Waiting for People to Make Mistakes by Anya Patel

I don’t remember the practical things, like what my locker combo was and is, but I remember to follow the pawprints on the way down the outdoor stairs. I have to make the block schedule my wallpaper even though it hasn’t changed in years, but I remember which teachers have fun colors of thumbtacks, and which ones have the boring school provided ones. I don’t remember which side of the hallway I’m supposed to go into the library from, but I remember which bathroom has someone’s bucket list in it. I don’t remember not to drink the cafeteria water, to not run my hand under a table top, or how to casually wear a backpack without looking like such a school-kid. 

I do remember which soap dispensers really have soap, which rooms are stuffy, and which are cold. It’s easy to wonder if these memories, or lack of memories are reusable, useful, if they’ve even stayed the same, and I feel like I’m learning slowly, trying to figure out. When I get my locker combo right on the first try, when I know my schedule without checking, and even when I go into the library on the correct side, I feel as if I’ve learned my place, as well as earned it. I smile when I see the freshman and even sophomores making mistakes, like lining up for the bathroom when there is no real line, just crowds of friends who will tell you they’re “waiting,” or maybe even filling their water bottles in the fountain that is always suspiciously warm. I feel like I would never make these mistakes, that there are levels of mistakes and mine are not as important as those. I bet the seniors make more minor mistakes and laugh at me, and double laugh at the freshman.

Anya Patel Class of ’23

A Whole New World, and in the Worst Way Possible by Jesper Werkhoven

Hot off of a mind-numbing disaster, the class of 2024 has been thrust into High School life a year too late. I’m sure everyone else is taking it just fine, but it’s always a struggle for me. Everything’s always a struggle. But that’s what makes the payoff so great. It wouldn’t have hurt for the pandemic to interrupt my Sophomore and Junior years, though. 

Getting reacquainted with school has been more enjoyable than I thought it would be, actually. It never occurred how integral being in-person was, and how much more enjoyable Creative Writing is because of it. It’s definitely something to ponder on. Although, now that the pandemic is in the past, I can’t help but long for it again. I wish I could go back to a lot of things, mostly things I’m either worried I’ll never get back or just straight up won’t. 7th and 8th Grade Halloween, going around my friend’s neighborhood with a group of my closest, Mr. Sanchez’s amazing 8th Grade U.S. History class… a lot of things from Middle School. Appropriate, seeing as I never really got to say goodbye. I would hardly count an online graduation as fitting. I still need to go back there when I have the time.

High School itself, while better than I thought it was, has had it’s lows too. Being cooped up inside all day, and especially back when the pandemic seemed very literally endless, left me with nowhere to go besides inside my own head. It’s created a complicated me; I feel like I have the greatest understanding of myself I could possibly have right now, being able to more or less describe my current flawed ways of life with pretty succinct explanations. I’ve become a lot more observant, often picking up on or predicting friend group-related events before they happen. My favorite and last gained trait has got to be my memory; it’s a fickle thing for everyone, and I hear that memory gets pretty warped over time (believe me, it does; I’ve seen it firsthand, but I like to think mine is less so), but I remember a lot more than any of my friends do. To the point where I remember and thus know more about my friends than they know about themselves sometimes, which is, to say the least, pretty disconnecting. So much has changed over the pandemic, including them, that I have no idea what to do. I feel like I’ve stayed exactly the same, and while they’ve made complete 180’s in some aspects, I remember many times earlier this year when they were what I’ve thought was their ‘normal’ selves. It certainly hasn’t been fun to deal with that, and more, but I’ve got my Creative Writing family to be with while I sort that out.

Whenever I think I’ve got it down to a science, the flask explodes in my face and I have to build it all over again. School life has been tough on me for the past few years, and the pandemic hit just when I thought I was crawling out of it. Now, though, I think a change is going to happen. It has to happen, at least. Finally getting up and sorting things out. It feels nice.

Sudden Seniority by Zai Deriu

As we close on the second week of school, I reflect on the fact that although this is my last year of high school, it is only my second full year of on-campus education. It is odd to think that at this point in time, the class of ’22 is the only grade to have gone through a full year of school in person. 

When we left on what was, at the time, a temporary order to shelter in place, I was an underclassmen, specifically a sophomore. In sophomore year, things such as applying to college, writing my senior thesis, and graduating felt so far away. I wasn’t yet thinking about having to leave Creative Writing. Now, that time is fast approaching. In less than a year, I will be moving away to go to college.

Being a small department of roughly thirty people across all four grades, everyone knows each other well. Each year I feel strange coming back to Creative Writing missing the previous year’s seniors, but this year the change is even more stark, as not only one, but two grades have graduated since the last time we were on campus. I find myself mistaking some of the freshmen for last year’s seniors at first glance, and then am forced to remind myself that they are in college at this time, some in other states. 

Regardless, I am still extremely grateful to be back on campus with Creative Writing. Although I miss seeing the upperclassmen from years past on a daily basis, their leaving was inevitable. In their place there are new underclassmen in the department, who I am looking forward to getting to know better! I feel for the class of ’21 and ’20 who had to experience their final year via Zoom, and am happy that me and the rest of my grade get to be in-person once more.

Going into my senior year, I want to be sure to take care of myself better than I did prior to the pandemic. Making the transition back into school these past two weeks has been difficult for me. I’m not used to having such a stiff schedule or being around so many people. It gets quite overwhelming and by the end of the day I am often very tired. After so much time inside, keeping to myself, and learning what works best for me, I hope to stay true to at least some of those practices in order to remain relaxed and productive.

Waiting For People to Make Mistakes by Anya Patel

I don’t remember the practical things, like what my locker combo was and is, but I remember to follow the pawprints on the way down the outdoor stairs. I have to make the block schedule my wallpaper even though it hasn’t changed in years, but I remember which teachers have fun colors of thumbtacks, and which ones have the boring school provided ones. I don’t remember which side of the hallway I’m supposed to go into the library from, but I remember which bathroom has someone’s bucket list in it. I don’t remember not to drink the cafeteria water, to not run my hand under a table top, or how to casually wear a backpack without looking like such a school-kid. 

I do remember which soap dispensers really have soap, which rooms are stuffy, and which are cold. It’s easy to wonder if these memories, or lack of memories are reusable, useful, if they’ve even stayed the same, and I feel like I’m learning slowly, trying to figure out. When I get my locker combo right on the first try, when I know my schedule without checking, and even when I go into the library on the correct side, I feel as if I’ve learned my place, as well as earned it. I smile when I see the freshman and even sophomores making mistakes, like lining up for the bathroom when there is no real line, just crowds of friends who will tell you they’re “waiting,” or maybe even filling their water bottles in the fountain that is always suspiciously warm. I feel like I would never make these mistakes, that there are levels of mistakes and mine are not as important as those. I bet the seniors make more minor mistakes and laugh at me, and double laugh at the freshman. 

In the Bay by Oona Haskovek

It was definitely not what I was expecting when I applied for the program back at the start of 2021, but that by no means, signifies that I didn’t enjoy every bit of it.

The name “Aquatic Park” was not familiar to me, even though I’d seen it dozens of times. The waterfront steps that ever so slightly had the smell of the nearby Ghirardelli Square wafting across the sandy shore. Adding some type of warmth to the area against the harsh, salty, ocean chill, not physically raising the temperature, but giving you the feeling of sitting by the crackling bittersweet flames with a matching cup of steaming cocoa. It fades quickly, swept out across the bay, but those moments of the occasional chocolatey goodness smell are worth the constant shivering.

Centering back to, not what sits behind me, but the glory of what’s in front of me. The seagulls, graying, not from seniority, but from youth, not yet at their full potential. Some arguing silently about who ate that crumb of sourdough, some flying overhead, getting the perfect aerial picture of everything. 

My toes found their way to the spot on the sand where the slight edge of pearly white sea foam meets the salty-soaked sand, and I flinched as the cold shimmied up my body. 

I changed to more appropriate bay swimming attire, and ran hands-first into the freezing water, letting them take the most of the impact, with little to no success on the matter. The goosebumps scattered themselves across my arms and legs with the attitude of house faeries fleeing the sunroom windows at the sound of footsteps. 

Myself, as well as a few other recruits began our right-of-passage-like swim out to the buoy and back, pausing every now and then to steal our breaths back from the chilling depths of the ever deepening bay below our feet. After that exciting excursion, (some might even say it was breathtaking) I sat half out of the water clutching my shivering knees, and discussed some very important, much needed information regarding the existence of mermaids, as well as their impact and relationship with the humans. Now covered head to literal toe in sand and salinated liquid bay, I dried off, and put on some new clothes. 

As we discussed several plans for a few of us to return home safely, I left my shoes untied. 

Revelations in the Contrast by Tiarri Washington

After the first few weeks of school we in Creative Writing begin to workshop our summer work. I imagine, without much investigation, that this can be a disquieting time for anyone. It’s the moment where you bare your work to the eyes of a daunting few; a genuine exchange of detailed critique, solid, enlightening suggestions, and thorough ideas for revision. A test of endurance as the lucky author sits idly in silence as indifferent marks against paper encourage an anxious sweat from their temples.

I, being a sophomore, stumbled into this school year dreading workshopping in person, after doing it online for a year. There’s something so indifferent about sharing my screen and having my audience’s heads reduced to small, unobtrusive squares on the side of my document. Comfort in how their monotone voices didn’t seem personal because Zoom fatigue had gripped us all so late in the day. 

In person, making eye contact with the people of my group as our names were written in uniform, punctual curls on the white board, felt inescapable. The dwindling marker sealing my fate for the day. On the first day, my group sat on the wooden benches in the quad, and workshopped while listening to the tuning instruments of Orchestra. We sat and listened to the soothing strings and occasional belch of an intrusive kazoo. Soon, my poem was next and after the palpable silence, someone spoke and discussion started flowing. I looked the first person in the eye and received their praise and criticism with appreciation. I looked to the next and mentally noted and answered their suggestions and questions. I observed their body language and acknowledged how my work flowed through them. I straightened my posture and replied with a firm “thank you!” after every comment, no longer hiding from whatever they had to say. 

I understand now that despite the blissful detachment Zoom presented me with, sincerity was lost. Only sitting in the cold, three slabs of antiquated, green wood separating me from them, am I able to fully accept their comments. I value looking at someone and taking their comments in good faith. I understand that workshop will only ever be what I make of it. From this point forward I intend to squeeze it to its full potential.

Staying Consistent in Art by Amelia Reed

Creative Writing is, in its truest form, a consistent art; one cannot write a poem, take a break for a couple of months, and then come back with the same groove and gusto. Unfortunately, that was nearly exactly what had occurred in my case; after spring break, which began exactly when the lockdown did, I expected to return to creative writing with energy and a sense of eagerness, and, for the most part, I did. I found the poetry unit to be just as interesting and engaging as always, and was excited for the fiction unit which was soon to follow; that is, until the subject of the semesterly film response returned into my line of focus. I knew how to write a film response, of course, and the film I was writing it on had plenty of material for me to flesh out; but for some reason, it simply wasn’t the same. When I wrote, I didn’t feel like a stream of opinionated words flowing onto the page, or even the usual begrudging yet prepared student. It felt as if I had lost everything, all of my knowledge, over the break. It was true that I hadn’t been writing regularly over those few weeks, as my mind had been elsewhere, but I hadn’t expected it to be this difficult to return to my usual flow. When my score for the film response was returned, I had gotten a rather low score on it, which I had expected, and so for the next few weeks I prescribed myself one short prose piece per day in a desperate attempt to regain what talent and vigor I had preceding the lockdown. I will not pretend that I kept consistent with this, nor that I enjoyed it the entire time, but it was eventually fulfilling to be able to sit down and write a quick, sloppy piece about how my day had been and where my mind had wandered during it. Sometimes I would write poetry rather than prose, and sometimes I would simply select a few words which felt “right” and encapsulated the feeling I was going for; and after around a month of this, I could feel my writing coming along much easier and sounding more put-together than it had even before the lockdown.

While it’s difficult to be disappointed in your own work, it is important to keep in mind that growing as an artist is not always a linear path. If I had not noticed the rut I had fallen into, it is unlikely that I would’ve made a deliberate effort to become better; at risk of appearing cliché, a moth must slam itself into the lampshade a couple of times before finding its way to the light bulb. That being said, staying consistent in your writing is a keystone to becoming a better writer, and one cannot improve if they wait to practice their art until it is required. 

I have found myself, nowadays, looking forward to film and reading responses, and the fiction unit is going wonderfully. I still enjoy writing prose or poetry at the end of the day, just to cool down; it helps to remind me that writing is not restricted to schoolwork. Below is a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago after staring out a muggy window at the cars parked outside and deciding to create something more interesting; some of the lines are reused from previous poems I had discarded, and some don’t mean anything at all, but it captured to the best of my ability how I was feeling at the time.  

Muggy Day “Sonnet”

my fingers, dented with sewing, red, cracked

yellow threads, pepperjack svelte in loose loops 

a lavender sack atop a doll’s back:

tight canvas feels like giggles of bishops 

‘cause what is life but treasuring knick-knacks,

yearning for memories our minds misshape?

and oh, you smell how men describe women

smell like cheap teas and drowsing in public

the doll, animate weight, colour of cumin

in-jokes are mere meat; I’d like a cutlet 

my friends, they oohed at the light, the lumen

the way ripe lavender gives you a lick

remembering is brief and subhuman

Oh, you taste how women describe women

Amelia Reed, Class of ’23

Hunting for Poetry by Benjamin Leuty

Hunting is the wrong word. It is only fitting that this blog post about writer’s block should begin with a contradiction. But hunting is the wrong word. Too brutish, too primitive. As if I’m leaving the house wearing nothing but fox pelts, a notebook in one hand, and a club in the other. I’m leaving with neither and I wear regular person clothes. Sometimes I’m not leaving the house at all.

That first paragraph is perhaps the most appropriate example of my dilemma. Absent-minded musings about “hunting” and “poetry” and “foxes,” disgusting. I’ve been scouring the internet for some time now and much to my chagrin, most of the articles and remedies for writer’s block are written with an aura of thin detachment like the authors, between bouts of writer’s block, have already forgotten what it was like. So I thought to myself “Hey Benny, you write. You’re a writer. You write. You should write about writer’s block but not after you’ve overcome it, while you’re still in its grip,” as a catalog of sorts for future study. Genius. What my writing has been lacking for some time now is any sense of urgency and forward motion. I might enjoy individual sentences within that first paragraph, but altogether it doesn’t really get the reader anywhere, not to me at least.

It’s easy to chalk up this lack of focus to the quarantine and not my approach to writing but that notion is the opposite of comforting. The idea that writer’s block could swing in like a train (wait a sec); the idea that writer’s block could snuggle (nope); the idea that writer’s block could suddenly creep up on me like some sort of lizard-bug (time to move on) has the power to stick with me and keep me doubting any future success I have in writing. I refuse to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder, wondering when I’ll suddenly be unable to write again. So ok, forward motion. What have I been doing to counteract this writing lethargy?

When I have writer’s block, it does not mean I am lacking in some kind of nebulous creative energy or divine writer’s karma, just lacking the ability to string that creative energy together in the moment. So I’ve been training myself to pounce on any remotely interesting thoughts I have and let them stew for a while in my notes app instead of immediately trying to jam them into a poem and forgetting them. Perhaps this is why I used the word “hunting” in the title. One part of me has hidden the poems, and they do not want to be found, and the other part of me is seeking them out. Eventually, I discover my poems in bits and pieces. Coaxing them off the street and into my notes app. Here are my notes after a short walk through my neighborhood:

  • I want to hop that fence
  • Some days I only see the sun in windows and mirrors
  • A ball bouncing against the rim
  • Brake lights = very red
  • DUCK QUACK QUACK DUCK
  • Fireflies and embers
  • Yummy stew (I never said these were all good)

And here is the rough draft of a poem I wrote the following week:

Noriega

                       I crave a “hop the fence” kind of certainty 

I crave the truth                                 until it turns me brake light red 

And some days I only see the sun 

Through windows and mirrors.

And some days I only see the sun. 

                                                          And speaking of red, some days fireflies 

                                                                    And embers are the same     

And some days, 

across from the burger restaurant,

The old men congregate to smoke cigars beneath 

This week’s billboard for cannabis. 

      

                                                               I see them on my walk.

And speaking of the restaurant 

      See at the condo beside it 

   Standing above the houses, standing 

Or leaning   against the grey sea   

See the planter bursting with too much dirt, bursting

                                                                       And now I stroll towards the ocean.

Look, there are basketball courts 

Where the school was

                                                           The ball bouncing on the rim sounds the same

Regardless of where it falls- 

Through the hoop or not.

Regardless of where it falls

And it scares me. 

Reach the ocean.

Find the Bird scooters and Lyft bikes 

Abandoned or locked by the beach’s edge

A ball will never bounce on sand 

A condo will never be larger than the sea

Embers and fireflies both start fires 

Not all fences are chainlink 

Some have teeth 

And minds.

It is by no means polished, but this piece is the first step towards slowly lifting myself out of this writing rut I’m in. One poem at a time. 

Benjamin Leuty, Class of ‘22

Discovering Plays by Isabella Hansen

Before coming to Creative Writing, my exposure to plays were very limited. I saw “A Christmas Carol” when I was 9 and acted in a “Tale of Two Cities” at 13. I used to have a specific idea of what a play should be in my head: a perfect plot, easy to decipher characters and a message which was usually something about love or a cheating scandal. Throughout this year’s playwriting unit, I learned a very important lesson. Plays definitely do not need solid plots. Our unit’s artist in residence, Connor Bassett introduced a multitude of plays with different styles that experimented with the one question that has directed my whole entire thinking behind playwriting. How do you write a good ending?

The one play that I think really taught me that playwriting does not need to obey a strict set of parameters is “Waiting for Godot” by Samual Beckett. “Waiting for Godot” experiments with the idea that endings do not need to be concrete and solid in order for the play to be effective. Over the course of the play viewers watch as two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for a man named Godot. What really struck me was how unique it was, so unique that during a performance, over half the crowd walked out during intermission. Now it is used as an example of the most stimulating plays of all time. 

The play “Crime of the Century” utilizes other forms of performance tools such as spoken word, dancing and recordings to better emphasize the effect gang violence has on youth. As I was watching, I was drawn to how “Crime of the Century” excluded conventional tools of plays such as plot but still remained potent and influential. Now, one thing I try to think about whenever I write plays is to not stick to the common endings I find myself writing so often and to try and explore different ways of ending my plays. 

Isabella Hansen, Class of ’23

What I Love About My Class by Parker Burrows

A few weeks ago I met with the other juniors in Creative Writing for a Community Meetup. Having the exciting opportunity to spend time with them reminded me of all the great things that I appreciate about each of my friends in the junior class. Here is a short summary of each of them!

Zai is really nice and has babies (but only ones that are made out of plastic). The babies are disturbing but they make them happy so I don’t complain often. I love how much they love their rings and boba tea. 

Benny is funny, sweet, and terrifyingly good at biking. His newfound love for ducks rivals only his ancient love of cats. Sometimes we play video games, but only cooperative ones, because I’d never want to fight him.

Paloma is enchanted by Amish culture, and I like to think that she is inspired by their practices. Paloma, just like the Amish, is hard-working and knits sweaters without using electricity. She is also kind and cares for her friends, which is probably something Amish people do too.

Otto, like the most celebrated Jedi’s in the galaxy, has a pure heart and unflinching compassion. However, just like the fearsome Sith, Otto contains a ruthless, evil laugh. 

Kai has all the tools to be the next great president. Diplomatic and confident, but also personable and approachable, don’t be surprised to see “Caceres 2040” posters in the distant future.

Jessica is as smart as a dolphin, and as lovable as a… dolphin. Gifted with beauty, brains, and benevolence, Jessica has been blessed with all three of the B’s. When I hug her I have to kind of crouch but I would crouch a million times if it meant I could hug her again soon.

Parker Burrows, Class of ’22