Letting Go & Just Listening by Leela Sriram

Translation is a key factor of life. We translate words in our heads when speaking. We translate the world by noting the colors and sounds that are seen and heard around us. We translate from language to language in spanish class. 

Last weeks unit in Creative Writing 1 with CW alumni: Josie Weidner, Noa Mendoza-Goot and Violeta Sticotti, was all about how translation is not just translating from language to language, but a way to interpret the world and society and transform the world into how we see Earth and society from our perspective. 

On the second day of “A Week in Translation,” CW I partook in an independent activity that let us free ourselves from the eye strain and headaches from the piercing bright lights that illuminate from the computer, and instead just listen to the world around us. A sound map charts down all of the intricate sounds created by the world around us, such as the echoes in the voices of hikers walking in Golden Gate park, or the scratching sound of a dog’s paws on a dirt path. This activity helped me let go of my mind and just listen to the world, and observe the sounds in the park that I hadn’t ever really paid attention to due to being caught up in my own thoughts. 

After drawing out my sound map, I thought intently about the connection sounds in nature have to translation. The two almost seem completely incomparable, but translation is not as simple as speaking Spanish and then saying the same sentence in English. Translation is not just verbal, but also auditory. A large part of translation is connecting sounds to visuals and objects. Translation is just putting together one big puzzle that is understanding the world.

Leela Sriram, Class of ’23

Decisions on the Cultural Heritage Project by Gemma Collins

With the new semester just beginning, the start of the fiction unit draws near. This year CW 1 is starting off the fiction unit with the sophomore cultural heritage lessons. These lessons, carefully planned and culminated over the entire past semester, are crucial parts of the preparedness for CW 2. As of the past Thursday, the presentations have started. I spent a large portion of my time this winter break editing and perfecting my own lesson plan and coming up with my best idea on what to teach the group about. This was a daunting decision, considering that for most of the year, I was wavering between different subjects to talk about and contemplating what I thought would provide the most educational yet enthralling lesson. 

When thinking about my culture, the foundation of the assignment, I found myself coming up blank. The presentation is centered around talking about ourselves, something I am not used to doing. The freedom of subjects to discuss was both freeing and confusing, as with the ability to pursue multiple ideas comes the dreaded need to make decisions for oneself. I never felt connected to any specific background, so when deciding my topic for my project, I decided to steer clear of the “culture/race/ethnicity” genre and into other possibilities.

Then there were the options of music, but I am definitely not the most musical person. I spent winter break going back and forth until I finally solidified my idea. I thought about what I felt passionate about and began my project on environmentalist poems. The best plan I could muster, I found poems to use and began to build my powerpoint complete with writing prompts and a homework assignment all based on poems that make a call to action. Soon my presentation was complete and I just needed to survive the presentation. 

A poem that I wrote while working on my project:

A Walk

I don’t know that I’ll be alive
If the world is run hot and dry,
Like a desert with a red sky.
A red sky that possibly in the far reaches
Of the atmosphere has one breath that
Escaped my mouth when things were 
Green for a little longer.

I am here now in a little longer.

When things were green.
How long a little longer is, I’m unsure.
I’m going on a walk today to
Appreciate a the green
Although I admit it will be hard not to be 
Distracted by crusty gum on the sidewalk
Or sewage smell at the bottom
Of the hill. 
But the walk is meant to be appreciative, so
I better not get hung up on 
undeniable bad things. 

I run my fingertips in the rosemary bush
Which I haven’t done in a while. 
I may not know how long a little longer is
But I know a while is 5 years.
5 years but the fresh scent is still as sweet
As my memory of it.
I hear two parrots squawk
In the tree above me, dropping red berries.
Their noise isn’t exactly pleasant, but
I find some joy in the raining red berries.
I wish it still rained.

Reach the top of the hill and look out at the view—
Bunny shaped clouds and
shimmery water and small waves
the rolling hills 

Can’t forget the city
Downtown buildings twinkle
I can almost feel the hot glittering
Sidewalk,
I look out at the view.

In the corner of my eye

I see the red rolling in.

Gemma Collins, Class of ’23

Poetry & the Greener Pasture by Jesper Werkhoven

I would say that poetry was fun. It was the first step in an enigmatic journey that has, most definitely, started off on too many wrong feet. My Eighth Grade was cut short by a demon sphere I couldn’t ever see, and whatever this is isn’t exactly filling the void. Then, I come here, and I trip on two rocks back to back, landing myself neatly above a drop into a ravine. Finally, after clawing my way back out, I’m greeted with my least favorite way to write. Sounds unfun, doesn’t it? All thanks to some real good paraphrasing.
Poetry was a new experience. For one, I didn’t think I could write it at all during the summer. It turns out I can, and I should probably start trusting myself more. This unit opened my eyes to the possible beauty of poetry. Shame I wanted to close them immediately after reading the instructions for the sonnet. I might miss poetry, now that the unit is over, but I think the excitement of the new topic might eclipse that.

Short stories are my thing. I don’t need deep meaning, or put in thought-provoking imagery. I can just make people fight it out for seventy-eight pages and call it a day. Fiction is freedom for me. It has no restriction other than the restrictions you create for yourself. Now that we’re moving away from poetry, I can finally put the Creative in Creative Writing to the max- or at least, I hope. It might be awhile until I can make people fight it out for seventy-eight pages.

Whatever the next unit throws at me, I’ll be ready to enjoy it to the fullest. Motivation and confidence will replace reluctance and uncertainty, and I’ll be having fun showing off how good of a writer I am to my friends.

Jesper Werkhoven, Class of ’24

The Escape From My Pandemonium by Tiarri Washington

This pandemic has molded my world into something I no longer recognize. A routine I follow through muscle memory while my mind is distanced from the surrounding chaos. Every day, my computer, the color of stewed cherries, is perched in front of me as I sit at my dining room table. My mind wanders and I struggle to find the clarity to care enough to take notes on formulas and upcoming assessments. From nine to twelve, my mind is as detached from my body, as I am from the rest of the world. 

It’s only at the slightly tardy stroke of 1:47 when the call connects to Creative Writing 1 that I begin to feel something. Creative Writing 1, is meant for us freshmen and sophomores to be introduced to the basics of CW: the literary critiques, poetry devices, and more that will aid us in our success as writers from then on. Taught by the department director, Heather Woodward, who has taken time, two weeks, thus far to teach us the process and thinking behind the analysis. Yes, our whole group discussions, reviews, and workshops can be unnerving and overwhelming, especially to newcomers. Yet, our teacher takes time from our classes to stray away from the technique and allow us to breathe and enjoy each other’s presence. 

In class, I hear Heather’s bright and joyous, “Hello Tiarri,” followed by random music from varying genres. We’ve heard the unforgettable lyrics of Billie Holiday to the shivering reeds and sensual voices of Soul Train. During this, the chat, filled with sass, compliments, humor, and bribery never fails to bring a smile to my face. These few minutes serve as a gradual transition into the class, followed by a warm-up, given by another student, that explores unique prompts that lean on poetic devices. 

One day out of the week, we’ll break away from all teaching and dance to Youtube videos so our sophomores can receive their PE credit. At the following dance session, we are graded on our performance before we start for the day. This serves as a great motivator and makes the dancing even more entertaining. I currently hold a solid 9.75/12, a decent score that I assure I will increase in the upcoming weeks. Despite the freshman not being required to do partake, most of us enjoy the break anyway. 

I must also note the casual flow of CW 1. This period from routine more often than not. Sometimes, an existential question may come up in the midst of a discussion, that grips everyone’s attention. We abandon the to-do list for the day and casually ponder our lives, desires, and even such a mundane topic like conversations we had with a hairdresser. Before we know it, it’s well past two and our time with each other is up. 

I say all of that to say that CW 1, is a pleasurable suspension from the mayhem of typical online classes. All of these activities, with these people, allow me to tune out the noise of my home, tether my mind with my body again, and connect with people outside the four white walls of my dining room.

Tiarri Washington (Class of ’24)

Why It’s Important to Struggle With Your Work Sometimes by Pascal Lockwood

Creative writing has always been somewhat of a “love-hate-but-mostly-love” situation for me.  I enjoy the community, I enjoy my classmates, The fun games we play, the interesting challenges that get posed for me, and I enjoy learning new ways to think about my writing, but there is one part of that system that I have not yet become accustomed to. This is the lit crit. Before I share my personal troubles with the lit crit, It’s important for me to explain what the lit crit is. A literary critique, in the Creative Writing Department, revolves around us Creative Writing students having a poem selected for us or having you select your own. We then write an essay about the poem based on how we understand it. Three paragraphs make up the body, along with a conclusion and a beginning, and you have your lit critique. 

 It is not necessarily that the main idea of a lit critique is troublesome to me, it is simply the most recent issues I’ve had to work through are among the most frustrating moments of my schooling days. The constant struggle of pushing around words on the paper and making them sound good is actually harder than it sounds, but I have faith that one day I will be able to look back on this and laugh. For the time being, however, I think it’s best if I vent my frustrations so you may understand what I’m going through. 

Back in marking period 4, I had written a literary critique about a poem written by William Carlos Williams entitled A Portrait in Greys. It wasn’t the best essay I had ever written, but it wasn’t half bad either.  Just like that, this meant I had to do it over again. The frustrating thing was, I knew I had written better essays, but I did not anticipate the feedback. While I had been writing about the ideas the poem presented, I was actually supposed to write about the literary devices. I know it sounds like I’m whining and moaning. After all, it was my fault! I had written three other lit critiques prior, and I had done them all in the style that was now getting called out over. None of my peers or my teachers ever explained that what I was doing in the lit crit was incorrect, or if they did, I didn’t get it. I wish I’d had the feedback I needed on each of those previous lit crits. If I’d let rip three of  my unearthly stinkers in class, I’m sure someone would have put me straight.

Determined to fix this, I decided to go back with the help of another student and tried to fix my previous essay in an attempt to get a better grade. It was hard at first, considering how stubborn a person I am (If you believe in that Horoscope malarkey, I’m a textbook Taurus) and unfortunately took to criticisms and new ideas on my work like a duck to acid. After a while, the other student and I finally found a rhythm. So what had to happen next? Another lit crit I’d forgotten about. I. Was. Livid. It was bad enough that I was worried about having to work on a completely new essay for this marking period, but I still hadn’t even finished the one from the last marking period. After starting again, and again, I’m stuck at paragraph 2 for the third time. A truckload of other work is also beginng to beat down on me. 

Moral of the story? Always ask about homework before leaving class with ‘no’ work. What that means is, if you’re unsure about something, like I was, you should never be afraid to ask your teachers (or even your peers!) for assistance. The consequences will really suck. Your writing buddy, who usually is a Junior or a Senior, will be a fantastic resource for helping you out when you need it. What I’m trying to say is, enjoy working with and alongside Creative Writing students on subjects you’re confused on. Not once, in any situation, should you ever neglect these resources that are right there for you. I messed up pretty badly with my work more than a few times, and even then, I was still able to get back up onto my feet thanks to the help of my other students and teachers. I know I have a lot to learn, but I really feel the support of the community of Creative Writing. To quote Steven McCranie, “The master has failed more times than the student has tried.” 

I’m learning the hard way; now is my time to fail.

I want to say to anyone looking to join the Creative Writing department: Please do not be discouraged from doing so because of what I wrote. Our department is a lovely place filled with lovely individuals that you should definitely get to know. What I have written, I intend to be a somewhat cautionary tale on why it is so important to not only get help when you’re struggling, but why it’s important to fail sometimes. We grow with each trip and bump in the road. That lit crit I’m re-writing is stronger and more put together than anything else I could have written first-time. 

We fall hard. 

We get back up harder.

Pascal Lockwood (Class of ’24)

The Mind of an Enclosed Writer by Tiffany Dong

If I were to describe Creative Writing as one of the new freshmen in six words, it’d be out-of-my-comfort-zone. The sixth word containing my internal scream when I am called on to read my writing out loud in front of others. There were two separate departments— one specifically designated for spoken arts, so my naivety gave me the idea that there would be no speaking or talking required. 

Before fully diving into the gist of Creative Writing, I had the opportunity to attend summer courses for poetry, fiction, autobiography, and more, where I met the upperclassmen prior to the start of the school year. This allowed me the chance to question them about what to expect, despite the given circumstances and differences they had when they experienced Creative Writing and my upcoming online distance learning experience. They warned me about the major requirements, of course– where the aspect of workshopping played into the part of what to expect. As a middle schooler who has freshly emerged out of the habit of blending in with the crowd and never taking the initiative to voice my ideas, Creative Writing was a scare. Therefore, I’m thankful to have something that prepared me for the upcoming monitory that I call “workshopping.” It is a knee-buckling, stomach-churning, and head-spinning sound. Though, nothing is worse than the word, “presenting.” Both workshopping and presenting enable you to showcase your personal work to others. That was a problem. Surely, writing is also quite personal to me where it was considered as my safe space. To have people claw into that space felt like an invasion of privacy or comfort. Of course, that’s what I used to think. I despised the simple idea of a pair of eyes scanning through my work, so it would make sense that I can’t possibly stand a group of people thoroughly analyzing them. Writing here is a crucial passion that lives in every one of us in this department, and we all have our own definition or sacred relationship with writing. 

Heather, the department head once said, “To show your writing is to show your vulnerability and open yourself up.” Even that took a lot of understanding and time to grasp that concept as someone who constantly struggles with the idea of opening up. Now, during this time of distance learning, I realized it is dire to be understanding of our given circumstances. I may not be meeting my upper-classmen face to face this year and that already sets a blockage between us. Through a screen, it is already difficult enough to communicate and genuinely become a part of this writing community, who’s always been supportive and patient regardless. 

It took a lot of mustering up the courage to fully become adjusted to this new environment with many new faces. But as of right now, I’ve decided this is a turning point to finally take a step out of this little bubble I’ve barricaded myself in.

Tiffany Dong (Class of ’24)

The Two Creative Writings by Lauren Ainslie

I had heard the phrase “Creative Writing One and Creative Writing Two” tossed around before, so when Heather brought it up at the beginning of class I wasn’t completely surprised. But being a freshman, I had no idea what it meant. It turns out, midway through the semester the underclassmen and upperclassmen separate into two different Creative Writing I and Creative Writing II. An artist in residence works with the upperclassman while the underclassmen are taught by Heather herself. Right now we’re focusing on poetry.

I was surprised at how few people were in each group. Creative Writing Literary Arts has twenty-nine people in total, but it seems like twice as much when we are all together. So when we are split up, it’s quiet (which is good because we are working on poetry), and there’s more flexibility in what we’re doing than there was before. I really like poetry, I like writing it and reading it, and having over two hours to focus on it, is really fun and interesting. But the best part about smaller groups and working on poetry, is the fact that I get to share.

Everyday when we start class, we push the tables in and settle in our seats, then whip out last night’s homework. And those who want to share raise their hands, and they do share, and we discuss it afterward. It lets me know what I did right, and what could be better. I now know how to properly analyze and read poems, and I have a better general understanding of language because of it. I also feel closer to my classmates, because we have shared our raw work with each other.  I am excited by this change, but even more excited by the prospect of graduating to Creative Writing II.

[DR]: 11/7

by Amina (’17)

Today in C-Dub I, we were joined by the delightful company of shadows (in case any of them are reading this, thanks for visiting, and hopefully we didn’t scare you too much), as we continued workshopping poems we all wrote with a special attention to sound and texture. Basically, our whole poetry unit has been based on sound, because as Heather insists, “SOUND IS EVERYTHING!” So, it was interesting to revisit Josie’s, Noa’s, and Olivia’s poetry with that kind of critical eye. I think we had a pretty rewarding workshop experience this week, especially considering all our comments today. Amazingly, seeing as it’s nearly the end of the week, we managed to stay on topic, sans a small tangent on sleep paralysis brought up by Noa’s poem.

On an unrelated note, Justus and I wore the same shirt today. (We didn’t plan it, I promise.)

amina_justus