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

Pre-Show Anxiety by Esther Barad Thompson

Last week was our once a year, poetry (and also skit) performance. I, a sophomore went second. This year, although my second year at SOTA, was my first year doing this specific performance. I had performed once before, maybe in front of around 40 people, but this was so much more. Hundreds of people, all listening to me, watching me, all eyes on me. And even though this was my first actual performance, I went second. I’ve never thought of myself as a good performer. I stutter from time to time, I don’t know what to do with my hands, I tell people I don’t get nervous when in fact, I’m just really really good at convincing people that I’m not nervous. So when I heard my name second while a student read the list of names in order, I truly wondered: who in their right mind would choose me to go second?! 

We were all sitting in a row of chairs behind the dark blue velvet curtain that hid us from the audience. I could feel the ground rumble, not knowing if I was making it up in my mind or the person next to me was anxiously bouncing their knee up and down. A bag full of perfectly ripe grapes sat beside me, and on the other side, a friend of mine. The lights had dimmed already, we could hear the chatter of voices and laughter only 50 feet in front of us. My friend and I had learned from a text message from their mom that “lightly bouncing up and down while holding hands helped your nerves.” Although I didn’t really believe this text message, I decided that my nerves truly needed to be saved, so I held hands with them, and we bounced. I had told everyone that I wasn’t nervous, I had almost convinced myself, but as the lights dimmed, and the sound of hundreds of people grew, my convincing just wasn’t enough. The jumping up and down had caught the attention of a senior and a freshman, and they asked to join. Soon, it was five people holding hands, quietly laughing, and jumping up and down (lightly.) I realized as I was jumping how lucky I was. I was around people who loved me, and that I loved as well. The theatre was full of nervous teenagers, but it was also full of love. 

You are going to do so great. They are going to love you. I’m so proud of you. You are amazing and this is going to be so. much. fun. Was all that I could hear now. Not hands trembling, or knees bumping. I wasn’t sure if the bouncing had truly helped, or I was just surrounded with so much excitement and joy that it had consumed and replaced the anxiety. I realized as I was sitting behind the curtain that everyone sitting in those chairs in front of me wanted to be here. They were here to enjoy us, to listen. My friends and family were there to support me and I could feel it. Nobody sitting out there was there because they didn’t like me, but I had convinced myself that something was going to go wrong. So what if I had stuttered, or was actually nervous! They wouldn’t care, they were here to see me, not some perfect, faultless person. As the crowd cheered, watching the first performer walk off the stage, I confidently walked my way to the middle of the stage. I wasn’t nervous. If I had my mask off, people would have seen it. I couldn’t have been smiling more, this weird, yet pure adrenaline-fueled- joy. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so uncontrollably. I don’t remember reading my poem, just the fact that when I walked off that stage, I was sure that It didn’t matter if I had messed up, I was still smiling, and happy.

The Week of Organized Chaos by Celeste Alisse

In Creative Writing, whenever we have a week to focus on our work, it generally means our Department Requirements are due soon. At this point, it’s common knowledge and once the words “Break at 3:00” are out in the open, we all know to get out our computers and start writing. 

The comfort of these weeks are unlike any other “rest weeks” I’ve had. Sitting in small circles on the rug or around school with all my best friends is entirely calming and revives my energy at the end of each day. It’s always a week full of plentiful laughs and bathroom breaks, before the work begins once more. The room will go silent as everyone delves into their respectable work, keyboards clacking just as loudly as mine is now. The soft, dilated breaths of everyone in the room, pulsating in and out of each individual’s throats synchronously.

One of the department requirements, Lit Crits, are my achilles heel; they are my weakness in all of Creative Writing, making these weeks extremely important to me. Lit Crits are essays based on the literary devices found within a poem, and using these literary devices we form our thesis. The jumbled up nonsense in my head will display itself on the page in clumped, uneven proportions I don’t seem to know how to organize; yet this past week I delved deeper into my analysis of my chosen poem and forced myself to sit at my seat until I wrote what I wanted to say. I ended up getting the best score I’ve ever gotten on a Lit Crit in my life, and I felt so accomplished when I saw my grade!

Below is a poem I wrote midway through the week, when I had started feeling more confident as well as improved in my writing. I attempted to capture the joy I had achieved in that week in this poem, to convey to all how joyful this feeling of self pride is.

Organized Chaos of Me

A faucet of words spills from my mouth, 

that I try to chew back up-

but the wild energy in my head demands attention-

so it calls to the crowd.

Waiting for it’s chance to spew itself into my thesis-

waiting for it’s chance to prove its nonsense can make sense.

It does.

Rankings of low are what seem to suit me best-

when it comes to my writing.

No hopes of higher grades excite me,

for there is no hope of them. 

Only now,

the mish-mash from within has mashed everything into the right place,

and the chaos I contain is organized into sections,

ready to pummel each word into its own category.

There is dedication and confusion,

passion and hate,

energy that’s drained-

And organized chaos within me.

This poem, just like my Lit Crits, still must obtain a lot of work to attain “excellence,” yet it conveys my excitement and how proud I was of myself in that moment. A feeling I hope to achieve more often throughout the “rest weeks” to come.

Fact in my Fiction, and Fantasy in Reality By Emilie Mayer

This -January 3rd, 2022- marks the first week of Creative Writing 2’s creative nonfiction unit. Going into this unit, I felt a sort of reserved hesitancy. I started writing stories during my recesses in elementary school because the playground noises felt dangerous. I built myself fortresses out of fiction, writing multiple-part stories in which a young, dazzlingly beautiful, charismatically brave girl makes friends with the world and wins the affections of all. 

In a nonfiction piece, that little girl would be best friends with her teacher. In a nonfiction piece, a teenage writer would spend more time at home or at her minimum wage job than seeing any great expanse. I don’t write nonfiction, not because I don’t respect the craft of it, but because I worry that my life might be too boring. 

In a fiction piece or even in poetry, I can translate my emotions into scenarios removed from myself. Exhaustion becomes applicable to a knight burdened by duty rather than a student and writer struggling through deadlines and AP classes. In poetry, I can write floral declarations of sentiment and take comfort that their surrealism distracts from my genuine experiences.  

All this to say, I had my first non-fiction deadline this weekend and had no idea what to write about. I wouldn’t call my life eventful, and as a person in general, I have issues with sharing. In order to begin the process of my looming piece, I sat by my computer and typed. And type. And typed. And forty-five minutes later, I had a semi-coherent essay about my fear of greater emotions. From that essay of about three pages, I selected one scene -about a paragraph long- to become the foundation for my new piece. 

I am still in the midst of a complicated relationship with nonfiction, but what I have decided after an arduous weekend of writing is: nonfiction, or at least for now, does not have to be lofty. My piece is about a fifth grade trip to a planetarium– rather than my inability to love. If I start with small instances, the greater thematics of my life will reveal themselves as subtext. 

My life in its entirety does not have to be interesting. I just need to find small instances, moments, breathes in between larger structures to build a narrative about myself. 

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