom regarding our feelings about working with a partner. I said I would like to. I don’t specifically know what my partner and I would do, but I’m excited. I would love to share thoughts about writing with someone else and explore a subject more deeply right now. Not only do I need something to do—or, at any rate, something to make me feel productive while avoiding the tasks I should do—but having someone to talk to and learn with will give me another connection to someone outside of my family, which I think is one of the most important things I can have during these days of solitude.

I hope you are staying safe and maintaining connections with the outside world.

—Erin Evans