Ground Shakes Furiously

Page 1

Stories by 826NYC Students at Gotham Professional Arts Academy

826NYC Books 372 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11215 *GROUND SHAKES FURIOUSLY* Stories by 826NYC Students at Gotham Professional Arts Academy © 2021 by 826NYC and the authors. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. First 826NYC edition September 2021 Manufactured in the United States of Brooklyn 978-1-948644-82-2 The writing in this book was produced in the 2020-2021 school year at 826NYC’s Young Writers Publish project at Gotham Professional Arts Academy. The classes were run by Willie Filkowski with the support of Isacc Mills, Claudia Rico, Jamal Stevenson, and Sean Burke. Designed by Grace Robinson Edited and proofread by Chris Ahearn, Chelsea Bonollo, Christine Corbin, Elise Ingber, Amanda Inman, Safia Khan, Nicholas Martinez, and David Rublin Project overseen by Vanessa Friedman

Printed by Bookmobile This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The Jane Friedman Anspach Family Foundation, The Find Your Light Foundation, The Hawkins Foundation, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Kettering Family Foundation, The Minerva Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, and The Resnick Family Foundation. The program is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the New York State Legislature. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit 826NYC is grateful to the many individuals who support our work. To see our full list of supporters or make a donation, please visit

826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their

creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to writetheir creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

This book is intended for mature audiences, with some topics, themes, and language that may not be suitable for young readers.

i–ii ... Foreward 1 ... The Zookeeper Aleiska Berrios 3 ... Untitled Lailani Bridgeman 5 ... Untitled Shaniece Bowers 7–9 ... Untitled Alanna Bruno 11–12 ... Leafy’s Trip Adam Charles 15–16 ... The Hidden Box Eva Charles 19 ... Untitled Keisha Guzman 21–22 ... Bacon James Lee 25–26 ... Suicide Legs Jahsiyah Joseph

29 ... Untitled Jadiel Ostolaza 31–32 ... The Future Destiny Pagan 35–36 ... 2020 Devon Prince 39–40 ... Summer Short Story Sobeida Pozo 43–44 ... Smile Susan Quinones 47–50 ... Scaredy Cat Shana Quinones 53–54 ...The Story of a Diseased Dancing Being Malik Steedly 57–58 ... Untitled Kayla Townsend 62–64 ... Acknowledgements 66–67 ... 826NYC Location and Leadership 68–70 ... 826NYC Programs

We’re standing in Prospect Park. It’s green, it’s sweltering, it’s July. I’m with the summer school students of Gotham Professional Arts Academy. We’re talking about fiction and poetry and figurative language. The shade is extremely inadequate. A nosy old man with a large catcher’s mitt is trying to butt into our class. The park is a pizza oven. The park is a curling iron. The entirety of Prospect Park exists in the slim space between an egg and the sidewalk it’s being fried on. And despite these impositions—the heat, the humidity, the know-it-all old man, the pushy teaching artist, the twisted combination of “summer” and “school”—the writers of Gotham Professional Arts Academy begin spinning wild, fascinating tales. Huge, small. Poetic, straightforward. Tales that encapsulate the summer, tales that collapse and explode across the boundaries of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, up into the sky and down into the bubbling center of the earth. The students are doing the magical work of transcribing imagination into writing. They’re blending observations about the natural world i

with their sharp, poetic turns of phrase. They’re reinventing familiar stories, they’re combining humor and darkness in exciting and unexpected ways. And through the sheer force of their imaginations, on this disgusting, hot, Prospect Park day, the ground starts shaking furiously. But I don’t scream. I’m not freaked out. I know these students are making one incredible book. Willie Filkowski 826NYC Teaching Artist


by Aleiska Berrios So there was this zookeeper called Carlos that was very clumsy and he took a lion called Bubbles on a walk to the park, but the lion got loose. Carlos tried to get the lion back but he couldn’t catch the lion and he kept falling over and over again and bumping into things. The people in the park were running away and screaming. He tried to call for help but he called the wrong number so at the end the lion ran free and Carlos got fired. But hold on—it was all a dream, there was no lion on the loose, Carlos just fell asleep on the job, the lion was still in the cage. But that was a reminder that he would have to be less clumsy. The end.


by Lailani Bridgeman One day, Bob the Builder was taking a walk in the park while smelling flowers. Then, suddenly, an earthquake came out of nowhere. Shaking and rumbling, it split the park in half. Bob was the only one who knew he could fix it, so he got his tools out and started putting the park back together section by section, sweat dripping down his face because of the heat wave that day. But while he was doing that, he gathered a crowd of people amazed by his quick sharp movements. When he was done, the whole park cheered and clapped for him. A couple months later, the state had a statue built of him for his hard work, and everywhere he went, from Paris to Germany, everyone recognized him as “The Guy Who Fixed the Park.”


by Shaniece Bowers On July 12th, 2063, the President of the United States decided to move from Washington, DC to Prospect Park. He felt like the White House was a bit too much for him. He dreaded waking up in the morning to paparazzi at his door, or not being able to go out to eat without being followed. He arrived in New York, settling into his new Prospect Park home. He wanted to test if he was really free by taking himself out to brunch. As he walked along the park he saw a face that looked a little too familiar. He approached the man thinking, Well if this isn’t him, I’ll look like a total weirdo. As he got closer, he let out a sigh and said, “Michael Parker, you bastard.” The man replied, “Well, Mr. President—long time no see.” As the president stared at the man he thought, I would’ve never expected to see the man who swept my wife from me 8 years ago.


by Alanna Bruno Emily was your typical teenage girl. She goes to school, has friends, and, every now and then, gets bad grades. Like I said, your “typical’’ teenage girl, like some people, is very well known but for all the wrong reasons. Some consider her an outcast, not of “their” kind, but all that changes when something drastic happens. A loud thud is heard coming from Emily’s room. “For the love of Christ Emily!,” her mom yells from the kitchen. Her mother is sometimes up at this time due to the fact that she suffers horrible PTSD and gets bad nightmares that often keep her awake. After getting dressed, she stops to take a whiff of what’s being constructed in the kitchen. It was the smell of bacon and pancakes, her mother’s favorite comfort food when she has her episodes. Emily quickly rushes to the kitchen to grab a plate before heading off to school. After School: After another dreadful day of school I made my way to my “safe haven.” “Prospect Park” a big sign read as I walked in. As soon as I walked in, the smell of the trees and grass hit my nose as I enjoyed every moment 7

of it. It’s as if I haven’t had a moment to breathe in a while being locked up in that school with a bunch of kids that constantly stare at me. I was taken out of my thoughts when I felt the presence of someone else. When I looked, no one was there, almost as if they were watching me for a while but I hadn’t noticed. I brushed it off as I thought it was an asshole from school. I quickly sped up in hopes to not get approached by this “unknown” person. As I kept walking, I spotted this weird person in all black peeking at me from behind a tree. I was beyond livid. I was tired of these kids bothering me and today was the day that I finally stood up for myself. I looked to make sure no one was behind me. I then speed walked towards the tree where I saw this mysterious person. When I arrived, no one was there. A puzzled look quickly took over my face as I saw an old wooden box replace the spot where this person was once standing. I was going to walk away but I felt drawn to the box, almost as if it was calling my name. Still unsure whether or not I should pick it up, I finally got over my fear and picked up the box. When I opened the box, my body went cold and I felt fatigued. What I was looking at was pictures of me but not any regular photos of me right now, they were my baby pictures. What kinda weirdo would have these photos of me? I felt beyond sick but I had to keep looking. Maybe some form of a clue would appear? After searching,


I found something that looked like a birth certificate but it would be almost impossible for it to belong to me due to the fact that it didn’t even have my mother’s name on it. It had someone else’s name: “Donna Kitt.” I looked around me again to see if the person had appeared again. I had a bunch of questions and I needed them to be answered in full detail. No one was around so I ended up just leaving. I wanted to tell my mother about what just happened but was afraid she would try to get Dennis involved. Dennis was an old friend of hers that’s very close with a bunch of people in the police force, and this little incident could turn into a whole investigation. I looked inside the box again and spotted a crumpled piece of paper. I wasn’t quite sure how I missed that the first time, but when I opened it, I noticed that half of it was ripped. I took my time opening it as it felt brittle and I feared that I might mess up the whole thing. It was a note. “My dearest Emily, this pains me to write but this is for the best. I love you more than anything but I just can’t afford to take care of you. I am not stable mentally nor physically. I’m watching you sleep in your crib, all I can think is what did I do to deserve you why is . . . ” I turn to the back of the paper, nothing is there, what in the hell just happened . . .


by Adam Charles He may be the hero to some and a monster to others. He was a beast with no name, but also had many kin . . . The story starts with a young boy. “Well during that era, fifteen was the age that you were considered an adult,” so scratch that last part. Now the story starts with a very young MAN who embarks on a journey. “We’ll kick out the village” to God knows where. Well, the path did not seem as foggy as he thought. “Okay, I know me saying ‘he’ over and over is annoying. So I will give you his name. Now let’s try to remember. I think it started with a W. Oh, I remember it now—it was Leafy.” So Leafy had a goal to get to a place where the grass grows green and the local wildlife is high quality for plenty of harsh winters. This place, spoken of by the chieftain back in the village, was the great fields of the forgotten king. “Or, as you know it, Prospect Park.” Leafy knew that this journey would be hard and tough and he would need some allies. “Well he didn’t say underlings, but he surely thought of it.” He set off on his journey. Leafy was ostracized by everyone who crossed his path due to what he looked like. “Oh, did I not mention that he was a beast who looks like a panda, not to mention that he is the last of his kind in the world?” 11

He gave up suddenly and went on a spending spree and wasted all his money in the nearby city. “He was broke by the end of the weekend because he is stupid.” Now a new problem had arisen: he needed money, so he had to get a job. “Now this idotic man child who never worked a day in his life had to get a job.” The floor was crying and the room smelled like smoke and the bottom of a flip flop. The woman at the front desk asked me to take a seat and had me fill out a piece of paper that was clipped to a piece of cardboard held together with glue. She directed me down the hall to the interview office where I met an old man . . . To be continued . . .


by Eva Charles There was this 25 year old woman, Elizabeth. She was about 5 feet 2 inches and she was married to this boy Kasim who was two years older than her. They were completely opposite people. Kasim had lung cancer since he was 23 and ever since he and Elizabeth have been married, she would be his caretaker. She would do anything and everything around the house or for the house, like dishes, laundry, garbage, cleaning, getting groceries, and even taking Kasim to doctor’s appointments. This went on for about 10 years and unfortunately, Kasim passed away at the age of 33. It took a while for Kasim’s family to get over his passing and it’s been hard for everyone, especially Elizabeth, being that she would always be with him and take care of him. She felt alone and depressed and it took a while for Elizabeth to get on her feet and clean up the house full of Kasim’s things. Eventually, one night when Elizabeth decided to clean Kasim’s things out the house to help her get through things, she found lots of things that were his. Something that surprised Elizabeth was this old box that contained very important information about Kasim. 15

Elizabeth spent hours going through this box and it was filled with pictures and journals from when Kasim was little. But the most important thing she found was a big secret that left her in tears. Elizabeth was torn into pieces as tears fell from her face, because she didn’t know how to bring this problem to Kasim’s family. Elizabeth stayed up all night worrying about this problem and for the next couple of months she had this information bottled up and acted as if nothing was wrong. At Kasim’s one year anniversary of his death, while everyone was around Kasim and taking pictures, Kasim’s sister, Anne, and Elizabeth were talking about that box. Elizabeth continued to tell her that Kasim had a five-year-old daughter, and Anne was as devastated as Elizabeth when she heard this.


by Keisha Guzman New York está completamente lleno de animales y Maria está tratando de esconder su libro en un parque. Pero todo el parque está lleno de animales y no tiene un lugar donde esconder su libro. Así que Maria decidió escarbar para que los animales no arruinaran su libro. Pero el guarda-parque la vió y se acercó y le preguntó, “¿Qué haces?” Maria le respondió, “Estoy intentando esconder mi libro.” Entonces el guarda-parque le dijo, “¿Pero entonces, por qué estás escondiendo el libro en el parque?” Maria le respondió, “Porque en mi casa hubo un incendio y no tengo otro lugar donde esconderlo.” El guardaparque le preguntó, “¿Es muy importante para tí ese libro?” María le dijo, “Este libro es muy importante para mí, mis abuelos me lo regalaron por mi cumpleaños. En este libro está la historia de mi tatarabuelo.” El guardaparque le dijo, “Ok, entonces esconde tu libro pero asegúrate de tapar muy bien el hoyo, para que alguien no se vaya a caer.” Maria le dijo “Ok, no hay problema, muchas gracias.” Así Maria pudo esconder su libro para que nadie lo pudiera dañar. 19

by James Lee My name is Sarah and I’m 16 years old. This is the story of the broken road in front of the famous Cepeda Restaurant, and how I saved it. It was a fairly sunny Monday morning and I was getting ready and dressed for school. I brushed my teeth and headed down stairs. I had received money from my mother and went to the famous Cepeda bodega and asked them to make me a bacon egg and cheese with extra butter and toasted bread. After a couple of minutes my sandwich was done and I got a Mango Arizona to complete the order. I paid my $4.50 and went on my way to school, but on the way I saw a construction plan near the store that said construction was happening soon and the build would take a couple of weeks. “Which means I won’t be able to get my bacon egg and cheese and my other sandwiches from my favorite store on my block! I’ll make a plan to make sure the street will be fixed after the school is closed, so I can still get my food until we don’t need it any more in the mornings. My plan is to make a protest to make sure that the construction doesn’t happen. Or tell my 21

friends to camp in front of the store so we don’t have it closed. I will have the street plan slow down,” I said. So the days have passed and no plan has started, and when we saw this we were shocked. It said the next road over so we waited for nothing, and all my friends were so mad at me. I was very shy and confused, so we asked the construction worker. He said “The Cepeda Road? We’re doing that next week.” After that we were happy and sad. We prepared for this week and for the next week, but now we need another plan because we used all our resources like signs and tents this week and last. So when the construction started they saw five teens in front of the store and were confused. One worker said, “Weren’t you the girls that we talked to last week?” And we said yes we were and as all of us were talking we said the same thing: “WAIT TIL THE SCHOOL YEAR IS OVER!!” They look at us confused. After four days and more of us coming back to this spot, they gave up and waited for this plan and then the plan was a success. “Woo!” said the girls. After that we all bought a bacon egg and cheese and had a party.


by Jahsiyah Joseph One day I was in Prospect Park with Dae and Leak and we found a box. When we opened the box we were nervous because there was lots of dirt and bugs. When we opened the box there were pictures of a boy. That’s all I can say, is that he has a secret lifestyle. This boy is a kid we see around in the local train stations dancing. I thought it was weird but the boy actually had some moves on him. We found out about the boy’s whole life inside a small little box. This boy has been dancing all his life but sadly his parents passed when he was young. The boy was in the circus. He was really talented but his career went downhill at the age of nineteen, so now he dances in the train station so he can get more money. The boy just loved to dance because he broke his foot so his career had to come to an end. This boy’s life was fun and his name is Suicide Legs and his gov name is Jamarcus Brown. He broke his foot on a skateboard so he didn’t want to ride ever again. When he was a youngin, he always cried about missing his parents. His uncle raised him some of his life, the 25

rest of his life he was poor and homeless. Jamarcus’ parents died in a car crash in the Bronx; he actually never had the chance to see his parents. The man’s life was so bad before he was old enough to drive, it is sad how somebody’s life keeps going downhill. He was a skateboarder in the circus. He does those life risking tricks to make the man a daredevil. Skating is a hard sport, but he is elite at it until one day the trick went wrong in midair. He broke his leg when he hit the floor like a giant weight ball that’s so heavy and that’s where the name Suicide Legs came from. His life is a game to him, like he takes too many chances so people call him suicidal, but he uses it as a getaway. He feels happy when he helps other people. The man’s life is sad so he finds a way to make his life better, and other lives fun. One day Jamarcus was skateboarding with ice cream in his hand. He was nervous after he fell. This was his first time after that incident. His leg has healed but sadly he falls again and the red Icee covers him like blood and he cries on the floor in pain. The moral to the story is as much as life goes downhill, pick it back up.


by Jadiel Ostolaza The Strangest Voice I Ever Heard: Was when an old man asked me for when he was carrying groceries up stairs. He had a very squeaky whistle to his voice. I Was Supposed To: Be doing my work but I went to the bathroom and went on my phone. I Knew I Wasn’t Supposed To: Be on my phone in the bathroom, I was supposed to be doing my work. The Strangest Voice I Ever Heard Was: When a random man squealed when he had seen a rat. In Order To Say Brooklyn: I have to be valid, drippy, and know the slang A REALLY CLUMSY PERSON: One day I was walking in Prospect Park when an unexpected friend in the park was there. He was really clumsy and dropped his phone in the lake. He quickly jumped in to grab it. When he grabbed the phone, a goose attacked him and flew away with his phone in its beak. There were three geese. Two were brown and one was white. 29

by Destiny Pagan The woman wakes up from her sleep while her husband lays next to her. She wakes up feeling very adventurous, feeling like she should go to the nearest park and explore it and nature’s beauty. She gets up and starts getting ready to go to the park and she hears a noise . . . It’s her husband waking up from her being so loud and anxious to hurry and rush to the park. He questions her, “where are you going?” And she says “to the park.” He smiles and she continues and kisses him goodbye as it’s only 8 a.m. She continues as she jogs to the park and something is calling to her as she herself is so curious as to why she wants to go so badly. She starts exploring, looking up and down, feeling hotter as she gets closer to what calls to her, and colder as she moves away. She starts hearing birds chirping and dogs barking as the whole NYC is waking up. She gets hotter and she feels it’s a light pole, she feels so drawn to it as if it’s been there her whole life, something that has been missing. She gets scared to get close to it because there’s a gut feeling 31

that something really bad is about to happen, she touches the light pole, and she travels back in time. She goes back to the early 2000’s, curious as to what happened to her, she’s panicking as she sees all her clothes changed and she tries to take her phone out and it’s a pager. She’s looking at the phone wondering what just happened to her and she sees it . . . it’s her in her twenties and she remembers everything. She thinks it’s a sign to have a second chance at life with no more regret and she can change everything. She tries to go back to her childhood home to see her parents as they have died and she grew older due to natural causes. She thinks of her childhood home while she’s leaning on the pole confused as to what happened, and she teleports . . .


by Devon Prince A tourist from Australia just landed in Brooklyn, New York for the first time. He wants to visit all of New York’s beautiful parks and hopefully find love. He is a very tall dude standing about 6’4” and is as skinny as a sheet of paper, but he is very confident walking with his head held high and a big grin on his face. As he walks out the airport yelling for a taxi he spots this beautiful young lady with a shapely figure and brown hair getting into a taxi. He quickly hurries to stop her from getting into the taxi. When he finally catches up to her he grabs her hand and asks for her name. She replies with a soft voice, “Madison, and yours?” He replies, “William” as he closes the taxi door for her. William finally stops a taxi and it takes him to his hotel. As he walks to his hotel, there is a slight shake in the ground but he brushes it off and goes to his room to unpack and go explore New York. His first stop is the Statue of Liberty. He looks at it in amazement. As he walks off he starts to wonder if he will ever see Madison again, but suddenly the ground shakes even harder than before and his body gets cold. His next stop is Prospect Park. As William enters the park he notices that there are only a few people in the 35

park. He thought the park would be packed. He walks on for a few minutes and spots this old man, so he approaches the man and asks where everyone is. The old man replies, “Didn’t you hear the announcement that there is going to be a deadly earthquake and everyone should seek shelter?” He walks off thinking the old man is just crazy talking. As he walks he sees kids playing, and then he spots Madison again. William tries to approach Madison but suddenly the sky gets dark, the wind gets heavy, and the ground starts to shake uncontrollably. With all that happening the ground rips open, trapping all the parents and kids along with Madison underground. He runs over with the ground still shaking to see if he can help the people underneath. William struggles with getting the trapped hole open. He comes to his senses and realizes that he can’t get it open from the top; he spots another hole and jumps in, thinking he can help from the inside. In the dark hole William thinks he is all alone but he hears a soft cry: a little boy balled up, scared. William calls out to the boy, approaching him slowly. The little kid turns around, laughing with a big creepy smile on his face and eyes as red as blood. He gets up and lunges at William. William lets out a big scream . . . To be continued . . .


by Sobeida Pozo Charlotte Connor had always loved the peaceful Prospect Park with its big trees and wide fields. It was a place where she felt delighted. Charlotte walked over to the window and reflected on her refreshing surroundings. It was raining cats and dogs. Then she saw something in the distance, or rather, someone. It was the figure of Chris Johnson. Chris was a wild painter with squat fingers and wobbly lips. Charlotte gulped. She was not prepared for Chris. As Charlotte stepped outside and Chris came closer, she could see the anxious glint in his eye. Chris gazed with the affection of 3,808 brave, mute mice. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want affection.” Charlotte looked back, even more active and still fingering the ripped rock. “Chris, 39

I don’t have the money,” she replied. They looked at each other with relaxed feelings, like two huge, hushed hummingbirds cooking a very sweet Valentine’s meal, which had jazz music playing in the background and two rude uncles bouncing to the beat. Charlotte regarded Chris’s squat fingers and wobbly lips. “I feel the same way!” revealed Charlotte with a delighted grin. Chris looked happy, his emotions blushing like a blue-eyed, barbecued blade. Then Chris came inside for a nice mug of cocoa. THE END


by Susan Quinones Daniel Lee was a billionaire who was generous, thoughtful and a very successful businessman when it came to the Lee company. His staff adored him and was comfortable with reaching out to him if they had any problems in the workforce. He had slicked back, navy blue hair, a slightly broad jaw, a suit as black as a black Chevrolet Camaro, and teeth as white as pearls. His figure was built up like a boxer with his broad shoulders and tall complexion. He seems intimidating at first but he’s sweet by what everyone else says. He lived in a place surrounded by lowlife creatures, yet he knows how to manage with the pricey condo he rented. That place is in New York. He lives with his 15-yearold daughter, Ava. She goes to Boys and Girls High, is very mute, has no friends and is very antisocial. No one knows much about her, but because she refuses to talk, she’s treated like everyone’s doormat. They do things like force her to eat garbage, pour liquids on her, and if they had a bad day she’s their go-to punching bag. She doesn’t stand up for herself and lets this happen. It’s routine for her at this point. Before she goes home, she tries to get herself cleaned up so her dad doesn’t notice the bruises and cuts. She has a 43

petite figure, wears layers of mellow colored clothes and wears sunglasses. It seems like she’s afraid of her bullies at school because she doesn’t try to go against them but the truth is, she doesn’t care what they do to her, she only fears one man . . . and that’s her father.


by Shana Quinones There was this person named Alex who was afraid of animals. When he was a child, nature was never his friend. He always got attacked by his relative’s dogs, along with getting scratched by cats, pecked on by birds, and getting his shoes and money stolen by raccoons. His family never listened to him when he told them that he got bullied by animals. His parents thought he looked poor on purpose to guilt trip them into giving him more clothes and money. What Alex didn’t know is that the reason he got abused by animals so much is because of his siblings and cousins. They had the ability to be so connected with nature, and they used it to their advantage to do harm to Alex for entertainment purposes. He then grew up with both a fear and hatred of animals. He moved away from nature to live in the city. He lives with his online friend named Christina. She was the complete opposite of him because she loved animals. Alex never understood Christina’s love for animals. She always hung out with the strays and wild animals of the 47

city growing up, never with humans. Her rich parents never paid attention to her, but always gave her an indoor pet when they needed her to stay in her room. One day, Christina tried convincing Alex that nature isn’t as scary as it may seem. They went to Prospect Park, a place rich people haven’t made buildings out of (yet). A squirrel came up to Alex, wanting food. He made an “EEEEKKK” sound and ran away. Christina kindly gave the squirrel a nut she suddenly had in her pocket. The squirrel ran up the tree, happy to have something to eat without having to find it themself. Christina walked toward Alex, holding his hand to reassure him that he had nothing to worry about. She saw a small pomeranian dog and brought Alex with her. She took his hand to pat the dog’s head. He stared at the dog’s big eyes and squished its face, mesmerized by how fluffy it was. The pomeranian stuck out its tongue and licked Alex’s fingers. Christina smiled, knowing he was able to face his fears. The moment got ruined when Alex accidentally poked the dog’s eyes and the dog bit his finger. He ran again, feeling even more panicked. That turned Christina’s smile upside down, knowing that overcoming his fears wasn’t going to be easy. They walked down paths full of trees and grass, and anytime Alex heard chirping sounds, he ducked instinctively. He looked at Christina and held her 48

hand. He took a deep breath and started to feel better. Then they sat at a bench to drink water and eat some snacks. Out of nowhere a cat showed up. It was scrawny looking and belonged to no one. It came up to Alex, wanting some help. Instead of being the scaredy cat he was, he tried being nice by giving the stray some water. Christina was so used to being around cats, she always had some type of cat food with her. She gave the cat some wet food and the cat was really happy. It thanked both of them by letting Alex and Christina pet it. The cat purred a lot, and everyone was happy. On their way back home, Alex suddenly realized that even though Christina was an animal lover, she didn’t own any animals. He asked her why, but she continued walking, not answering the question. Alex was very confused. Once they went home, she showed him to the backyard and used a shovel to unbury a box. Her arms were like wiggly noodles while picking up the box. She opened it and inside the box were old pet collars mixed in with animal bones. She told him that when she wasn’t allowed to go outside as a child, she had pent up rage due to not being able to socialize with the only things she was comfortable with. Christina never knew how to cope with her anger and had developed a blind rage. So one day, she destroyed her room and along with that, sadly, her indoor pets had met their demise. She didn’t really remember 49

the details, only knew what her servants had heard and then seen. Remember, her parents are rich. She started to get overwhelmed with tears, and Alex hugged her for comfort. She told him that she kept the bones and collars because those pets were the only things her parents ever gave her. Alex told her that when she’s comfortable enough to want a pet, they can take care of it together. They smile and hug each other tightly. A year later . . . Alex and Christina got themselves a plant because they still didn’t have it in them to get a pet animal. The End


by Malik Steedly There was a tall, energetic, buff man that had skin the color of peanut butter, dancing through the halls of his household. He was also named after his father, Michael. He kept dancing as if it was an addiction, moving through the bright hallway with such passion. Little did he know, the dark clouds formed outside. It seemed like he knew it was going to be a dark day all day. He stared in such exhaustion. The headphones dropped out of his hand because all the energy he had while he was dancing was gone. The fact that he stared in exhaustion, with such sadness written across his face, the clouds enhanced his mood for the rest of the evening. Michael started having flashbacks of how he was a kid, how he would dance through the halls of his parents’ house, and how much fun they all had. Later that evening, a flood from the kitchen occurred. Michael started to notice it and he felt even worse. Then it hit him and he thought to himself, “Why don’t I use this dancing ability as a gift?!” He immediately started dancing through the flood of his kitchen as if it wasn’t a problem. BOOM BOOM BOOM!!! 53

The neighbor knocked at the door. He shouted to Michael out of anger: “HEY MICHAEL, WHAT’S GOING ON OVER THERE???” Michael then looked at the neighbor like a deer in headlights. The water suddenly stopped coming out of the kitchen floor and Michael wasn’t comfortable with it. He looked up at Mr. Peterson to tell him how much his moment was ruined. Mr. Peterson stormed over to Michael and asked “What’s the matter with you Michael?” Michael explained the dancing ability to the nosy neighbor as it rained outside of his home. The argument started to get heated and it led to a physical fight. Mr. Peterson threw a fast punch but Michael did a split so the punch didn’t land on his face. After doing the split, he then started dance-fighting with Mr. Peterson. In the middle of this fight the other neighbors started calling the cops, reporting the same problems.


by Kayla Townsend One day I was in Prospect Park and chilling with my friends. We decided to have a picnic. That day we brought a lot of snacks and a box of pizza to share. I wasn’t really feeling the weather that day because it was rainy and sunny. I decided to go because I wasn’t missing out on the snacks and the games we were planning to play. So when we arrived in Prospect Park, we set out all of our belongings onto the grass, started splitting the chips and pizza onto the plates, and we began eating. After we were all finished eating, we were playing 21 questions. We asked bare questions to each other until it was one question that had everyone shook and surprised. The question was, “Who were our crushes?” So, as we were going into circles, we weren’t saying any names at first. We just started describing the person. So, when we started to peep that we were all talking about the same guy named “Desean,” we were even more shocked because he was trying to talk to all of us. So, as we were still in our shocking moment, everyone in the park gets an alert saying, “A lion is on the loose in Prospect Park and the finder will receive $1,000.” 57

So, me and my friends started panicking and started packing as fast as possible while having a conversation about the alert. We all decided to find the lion. We made a promise to each other to all be back at 5 PM as we were splitting in groups of two. Around this time, it was Daylight Savings Time, so we made sure to grab our flashlights. Kyla and I, Tamir and Italia, we all went different routes. As Kyla and I were walking she stated she had seen a few footprints. I went back to observe what Kyla was talking about and it amazed me. “It was baby footprints,” I yelled in excitement. “This should be easy.” So after walking and not finding anything for about 10 minutes, which was very devastating, Kyla and I started walking back and called Italia and Tamir immediately. We asked them, “Did they find anything?” They said “No.” So all we said was “Let’s meet up where we came from.” As we were walking, we heard chuckles in the bushes, but as soon as we turned around, it stopped making noise. So I stopped walking to follow the noises and Kyla continued to walk. I yelled, “That has to be the baby lion noises.” So she ran immediately to me and we started sketching through the bushes and saw the baby lion laying there on the ground looking all sad. So we grabbed the baby lion and wrapped it in a blanket. Kyla grabbed my phone and called the group chat and yelled in excitement, “We found the baby lion!” 58

They said, “Hurry and bring it back over here.” So, we ran back to where we came from with the lion in our bag and reported that we found the lion. We didn’t want the money at all. We left the park and went our separate ways; I left with the lion and I took it home.


In our Young Writers Publish program, 826NYC works with classes of students and teachers on creative writing projects around and beyond New York City. During the summer of 2021, after an exceptionally unusual school year when our relationship to the world outside our doors shifted almost daily, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students from Gotham Professional Arts Academy took to Prospect Park to observe the outdoors in our urban setting and explore storytelling using what they saw -- trees, nature, the oddities of human behavior -- and what they saw to be lurking beneath the surface: danger, disaster, and intrigue at every turn. *GROUND SHAKES FURIOUSLY* is a compilation of the original work of these students. A huge thank you to the 826NYC teaching artist, Willie Filkowski, for creating indoor and outdoor spaces where students were able to play with details, descriptive language, and what’s seen and unseen in the world all around us. Your support, encouragement, and consistency helped our young writers tap into their imaginations and memories to produce such moving work, and your care in helping them brainstorm, write, 62

and revise throughout this project was invaluable. We are particularly grateful to Claudia Rico, Isaac Mills, Jamal Stevenson, and Sean Burke for their support of this project. Thank you to Claudia and Isaac for inviting us into your classrooms and facilitating such a smooth collaboration. Your hard work and steadfast dedication to your students allows them to flourish as young writers and thinkers. At 826NYC we depend on the dedicated volunteer editing and design cohort that make our publications a reality. Thank you to Vanessa Friedman for overseeing the editing, proofreading, and design of this book. Thank you to Grace Robinson for designing such a beautiful book for our students. To copy editors and proofreaders Chris Ahearn, Chelsea Bonollo, Christine Corbin, Elise Ingber, Amanda Inman, Safia Khan, Nicholas Martinez, and David Rublin, for their careful attention to each of the student’s pieces, thank you. A big thank you to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The Jane Friedman Anspach Family Foundation, The Find Your Light Foundation, The Hawkins Foundation, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Kettering Family Foundation, The Minerva Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, The Resnick 63

Family Foundation, and Youth, Inc. The program is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit 826NYC is grateful to the many individuals who support our work. To see our full list of supporters or make a donation, please visit Thank you especially to the 826NYC staff for their behind-the-scenes support of this project, from curriculum development and the bookmaking process to volunteer recruitment. Finally, thank you to the students at Gotham Professional Arts Academy for taking risks with your writing and sharing your words with us. Writing can be a challenging and hopefully fun process, and your dedication to your craft and your vision shines through in these pieces. We are all excited to see what books you’ll produce in the future!


826NYC and The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. 372 Fifth Ave Brooklyn, NY 11215 718.499.9884 Staff Joshua Mandelbaum, Executive Director Jesusdaniel Barba, Programs Coordinator Janna Cisterino, Development & Communications Manager Chris Eckert, Store Manager Julianna Lee Merino, Programs Coordinator Summer Medina, Volunteer & Programs Coordinator Mandy Seiner, Volunteer & Programs Manager Naomi Solomon, Director of Education


Board of Directors Michelle McGovern, President Ted Wolff, Vice President Ray Carpenter, Treasurer Kathryn Yontef, Secretary Michael Colagiovanni Jen D’Ambroise Liza Demby Jamal Edwards Amir Mokari Sheila Peluso Katie Schwab Danielle Sinay Andrew Sparkler Alyson Stone Maura Tierney Thom Unterburger


Write After School Reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Write After School students work alongside 826NYC staff and volunteers to build their reading, writing, social-emotional skills and unleash their imagination as they play and learn about the power of language. Three times a year, students revise their creative writing for publications that are printed in English and Spanish and shared with families, volunteers, and community members at celebratory readings. Write Away Workshops Young writers come together in Write Away Workshops to explore a multitude of genres and subjects and to develop their voices. Groups write freely and participate in imaginative writing activities and lessons. Whether it’s a song, a piece of climate justice sci-fi, or a nature guide, young writers leave the workshop with a piece to be proud of, as well as a newfound understanding of the topic, and new friends.


Write All About It In Write All About It, reporters from grades 5-8 learn how to conduct a great interview, how to write a classic news story, and more importantly, how to sniff out where the great untold stories of Brooklyn are hiding. We focus on hyper-local news to see how it connects to what’s going on across the country and around the world. Student work is published regularly in The 826NYC Post on 826NYC’s Medium page. Young Writers Publish Turn your classroom into a creative writing lab. During Young Writers Publish residencies, 826NYC teaching artists collaborate with educators on creative, impactful, curriculum-aligned projects that transform students into published authors. Residencies run from six weeks to a full year, depending on the project. Each Young Writers Publish culminates in a book, newspaper, zine, podcast, film, or performance featuring your students. Write Together 826NYC hosts classes across New York City for Write Together: an interactive writing experience that encourages creative expression, explores the elements of storytelling, and strengthens writing skills. Elementaryaged classes collaborate on illustrated children’s books, middle schoolers choose their own adventure, and high schoolers learn the art of memoir writing during a fast69

paced and whimsical 90 minute narrative program. Teen Writers Collective Teens are the next generation of literary leaders. That’s why we launched the Teen Writers’ Collective. The collective brings together young writers from around the city to explore the art of writing and literary citizenship. They are a community of passionate and creative peers, serve as 826NYC youth leaders, and inspire younger students and peers across the network. Dungeons & Dragons & Writers Dungeons & Dragons, the epic fantasy roleplaying game where players craft characters to take on magical quests that can change with the roll of the dice, has a home at 826NYC. A band of adventurous authors in grades 5-8 play out an entirely original tale and chronicle their fantastical deeds in character point-of-view journals, histories, and scene writing. Sometimes the greatest gift is the friends we make — and make up — along the way. Student Publications Through our programs, our volunteers work with students to help them create stories, poems, and ’zines. Because we believe that the quality of students’ work is greatly enhanced when they are given the chance to share it with an authentic audience, we are committed 70

to publishing student works. By encouraging their work and by guiding them through the process of publication, we make abundantly clear that their ideas are valued.


During the summer of 2021, after an exceptionally unusual school year when our relationship to the world outside our doors shifted almost daily, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students from Gotham Professional Arts Academy took to Prospect Park to observe the outdoors in our urban setting and explore storytelling using what they saw—trees, nature, the oddities of human behavior—and what they saw to be lurking beneath the surface: danger, disaster, and intrigue at every turn. *GROUND SHAKES FURIOUSLY* is a compilation of the original work of these students.

ISBN 978-1-948644-82-2

9 781948 644822