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.

What Do You Guys Even Do In Creative Writing?

by Olivia W. (’16)

This is a question I get asked a lot. Nobody ever asks, “What do you even do in band?” because that’s quite obvious, as well as “What do you even do in Visual?” or better yet, “What do you even do in Vocal?”

Nobody asks “what do you guys even do in Media?” or “What do you guys even do in Tech?” (Which I personally think are the most obscurely named departments.)

At SOTA, our departments are named for what they focus on. Band will play their instruments and Visual will conduct visual art and Vocal will be vocal and so on and so forth. Creative Writing is no exception to this rule of thumb.

Or maybe we are.

When I am asked this question or someone just wonders it out loud with no direct reference to me, someone in the vicinity will usually answer “I dunno, they just like, write all day.”

This wonderful misinformation has cleared the road for all of our highly amusing Creative Writing stereotypes. We drink tea all the time, read and write at every chance we get, are sadly underdeveloped and love poetry.

We do have a hot water boiler in class to make tea, I know for a fact that I write poems in math textbooks, and we did conduct poetry circles for a couple of weeks in CW1.

The stereotypes of Creative Writing aren’t a far throw from the truth. They are merely grossly bloated overblown romantic renditions of it.

What do we do in creative writing? Sometimes, we have deep, philosophical discussions. Sometimes we eat cupcakes. Sometimes we watch clips from awfully camp movies. Sometimes I have no idea what is happening.

Creative Writing changes day by day. I can tell you that we have a fall fiction unit, and then comes poetry, and we finish off with playwriting. I can tell you that we have Portfolio checks and Lit Reviews and three shows a year. I can tell you that Heather is our head and everyone loves Isaiah even though my freshman class has no clue who he is. I can tell you that on Friday we went to a Zen monastery and we won field day and that I know the names of everyone in my department and their grade but I cannot tell you what we do. It’s not because it’s a secret, it’s because so many things go on in my department I wouldn’t be able to give you the faintest clue in a novel.

Asking what we do in Creative Writing is like asking a mole what the ground tastes like. If you really wanted to know what the ground tasted like, you should take a bite yourself. Moles don’t eat dirt. They just swim in it.