Category Archives: Writng

Abuela Invents the Zero

In school, we had to write a story we read in another person’s perspective. This story was originally in Constancia’s perspective, and  our assignment was to re write it in Abuela’s. You can find the original online here: “Abuela Invents the Zero“.

Abuela Invents the Zero by Daniela Velasquez

Just because you see a frail, huddled lump engulfed in a coat when you look at me, it doesn’t mean that’s what I am. Sure, I may be a sorry sight and my old bones might be small and brittle, but I still have feelings. Mi nieta, Constancia, seems not to understand this. From the very first time she laid her wide, youthful, eyes on my frizzy gray hair and deeply wrinkled face, I could tell she despised me.

You would think that raising ten children on la isla should warrant some respect, but not from little Constancia. She thinks that I don’t notice how she regularly ignores me, how often she sends disgusted looks my way, how she pretends we don’t know each other, that I don’t exist. I don’t understand Constancia. She acts as if I’m barging into her life without reason. I’m only here in New Jersey to experience the magic of snow I read about as a child. It’s been a lifetime dream, and I’ll be gone before long.

I try to ignore her, to gain strength from my faith. I say the rosary, read bible verses, and sing old spanish hymns at the top of my creaky voice. Although mi hija, Elena, has come down with the flu, sickness won’t stop me from attending Sunday mass. I need something to ground me, inspire me, so I can regain my peace of mind. Back on la isla, going to mass always soothed my soul; hopefully, here in la Polo Norte, it will be the same.

I request Lucas, Elena’s husband, to escort me to church on Sunday. Unable to leave his wife alone, however, he decides that the responsibility of driving should be Constancia’s. I just hope she is compliant, because I can’t go without assistance.

When Sunday comes, Lucas helps me hobble my way down the slick pathway to the car. It pains me to see the sickened look in Contancia’s eyes as she takes in the mass of fabric that’s my body. My bun feels too big, my back too hunched, and my hands too dry under her scrutinizing stare. There’s nothing I can do about it, though. Constancia is my only way to church, whether I like it or not.

Before I know it, we’ve arrived at church for the Spanish mass. Huffing and muttering, Constancia leads me up the steep, crumbling steps. I don’t understand why she still thinks that I’m blind to her repulsion.

Stepping into the church is like meeting a lost relative I never thought I would see again. I slowly pad to my pew, making sure it has the same view of the altar as my spot at La Isla Inglesia (The Island Church). I wedge my way past the people already settled there with enough muttered “con permisos”  to write a book.

It’s like I’m already in heaven. I sing hymns to the Lord, even though my voice has long since gone hoarse. I pray, because my time is almost up. And I smile like there’s no tomorrow. The mass flies by, and soon it’s time to take communion. I poke my head out of the missalette and unsteadily get to my feet. At a snail’s pace, I make my way toward the front of the church.

I accept the eucharist like an old friend. The familiar feeling of the wafer in my mouth warms me to the core. I move on slowly, savoring the moment.

My eyes dart around the room, searching for Constancia. She’s nowhere to be found. How can this be?  I am lost in a place that had just started to feel like a second home. I imagine everyone can see me clear as day, poking my feeble head out of my oversized coat like a turtle in it’s shell. I hear titters from the pews, and my face burns with embarrassment. Where is Constancia, the one who is supposedly looking after me?

Finally, a woman helps me to my seat. I cannot grasp why Constancia has abandoned me. What have I done to deserve such contempt from my own nieta? How dare she treat me with such disrespect?

On the drive back, I stifle my outrage, hoping Constancia apologizes on her own. But we sit in silence. I realize that her confession will have to come the hard way.

The minute I step into la casa, I let loose my bottled up storm of emotion. I raise a knobby, gnarled hand, shaking, and point to Constancia. I fix her with a steely glare, and say with conviction what I have been thinking since I arrived.

“You make me feel like una cero, nada.” I declare, then tromp to my room, inflamed. Constancia seems to forget that one day she will be old, that she will someday be in my shoes. She seems to think that I am worth nothing, worth less than the dirt under her feet. Yet I am her family, her grandmother.

I warble my favorite hymns, hoping that in some obscure way, they would connect me to la isla and calm my spirit. I pull out my bible for comfort. A yellowed slip of paper flutters to the ground, and I pluck it off the floor. It’s a letter to me, and an old one, too. I unfold the creased paper and read the words faded with age.

Sabrina, it reads.

Of all the hurtful things you can do to a person, the worst is to make them feel like una cero, nada, like you did to me, your very own Abuela. But always remember that everyone can make mistakes, especially children. So when your own time comes to feel like una cero (and I guarantee it will), remember this day.

And I do remember. Maybe I’ve been too hard on Constancia. Maybe I need to reach out to her. Maybe I am the one who owes an apology.

Where I’m From

We started middle school this year; grade 6.  My first assignment in language arts was to create a poem. We used the poem  Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon, a writer and  teacher.  The poem acted as a writing prompt and model (which by the way, he created his from a model of someone else’s work). We used a similar structure and essentially just filled in the blanks.  It kind of reminded me of doing “mad libs” except the results weren’t funny — the result was well…you decide.  Here’s mine.

I am from the dent in my mattress
From Lipton and Quaker Oats
I am from the crabgrass that invades our garden
(thick, wild, it stained my knees)
I am from the white water in the Delaware River
The crook of our maple tree

I am from bruises and achy knees
From Ariana and Vincenza
I’m from the corny joke tellers and thrill sekkers
From ” We live in a musical”
I’m from The Night Before Christmas
Which we continue to read every year

I am from Armando and Lisa’s branch
Juicy ribs and yummy Betty Crocker fudge brownies
From the long games of Upwords
To the even longer hikes

In my living room there are shelves
Full of memories
World Encyclopedias, my mother’s internet
Cameras from my grandfather’s time as a photographer
I am from those things
Objects passed down through generations
Reminders of lives from long ago

– Daniela Velasquez (6th Grader)

Secret Arrows; Getting Started II

Good news! Now that we have 7 chapters of Secret Arrows written, we’ve decided to share the first chapter with you. (We previously shared the Prologue.)Except, it may not be call Secret Arrows. We’ve decided that it’s a little corny, so for now, we’re calling it “Secrets of Rensovia. (Rensovia is the Medieval kingdom that Val lives in.) If you have any mysterious names, go ahead and post in comments. We just might name our book that!  Just a warning, Chapter One isn’t so interesting. We need and appreciate them. We do feel like the rest of the book gets better,  so even if you don’t like it, still come back for Chapter 2, because it DOES get more interesting. Anyway, here goes.

Chapter One 

key2The Truth

The whole day had been a waste. It was only noon, yet I had already broken 3 dishes, countless glasses, and spilled a goblet of wine during my kitchen shift. To make matters worse, my father had just been recruited to fight in a war, and I was worried sick about him. After all, he was the only family I had left. Nausea knotted in my stomach as I continue to scrub the dishes. 

    As ever, luck wasn’t on my side. I had smashed the most expensive piece yet. I flew to the broomstick and dustpan, but I knew it was too late when I heard the clumping of a soldier’s thick soles down the hallway. As I was beginning to stuff the scattered shards into my apron, the lock began to rattle. I gave a silent thanks to myself for locking the door earlier, but I knew I had to keep working to have any chance of salvaging my job. I was stuffing the last of the china shards into my apron pocket when the door finally clicked open, revealing a burly guard. I tried to ignore him, like a good little maid, but I eventually cracked, feeling his eyes boring into me. “What do you want?” I huffed. “I’m just a lowly maid!”

     He turned to me.”I just thought you might want to know” he breathed, so that I could just make out what he said. “Know what?” I snapped. But, I was starting to connect the dots. I just didn’t like what they said. A soldier talking to me privately, the sympathetic look in his eyes… Yes, it could only mean one thing. My father was dead


                                                                        . . .


     “Your father has died.” The soldier’s emotionless response only confirmed my suspicions, but it was still a blow. My father…dead….the two words just didn’t belong in the same sentence. After telling myself for weeks that he would be fine, it was hard to believe that he wasn’t. 

     “H-how?” I managed. If I was going to believe this, I needed some proof.

     “You see, it wasn’t just him,” the soldier began, his eyes misting, perhaps envisioning the deaths of my father and these apparent others. “No, Sargent Keyroid was eliminated along with the rest of his unit.”

     With that, he turned on his heels and left me to my sorrow. I was as sullen as any girl who had just received the news of her father’s death, maybe more. But, I realized, along with the units’ death came the opportunity I had been waiting for practically my whole life; the chance to be a knight.

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                                                                   . . . 

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      Everything and everyone had their place. Women were maids, men were knights, pigs were food. So, as you can imagine, I, as a girl of 12, was looked down upon by just about everyone except the pigs, which made my mission of being a knight next to impossible. Now, a few years back, I had finally figured out that I could disguise as a boy and change my age to try out for the army. Everything was set; I lopped off my hair, practiced fighting with kitchen knives to build up muscle, snuck into private fighting sessions meant for knights. You name it, I had done it. But, when I was finally ready to try out, I discovered what you could call a hurtle. A huge one. You see, all the spots were taken. It was devastating after all that hard work, but I made the most of it, biding my time, waiting until an opportunity to be in the army arose. So, when I heard that an entire unit had died, I knew that those deaths were simply blessings in disguise.

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                                                                . . . 

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  “This is it” I thought, collecting all the knives I could carry. I had to look intimidating in order to have any shot at qualifying as a knight. Anyone with sense knew that knights were fierce, muscled. My racing thoughts were clouded with what ifs. “What if I get discovered? What if I don’t do well? What if I make a bad impression? What if…” Praying that only a couple boys would come to try their hand at being a knight, I left my broom closet bedroom, supplies in hand. A glance at the clock showed me that I had a mere 5 minutes to reach the training arena. The time had been posted on the wall three hours ago. So, I cautiously set off down the hall, scanning my surroundings for people who could catch me in the act.

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     Luckily, I arrived at the tryout without incident, but it goes without saying that I wasn’t off the hook just yet. There was still the detail of appearing masculine. Just before I stepped into the training room, I patted down my hair, rearranged my gear, and rubbed over my chest, thanking God that it was still flat. With a deep breath and a final adjustment of my jacket, I was ready

Getting Started; Secret Arrows

Now, before we dive headfirst into this, we just want to clear up what we’re doing. Remember that book we mentioned in our About page? ( Hint, hint, if you don’t remember, go back to our About page and do your research. Don’t be lazy. We’ll still be here tomorrow.) Okay, now that everyone’s caught up, we can finally explain what this post will be about. As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re going to give you a sneak peak at our book, which we’ve finally started. And (here comes the good part) if you’re good, we just might let you read the entire book as we write it.  Just do us one favor. IF you read this, give us honest feedback in the comments section. We won’t be offended. This book is a work in progress, and we need your help to make it the best it can be. Here we go…

I’m Val. Or, as my mother used to insist calling me, Valerie. But she’s gone now. As much as her death pains me, it set me free in a way. She no longer pines me to live up to her standards. Once upon a time, we both worked as maids in the Medieval castles of Rensovia*. I still do. While my mother excelled and rose through the ranks, I stayed firmly put. After just a few moons, Mother was the Head Maid, an honorable rank. But, I still lacked, an outcast amongst the other maids. While they dreamed of reaching the levels of accomplishment my mother had, I had my sights set elsewhere. My mother pestered me to behave like the others, but I just couldn’t see it. Now that she has died of chemical poisoning, at least she won’t be there to see me fail.