Reflecting On My First Year in Creative Writing by Sofi Orkin

On the first day of CW, I was scared and sitting in my seat when suddenly Heather was all like “Dance party everybody!” and I thought “oh I’m probably gonna die.” Then we wrote to a prompt and some people read theirs and I was like “also I really don’t even hold a candle to these people wow.” And during the first marking period, with all the due dates buzzing around in my head, I was like “yeah there’s no way I’m actually going to do well in CW but might as well enjoy it while it lasts” but guess what? Guess what everybody? Here I am haha and I am thriving!

 

I mean yeah of course CW is stressful at times, but at the same time Heather is always understanding and sympathetic to everyone’s needs and I always feel totally supported. So am I thriving in life? No, definitely not. But I do feel like I’m beginning to get into the rhythm of things in CW (aside from the extremely rare slip up).

 

I also just really like Creative Writing, and here is a poem, a haiku actually, I wrote to express that:

Creative Writing never fails to amaze

I really really like it a lot

my computer’s had no backup for 31 days

I would’ve done it yesterday

but then I forgot

 

Is it technically a haiku? No

Should it be a haiku, seeing as I’m in a department for writing?

Yes, definitely, but look, I’m an iconoclast.

 

Additionally, Heather works really hard to give us writers exposure to lots of different arts, whether its having a visual artist come talk to us in class, or having us go to cine club and write film reflections (the movies there are pretty great, so it’s not really a chore and more of a Fun Thing To Do, I highly recommend it). Because of that, as well as all the discussions we have about different texts in class, I’ve found myself growing a lot as a writer, and now I can’t read my old work without having a very painful stroke and wanting to burn my entire computer. But it’s ok because my newer work is a lot less bad, as you can see with my poem up top.

 

For real though, I absolutely love CW, and everything I’ve learned from it, and I’m always excited to go (especially now because it’s almost the playwriting unit!), and without Creative Writing I would probably be a lot less happy and a lot stupider.

 

–Sofi Orkin Class of 2022

Peak Piece by Emily Kozhina

Every once in a while, in the midst of writing all sorts of prompts and small pieces, you strike gold. It’s a rare thing, when you write a piece you can’t seem to outwrite for a long while. When it does happen, you at first don’t realize it, either. Typical, I find myself turning in these pieces, or reading them for a class, and that’s when I realize how much potential the piece has. So, being told how much people like the piece, you begin to submit it for journals and reading it at performances, with everyone sending their compliments your way– You know it’s a good piece, no matter how humble you like to consider yourself. And it feels good, to have a poem or story or play that everyone, including you, can read and think “That is a good piece and more people need to see it.”

Your doubts about your writing fade into the distance for a small while, as you use the piece with every chance you get. But very quickly, that triumphant glow fades as you try to write another piece. You start to think “How do I write something just as good as…?” and you try to, but it doesn’t seem to work. It feels like you only get worse from there, like you’ve peaked, like you’ve stopped growing as a writer, which is the most frightening thought of them all.

Whenever this happens to me, writing my way up when I feel I’ve already reached the top of my metaphorical mountain of progress, never works. It’s hard to keep writing afterwards. You know you will be unhappy with those next few completed pieces, but you know you have to keep writing. The worst part isn’t even sitting down to write something new afterwards, nor is it reading it aloud and not hearing the same excited swarm of comments afterwards. What’s most difficult, I’ve found, is accepting that you won’t always write things you are happy with, and this is proof.

But I like to think these downfalls of trying to write after a piece you’re proud of are what truly show your skill as a writer. Even after you’ve seemingly peaked again, you find you aren’t finished, and there is a taller mountain for you to climb. The climb up is grueling with drafts and drafts and disappointment and almost giving up and more drafts, and you’ll come to see that you never really stop climbing, and writing never really gets easy. I’ve found you just learn to work with the mountains with each piece you write.

Emily Kozhina, class of 2020

My Experience with the 10-Minute Play by Eva Whitney

Upon entering the Creative Writing Department at SOTA, I was surprised to learn that, aside from the expected Fiction and Poetry units, there would also be a Playwriting unit taught by a real playwright. I had avoided the choice to write a play for my audition portfolio—the thought of creating a whole, live scene on paper was far too daunting. I had never even considered plays to be included in creative writing. To me, they bordered film and entertainment—I never considered the fact that someone was behind the show, putting these characters into existence, and I certainly didn’t believe I was ready to do that myself.

It took me a year to realize what made a good ten minute play. Through countless exercises, examples of groundbreaking plays, and even attending live performances, I still couldn’t grasp what it was that made a short play. I wrote a mess of a play my freshman year, complete with strange characters with weak motivations in an odd setting. Here is an excerpt from my freshman year play, “To Reno,” which follows a couple on their way home from Burning Man who are bombarded by Ivan, a criminal:

POPPY: So, Ivan, tell us more about yourself. Where are you headed?

IVAN: I have to visit my parole officer, Vicky, in Reno. I fucking hate Vicky. She’s pale… so pale. And her hair is greasy and gray. Thinking about her makes me want to vomit.

ARLO: Why are you on parole?

IVAN: A few months ago I was in Reno, minding my own business. And then I had to piss, so I went over to a Chuck E. Cheese’s and asked if I could use their bathroom, as any gentleman would. They said no, the bathroom was “customers only.” What kind of bullshit is that? So I took a piss right on their building. Turns out Sharon and some other tight-ass mothers had an issue with that and I landed myself a week in jail. Now I’m on parole for the next three months and I have to visit Vicky each week. Honest to God, I’d rather be in jail than have to see that bitch every week.

POPPY: I’m sure Vicky isn’t that bad…

IVAN: Oh, she is! She tried to get me to interview for the position of a secretary at a law firm! Who does she think I am? Some delicate housewife? Give me a break!

While “To Reno” had a good back-and-forth between the characters, there was no movement on stage and the situation itself was unbelievable. The Burning Man couple, although self-proclaimed “open-minded” people, would never have been able to understand Ivan as well as I wrote them to. Looking back, I think this scene would’ve been more appropriate for a short story, where the audience is not so concerned with what it looks like, but rather how the characters are speaking to one another.

My sophomore year I was determined to write a play that was undeniably better for the stage than the page. I began to think of what I felt was missing when I read a story: the characters’ actual voices, how they physically interacted with each other, and the power of props.

The result of this list was “The Lord Provides,” which focused on an isolated, Mormon-like family who discovers a yam among their potato crops. Here is an excerpt:

GERSHOM: When I went to the well with Mother last week, she said that Gilead isn’t going to return home.

GIDEON: She speaks the truth. Gilead made the decision to leave and he knew that meant he was cutting contact with us and the rest of the community.

GERSHOM: Where is he?

GIDEON: Ecrin.

GERSHOM: Where’s that?

GIDEON: We took you to see horses there when you were younger. It’s hard to explain, but your mother and I knew your brother would not fit in from the beginning. He asked too many questions. I remember when Gilead was very young we took him to The Holy Rocks–– remember The Holy Rocks, Gershom? Well, Gilead ended up finding some kind of toy witch from the Outside, left behind from an Outside child and Gilead refused to give it up! A real Godly child would have obeyed us. Your mother and I had to put up with a lot of egregious behavior from your brother. He was a little too headstrong, you know? But God smiles on you, Son.

GERSHOM: Father?

GIDEON: Hm?

GERSHOM: This isn’t a potato.

What made “The Lord Provides” superior to “To Reno” were the characters. Not only were their names very unusual, but so was their way of speaking. They addressed each other formally at all times, the son always the one asking the questions, the father always answering. The rigidity of their dialogue showed more onstage than it did when read, and revealed how strict the made-up society really was. Beyond the dialogue the usage of a prop, a yam, also strengthened this play. In “The Lord Provides,” the yam symbolizes the brother, Gilead, who is the first person to ever have dared to leave this tight religious community. I used the prop as a means of showing how each character felt about Gilead’s departure—the son is curious and accepting, the mother more cautious but still interested, and the father completely rejecting it. It was also helpful as a playwright to have one, solid object that I could keep returning to. This was the first play I got into the annual playwriting show.

Finally, this year I knew I wanted to take a more humorous route with my play. I had to write a serious play in sophomore year in order to understand how a short play works. Adding humor on top is another large step that, at least in my case, had to be worked up to. From what I learned through writing and producing “The Lord Provides,” I now knew that dynamic, slightly unbelievable characters were a must, as well as keeping a quick pace, and having delivery that characterizes the speaker. With this new checklist, I produced “What’s Going On in Colchester, Illinois,” which centers on a town meeting where the kooky, small-town people politely testify against naming their park “Hugh Janus Monument Park” after the richest man from their town who was given an unfortunately vulgar-sounding name:

MODERATOR: Next!

VIVIAN: Hi, I’m Vivian, and I’m real big on tennis. I go to the park every day and just hit balls against the wall because no one else in Colchester likes tennis. You see, I had this one friend, Alice, who liked tennis, but she got real good and now plays in Springfield with the big guys. I’m not that good at tennis, but I’m pretty good, you know?

MODERATOR: Vivian, let’s get to the point, okay?

VIVIAN: Yeah, yeah, I know. Basically what I’m saying is that “Hugh Janus Monument Park” just doesn’t sound athletic, you know? Not your name, you look very fit, Mr. Janus, but as a park name, I wouldn’t be drawn to play tennis there. But if you ever want to have a match, just let me know, Sir.

MODERATOR: That’s enough, Vivian.

I was aware of the danger that came with centering an entire ten-minute play on one joke, so I was sure not to reveal the joke for about three minutes. As I watched the play be performed in front of its actual audience, I could feel everyone growing bored, believing that they were about to watch a normal town meeting for the next ten minutes. I felt that this initial boredom actually strengthened the reaction to the first time Hugh Janus’s name is said aloud. After Frances, the town’s nervous historian, gave a painfully long introduction on Mr. Janus, the moderator thanks her by saying, “Thank you for that eloquent speech, Frances…I wholeheartedly agree with this name change. I cannot see why anyone would object to the ‘Hugh Janus Monument Park.’” I then reinforced the joke by having every character repeat his name when they went up to testify; it would’ve been impossible to miss the joke. I thought that this play’s quick pace also kept it interesting to the audience, as there were about fifteen moving characters onstage, each with similar but slightly differing motivations.

It was so gratifying to sit backstage and hear the audience actually laugh at lines I had written to be funny. Unlike “The Lord Provides,” which relied on symbolism that likely went over much of the audience’s heads, “What’s Going On in Colchester, Illinois” centered on such a low-level joke that anyone could find some humor in it. I certainly have quite a ways from mastering the ten-minute play, but each year I see so much growth in both my own and my peers’ work that I have motivation to continue the search for the perfect short play.

Eva Whitney, class of 2020

We Will Not Stop by Nadja Goldberg

When I left the house on the morning of Friday, February 22, I had no idea that was the day I’d go viral. Instead of going to Chemistry class, I walked downtown and joined a small rally outside Dianne Feinstein’s office. Three young students had written a letter to Senator Feinstein urging her to support the Green New Deal. They invited me and other students to join them to present the letter to her in person.

I expected Senator Feinstein to smile, nod, take notes, and thank us for coming. A part of me fantasized that we could actually convince her to vote yes on the Green New Deal. But what I didn’t anticipate was that she wouldn’t even pretend to listen to us. Senator Feinstein said she knows what she’s doing, that she’s been doing this for thirty years. However, those were exactly the years when our environmental crisis should have been addressed.

When I slipped into World History later that day, my teacher called me up to his desk and asked where I was. Still energized and somewhat stunned, I told him, “I was meeting with Senator Feinstein to urge her to support the Green New Deal.”

He was unfazed. “You’ll have to make up your work.”

The encounter with Senator Feinstein swiftly went from being my own exciting secret to being seen by over ten million people. The next few days were a flurry of film crews, news interviews, and magazine articles as we rode the rapid current of media attention. We then used this momentum to organize the Bay Area climate strike. I had video meetings with other student planners late into the night, and only afterward did I begin my homework. Climate activism became by wholehearted focus. I was busy and sleep-deprived while organizing the climate strike, but I was focusing on something that truly matters. The effort I put into this endeavor counteracted the tedium of sophomore year. I learned an immense amount about climate change, communication, collaboration, and working toward a goal. I became close friends with the other amazing young people on the planning team. The thought of growing up to hear more and more devastating reports of flooding, forest fires, and drought terrifies me, but my environmental work gives me hope.

On the morning of the March 15th climate strike, I got off Bart shortly after ten. I turned onto 7th street and saw the huge crowd forming outside the Federal Building. I ran down the block smiling wide, reveling in the product of my team’s hard work. As I helped lead the march, I felt the sense of power that surged through Market Street. I stepped in rhythm with the chants rising from the crowd, united with the two thousand students on strike in San Francisco and a million more around the world. The group pooled into Union Square where a sequence of speakers shared their perspective on the climate crisis and offered words of inspiration. When I began delivering my speech, the microphone malfunctioned, and I waited on stage as someone replaced it. Two friends of mine began chanting my name. Soon, the entire crowd joined in. It was a surreal moment: the sun on my face, my name echoing off tall, windowed buildings.

My speech included a call-and-response. I will never forget the sound of two thousand people saying, “We will not stop.”

I will not stop speaking to politicians who should represent me. I will not stop organizing large scale actions. And young people will not stop fighting for a bright future.

 

Nadja Goldberg, class of 2021

The Body Electric by Charlotte Pocock

In April of 2018, I was diagnosed with a rare migraine condition known as New Daily Persistent Headache, or NDPH. The details are vague and, from what I can gather, not fully ironed out. The basics of my condition are as followed: two days before my seventeenth birthday, I was recovering from the common cold and developed a splitting headache that reduced me to a noise-sensitive puddle curled in a dark room, and it has remained this way for fourteen months now. “The brain’s job,” the pediatric neurologists explained to me, circling my brainstem on a diagram, “is to keep on doing what it is already doing. It is quite good at this, it’s what keeps us alive.” With NDPH, the brain recognizes the amount of pain chemicals it is releasing as normal, and thus registers that pain level as the homeostasis it is meant to maintain. This level of pain is referred to amongst NDPH patients as a “baseline.” In my family and amongst those who know of my medical condition, it has become common practice for me to respond with “how are you” with a number. In the beginning, my baseline was a near-constant seven. I spent most of the latter portion of my junior year lying behind a screen in my Marine Biology class, head a fog of migraine medication: naproxen, sumatriptan, naratriptan, prochlorperazine and diphenhydramine. I would register that my body was floating down the halls to my Pre-Calculus course, but I was unable to feel any of my limbs. The only feeling present was the pain. For several months, I was rated by the doctors as having “moderate to severe disability.” And I was angry, God I was so angry. This wasn’t supposed to be my life! I loved poetry and museums, spending nights out late with my friends and getting into trouble, going on long walks around the city. My grades had slipped tremendously, but I was too tired and embarrassed of my condition to tell any of my teachers why; I was too afraid of being seen as faking it for attention. One of my clearest memories of this time is lying on the floor of my bedroom, staring through the dark to the ceiling and thinking “something has got to give.” I could feel the itch to live again in my blood, like static, like the electric impulses in my brain telling itself that it’s fine, it’s okay, everything is happening as it should be. These days are gone now. I’ve learned to be what nurses call “high-functioning” while they pump dihydroergotamine into my veins. Treatment hurts, of course it does, but it’s not as painful as watching your life pass you by, drowning under all that could be if it just had been different. I’m not sure how I identify these days. My disability numbers are still high, but not as high as they were, and my family panics whenever I mention it. I’m in school, I have good grades, I am attending the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall. I have a part-time job, friends I love, and I learned how to drive at a baseline of five. Life is out there, and I’m very likely to be able to experience it despite my barriers. I’m not sure what the take away of this is for you, if you are reading this. I encourage you to live your life to the fullest. I wish you health, and fulfillment.

Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019

Happiness is a Warm Gun by Tess Horton

I will admit, through gritted teeth, I miss—and mourn—the poetry unit. This sentiment is strange indeed, for I do consider myself to be a grander writer of fiction, and although I respect poetry and understand its’ appeal, I tend to detest the act of creating it on most days. What a funny thing it is, because as soon as I need not write poetry any longer, I suddenly have the incentive to do so!

As a product of this grudging realization, I have written poetry with sad fingers during class, as we speak of, admire, and discuss stories by Bernard MacLaverty, Italo Calvino, and Edward P. Jones. Through bouts of impulse I scrawl haphazard lines of prose, swimming in and out of structured language and the opposite. I am inclined to write poetry now, and yet the words I write are absolutely and utterly vile: a disgrace to poetry itself. That is why I will share the poetry I wrote last semester, while I was under the influence of disgust and bitterness—somehow, I managed to conjure somewhat of a poem. Why can’t I seem to amalgamate words like I did not two months before now? This world is a cruel one.

 

Able-Anna, Able-Anna

She walks between a guided path,

Toes of lace, dipped in a bath

Of early morning breath of birds

It drips below her feet-cut thirds

And with the candle placed in her palm,

She twists the wax and hums a song,

Fit for a king, fit for a man

Of humble words, from South Sudan

She wanders to, from fro and back

With nothing left to whom she lacks.

 

O’ Anna knows she is forlorn

She has been, too, long since the mourn

When little boys breathed in her ears:

“Anna, O’ Anna, You have more tears!

You must go back to the weary tomb

Where lies your birdies, since the womb—

They call you now, they have since noon!”

And so she did, she upped and left,

With nothing but a mood; bereft

She felt as if she were not able

To see the light from which the sable

Dress she wore sucked away till drought

Past meaning; the past without

Her faith in what she knew as opposed

To Mordecai on the tip of her nose.

 

She wanted nothing but a small, brief taste

Of the bitter paste served once, with haste

Perhaps, she thought, it would be sweet

To add a bout of sick, petite

She’d read the words on paper-thin

Turned the ink before the tin

And once old Gideon had said enough

She’d turn back to the door; a bluff

Bite into the muted, whispered words

Flee again, past mountains, past birds

Back to the path she knew and heard.

 

Tess  Horton, class of 2020

Are People in Control of Themselves? by Nina Berggren

I frequently consider my father’s upbringing, which was significantly different from mine. He was raised one of six kids in a Christian household, in the sad city of Racine, Wisconsin. His family was poor, rationing powdered milk and turning to church for used clothing. However, my grandmother raised her children with unconditional love and steadfast virtues, so despite having six children squeezed into a tiny bedroom, they were all relatively satisfied. Meanwhile, their friends were from poorer families, many with absent, abusive, or alcoholic fathers. The less privileged neighborhood kids would fill my grandmother’s house as though it were a haven; Sleeping over on every spare surface, like on radiators and table tops. The house perpetually overflowed with impoverished adolescents, and my grandmother never turned one away. My father felt completely overlooked, as ten dirty hands would grab at one measly piece of toast. He retreated into himself and developed a neutral persona that could conform to his surroundings. He grew accustomed to the reality that he would not know privacy until adulthood. It came as no surprise that he moved away as soon as he turned eighteen, as did his siblings. Not one remained in Racine. Today, my grandparents live alone in a house that echoes with the memories of many voices.

So did my father take initiative and choose to abandon Racine? Or was he destined to leave from the moment he was born into a community of close minded individuals, with unlimited factors that forced him to think differently and have substantial aspirations? Recently, I have been questioning whether or not the choices we make are dictated by our minds or by a lifetime of external influences and genetic predispositions. For instance, every neighborhood kid that my father grew up with stayed in Racine. They did not receive college educations, instead they took factory jobs that reduced them to repeating the same small tasks over and over mindlessly. This repetition inevitably lead to insanity and depression. So the neighborhood kids perpetuated their parent’s legacies, resorting to alcohol in order to cope with their dismal routines; Living the life they grew up believing they had no control over. They were afraid to take risks and make change, because nobody had believed in them, and moving out of Racine seemed like an impossible fever dream. Although my father grew up in a similar position, simply having parental support and a mother that raised him right, provided the basis he needed to leave home, put himself through college, study abroad, and eventually attain success by conventional standards. My grandmother could not give him money nor physical provisions, but she gave him the right mentality to succeed.

One could argue that my father and his peers pursued dissimilar futures as human beings thinking for themselves do. However, I believe that their choices were driven by their upbringing, society, the state of America, and the state of the world. Our external influences reign supreme. They motivate our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. My own upbringing was influenced by my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my great-great grandparents, and so on until the start of time. I am influenced by the people around me, who in turn are influenced by their friends, enemies, and predecessors. We are being controlled by factors we do not even consider.

If anyone was asked to choose happiness over sadness, the answer would be exclusively the former. So why did the neighborhood kids choose sadness over happiness? Stagnancy over the unexpected? Because the variables around them rationalized their decisions.

Later in life, different variables contributed to my father’s accumulation of worldly insights, all of which lead him to desire a simple life. One where his primary purpose involves providing for his family and finding contentment in minimalism, as evidenced by our sparsely furnished household. His experiences with flea ridden beds in the Middle East, are why he chooses to indulge in the luxury of lavish hotels. Despite this one indulgence, he once confessed to me that he still feels an inclination toward the poorer populace. This is not because of the adult life he built for himself, but rather the childhood he had no control over, that instilled modest tendencies within him from the start.

So are people in control of themselves? Dwell on that, the next time you “choose” to read a book, or instigate a conversation…

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

The Beginning of Playwriting by Zai Deriu

Still at the start of our playwriting unit, it easily shows how little I know about writing for the stage. Poetry and fiction I had experience reading and writing, so went into those units with some prior knowledge.

Playwriting, on the other hand, is a completely new experience. At the unit’s start, we began discussing dialogue. Even in fiction, I avoid dialogue. There’s no real reason for this, only that I’m not so comfortable with it as with other things. In more ways than one, I was (and still am, to a certain extent) out of my comfort zone.

Over the past  weeks of playwriting, I’ve learned more about playwriting (and dialogue) than I knew there was to learn. It’s been crazy to be taught an entirely new topic, especially after being so immersed in our past fiction unit.

I’ve also had to start thinking about the topic of my play. Technically speaking, it won’t be my first, as I attempted a play for my SOTA portfolio, but it will be my first with any real instruction. Looking back on that play, I now know I formatted it entirely wrong, and can see it lacks any sort of real plot. I’m here, though, so it must have been alright.

In trying to choose topics for various prompts, I found myself thinking of what makes something for the stage rather than the page, which we discussed in class. Should I throw myself into dialogue completely, and embrace my lack of knowing what to do? Should I think of past experiences in my life for inspiration before anything else? It’s difficult to think of ideas when you have to.

Perhaps it’s because of how extensively we spoke of plot during fiction, but I do think it’s getting easier for me to pull out story ideas when asked. Not to say it’s easy, however. I can confidently say that I’ve become more comfortable in my writing in my past seven months in CW. It’s because of this I’m not all that scared to be starting our playwriting unit. If I had been thrown into playwriting at the year’s start, I would have been lost and confused, but now I know I’ll be alright.

Being more confident in my own writing than I was at the beginning of the year is great, and I already know that this will help me through every english-based class I ever have, but perhaps more important than that is the friendships I’ve formed with other creative writers. From the beginning of the year, myself and the other CW freshmen have gotten along incredibly well. Without that sense of community, I don’t know how I possibly could have gotten through the first few months of school and even made it this far. Fortunately, I had their support, so now I’m here, and I’m very happy about it.

Zai Deriu, class of 2022

Five Days of Workshopping by Xuan Ly

For one week, in preparation for the playwriting show, our Creative Writing class was comprised of nothing but small group workshops. We would all come into class with four copies of our drafts we had been working with. On the board, there would be groups of four, ideally with one student from each grade, and we would break off into those groups to workshop. In the groups, each play is casted and read for the playwright to listen to, and then the playwright is given edits on parts such as the fundamental plot and diction. Even as a sophomore, with a full understanding of the workshopping process and its benefits, I am nervous going into a workshop. Of course, they never are as bad as I make them out to be. Each person just wants to help guide the piece to reach its fullest potential.

This week of workshopping was a slightly different experience than what we have done in CW1. Each day of the week, we brought four copies of our play to be read aloud and edited by our peers. Since we had back to back workshopping days, I felt I was not given ample time to deeply revise, attend routine extracurricular activities, and finish other academic homework before the next day. Typically, we are given two or three days between workshops to slowly revise and better balance with academic work. With new groups each day, I noticed more contradicting comments than usual, which widened the possibilities for m play, but also made it more difficult to revise. Ultimately, I found that the day-to-day revisions I made to my play were quite small, but workshopping is always what the writer makes of it.

Being in the department, I have learned the importance of revision, even if it is sometimes the worst. I, personally, have a difficult time with constant revision of a single piece. I find it best for me to have breaks between each revision so I can approach the piece without instantly hating it. This seemingly endless week of workshopping tested my limits of endurance for listening to my own work. Despite this, I think getting to hear the entire play read aloud was one of the most helpful parts of the workshopping process. In all the groups I was in, we read through every piece, which allowed for the playwright to see how the dialogue flowed.

Xuan Ly, class of 2021

Revising a Dead Dog by Jessica Schott-Rosenfield

CW 1 is currently in its fiction unit, and we are beginning to workshop our short stories. The first story I wrote in this unit was in response to a prompt, which called for a story about an object endowed with magical powers, and the child’s imagination. At first, I was worried, as I have not always had the best luck with writing fantasy fiction. I find that when I attempt to create a mature story including an aspect of magic, I inevitably fail. However, I chose to embrace the prompt and write the story with vigor. After writing my first draft, I was satisfied with the outcome because it was finished, and at least that was something.

I workshopped that piece with sophomores the next day, which didn’t go well at all. They brought to my attention that the plot was unclear because of my trying to shove both fantasy and pretentiously significant points into the writing. It’s safe to say I was not motivated in the least to begin revisions, since I was now convinced that the idea behind the story would never show itself in the manner I desired, because the idea was so innately awful in the first place. I tried to create something out of the piece which was more to my liking, more realistic, and more composed. This attempt, although helpful to the overall clarity, did not yield much, and the second day of workshopping was much the same as the first. Every comment I received was again about the plot, and I agreed with them wholeheartedly, but I didn’t want to face the fact that extensive revisions would need to be made that night.

As something I hadn’t liked in the beginning, the story did not age well, and at this point, I hated it. Each time I read it, I hated it more.  I was fixed on the idea that no matter what I did with this story outline, it would still be deplorable. I revised what I could, worked on the sequence of events, took the advice given to me, and turned in a final draft to Heather Woodward herself. I was sure it would come back littered with comments about the diction being entirely too simplistic, and the plot being that of a small child’s inspirational bedtime story. Much to my surprise, it did not. Instead, I was given comments about sentence structure, credibility, and easily cut dead wood. After reading through these critiques, I realized that I had been so focused on my own dislike of the core idea that I hadn’t paid attention to the actual writing of the piece in its simplest form. I had done well with the plot, and essentially completed a clear storyline. I still very much loathe this short story, but it is now a finished product. Writing is subjective, and whether you or anyone else likes the concept of the story is less important than how well you pay attention to your technique while conveying your ideas through fiction.

Jessica Schott-Rosenfield, class of 2022