We had a month of many firsts here at Literative: the first time we featured an audio prompt in our writing contest, the first time we partnered with the team from the Endless Beautiful podcast, and the first time we received over 50 contest entries! It’s been an amazing journey and we’d like to thank everyone who has been along for the ride! Especially those of you who submitted a piece of work last month! We received a wonderful mix of essays, poems, and short stories. It was a difficult decision, but with the help of our guest judges, Lucas Pralle and Carolyn Decker, we chose our top three entries!
Check out the original sound prompt and the winning entries below. And don’t forget to keep writing!
First Place Winner!
Nine Ways to Deconstruct a White Whale
By T. Haven Morse
~ 1 ~
72 mixed-denomination coins
1 metal can with lid
2 loaded staplers
1 thirty-two-inch length of chain
After gathering the required materials into a box, take the whale and the box out into an open field. The sounds of birds will help soothe your savage beast. Listen to the wind and discover its rhythm. You’ll find the work easier, if the pacing and underlying pulse of the earth are followed.
Sound the bell, calling the experience into practice. With the chain, form a circle on the ground around the whale. Put the coins (all of them) into the can. Apply lid. Shake the can of coins, not like you’re swishing fluoride in your mouth or are mimicking a shimming load of towels in a washing machine but more like you’re mixing up a powdered beverage or milky pudding. With purpose.
Within a few minutes, the whale will begin to come apart at the seams. Don’t be alarmed, this is to be expected. If you panic, use one of the staplers to stitch the blubbery flesh back together. However, this is only a temporary fix, as the purpose of this ritual is to deconstruct your white whale.
Note: This task should not be accomplished alone. Please be accompanied by, at least, two other people you trust and one that you fear. Balance is key to this process.
~ 2 ~
Chanting the following stanzas will deconstruct a white whale:
Melody in the Mundane
Buzzing Wind Whooshes and Hums
Whistling Deconstructs the Whale
Spokes of Thought Fly By
Cars Passing, Groans Sassing
Footfalls Fade to Background
~ 3 ~
One of the easiest ways to deconstruct a whale, of any color, is via bicycle. Any bike may be used; however, most find that having a plastic blade in the wheel-spokes aids the release of tension and gives auditory nerves distraction—thus, helping the mind to wander freely, expediting this particular whale-deconstruction method.
This technique requires no specific location and can be done alone or in the company of others. Physical effort, combined with the wind blowing softly on your face and mental escape, are the key components.
~ 4 ~
Water and whales go together like Jack and Coke or Monroe and Kennedy. They complement one another but may cause friction if combined too often or in the wrong settings. Choose your location for this system carefully and don’t utilize it too often, lest you become addicted or the catalyst for an unwanted, out-of-control tsunami.
Turn on a water source full—force. A fountain, garden hose, wall spigot, or any other avenue of fluid-flow will work. Lay down next to the source. (Becoming wet or damp is up to you, unrequired but optional). As you recline, tune out the milieu around you. Focus on the splash, the gurgle, the splish.
Proceed like this until your white whale has been deconstructed to your satisfaction, you run out of water, or your fingertips have turned pruney.
~ 5 ~
packing tape, balloons, bubble wrap, plastic grocery bags, an empty wine bottle
Sitting cross-legged on the floor—the aforementioned tools within reach—put heavy thoughts and fearful emotions into the empty bottle then begin to vigorously wrap said bottle with the other items. Your only goal is to cover the wine bottle in such a way that it is cushioned sufficiently to survive a soccer match.
Even if the sounds, generated by this task, cause you to cringe or the hair follicles on your skull to stand on end, do not wear earplugs or muffs. Sound is important.
Once wrapped, take your cushioned creation to a public place and unceremoniously leave it on the ground. Step into the shadows and wait. Observe. Watch as your thoughts and emotions survive stilettos, steel-toed boots, and loafers. Then your white whale will disperse, devolve, and deconstruct.
~ 6 ~
Go see a children’s stage show.
Lose yourself in the innocent joy.
Forget the damned whale.
~ 7 ~
White Whale Deconstruction 101 by the combined casts of Stomp and Blue-Man Group.
*Please purchase the companion DVD, MP3 recording, or musical score from our website for fullest affect. However, here are a few tips to get you started on deconstructing your white whale.
1. Beat on a trash can or pot lid with a stick.
2. Sweep off a porch or sidewalk with a natural-bristled, wood-handled broom.
3. Paint a picket fence without paint—use only a dry brush.
4. Scrape your knuckles across an old-timey washboard.
5. Create a happy, fast-paced percussive melody with a touch of melancholy. Consistent but improv-ed is best.
~ 8 ~
THE MAN, CREATOR OF THE INDUSTRIAL AGE, SAYS THE BEST WAY TO DECONSTRUCT A WHITE WHALE IS TO SPEND COPIOUS AMOUNT OF TIME IN THE COMPANY OF LOUD MACHINERY. SAID MACHINERY SHOULD PRODUCE TOXIC CLOUDS OF EXHAUST, REQUIRE GLUTTONOUS AMOUNTS OF LIMITED FOSSIL-FUELS, AND DESTROY VAST SWATHS OF FOREST OR COASTLINES IN ITS CREATION AND PRODUCTION. ANY CONSEQUENCES TOUTED BY THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS OR HOMEOPATHIC COMMUNITY WILL BE DENIED BY THE SURGEON GENERAL (WHO RESIDES IN MY POCKET), SO DISREGARD ALL PROTESTORS—THEY’RE TREE-HUGGING WACKOS. NOW, GO SMELL THOSE GRINDING GEARS AND SPARKING ROSES.
~ 9 ~
If we might, could we say a few words here? we represent the previously mentioned tree-hugging wackos. to those struggling, we encourage you stand on a mountain top and let your inner animal out. hoot, howl, coo. maybe what you mistake for a white whale is actually your spirit animal simply needing to stretch its wings and soar—
HELL NO! NO WAY! #9 IS A LOAD OF HIPPY HOOEY. #8 IS THE ONLY RIGHT WAY TO DECONSTRUCT A WHITE WHALE. I’M THE MAN AND I SAY SO. MODERN MACHINERY PROMOTES STRESS-FREE LIVING!
*Warning: The corn-shucking curator of this list gives no guarantee as to the effectiveness of any of these white whale deconstruction techniques.
Walking the fine line between entertainment, intrigue, and offense, T. Haven Morse enjoys penning in the realms of both literary and genre, as well as, both poetry and stories. She likes to strike straight to the hearts and souls of readers when possible. Morse has previously published a persona poetry collection through Bountiful Balcony Books, entitled “Flooded By”, and has seen other pieces published in journals and anthologies world-wide including Haiku Journal, Paragraph Planet, 101Words, Verbatim Poetry, and “In Medias Res: Stories From the In-Between.” Her latest book to hit Amazon and bookshelves is “Beam Me Up, Yoda”—a fan fiction fauxetry collection of poems from one-hundred of the most iconic scifi/fantasy characters of all time. Haven lives in the heart of a Texas national forest and emerges from her sanctuary only when necessary for promotions and further adventures. Find her on social media outlets under her name (THavenMorse) and at BountifulBalconyBooks.com.
I listened to the recording four times. On the first go round, I cleared my mind and simply listened. No judgement, no labeling, no hard observations, no purposeful visions—I just let the sounds wash over me. Take two, I took notes. A stream of consciousness style exercise—writing down anything that came to mind as I listened. Some were literal: bird call, bicycle spokes, water, puppet show, heavy machinery. Some more obscure reactions: somberness, truth, contrasting attitudes, fighting with one’s self. Round three was about catching the pearls, the essences and themes on which to build the accompanying written piece. This was when the ‘white whale standing for personal truths’ came to me, the nine sections/personas of the soundtrack became apparent, and the whole concept clicked into place like it was meant to be. Finally, the last listen-through was essentially pertinent background noise for the writing of what became (fifteen minutes later) “Nine Ways to Deconstruct a White Whale.” From start to finish, an hour of bliss and creative flow in an acoustics meets semantics play date. I must admit, I was sad to hit submit—I thorough enjoyed being in that white whale world of deconstruction. Huge gratitude to Literative and Endless Beautiful for the opportunity.
Second Place Winner!
By Jasmine Singh
There she stood, leaning over the table, aware but unconcerned of the attention her messy bun, pretty face, and short dress were giving her. She hits the cue ball and pockets the 8 as he approaches her, the spurs on his boots and his thumb hooked to the top of his studded belt. The only one to approach her tonight. He was new. He brings out a couple of the coins in his pocket. “How much for a game, sweetheart?” She starts setting up another game. “Another one,” she responds and he sets down another gold coin on the table. “That’s a year’s salary for a miner, m’lady. What can you wager back?” But suddenly, the ruckus once present in the whole room silences as the creaky door swings open and a thousand footsteps can be heard marching down the stairs. The Machines. Their name spawned from their boots decorated in metallic filigree that jingle like a slow-motion machine gun and cost enough to feed the country four times over. Nearly 20 men in uniform enter the bar and halt as their observe their surroundings, searching out their target. Their eyes lock onto the girl, as she takes a step back. With a quick motion of her hand, a purple swirl appears behind her, and she steps through, leaving the mouths of every bystander gaping wide open.
Around her a sea of luscious green. It’s so silent that she can hear the movement of each insect that passes her by. Isolation, her best friend. Away from prying eyes, dangerous intentions, and uncouth discussion. But something feels wrong. The leaves fall too quickly, the branches snap too suddenly, the insects fly by too swiftly. Every movement she makes is lethargic, heavy like the pouring of honey. Mesmerizing but requires patience. But patience was the one thing she no longer possessed. Not after she saw the look in their eyes. It wouldn’t take long for them to find her. She had to hide; she had to find a new town, a new life, a new character. At this point, this was second nature to her, and she closed her eyes to visualize what she wanted. A place near nature where she could escape from civilization when she needed, a town that was filled with bustle and excitement. A farming town. And as she opened her eyes, she saw the familiar purple swirl that was to lead her to her new life.
Dressed in overalls and a straw hat, she emerges from the trees. With a travel sack slung over her back, she is welcomed by the bright sun and the sight of endless corn fields. As she walks through the fields, she sees others dressed in similar fashion peeling back the husks of corn. The squeak was a sound that she’s never heard. Rare, she thought to herself, that even after spending so long on this earth, there were still sounds she was unfamiliar with. Sounds so unique and beautiful that she immediately felt at home. She grabbed a hold of some corn in front of her, and pulled away the husks like she saw the woman in front of her do, and committed the sound to memory.
She emerges from the field to be directly in the heart of the town. A woman stands on stage, gathering children around her as she announces the main event of the day, a performance featuring a white whale. But even her announcement is a play in and of itself as villagers of the town argue of the color of the largest whale in existence. This is the right town for her; a silly, eventful town where she’ll never stand out. And she can’t help but laugh at the argument between the villagers, as she knows, through all her years and all her travels, that purple whales are truly the biggest whales of them all.
The play begins and she stands by the edge of the stage, just one drop in a sea of thousands. Not standing out, not different. She feels safe. She allows herself to be fully immersed in the sounds, the lights, the events. Suddenly a shadow catches her eye. No she was imagining it, there’s no way they found her. She was safe here for at least another 10 years. But there it was again, through the ruckus ever present in the play. The train that travels around the giant body of water that houses the whale, on stage, a shadow can be seen through the window. Staring daggers right at her. As the train goes around and around the track, he stares at her. The leader. Instinctively, she flees. And before she even notices what she’s done, she finds herself back in the forest. Where she was born. Her home. But it’s suffocating, dying. The pollution, the fire, the terror. It’s slowly killing off everything that she loved. And she knows she can’t stop it. She knows, because she created it. And as her creation engulfs her, she finally refuses to run. Refuses to deny her fate, for falling prey to the madness is the only fate that befits the creator of it all.
Jasmine Singh has a career as a software engineer; however, her creative outlet is writing. Though she has been writing for many years, Jasmine has only recently started sharing her stories publicly. She specializes in writing science fiction and fantasy, and she is currently working on her first book. Recently, Jasmine has been dabbling with other genres, such as historical fiction and mystery.
When not working or writing, Jasmine spends her time lifting weights at the gym, playing video games with her friends, reading a good book, expressing herself through singing and songwriting, or traveling the world. Read a few other articles Jasmine has written at https://actuallyrandom.wordpress.com. If she sounds intriguing, follow her on Twitter (@khamevik).
I wish it was more interesting than this, but, in all honestly, I just listened to the sound clip and wrote about the first thing that popped into my head. From the time I was a kid, I often listened to sounds and, though I knew what they were, would try to think of something else they reminded me of. I would play games with my friends where we would be in this fantasy world and the sounds would sometimes indicate what would happen next in this world, but machinery didn’t really exist in that world, so any sounds would be translated to items that existed in that world. Those childhood games are what I applied to this writing experiment. I eventually created a theme in the story—machinery taking over while nature is being tossed aside along with the notion that we are responsible for this shift and can try to run from it, but that’s not solving the problem. Though I didn’t initially plan this theme, the sounds eventually led to a story that created those themes, and each new sound prompted an idea that furthered that theme. It honestly was a really fun creative writing practice. Thank you so much for creating and sharing it.
Third Place Winner
By Natasha Laycock
Alejandro stumbled out of the bar, frisking his head on the door chimes. He shuffled across town, parched tongue causing him to glance furtively about for water—or beer. The town had gotten used to the man’s ambling over the past few weeks, setting out drinks when they were looking for a quiet night.
His rooster, Señor Hidalgo, hopped behind him, his head turning so his functional eye could keep focus on his leader.
Alejo stopped frequently to collect bottles from doorsteps, slipping them into his pantlegs where they clanged against each other in an unpracticed symphony. When he passed Mrs. Aria’s mailbox, he doubled back, peered inside, and grinned toothlessly at the contents. He tucked them into his shirt pocket and ventured forward.
The duo stopped once more, outside of the Corrales’ ranch. The roadside was littered with the usual cobs of corn that followed their Sunday feast.
In a few minutes, each home breathed a gentle sigh of relief as Alejo entered the outskirts of the town. The tall grasses shielded their ears from his clanging. It wasn’t the sound that irritated as much as the reminder of his presence.
It didn’t take long for him to reach his destination. He settled beneath a leafless oak tree, its large roots forming the perfect seat for him. He extracted his finds from his pockets, Señor Hidalgo pecking impatiently at the man’s dirt-ridden toenails. Alejandro tossed the cobs of corn into the grass and the rooster greedily chased after them, his wattle disappearing amongst the grass.
Before Alejandro could read the letter from Mrs. Aria’s mailbox, a heavy rain washed over the dried landscape as if to make up for the weeks that Mosquero had gone without. Alejo tucked himself closer under the shelter of the tree, deftly plucking a bottle from his pants pocket, and with practiced skill, used one bottle to crack the cap off the other.
Some folks said that Alejo had knocked out his front teeth on purpose—he had grown tired of his bone hitting glass and had simply popped them out. Only Mrs. Aria, and the person responsible for the disfigurement, knew the truth.
When the bottled was depleted, he stood, lips tugging corn kernels from their cob. The rain washed over the grass so strongly that the wind turned to waves, beating a fierce rhythm against the oak. It groaned in response, shuddering under the force of the storm. Señor Hidalgo, lost at sea, crowed, willing Alejandro to retrieve him.
The grassy tidal waves were slashed aside by Alejo’s crudely sharpened knife. He threw two bottles into the ocean, each with a message inside, each with a different person to find. With a grip so strong that Señor Hidalgo flapped indigently, Alejandro collected the bird and pushed his way through the coursing channels, each step harder than the last.
After hours of cold travel, Alejo stumbled into the centre of his forest. He slumped against the shelter he had cobbled together a month ago, finally protected from the rain. But hardly protected from the sounds of the forest, which were more alive than that of the village. Each creak was deafening. Every crack of a branch piercing. The croaking of the frogs grew unharmoniously as each sought to be the loudest, to draw a mate.
Alejo stared at Señor Hidalgo jealously, wishing that he, too, could bury his head under his wing. The man contented himself with something else that could dull sounds, in liquid form. He had no remaining bottle in which to open his last, and instead smashed the top against a rock. The glass shattered cleanly, but this did not protect him from the newly formed gash in his hand. Bitterly, he poured some of the alcohol on his cut, gasping sharply. The pain was worth avoiding getting another dark scar from a septic cut.
The rooster approached him, and Alejo allowed Señor Hidalgo to peck at his fingers. The bird immediately complained at the taste, chastising his friend noisily. The hoot of a larger predator silenced him.
With his injured hand clenching the cleanest square of his shirt, Alejo read the letter.
The goat visited me again. I’m sure you would have liked him. I’m not sure who owns him, or rather, as you always liked to put it, who he’s friends with. But I would like to think that I am his friend. Oh, listen to me go on like this. It’s talk like this that your father never understood, isn’t it? I don’t mind anymore. It was difficult at first. When I heard the crickets, I wondered if you did as well. You always had trouble falling asleep at night. I suppose that explains your late-night stroll, those many nights ago. I used to walk around town as well, hoping that one day, I might find you. Or even, sometimes, your father. But for very different reasons.
I’ve taken to the sea, now. It’s far, foreign, and I can’t come back to Mosquero as much. The name feels strange to me—I’ve only ever called it home. I left as soon as the snow melted off the water, and I don’t intend on returning until the ice forces me to. I’ve mailed this letter back to Mosquero, because there’s nowhere else I’d rather you be. Other than on this boat with me, I suppose. You always were a strong swimmer.
I don’t miss you or your father. You, because you’re always in my heart. Your father, because of all the reasons you left. I only wished you had returned to visit, because he left half a year after you did. We could cut your hair short, and your father left clothes that I never threw away. I’m not going to pretend I understand you, but none of it ever mattered to me anyway, because I’ll always love you, Alejandra.
All my love,
Natasha is an engineering student who is looking to share her writing with the world. You can read more of Natasha’s work at natschickenscratches.blogspot.ca
As for my process, the first draft was my way of interpreting the sounds in the form of a story. Characters are very important to me, so the sounds at the beginning correlated with Alejandro. After images of him had formed in my mind, the next challenge was figuring out how to incorporate seemingly unrelated sounds into the story. The water-like sound posed a particular challenge in the dry environment I had created, which is why the story turned more metaphorical when talking about the grasslands as the ocean. This challenge was a lot of fun because it felt less like I was creating it and more like I was discovering it. After I finished the piece, I went back and connected dots. It was only once I had finished the first draft that I understood what the story was really about.
I’ve done stream of consciousness type writing before, based off of music and random words, so this didn’t feel too far off. Overall, I found that the best method to use while writing was to allow myself flexibility. Writers like to stay concentrated on their ideas, but when the sounds change in unexpected ways, it’s important to change the writing to reflect that. I find that when I write shorter pieces, I tend to choose subtlety over clarity, but I hope that the main themes have still presented themselves in this piece.
Thanks again to everyone who entered last month’s writing contest! We hope you enjoyed writing your entries as much as we enjoyed reading them! Don’t forget to check out our new Scary Movie writing challenge or subscribe to the Endless Beautiful podcast for more sound sessions!