Wrenched. Twisted. Stumped.
Students jotted down these words and others that caught their attention as they listened to a passage of Harry Potter amid the crinkle of candy wrappers being opened around the room.
The exercise was to pinpoint the action words author J.K. Rowling used to make her writing pop in a two-hour writing workshop dedicated to muscle words.
"One thing that she does is repeat the word 'up,' so, as a reader, I'm going up the stairs with her, and with Harry," said Sue Welfringer, one of the workshop leaders.
About 15 fourth- to eighth-graders gathered at three circle tables laden with candy, rainbow-colored markers, notebooks and neon-colored note cards for the "Sense-Fest" writing workshop in the Huntington Beach Central Library's Talbert Room on Saturday afternoon.
The workshop was put on by the Sand Scribes, a children's authors support group that hosts an annual children's essay and illustration contest, to work with mostly aspiring young authors on word choice and paying attention to their senses.
"We just want them to have fun and put the sparkle back into the idea of creative writing," said Dawne Knobbe, the other workshop leader.
Natasha Lundgren was munching on the candy in front of her on the table in a black-velvet top hat with white fuzzy rabbit ears sticking out as Harry Potter was being read, but she wasn't writing down Rowling's muscle words.
The 13-year-old was engrossed in her own story about a 14-year-old girl with bright red hair and a fashion-designer mother, who moves from Los Angeles to a small town in Tennessee.
The story isn't the first for the aspiring screenwriter and author, who said she finds herself writing instead of listening in class. Still, she had doubts about attending the workshop at first.
During the workshop, though, she said she became inspired to go home and write more.
"I'm very glad I changed my mind and decided to go," she said.
For Natasha, writing is something she is able to do in her free time and a chance to use her imagination.
She said she has found that most people base their characters on themselves, and she is no exception. Writing allows her to live out experiences that would be impossible for her in real life, she said.
Savannah Fort, though, didn't fall into writing about her alter ego, but wrote about one of her most common subjects, cats — a pirate cat, to be exact.
This was the 10-year-old's second time at the writing workshop, having won the Sand Scribes writing contest previously. An aspiring writer, Savannah said she just wants to improve her craft, and doing it with her peers is a good time.
"I enjoy being able to be with a bunch of other people, and it's fun to write," she said.