Christmas Vignettes _House on Mango Street_

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					Goal: To generate two distinct forms of writing that satisfy the same need to express oneself.
One forces the art of creative writing, the other the skill of essaying. Which do you prefer? With
which are you most familiar? Which allows you to express what you really want to express? Is it
the thoughtful, pensive reflective essay? Or is it the narrative vignette?

Christmas Vignettes (House on Mango Street)
Creative Writing Task: Create a Christmas Vignette
Directions: Vividly describe a memory, image, occasion, event you have „witnessed,‟ „had,‟ or
„experienced‟ in connection with this advent and holiday season by illustrating it in the form of a
vignette. That is to say, adopt the style, strategies, and literary techniques employed by Sandra
Cisneros to fully express this „moment in time and space‟ including reference to feelings and
emotions as well as to setting and characters as needed.
     The vignette seldom contains much background information, but rather focuses on the
        moment itself: its characters, the setting, the actions, and the emotions tied up with the
        rest. It is more likely to contain reflective moments than many short stories do, but even
        these reflections are not connected to huge concepts, but immediate feelings that
        themselves are not always clearly expressed/express-able „in the moment.‟
     Your vignette is not exactly a short story, but a highly descriptive, detailed, episodic
        (rather than truly narrative) „insertion‟ into a story with which we may or may not be
        familiar. The vignette, therefore, should „stand alone‟ like a picture or snapshot. It should
        be moving; it should evoke feelings in the reader. These feelings will point to a deeper
        meaning, but your vignette will not state directly what this meaning is.

Reflective Writing Task: Write a Reflection - What 'Christmas means to Me'.
Directions: I KNOW the prompt sounds trite, but only because students write trite and
thoughtless, cliché and meaningless answers to it. We are told what to say and think by others
and then find we do not value our efforts all that much. This is a reflective essay. It needs a
thesis, it needs descriptive and detailed writing too, but now it is thoughtful and complete. This is
not creative writing, but reflective journal-ing at its best (it has essay structure, formal
formatting, a clear focus that a diary entry may not have, etc)!
     This assignment does not have to be tied to the topic of your vignette. It could be, the
         vignette can reflect these sentiments, but do not feel constrained by the two assignments
         appearing on the same assignment sheet.
     The body paragraphs of this essay still have evidence (data). However, now these data
         (concrete examples) are taken from your head, experiences, memories, etc. and illustrate
         the abstraction (the claim) that heads each paragraph.
     See my Example.

Publishing Tip: In the example I have posted, note that I had an old photograph of the scene. It is
added not to take over the project, or to take away my need for description. Assume the
responsibility to describe the picture as if it were not there. Remember, you will want to add
more sensory effects than mere sight anyway! If you do not have a picture suitable, see if you
can find at least some visual media to augment your presentation.
English 1
Creative Writing Rubric - Vignette Project
I. Title (5 pts)
Is academic, inviting, attention getting, thought provoking, or emotive
Is connected either thematically or descriptively to the creative work
II. Structure (20 pts)
Uses a form appropriate to the writing task assigned. Proper length, form, etc. is used
     Vignette Project: The form is a vignette, a short descriptive episode that is oddly „stand
        alone‟ and so will not have a standard „Freytag’s pyramid’ form.
III. Use of Literary Devices/Elements (40 pts)
Used to create a desired effect rather than randomly
Use of literary devices in creative unity
     Important literary elements will include imagery first and foremost. The term vignette is a
        literary metaphor for a visual art form.
     Metaphor, simile, personification, and onomatopoeia are all common techniques in
        Sandra Cisneros‟ work. Also the use of dialect is applicable if you are representing the
        thoughts or words of young children, etc.
     Clear indications of Mood and Tone are nearly as important as thematic content in
III. Cohesiveness (25 pts)
An overall theme, message, or purpose ties the piece together without explicitly stating that
     The need to avoid an explicit statement of purpose is clearly indicated by Sandra
        Cisneros‟ techniques.
IV. Form and Mechanics (10 pts)
Correct use of grammar, punctuation, and spelling conventions.
MLA format is clearly followed
Diction is grade-level appropriate
     To follow the model, some poetic license can be taken in punctuation, syntax, and
        diction. However, these must all be clearly linked to dialect.
                              Gifts and Gifts (and Gifts) at Christmas

         Packed. The room was packed with gifts. It was rather comical, really. The gifts closest
to the tree were well-wrapped, quaintly colorful, bow besprinkled, and ribbon bound. They were
neatly stacked or decoratively spread. They were clustered, tall ones in the corners of the room
and short ones in the center so as not to block the tree. The gifts farther from the tree were not so
neatly wrapped. They were stacked, but sometimes large and light on small and heavy. Their
wrappings were not so gay, but hastily taped wrapping paper with upturned edges. Some boxes
merely were a patchwork of paper scraps. The clusters became more random here, and stacking
for density replaced any desire for aesthetic
         Bags bedecked boxes, and all were tossed
together large and small by the time you got to the
gifts farthest from the tree. These gifts were no
longer near the tree at all and laid all about the
middle of the room haphazardly. Some gifts sat
on tables, others under them. The coffee table was
obscured entirely. A bag hung from the lamp
stand; ok I guess, it was light. Newspaper and
brown bags replaced ribbon, bows, boxes, and
colorful paper altogether by now. But still the sight was glorious! So many gifts! Who cares if
the package is festive red, gaudy green, glittering gold, or fluffy white? It is what is inside that
really matters anyway, right?
         Never had there been such a Christmas. As I gazed with my sister at this feast for the
eyes (soon to be enjoyed by ripping fingers, cavorting legs, shouting lungs and larynxes, et al), I
noticed that the rest of my older seven siblings, all newly back from church, seemed to be having
the same reaction. Their faces were flushed, tears welled in their eyes (just as warm tears of
expectation and joy had leapt to mine). My mother glowed, my father gloated and chortled, made
mention of Santa Claus who had come late, it seemed, and just managed to fly in as we were at
church. Well, now we at least knew why Dad went missing after communion.
         We opened gifts for hours. I made a fort of my loot and noisily surrounded my hoard with
a moat of torn wrappings, crushed boxes, flattened bows, crinkling tissue, whistling shards of
newspaper, rustling grocery bags, and discarded popping plastic. But mine was no great haul
compared to that surrounding my mother. My brothers and sisters each had their place, and each
heap was impressive. But my mother‟s take was extraordinary and included things for which I
had little desire but much appreciation. A fur coat, a pin of gold, diamonds, and rubies fashioned
into a bee (a critter for which she was immensely fond), a silver tree of amethyst shards upon a
deep rich purple amethyst geode, the whole swarming with silver bees that seemed to buzz about
the gemstone leaves: these were the things that graced her Christmas cache.
         My best Christmas, my mother‟s last Christmas: the gifts that filled the room, the love
that filled the gifts, all in boxes or bags, bows or newspaper – all were shared by all „til tears
came to us all.
                                               Christmas Nostalgia
         Although I could come up with the expected platitudes about Christmas and what it means as
good as the next fellow, I shan‟t. I know it is a time for giving. It is also a time for peace, joy, love,
happiness, good will to mankind… did I leave something out? If I did, I am sure you will correct me, but
that isn‟t the point. It is also a time for remembering that Christ was made incarnate, and that we honor
and remember this moment despite the fact that we know most about his ministry and only scant details
and remembrances from his birth and childhood. It is of memory of cherished, undefiled, although
perhaps imprecisely remembered moments I want to write, for Christmas to me is a romantic, nostalgic
holy day. I am getting too vague, by far. Let me be precise. Christmas to me is the calculated and
deliberate (if vain) attempt to recapture the joy of Christmas as I experienced it in my earliest years; I
seek and, if successful, find Christmas as it was: untainted by commercialism, of course, but also when I
was too young to know what it was supposed to be, and enjoyed it for what it turned out to be.
         I am not going to wax philosophical now and say that my nostalgia is for a Christmas without the
commercialism that has already been vilified by so many, from the makers of Miracle on 34th Street (in
black and white) to the makers of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. At the heart of my Christmas
Nostalgia I believe in gifts! I believe in pretty ones, big ones, and pretty big ones too! Moreover, when I
think back to my early Christmases, the best years are the ones I did find my parents‟ love reflected in
their generous spirits. I remember the five or more Christmases that left me the proud owner of every Star
Wars action figure and accessory made. I dare say my desire and my parent‟s acceptance of the
commercial dimension of Christmas gift giving has put George Lucas‟ kids through college. My parents
found out the hard way that you could not just own one stormtrooper, rather, you needed a squad (at the
very least). Shortly after that lesson came the recognition that a tie-fighter is useless without an imperial
pilot (how obvious), as well as the Millennium Falcon and X-wing fighter (less obvious but more
         However, my nostalgia is not susceptible to commercialism or its detractors. I love gifts and buy
gifts with an open heart and open wallet. I am thankful for producers who make the things my loved ones
desire, and tell them so often. But I also make gifts, and have since I was five. From five until 16, I helped
my brothers make homemade beef jerky for my parents and 5 sisters. We, of course, ate our fill as we
pleased and so had to buy gifts for each other (fishing gear, scale models, sports equipment, and other
macho stuff), but for the most part, it was a homemade season of tireless teamwork for us (no dehydrators
yet, this stuff was done the old fashioned way!). From the age of 16, I have been carving, drying, and
sending off dried cowbits solo each year. The sound of the dehydrator whirring and the smell of jerk
seasoning is as good as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and spiced cider to me: Talk about bizarre
nostalgia! But my willingness to buy and make gifts interchangeably is at the heart of my nostalgia; I do
not want to be burdened with cynical visions of Christmas or seem gullible either. I simply want
Christmas to be the way it was before I knew of the two categories.
         To achieve these Christmases, I will go to any length. My Christmas tree is decorated with hand
crafted homemade ornaments that my family makes for each other on Christmaseve every year since our
huge collection was destroyed in a Christmas day fire in 1987. Yes, a Christmas day fire that took my
childhood home from me my senior year in high school. My house is usually alight with as many lights as
I can hang; my dad was a rather skilled electrician amongst his many talents, and a year without a massive
electric bill would seem a crime to me. I go to see lights each Christmas as I have since I was too young
to remember, walking block after block to see lit house displays no matter the cold.
         Christmas, to me, is a remembrance of all these cherished moments of my youth re-enacted and
honestly (and naively) felt each time in the present. And why not? Isn‟t Christmas itself a time to
remember the birth of Christ, a cherished moment, and to relive it in the present as if were happening
each time again? Christ IS born (not Christ was born), just like Christ IS risen (not Christ rose).

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