English 12 — Wed. Apr. 11

Today: We planned a composition in imitation of the style and subject matter of “Trapeze Lessons.”


Assignment: Tell a story, in fragments or short vignettes, about a experience you’ve had learning how something or struggling with something difficult.

In order to fit the form, it would be best if this occurred over several days, not just one day.

Step 1. Brainstorm a few different topics that would work for this assignment for you. Then pick one. My choice of topic: Learning how to play basketball

Step 2. Brainstorm as many different “scenes” that you might include on that topic.

My Brainstorming:

  • My brother teaching me
    • to shoot one handed
    • to post up, drop step
    • left-handed lay up, drive left
  • Playing at the Rec Centre in Edmonton
  • The New Norway Team (organized)
  • The Thorhild Team (disorganized)
  • 3-on-3 tournament
  • getting mad
  • hanging out at night
  • Shooting hoops in the morning, solo drills
  • Committing
    • Stepping over the baseline
    • Ignoring the personal
  • “I am the best”
    • Grade 4
    • Bball camp at Briercrest
    • Talking trash (at the rec centre vs. in New Norway)
    • The scoring record (3-pointers game)

Step 3. Identifying a theme to unify the composition. Look over your notes and reflect on what ideas might come up in a few of them.

My example:

  • arrogance vs. dedication
    • basketball has been a good way to get self esteem through perhaps anti-social ways (trash-talking, dominating, selfish playing, anger as a motivating technique) meanwhile it has also fostered dedication and a commitment to higher ideals

 Step 4: Selecting and organizing fragments in order to focus on that theme. Which of your scenes will work best to relate to this idea. Which are unnecessary. Select them and put them in the order you want. I would recommend 5-7 scenes. They do not have to all be the same length.

My example:

  1. The first day playing basketball in grade four. (bragging and getting shamed)
  2. I was not an arrogant kid.
  3. Nike commercials portraying athletics as solitary commitment, determination, nobility. Early morning shooting practice in the school gym.
  4. 3-on-3 tournament (getting angry on purpose)
  5. The summer of practice at the Edmonton Rec Centre with the big guys (running drills and watching trash talk)
  6. Trash talk in the film White Men Can’t Jump.
  7. Commitment to the team—ignoring personal beefs, leaving it all on the court, going further
  8. My personal best game – meditation during the drive, dominating, the resentment of my teammate.

Now you’ve got an outline.

Step 5: Write it out keeping each section concise. You may want to reorder them later, delete some, insert others, etc.

My example: (I’ll delete the numbers later.)

  1. On the first day of basketball in grade four physical education, we all stood in front of the hoops and tried to throw the balls in. Somehow it worked for me that day. I was able to sink more baskets than my peers and after class on the way back to the change room I couldn’t hold in my exuberance. “Make way for the best!” My classmates were not impressed. In the change room they began to chant, “Jon is a bragger! Jon is a bragger!” I spun around seeing it come from all directions.
  2. I was not an arrogant child. In fact I was withdrawn, introverted, slow to respond.


NOTE: Review “Trapeze Lessons” by looking at this list of first lines. Use it to give you ideas about different types of material you might include.

For example, taking my cue from “Trapeze Lessons” I have included a television commercial, a movie, and the line “I was not a __________ kid.”

The First Line of Each Section of “Trapeze Lessons”

  • The lyra artist caught the hoop beautifully every time, sometimes with her feet, sometimes with her arms, and a couple of times with her head.
  • The older I get, the more I become aware of my own mortality.
  • I was not an adventurous kid.
  • My therapist asks if I believe in the afterlife.
  • My father sits at the edge of my bed in the morning, examining the pictures on my wall.
  • I keep thinking about the iron yoga, bodybuilding instructor I’d read about in Outside magazine.
  • Everyone in the class is doing handstands against the wall to warm up for the trapeze class.
  • I jump into a half-assed handstand and feel myself instantly coming back down when Susan grabs my legs and sends me over.
  • The ad on TV for the fitness center has a slogan that reads “The Power to Amaze Yourself.”
  • Diana is trying to position me into an ankle hang in which I am upside down and gripping the ropes with my ankles, but my feet keep sliding and I become nervous.
  • I am watching Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.
  • It is snowing heavily and as I walk to trapeze class my hair gets damper.
  • Diana has called in sick today and in her place is another woman.
  • My father was such a perfectionist.
  • Someone in class is talking about the time she took a flying trapeze class and knocked heads with her catcher.
  • The neurologist tells me the needle will hurt.
  • Diana is demonstrating “skin-the-cat.”
  • My mother is always reminding me I am from a family of men with weak hearts.
  • I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in heaven but I like the concept of it.

Homework: Come to class tomorrow ready to write out a first draft of this composition.


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