Chess and Such by Kayne Belul

Pawn to e4. There are other options for sure, but it’s always a safe bet. One move into the chess game and there are already eleven common enough ways for black to respond. If both players are skilled and want a safe game, the first half of their match becomes choreographed. Certain moves just work.

A few weeks ago I attempted to have the protagonist of one of my stories play a game of chess with the omniscient narrator. I’ve since given up the idea. There are too many ways the story could play out. I can’t narrow the choices down.

I: The protagonist is sitting alone, in a park, at a stone chess table. A piece moves.

II: The protagonist only exists in the moments when his eyes are open. When his eyes are closed, he flickers out of existence and is replaced by the narrator, who wants to play chess in the intervals.

III: The narrator is standing in a white cube, watching a projection of the protagonist on one wall. To make a move, the narrator simply alters every slide from the moment when a piece moves to infinity. If he only altered one slide, the piece would revert instantly.

IV: The narrator thinks in the mind of a passerby, allowing him to play the protagonist in human form.

V: The narrator believes the pieces move, and so they do. The protagonist is driven insane.

VI: A homeless man acts as the king. The narrator half-heartedly attempts to kill him off while the protagonist tries to save him. Sort of like a word game.

And so on. None of the options quite worked.

Many people have made the case that pawn to d4 is the superior opening move. I don’t get it. I will eventually.

Kayne Belul, class of 2018

My First Brief Collection By Emma Eisler

As our final fiction project in creative writing two, we have been putting together small story collections. These collections are compromised of one nucleus story, the story that is at the core of all the other stories, and three orbital stories, shorter stories that engage in different kinds of dialogue with the nucleus story.

​As I started working on this collection, I realized I was actually writing two parallel collections, one about the stifling quiet of suburbia, and one about the isolated displacement of travel and being away. Because I could not stomach the idea of abandoning either of these trains of thought and exploration, I decided to combine the two collections into a larger series of two nucleus stories and six orbitals. Although this has added fairly significantly to my work load, I could not be more excited about continuing to work on this project.

Not only am I working on my writing on the usual level of creating, I am also beginning to look at my writing through a larger lens that extends beyond the borders of any one story. Throughout my high school life, I have always had the sense that every piece of my writing has been steadily adding towards something bigger and greater than any of the individual pieces.

Despite still being far from digging my fingernails into this something and holding onto it long enough to write it down, I can already feel how much closer this collection is bringing me. I have an individual voice and I am a writer, and this power extends beyond the last page of any single story.

Emma Eisler, class of 2017


Sci-Fi Week by Killa Heredia Bratt

In our seventh week of fiction, the amazing Terry Bisson has come to teach Creative Writing I a thing or two about science fiction.

Science Fiction is fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets. I was a little timid–it seemed like such a complex genre to step into. And who was I, someone who hardly ever reads or watches sci-fi, to write about it?

Before this unit, I was not really introduced to this particular genre, save for the occasional post-­apocalyptic novel. And with the first assignment that Terry gave us, watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, (the original) it seemed I would be diving head first into it.

The thing about that movie, is that amongst the spaceships and the robots and the aliens, the real meaning behind it is to be at peace. That war is a childish, immature thing. It is a thing of stupidity. And so even though with all the complex science, everything about it seemed to be straightforward and easy to understand.

The real fun started when we all shared out our ideas to each other. There was a huge range between GMO freak accidents, (GMOcalypse!) and animal hybrids which drove some people to incest, and even selected memories being deleted from one’s mind to improve education. Everyone’s imagination just really came together to create these new worlds.

And that’s when I realized there was absolutely no reason to be scared or apprehensive about writing sci-fi. It’s just a way to express your imagination, to deliver the message you want to get across just like you would any other story but with a twist. At least that’s what it is to me. I happen to love using my imagination. And with science fiction, you can do so much with it. So if you want to write stories about aliens or meteorites or even vampires whose to say you can’t?

Killa Heredia Bratt, class of 2019

Reading Poetry by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

I started reading poetry again. Not that I really had stopped, but I hadn’t read any in maybe months. I’d been in a fiction unit in school, which meant reading it and writing strictly prose for class, and prose was all I was getting in my English class with The Great Gatsby and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Plus I’d been reading novels back to back; Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast and A Farewell to Arms, and Faulkner’s The Wild Palms. The tangibility of the prosaic object assailed me on all sides. The poem was being subverted to the abstract slur which many of my peers maintain it is. It was too fanciful and too intellectual in turns.

I was beginning to have doubts.

Then my mother asked me to help her find a poem. I went to grab a book of poetry, and looking at the bookshelf, got distracted with the titles and authors that jumped out at me. I made a stack of books I’d read, and grabbed a few I hadn’t, looking for the poem. I brought a few books—Unattainable Earth by Czeslaw Milosz, The Simple Truth by Philip Levine, a book of Merwin, a book of Ferlinghetti, and a copy of The Bhagavad Gita—to bed, and then to school the next morning.. In a couple days I wrote a poem, unbidden.

It hadn’t left.

I am always scared poetry has left me. That I won’t like it anymore, that I won’t be able to write it, that no one but a poet would ever read it. It turns into a blank word document and retreats up in to the air.

But only for a while.

Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

Stereotypes by Stella Pfahler

There are a lot of assumptions about SOTA by students at other schools—that we are introverted, socially awkward, and slackers; that all we do is smoke weed and flunk easy classes and sneak out to rendezvous in Glen Park. These qualities aren’t true of anyone I know—nor are they defining characteristics of our school. Other predispositions come from other departments—Creative Writing is sometimes thought of as a cult-like department; that all we do is sit in a dark room and write until our legs grow pasty and our muscles grow withered, weak from disuse. Of course, the majority of other students call us these things playfully—any department-versus-department strife in my experience is purely bravado.

I find the Creative Writing department to be more diverse then I ever could have imagined while applying. Coming into this department as a serious athlete, I was worried that I would grow to fit CW stereotypes—that I would grow soft and become as wary of the sun as a vampire. Some of my friends from middle school decided not to apply just because of the lack of sports teams. And, though it’s true that us Creative Writers can’t participate in school sports due to department rules (as many SOTA students play for Academy of Arts and Sciences), many of us find the time to become things…other than writers. Creative Writing is home to actresses, dancers, parkour experts (ahem), musicians, gymnasts. Most of my friends in the department agree that, in order to become a true artist, you have to be as well-rounded as fits your ability—that you have to try out other mediums, become immersed in SF’s art community, get out of your comfort zone. It is my belief that Creative Writing is the most accepting and varied department, in terms of character—in the entire school. I am proud to be part of it.

Stella Pfahler, class of 2019

A Common Lesson in Absurdity by Thalia Rose

The church camp I went to in Florida was in a humid, rainy woodland. I did not know anyone there the summer of 2009. The first thing that happened at church camp was an assembly in the cafeteria. This assembly included a lecture from a greasy sixteen year-old boy. He began, “I am going to tell you a story about the ant who survived the apocalypse.”

“There was an ant named Todd. He was five feet tall and stood like a human man. He could only travel by killing. After killing, he would travel in the carcass of his victim. He did not feel bad about it. He saw a rabbit in the grass. He ran up to it and dug his fangs into her stomach.”

The kids around me were laughing. One kid had his finger so deep into his nose that I could only see the knuckle of it. I remember having a confusion as deeply rooted as that kid’s finger. My consular whispered to the co-consular, “This story is four hours long.”

It did. I will spare you the length of the story. The progression of events went like this: the ant travels in the body of the rabbit until he reaches a pelican. Upon reaching the pelican, he kills it. He flies around and has a revelation about Holiness. Then, he kills a fish. He, as a fish, travels to a playground. The story ends with the fish, who is actually an ant sitting in a rotting corpse, sitting on the playground as the last creature alive after the apocalypse. There was no particular moral to this story. It was reliant on shock value, and after about an hour the audience had been drained of shock value.

I think about this story often for two reasons. Firstly because, as a writer who prefers to create poetry and prose, form is highly experimental. The storytelling at church camp was resonant in the way that someone had devoted time to creating a four hour long story about a murderous ant and that proved that if an individual is determined to do something, be it abstract to the point where it is appalling or not, an individual can do it. Secondly, it was memorable because it was an odd, inconsequential storytelling that ultimately holds no significance to my life and personal choices beyond a common lesson in absurdity.

Thalia Rose, class of 2018