Stepping Into the World of the Fae By Sophie Fastaia

Community Weeks in Creative Writing had settled down, leaving us with memories from Kirby Cove and writing poetry among the flowers in the Botanical Gardens. Fatima, our artist in residence, came into Creative Writing ready to open the door to the world of fairy tales. She began class by reading a prose poem about dragons living among humans. I felt as though I were in the world she was describing, where dragons eat discarded sandwiches in the street or mistake a child for a seal pup, eat it, and feel guilty. 

On the first day, Fatima asked us what our favorite fairy tales were. We went around in a circle, telling each other our favorite tales: Narnia, Tinkerbell, Repunzel, La Llorona, Aladdin, and many others. More and more kept popping up into my mind as each person shared the fairy tales that they had grown up with. I found it surprising how the topic could spark up so much conversation. Fairy tales, for most of us, were a part of our childhood that we got to share with each other. 

On the second day, Fatima told us, in her soft Australian accent, about the history of fairy tales, how The Grimm Brothers collected tales from common people during the eighteen hundreds. They adapted and revised stories until the little gifts of hazelnuts, fallen from a sacred tree in an earlier version of Cinderella, transformed into gifts of glass slippers and ball gowns in modern versions. 

On the third day, Fatima told us about the fae, the creatures and beings of fairy tales, such as fairies, ogres, and weird little guys like Rumplestiltskin. Rumpelstiltskin is a little man, who has the ability to spin gold from straw. He helps a woman spin gold from straw, in order to save her from the death penalty. In return, Rumpelstiltskin asks for the woman’s firstborn child. She agrees to give away her child, but when she has the baby a few years later, she begs to keep it. We participated in a mock trial, debating the case of Rumplestiltskin. The trial decided whether or not Rumplestiltskin or the woman should have custody of the baby. 

During the mock trial, Fatima’s position was God. She was articulate and serious about the case, instructing the lawyers and judges throughout the whole mock trial. Fatima talked about Rumplestiltskin and the rest of the characters in the fairy tale as if their world was real and she had spoken to them minutes before the mock trial had started. Her attitude towards the mock trial drew me into the activity; it was as if the characters we were defending were alive somewhere, just not in the courtroom that Creative Writing had become. It felt as though there was a real baby that a weird little guy was trying to take, and the baby’s life was put in our hands.  Believing in fairy tales and the magical beings in stories conjured up something in me; I felt the excitement of the magic from my childhood, a feeling I had forgotten. For a moment, as we all debated about the case, I had stepped into the world of the fae and believed that these magical creatures were real. 

Humor Week with Daniel Handler by Tess Horton


Creative Writing spent a week with our latest Artist in Residence, Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket. The main subject he taught us was humor, and the many subjective ways humor can be incorporated into our writing. We covered structure and format, the definition of a “callback,” the nature of the number three in Western humor, and how, to make a piece of writing objectively funny, sometimes you need to have a few boring sentences before the joke.

Everyday, we would read a piece of humor in class, a few examples including Curses From a Millenial Witch by Scarlett Meyer and SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris, and then analyze what made them “funny.” The goal of the week-long workshop was to write our own 1-3 page humor piece, using the devices we discussed in class — focusing mainly on formatting and structuring our pieces in ways other than straightforward narratives. For example, the piece I ended up writing was “A Snake Charmer’s Dating Profile Throughout the Years,” featuring five years worth of updated dating profiles of a snake charmer.

Our week of humor with Daniel Handler was entertaining and a solid introduction to humor for me. I appreciated learning about the technical aspects of what makes a piece funny, and how to use certain techniques in my writing if I were to ever want to do so. Although humor is subjective and difficult to teach because of it, I take my hat off to Mr. Handler for teaching us in a relatively unbiased way and letting everyone’s own sense of humor thrive without restraint.

Tess Horton, class of 2021

Pancake Breakfast


Do you like bacon? sausage? All You Can Eat Pancakes? A chance to run into one of our amazing Creative Writing students? Then you should come this Sunday (or the next) to Sweet Inspiration Cafe in order to participate in SOTA’s Pancake Breakfast!

This coming Sundays, December 9, and the Sunday after it (the 16th), there will be an All You Can Eat Breakfeast Buffet event to support the Artists-In-Residence program at SOTA. The events will take place from 8′ o’clock am to 12 o’clock noon, and it looks as if it is going to be a great time for all. There will even be students performing for the event!


Sweet Inspiration
2239 Market Street
between 16th & Sanchez

Mindful Artist in Residence

Today was the last day of Daniella Salzman’s “Mindfulness and Writing” unit, wherein students learned how to pay attention to what was going on in the body, the mind, the emotional “heart” and the external environment. Daniella, who lives in Berkeley and works as a dance expressive arts therapist, also spends much of her time teaching mindfulness to youth. She recently came out of a 3-month period of silence, during which she did little but meditate and cook. Her voice was pleasantly soft, probably as a result. When asked if she could sum up mindfulness in a sentence, she answered with: “This might sound corny, but I would say that mindfulness is being in the here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” We hope to welcome her back soon.


Upcoming Artist in Residence

The Creative Writing department often is taught by local artists–Artists in Residence–and beginning on August 29, we will be hosting Erik Ulman, composer and Stanford lecturer, for a week. He will be teaching a Writing Through Music unit, in which students will learn how to utilize music and sound in their writing. This week we’ve had the great pleasure of Jeff Mooney’s instruction, where rhythm and sound have also come into play.