Conference Challenge #7: Happy Active 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Ahh, Independance Day. The fireworks. Parades. Proud veterans waving flags. Sweaty, sunburned kids running around with sparklers. Hot dogs. Hamburgers. Family barbeques. So many wonderful elements to use for the setting of a story.

So for today’s challenge . . . or maybe I should say tomorrow’s challenge, because I hope everyone is enjoying time with their family today . . . we’re going to honor our great nation by using Independance Day as the setting for a short scene that kicks off a story. But I want you to concentrate on making the scene sparkle by using an active voice rather than just presenting the landscape with a passive voice.

For example, don’t say:

A plate of hot dogs was set on the table.


Timmy’s mouth watered when his mother set a plate of hot dogs on the table.

Or for a parade setting, don’t say:

The sidewalks were crowded.

Snore! How about:

Sweaty kids zigzagged down the crowded sidewalk like frenzied rats in a maze.

So for this challenge, first make a list of short, passive sentences that describe your 4th of July setting. Then, take each sentence and rework them into a paragraph using an active, colorful voice that really sets the scene and draws the reader into your story! 

Good luck!

And for our illustrator friends, here’s your challenge from Susan Detwiler, our lovely regional illustrator coordinator:

Depict an object or scene and use color and lighting to set the emotional mood.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone! 🙂

keyboard and let me think! You have now been warned!

Conference Challenge #1 – Voice or Point of View?

Conference Challenge #2 – Why do you love it?

Conference Challeng #3 – Give yourself a WooHoo!

Conference Challenge #4 – Speed Plotting

Conference Challenge #5: The Reverse Book Trailer

Conference Challenge #6: Famous Quotes

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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11 Responses to Conference Challenge #7: Happy Active 4th of July!

  1. My tendency to over think things is probably why I have trouble with multiple-choice questions. One story or a series of stories? One POV or many? Ah well.

    Here is mine. I assumed that the 30 minutes or so time frame remains in play. I oozed over that a bit.

    The sentences:
    Sparklers spiraled in the dark.
    A yelp and a splash meant the dog had fallen in.
    Nannie’s watermelon salad served in the scooped-out rind was an annual treat.
    Nat was the emcee of fireworks.
    The moon cast a silvery trail on the lake.

    The paragraphs:

    Impatience charged the houses along the shoreline and even the ancient hemlocks seemed to whisper in shivers of anticipation. Charcoal briquettes glowed in grills, the scent of ash mixing with steak fat, pungent barbecue sauce, damp earth and pine. Youngsters were distracted by sparklers, the sputtering sticks of fire we used to write our names and draw hearts and stars and spirals in the dark. Suddenly, quietly, over the water, came the manic giggle of the loons, their amusement at our frantic activity plain to hear.

    I was never allowed on the dock without my life-jacket. “No never,” said Mummy, “what if you fall in and no one is there to help you?” “No never,” said Dah, “until you can swim to the sailboat and back three times without stopping.” But tonight I sat free of that heavy wrap, corralled firmly between Mummy’s knees as she sat on the low, low chair that lifted her only slightly off the aged boards. I stood up, bouncing with all the exuberance of my three-year-old’s power, grabbing Mummy’s leg as Tuck pushed past, his claws clicking on the wood, his plume of a tail awag, whining, whining with excitement at the action. Then—splash! “Tuck’s in the drink,” I heard Auntie Doro say, and I listened to the chatter that continued, ignoring the plight that annually befell Poppy’s beloved mutt.

    What I waited for, however, was the salad, a bonanza of fruit, balls of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, fistfuls of blueberries, chunks of peach, all the colors of sweetness heaped into the scooped-out watermelon rind. Nannie always cut triangular teeth around the edge, “My practice for Hallowe’en jack o’lanterns!” When all was done, when the steaks and chicken wings and corn was eaten, the ginger ales left as empty bottles, the fruit bowls left as hollow as it had begun, when the sparklers had sparkled out and the fireworks exploded in grand display, Uncle Nat took the empty rind and made it a boat that carried the last, the ultimate, the most spectacular Roman candle adrift on the black lapping waters of the lake.

    In my room, the room from which I graduated when I was old enough to shed my life-jacket when not in a boat, I sat on the bed and looked out the window to the lake. Beech leaves hung in silhouette against the less-dark sky, rustling the breeze that came from off to my left. The moon dripped its light on the waves of the lake and found the edges of clouds that hung above Red Hill. Dah had said, “Rain’s coming, three-day nor’easter, but wasn’t the weather fine for the holiday.” I always thought the weather was fine, up at the lake, when I was a child.

  2. I’ve completed this challenge and I blogged about it 🙂

    Now, I need to turn off my internet and go tackle challenge #6. Can’t lose that Rock Star status!!

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  4. Arlene Finocchiaro says:

    I was surprised at the memories from childhood that popped out when I started the challenge. I wrote phrases as memories flooded in and then wrote the following with my role as the grandpa.

    “Mom, do we have to?” complained Jo and Adam.
    Mom gave them the raised eyebrow and the eye roll which meant sit your butts down next to Grandpa Leo and shut up.
    Every year Grandpa Leo would drag out family albums and reminisce about when he was a kid. This time it was July 4th 1952. He was nine years old. There he was with his dad on the big cement steps of their Chicago bungalow. An American flag was flying outside the front door.
    Grandpa Leo pointed to a picture of himself holding a sparkler. “Before there was a law against home fireworks, I had sparklers, ‘snakes,’ and red rolls of caps. My mom didn’t allow firecrackers — much too noisy.”
    “You had snakes? What did you do with snakes?” asked Adam, showing some interest.
    “Snakes were little fireworks, kind of like a big gray pill. You’d light it and for a few seconds it would spark and sizzle and begin to grow into a narrow snake of ash. When you touched it, it turned to dust. I loved to watch it grow out of the ground.”
    Looking at another picture, Jo wondered, “What’s the hammer for?”
    “That’s for popping caps,” said grandpa. “Mom did not let me have a cap gun like most of my friends. You loaded a red paper roll with raised dots into your cap gun to click and fire. Since I didn’t have a gun, I’d unroll the paper on the sidewalk and whack it with a hammer. Boy, did I love it when I’d get a good pop!”
    “Dinner’s ready,” called grandma.
    Jo elbowed Adam and smiled as they saw grandma placing the three-layer, red white and blue jello mold in the middle of the table.
    Mom smiled, too, thinking, “I’m glad some things never change.”

    • Crikey, Arlene, I had altogether forgotten about snakes! We used to LOVE them! (I being about 9 years younger than Grandpa Leo). And of course caps for guns. But it really was the snakes that I found thrilling.

      Nice piece!

      • Arlene Finocchiaro says:

        Thanks Ellen. As a new writer, I’m thrilled when anyone reads my work and to get a written reply is outstanding. I loved the references to the fruit salad in your piece, especially the jagged edges on the watermelon rind.

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  6. Ok…I probably shouldn’t be trying to “catch up” on these at nearly 1 a.m. 🙂

    The chair scraped across the deck as mom pulled it out to sit down next to me. Twinkling lights hissed at the ends of sparklers as the kids raced around the backyard. The Fourth of July. The one day mom could count on for us all to be together. Plates once piled with food showed the carnage that was once our feast of good ‘ole hamburgers and hot dogs. Flies crawled over the remains of corn-on-the-cob and half-eaten potato salad. The big show would soon start. Ben called it, “Uncle Dave’s” Firework Show. No doubt. Uncle Dave worked hard each year to put on the best show in town.
    “All you kids get up on the deck where it’s safe,” Uncle Dave yelled.
    The kids ran from all over, scurrying up the deck stairs to get the best seats.
    Tim, Uncle Dave’s oldest son, walked along behind his dad, carrying a huge box of assorted fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in Maryland, but the police don’t seem to care much—not on the Fourth of July.
    The sky lit up as though someone had suddenly turned the sun back on. The night exploded with sounds. Not just the whistle of the fireworks, but the squeals of the kids.
    I looked over at mom as the show continued. How many more Fourth of Julys would there be for us?
    At least one more I prayed.

    The last one in Challenge #8 is mine, too:) I’m going to bed, ladies!

  7. Miranda McClain says:

    Here are my simple sentences:
    The kids and I arrived at the field around 6:45pm and set up our chairs to wait for the fireworks.
    Suddenly the sprinklers turned on and we all got soaked.
    Henry was miserable in his wet clothes as we watched the fireworks.

    Here is how I elaborated. And by the way this is a true story from this 4th of July.
    The eager anticipation of the children was contagious as we trudged up the hill to find the perfect viewing spot among the vast crowd gathered to watch the fireworks. Sitting in my chair watching them play on the soggy field I was glad I had given each child a glow stick to wear making it easier to keep track of them as it grew dark.
    Suddenly screams pierced the air as the university’s sprinkler system turned on and the unsuspecting throng was caught by a surprise, though not unwelcome, drenching. As we continued to wait for the show to commence, the persistent blasts from the sprinklers offered entertainment as well as relief from the oppressive summer heat.
    Unfortunately, my ever melodramatic son Henry, devastated by his sopping wet state was miserable for the rest of the evening. Once the fireworks began his discomfort was compounded by his utter terror of the bright flashes and loud booms that brought a thrill of excitement and joy to the rest of us. He spent the remainder of the evening huddled, shivering under a blanket, punctuating each explosion with a heart wrenching sob.

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