Where Do We Go From Here? by Stella Pfahler

The election of November 8th was a shock and surprise to many, especially at SOTA, which is a progressive and diverse school. Coming to class throughout the rest of that week was emotionally exhausting; on November 9th, I arrived to my chemistry class to a room full of weeping students and dejected teachers. Each of my instructors addressed the issue differently, while still maintaining the obligation of political neutrality, which is required by the school district. In my English class the election spurred a conversation about art and its relation to protest and political dissidence. In AP World History we related the events to past instances of tyranny and regime. My history teacher permitted students to make signs in class to display at several walkouts and rallies, both condoned by the district and not, that took place in the several days following the election. Myself and hundreds of SOTA and Academy students joined upwards of two thousand student protesters in walking from school to Aquatic Park. Some students even made it onto KTVU, CNN, and Fox News Atlanta. It was impressive to see so many different types of people unite against a single cause. Even more awe-inspiring was the level of student of involvement during a time when most adults became defeatist and accepting of the election’s outcome.

The hardest conversation about the election was the one that took place in Creative Writing. I slowly began to realize how dire my situation had become despite my privilege and affluence. The class discussed how, in repressive and silencing governments in the past, artists have always been the first citizens to be jailed or persecuted. As Arin Vasquez (‘18) put it, “artists are the most dangerous.” We are also more vulnerable in times like these. I also considered how difficult it had been for me to produce creative work following the events of November 8th. I understood, at least intellectually, that periods of turmoil and fear are the most important times for artists to produce and speak out. However, with the country’s fate churning in the back of my head, as well as my peers’, as well as the fear of coming of age in Trump’s America, it became nearly impossible for me to focus on “trivial” things like schoolwork.

Over the last week or so I have gradually been able to return to a normal school life, and writing comes easier now. I decided to not partake in any more walkouts- as doing so, in my belief, would not only rob me of an education-which is exactly what Trump wants-but also rob my school of funds for the day. The question of art’s role in politics, and visa versa, is an ongoing discussion that I am not willing to end anytime soon.

My message to applicants is this: at the crossroads we stand at, currently, as a nation, there is nothing more important than your art and your creativity. Keep creating and create louder than ever. In times of tyranny, artists are the first to be silenced. MR. Trump has already expressed interest in the silencing of the press, which is not only unconstitutional but horrifying. Even if political art feels whiny or pointless, try it out anyway. Read books, read the news-and not just the kind of news that you like to hear. Be disgusted. Be angry. That’s okay! Channel it into something productive or positive-and most of all, keep writing. This country is going to be fine.

Stella Pfahler, class of 2019

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Consider by Harmony Wicker

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering what it means to be a good American. Before I can unpack that thought, I have to backtrack and ask myself, what does it mean to be a good human? To answer my original question, to be a good human, one must be compassionate, care about important issues, be trustworthy, consider the world and the impact of their actions, and so on. As one person on this Earth, however, I don’t think that I can truly answer this question. To define what it means to be a good human, it would have to be a collective effort so that, at the very least, multiple perspectives are considered and respected. The list will never stop growing as our species continues to transform.

In reaching my tentative conclusion, I asked another question, does it even matter? The world is bursting with kind people who are taking action against real issues such as starvation, abuse, war, bullying, and everything else that has ever hurt anyone, if only for a microsecond. Yet, when I look at the news, these issues seem unaffected by the valiant efforts and appear to only get worse. It’s extremely discouraging and even with the anger poetry I write, my words and voice never feel like enough to create change. However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve decided not to give up. I want to make everything matter, to answer my second question.

A couple of days ago, in Creative Writing Two, we read a interview of Mauro Javier Cardenas, the author of the recently published novel, The Revolutionaries Try Again. In this interview, done by Charlotte Whittle, Cardenas remarked that he wrote the novel “moment by moment.” I believe that this can be applied to all aspects of life. At this crazy time of complete uncertain, which I think is strongly felt across the entire world, we have to take life in moment by moment, step by step, breath by breath. We then can face the change that is currently happening and, hopefully, come out on the other side as better people. I still haven’t answered my original question what it means to be a good American and at this point—I don’t know if I can. Instead, I’ve tried to make sense of my current reality by considering other perspectives to help cultivate the correct answer for myself. In doing this, for now, I must live moment by moment, if only to stay sane.

Harmony Wicker, class of 2018

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Stage Fright by Emily Kozhina

On October 21st, Creative Writing had its first show of the year, Stage Fright. It was the first show I had ever performed in at SOTA, and the title fit perfectly with the nervous wreck in my mind. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I had never performed my writing in front of a large crowd. The thought was utterly terrifying. I was surprised I didn’t faint at the mention of it.

I was much too proud once I printed my final copy, the one I would be performing. When I practiced with our artist-in-residence Trey Amos, I tried to swallow my fear and read it with all the confidence I could muster. Workshopping my writing and performance only helped me improve, and reminded me of the friendly community I had never had with other writers.

During rehearsal week, I had met the one and only Mr. Kwapy. After hearing his name over and over again, I finally saw him. He and Isaiah Dufort helped us with the skits, which I enjoyed watching improve over the few days we had. My piece engraved in my mind, and my skit face on, I felt almost ready for the show. It was a bit late to be almost ready, because I was backstage on Friday, listening to audience find their seats and chatter.

Then the overflow chairs came out. My first show, and we sold out! Everyone was trying to celebrate with hushed voices, hugging and helping pull out more and more chairs. I stood, frozen. I couldn’t recognize the emotion I felt. The excitement around me and the anticipation of the audience brought butterflies to my stomach. It was either that or the excessive amount of food I ate before hand.

The lights dimmed and my heart raced. The fear on my face was apparently very obvious, because students began to reassure me and smile and told me I was going to do great. I smiled back and went on stage.

I don’t know how I did on the stage personally. My mind focused on the blinding light before me as I let my body take over. And then it was over. A wave of applause. I walked off and got hugs and ‘great job’s and I tried not to cry. I wasn’t sad, or even overwhelmingly happy. I suppose it was just relief leaking through my partially blinded eyes.

My hands and throat were sore by the end. I screamed and clapped and ate candy, and basked in my overcoming of stage fright.

Emily Kozhina, class of 2020

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Trey Amos, the One and Only by Abbegail Louie

Being a fan of spoken word and performance art, I was practically jumping in my seat when I learned that Creative Writing would be having an artist-in-resident from Youth Speaks. I know that I’m very vocal about my thoughts and being loud is in my genetic coding, so to learn that we were going to focus on performance writing had me geek out a little–ok a lottle. There’s something so unique about bringing writing to the stage and not just reading it, but presenting it. When starting the unit, I was pleased and, ok lowkey fangirling, over our new mentor, Trey Amos.

Last year, I went to Youth Speaks’ Bring the Noise event and Trey was the MC. Trey is one of the most positive guys I’ve met and always brings the right type of energy into our classes. He brought many Cdubs out of their comfort zone and in turn helped made our annual showcase awesome. Whether it be a class game or a writing prompt, Trey has been there to navigate the performance aspect of our writing.

And for that, on behalf of every Creative Writer, we thank you for being an amazing artist-in-resident!

Abbegail Louie, class of 2019

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Kirby Cove by Angelica LaMarca

Having been a part of the SOTA Creative Writing department for two years now, I can gladly say that Kirby Cove is something that never fails to generate excitement in me. No matter how many times I will re­exhibit the cycle of sleep deprivation, matted hair, and sand in my ears, I still found myself enticed as I descended down the gravelly, sun­doused path which leads to the campsite. Located in Marin, at the cusp of the Golden Gate Bridge, Kirby Cove is where Creative Writing takes part in a camping trip every year, and is a distinct attribute to the Creative Writing experience. The campsite offers a surreal view of the bay — especially at night, when your hair smells vaguely singed, and the beach is fringed with black water, and you can look out and try to estimate how many breakups and robberies and phone calls are happening on that hulking, gold­speckled mass which is San Francisco. At least, that’s I did this year, along with some of my friends as we sat atop an old war bunker after a long night of s’mores, scary tales, and Hot Seat. This has always been my favorite part of Kirby Cove: the eerie feeling of detachment you get peering out at San Francisco from afar, all the while knowing that no one will get to experience that moment with you except for your closest, most cherished friends.

I know that in the years to come, Kirby Cove will anchor all the great memories I’ve attained from being in this department, and for this reason, I believe it’s been an essential part of my high school experience.

Thank you Creative Writing for being great!

Angelica LaMarca, class of 2018

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Cutting Ball by Isaac Schott-Rosenfield

Towards the end of last year, I received the opportunity to be an assistant/student in playwright Andrew Saito’s masterclasses at the Cutting Ball Theatre. The subject was dream theatre. In-between my urgent managements of water pitchers and printers (another education of a very different type), I wrote my short play, possessed by the lively and exacting spirit of both the instruction and genre.

A while later, the Cutting Ball Theatre asked to include my play in their fall show of short Avant-Garde drama. CW artist-in-residence Isaiah Dufort stepped in to direct it. Working in Isaiah’s writerly apartment to restructure my implausible stage directions into something doable, discussing inflection with an attentive actor; I was surprised and moved by the seriousness and vigor which was afforded my work.

On the stage, I observed the difference between my words and their performance, changed by the foreign influence of actors. My detailed, poetic stage directions had to lose their language, had to become visual and actual, rendered in flesh and contour. Theatre entails compromise—between the author and the actor; between the written and the visual. Quite different from the self-contained and thoroughly controlled realm of my usual oeuvre in poetry.

And so while I do not imagine I will become foremost a playwright, acting as one has offered new understanding of dimension and immediacy.

Isaac Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2017

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Film Workshop by Davis DuBose-Marler

Every Sunday morning, I drag myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of nine thirty and get ready for the seven and a half hour time commitment otherwise known as “Film Workshop,” taught by Ronald Chase and mentored by SotA artists-in-residence Jesse Filipko and Isaiah Dufort (the Great).

The workload and demand for quality are high. Yes, Film Workshop can be stressful at times and has definitely given me nightmares about 3D uses of space and visual concepts, but it has also provided with me with a new understanding not only of film and how to analyze it, but also with a new way to see works of literature. Sure, the visual aspects don’t really apply, but as far as critique goes, the methods are very similar. There’s still form versus content to consider, as well as the pacing and subject matter.

As much sleep, hair, and sanity as I’ve lost through the workshop, getting to work with so many young artists from their different backgrounds has been a great experience for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a high pain tolerance and/or a passion for new artistic experiences.

Davis DuBose-Marler, class of 2017

The Importance of Movement by Stella Pfahler

This week we started or Playwriting unit with writer-in-residence Eugenie Chan. Having never really written a legitimate play before, I was a little daunted at first, especially when Eugenie handed of 500-page readers to each of us. I was already clogged with academics and wasn’t looking forward to daily Creative Writing homework.

Eugenie’s approach to writing is different than any I’ve seen before. We start off every class with a physical warm-up, consisting of some stretches and then three “centering” breaths. On top of that, much of our class time thus far has been spent outside, whether it’s to act out plays, write them, or peer-edit.

When I write in my free time, I am never still. I have never been able to just sit down and come up with something magically. I often pace when I write, and often before starting I take a walk or do a repetitive task. I suppose it has something to do with my “creative process.” When I was younger, some of my peers and teachers called me “hyperactive” and even went as far as to unofficially diagnose me with ADHD. I was told to “reign it in” and progressively learned to keep still and quiet in class.

It is extremely relieving to have a physical outlet during class, given that both writing and staying active are important to me. I don’t feel right if I don’t stretch daily. Some of my less athletic friends lovingly call me a “freak” for these habits and scoff when I ramble about how great it is to get fresh air. However, I do know that everyone has a different approach to writing, a different process, different rituals. Playwriting has proved that the celebration and embracing of such peculiarities is vital to a larger appreciation of the art.

Stella Pfahler, class of 2019

Poetry For Survival by Thalia Rose

A question that often comes up is, “Why do you write?”

In my department, we have used this as a generative exercise; and outside of the department, the question recurs in conversation. It takes a moderate amount of determination to pursue writing. It sometimes seems masochistic to revise time and time again, or to submit work to publishers every marking period. So I believe there is a core ambition in every writer that motivates them to work with their art tirelessly. Hitherto, I believe the reason that people choose to write is multitudinous.

There is an anthology entitled We Will Be Shelter: Poems For Survival that illustrates the core of my motivation to write. The anthology, published by Andrea Gibson, focuses on addressing inequality and social justice. It encourages the reader to analyze the social constructs and ethics of the world around them – to contemplate the mechanics of the system and then what can be improved or changed within it. For me, poetry is dauntless and inexhaustible – it is a tool for survival.

As Audre Lorde wrote, “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

Thalia Rose, class of 2018