[DR]: Friday

by Lizzie (’14)

As this blog post is delayed and I have had the weekend (which seems like ages) to think (or rather not think) about class, much of my memory of Friday CW has been muddled by the utter blur of Saturday and Sunday. However, here are the details of class that have prevailed—It was a beautiful day, disproving Jenna Maroney’s (of 30 Rock) snarky remark on the Bay Area, “Have fun always carrying a light sweater,” for no outerwear was required. Now this point may seem irrelevant to CW but the presence of the sun completely alters the CW environment—everyone seems to have a sunnier disposition (pun intended). With that in mind, our class discussion on our soon-to-come show was light-hearted and (although correlation is not causation) thus more productive. Yet this was only the first half of class. For the second half, we went, as a class, to the Ruth Asawa memorial held in the Dan Kryston Memorial theater.

It was a well-staged production that reflected and respected Ruth Asawa’s artistic vision. The memorial began with a Taiko performance and ended with a ballad sung by the entire vocal department. Not only did it honor the life of Ruth Asawa but it also boosted the morale of us SOTA students, combining our art forms in a moving and well-executed way.

[DR]: The Fall Show Legacy

by Emma B. (’17)

Today in CW we watched Bohemian Rhapsody and The Nature of Offense, fall shows of past years, and then talked a little about our own show, which is coming up soon now. As I watched The Nature of Offense, I couldnʼt help but notice how young everyone looked only a year ago! As a freshman, there were many unfamiliar faces in Bohemian Rhapsody and a few in The Nature of Offense. It was funny to watch the upperclassmen shout out when they saw one of their now-graduated friends, although I donʼt personally know them. I think weʼre all very excited to plan our show, especially the seniors.

[DR]: Brainstorming, Submissions, and Whacking Each Other With Literary Magazines

by Olivia A. (’14)

photo-1Our as yet untitled Fall Show is approaching fast—it’s on October 11th! Today in Creative Writing we did some brainstorming and outlining of potential themes for the show. I can’t speak for other groups, but mine had a very productive discussion out in the sunshine about communism and flour children.

This week is rather unstructured as it was initially set aside for Field Day practice—that is, before the field became a war zone. The WWI-esque trenches have been eliminated recently and it currently looks like a nice place to build grass seed castles or reenact the rest of 20th century military history.

After our group brainstorming sessions, three whole tables were laden with free books that were donated to CW! There was a wide range of literature, from The Dharma Bums to an assortment of newspapers from 1908 (one of which contained an intriguing article about a woman with an award-winning mustache). A civilized kind of feeding frenzy ensued, and everyone I observed seemed to come away from the experience with large, nearly unmanageable stacks of wonderful, wonderful books.

Giorgia (’14) and Frances (’14) then led a discussion about the CW submission requirement, specifically concerning the bios required by many literary magazines. The class had varying opinions as to what should be included in a bio and whether one should use one’s full name or discuss one’s cats. After a democratic discussion—democracy has become the norm in CW lately, introducing a wonderfully effectual aspect of civility to our discussions—we decided to stop talking about literary journals and instead make each other crawl around on the carpet whacking each other with them (it’s a community-building game, guys—for the community).

[DR]: Today in the World of Creative Writing…

by Amina (’17)

CW BrainstormThere comes a time every year (at least, I assume every year—this will be my first actual Creative Writing show as a Creative Writer!) where the entire department must take on the imperative task of coming up with a theme for our fall variety show, one of our best performances in the school year. Today Creative Writing consisted of pure brainstorming, filling up the whiteboard with ideas and brief phrases that would make no sense to anyone other than a Creative Writer (see: “nature of a fence”), and discussing the most entertaining, stimulating, and alluring ideas for our show. Splitting off into small groups, we all expanded on several ideas and proposed them to the rest of the class, then voted on our favorites. We are well on our way to uncovering that perfect theme and, obviously, I can’t spoil anything… but Creative Writing mermen? Definitely a possibility. Be excited, though, because this show will be a great way to kick off this year, and certainly something you won’t want to miss

Let’s Talk Petrarch

I’ve been reading Petrarch— Scott, my Euro Lit teacher, introduced him to me (well, introduced him to the class, but I took major interest and asked to borrow some books). Prior to this, I’ve known Petrarch only as that one Big Deal Poet Laureate who got the crown from the Pope who wrote love poems to a Lady Laura. Y’know, the standard famous poet stuff.

Now, I know he had never met Laura, and suffered from a crippling depression that I’m surprisingly familiar with.

It’s just weird, y’know, to consider that this figure of practically-myth is actually such a familiar character. He glorified Laura to frightening heights and longed to reach that height, but obviously never could. The funny part though? Is that he knew exactly what he was doing. He was making Laura unobtainable, and hated himself all the more for not being able to obtain her love. This self-crippling cycle seems a very modern thing— we rarely think of figures from Back In The Days suffering from anxiety and depression.

Self-doubt is a very familiar feeling for me, and… Well, I don’t know if it’s comforting to know that Petrarch also had it, but it is somewhat easier to forgive myself when I remember that. It’s such a funny thing, see— just being told that your anxiety is all in your head doesn’t really help, because if it’s all in my head, it’s all on me, and I’m making a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter at all, isn’t that embarrassing? It just makes me more anxious, if anything. Reading famous poetry that many people studied and liked and empathized with reminds me that it’s not just me. Other people are people too; I am not living in a world of perfect Lauras. I shouldn’t hoist the greatness I perceive in everyone else above myself, because that’s not fair to me or to them.

This has been a little life advice, to myself more than others. Just ease up, man. Make like Petrarch and write through the sadness. Frances should make that into a motivational poster.

Day [5]

I do the “I can’t believe it’s already/only been the first week of school!” thing only ’cause it’s true. Both ways.

It’s already been the first week of school: five whole days passed, memories of it were not a blur and can be willed easily into definition, my relative time has changed.

It’s only been the first week of school: what?? Have I not already been here for five whole days? Whaddaya mean only five days? How many more to go??

Warning! Warning! It’s not a binary! They are not opposites, do not have to exist with or without each other, my feelings of relief and longing are in no way contradictory. Trust me. Please.

I don’t know– it’s been so strange. It’s not like I stopped thinking over the summer or anything, but now I’m back I have to make the conscious effort to flip my brain back on. Maybe it’s more like switching tabs on your choice of internet browser– I’ve got to function through a different scope.

Allow me to pull another cliché and share a word of wisdom. Not my word of wisdom, which either makes it better or worse. It’s the words of my Psych and Human Geo teacher, the ever-wise Ms. Coghlan:


Yes it’s on my wall.

And, for such a simple thought, it’s surprisingly esoteric. Procrastination has always been the norm for me, and there’s always a reason why– I’m in the middle of a page in the middle of a book, I’m knitting a scarf for my father’s birthday, I was just about to cook pasta. It’s never really occurred to me to actually consider my actions in a more objective perspective, where there’s this set amount of time in which I can get things done, I am in that block of time, why not do it?

Why do it? is a loaded question. Why not do it? is a flippant one. I like my attitude flippant, the operational definition of “flippant” being completely positive and not rude in any way.

And do the things you put off because it actually doesn’t make sense not to.

The first week has passed and is settling slowly around me, and I must sleep it off. More next time on senior-ism. Man that’ll be a long post.

Internship Self-Assessment

Picture 95by Mykel Mogg (’14)

Volunteering with the preschool readiness program at Excelsior Family Connections brings up personal challenges for me, specifically around power and teaching. My internship at Hoover last year also made me engage with this issue, but over almost two years, I have not been able to find peace with the level of coercion I am expected to use while teaching children. How can I, as an anarchist and a person who strives to take children seriously, be comfortable picking up a four-year-old and plopping her in a corner for not following rules? I don’t know whether coercion is necessary to all safe learning environments, but it is certainly a requirement for teaching in our current school system. I always try to be rational, patient, and respectful in the way I enforce rules with kids, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m exerting power over them– power that comes from the fact that I happen to be older. I never bring these issues up in the classroom, but I think about them a lot. Obviously, there’s no single answer to question, “how do I fit into a system that isn’t in line with my values?” It’s an internal dialogue that everyone has to go through at one time or another.

Besides thinking about power dynamics, my experience at EFC has been nothing but fun. I love showing up every Monday to see how the kids will interact with whatever toys and “science stations” we’ve put out that day, because they always subvert expectations. I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of a messy classroom. Je Ton Carey, one of the teachers I work with, is a big proponent of sensory play. She brings in big tubs of sand, leaves, shaving cream, water, and homemade play-do to the classroom for the kids to interact with. Their senses of touch and smell come alive as they get their clothes wet, rip up flowers, and dump sand all over the floor. This reminds me of the true nature of education: helping people discover what’s amazing about the world.

Me in a Drawer

by Jules Cunningham (’14)

Picture 94

I’ve tucked me into a drawer now
Empty harmonica cases only good for holding cigarettes
New pens
A ceramic ocarina that hits concert Ab and three-quarters
a metronome
muscle tape
a watch out of power for at least 5 years
2 broken notebooks
god knows how much loose change
I’ve tucked me into a drawer
so I can walk away for a while
pretend I’m made of pizza dough
an iphone
some stylish leather jacket
maybe even a saxophone or two
a few books of Classical literature
and an instruction manual
rather than 100 poetry and wicca and fantasy and comic books that I’ve kept and sold and bought again cause I couldn’t bear to see them running off with another lover
rather than an old typewriter
and a smelly blue bandanna
and if I keep me
locked up in a drawer
I can look around my room
and sooner or later I’ll see someone else littered across the carpet
someone stronger and clean-shaven and worth at least 100 20s
rather than
12 quarters
32 dimes
45 nickles
and 187 pennies
Someone who doesn’t find a vodka bottle
years old in his hiking gear
and if he does
he certainly doesn’t cry about it
and if I close my eyes
and don’t think about the me locked in the drawer
where no one can see
and where no one will look
I can open my eyes
believing that strong someone is me

I Want to Make Art, Not Cry with Potato Chips

Picture 89by Molly Bond (’15)
From the Sarah Fontaine Unit

My writing practice generally consists of deadlines and feelings. Because I am a creative writing student, I write the majority of my pieces as an assignment, which tends to be more difficult because given prompts do not always provide the inspiration necessary to write what I consider to be a “successful” piece. Sometimes, though, a prompt will awaken a feeling inside me, and I find the writing to be easy and fruitful, similar to the way I write on my own, when I am free of deadlines and prompts.

Independent writing only takes place when I already have an inspiration. In this way, it is easier to begin writing, but because there is no deadline, I find it harder to finish the piece. Naturally, assignments are a higher priority to me, because grades are constantly on my mind—so my independent writing suffers from procrastination and many of my non-assignment pieces are unfinished. When I do finish these self-motivated pieces, however, I am almost always happier with the result because there is a definite “feeling” in the writing, because I wrote it with inspiration, not with the stress of a due date.

Strangely, my most “successful” pieces have been written in very short amounts of time. My favorite poem was written in under fifteen minutes, although it is three pages long. I suspect this is because my writing is so centered in emotion that in order to express the piece, I need to use a stream-of-consciousness method which can only come with speed and a lack of self-censorship. My worst pieces are generally those that I have needed to edit countless times, sometimes completely overthrowing the plot or changing a character’s motivations entirely, trying desperately to get it to work. It is the effortlessness of the pieces that make them successful.

Process aside, what I truly want to make is writing that makes other people want to write. I believe that art is a self-perpetuating medium; good art causes inspiration, which causes more art to be created. If a piece of mine were to cause inspiration in another artist, and the inspired artist’s work caused inspiration in yet another artist, I would be the instigator of a never-ending art cycle, and how cool is that? Not many people would disagree with me that art is extremely powerful, and extremely important. It connects directly to people’s emotions, and emotions are generally what decisions are based off of. This is why art has changed the world. This is why I want to create art, both directly and indirectly.

My biggest obstacles by far are self-hatred, guilt, and self-censorship—and to a lesser extent, teenage laziness. In order to write something that actually expresses what I am feeling, I need to allow myself to actually feel it, without compulsively back-spacing every time I think I’ve made a cliché. This goes hand-in-hand with guilt, because every time I fail at writing a piece, I feel guilty that I have failed myself, and hate myself for my lack of talent. At this point, on the verge of tears and having accomplished nothing, the inevitable “screw this” pops into my head and I go and eat potato chips while crying over the fact that I don’t write like E.E. Cummings. Thankfully, though, that insatiable urge to write will inevitably wash over me again, and through trial-and-error I will eventually manage to crank out a piece of writing I find tolerable.

Setting the Mood

Picture 88by Amelia Williams (’13)
From the Sarah Fontaine Unit

I’m too lenient with my first drafts; I like my first drafts. (That opening sentence was a first draft; the semicolon was a later edit. I quite like it.) I churn something out, because I write in sittings. I am rarely stringing little scribbles and images and soliloquies together that I’ve accumulated throughout the day; it all just kind of comes out at once. I am a big fan of semicolons. But anyhow, I write in bursts. I write like turning the hot water faucet all the way and for those forty-five seconds the water is still cold. And I like how that aggravatingly long period of not-hot water looks, scrawled out on a page.

I write by hand. I hate beginning something on the computer. It has no anchor, nothing tangible, no soil for all the following thoughts and (hopefully?) eloquent metaphors and musings to grow from. I like the feeling of my hand cramping and scribbling things out because I’ve written it too messily, in haste.  Perhaps I lied a bit when I said I write in bursts because I do take breaks. Maybe too many breaks. I like to do other things, other assignments or stretch my hamstrings or bob my head to crude rap lyrics. I really like crude rap lyrics. I also like snacks. I had dark chocolate-covered acai berries before I sat down to write this. I like the lingering taste, but now my mouth tastes like medicine. Like I said, breaks.

I need a trigger. I imagine, at least when I am writing poetry, that the poem is some kind of changeling companioned by a feral, blazing dog-like animal. I actually don’t really think that but it came to mind and I wanted to write it out. Too forgiving of first drafts (a word from my teacher Heather, that is actually some other woman’s quote but I’ve forgotten her name (sorry) “all first drafts are shitty first drafts. Am I a narcissist to think my first drafts hold merit? I am probably just a last editor.). Really though I like my poetry to have a bite. I like my poems to be something a reader keeps around the living room of his or her brain, like something lovely on the mantelpiece or a nice pillow. Fiction is like a slow-burning candle of immersion and something a little dangerous. I find myself writing longer and longer pieces the older I get. I am not entirely sure if that means anything at all.

Ultimately I try to write like I am talking to myself. If I had to impress myself, on a page or from the mouth, I would like to be entertained, and intellectually aroused, and perhaps a bit inspired. I try to sound smarter than I actually am (a big perk to writing is having the time to craft the perfect seemingly spontaneous banter that I am nowhere near as adept at in person). I really hadn’t put all that much thought into the process because it works like a muscle now; I want to write and I just do. I write to convince people to keep reading, to intrigue people into the mysterious caravan of my mind. I want people to read what I have to offer and, to be quite honest, decide I am worthy of fame. I don’t think I write to be famous, though. I write as if I already am. That is quite possibly the most atrocious sentence I have ever spelled out but there is truth to it in the sense I write to the audience I hope to have one day. I remind myself every word is a practice for grandeur.

The bottom line is I write until I am happy enough to believe that if I saw my own writing in a bookstore, I would read until I creased the spine and looked around to make sure none of the employees saw me putting it back on the shelf.