The Story Behind the Story: “School Bags”

In the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, your school years are divided in two: you start around age four, for eight years in one school, then you move up to “high school” for four, five or six years, depending on how smart you are, as determined by a test you take in the final year of the first school.

School Bags” originated from an exercise I did while studying with the Writers Studio in Tucson back in 2013. It is loosely based on what my high school years looked like and the original piece contained more shouting teachers, the discipline, the hallways (including animal fetuses in jars lining the walls outside the Biology classroom), and the importance and status of brand clothing.

The story started double the size of what it ended up being; with an awkward metaphor of  the students being like baby turtles. In time, that morphed into back packs, surely you could see how that happened. The feedback I kept hearing was to keep the focus on the bags themselves, but I was too emotionally invested with the material itself to see that through. Many, many drafts followed but none of them were saying what I wanted them to say, until I became so frustrated with it, I threw the (rather large) pile of drafts in a drawer, determined to burn it one day. Drawer and all.

A year and a half later I went back to it and now I was able to let go of my “agenda”, I didn’t feel the need anymore to tell all the details of all the  things that had happened to me as a “baby turtle” with my heavy back bag. That wasn’t as interesting, because that’s the stuff you write in a diary (had I kept one). But now I had found the distance and the room I needed to simply talk about the bags. It felt triumphant and freeing to cut all the unnecessary stuff and see the story that was beneath all that baggage all along.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
New Fiction Flash Audio Series Featured Fiction Conference/Residency Spotlight Essays/Articles (all) Developing a Writing Life
Sort by

“School Bags”

They were selected for practicality, not color, or brand or cool factor. They were selected for practicality,
2016-06-25 06:29:51
lilianvercauteren

18

Flash Audio Series: “School Bags”

The Flash Audio Series features audio versions of stories published on our site. In this segment of our series,
2016-05-09 06:48:56
lilianvercauteren

18

“School Bags”

They were selected for practicality, not color, or brand or cool factor.
2016-04-04 12:00:29
lilianvercauteren

18

“After Drinking It Up”

Who’s to say the d
2019-03-22 07:36:20
ndevaull

8

“Highball”

He’s in the soft green center of the fourteenth fairway when the shouting starts. Steve cranes his head back toward t
2019-01-21 11:22:55
tclakin

8

“If You Can Make It Across”

If you can just make it across 35
2019-01-09 09:25:45
macnostic

8

“Chekhov’s Rule”

When I first met Walker, he had a job at the tackle shop on the river and a classic early-seventies Chevy Nova,
2018-12-03 11:27:44
chiappone

8

“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough Swag: Spring Break 2018 at the AWP”

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference is the largest writers conference in North
2018-08-13 07:28:20
alice-hatcher

8

“Tea Hour”

There is something about that Bud Mason, Ardith says, and watches him sternly from the kitchen window. He is not
2018-05-18 13:38:54
bcolliso

8

“Just Short of the Words”

The land just east of the high school covers 22.4 acres, a slab of earth christened University Commons for its catty
2018-03-15 17:16:04
brittaacker

8

About Lilian D. Vercauteren

Lilian D. Vercauteren was born and raised in the Netherlands, but felt since a young age drawn to America's wide open spaces. At age 22 she came to Michigan ("for a year or so") and ten years later she lives, works and writes in Tucson, Arizona. She has studied at the Writers Studio, and has had her work published by the Lowestoft Chronicle, The Missing Slate and forthcoming from After The Pause. She is currently working on her first novel which is about pie and a sharp-witted Dutchman.