As many people reading this may know, I spent the first two years of my high school experience reading a lot, and I do mean a lot, of dead male authors. This began with my heady and emotionally tumultuous reading of On the Road in the middle of freshman year and continued on with shorter and slightly less passionate love affairs with Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Hemingway, and a host of other narcissists who many of us know and, rightfully, adore. This is not to say that I never read books by women or that I was intentionally avoiding leading a more varied literary life, but, if we’re being honest, a large percentage of my reading did fit into that category.
Then I started junior year and realized I needed, badly, to expand my horizons and, maybe even more importantly, become a little less obsessed with past decades or movements I’d missed and a little more obsessed with all the great books being written right now and all the potential energy of this decade. And so I read Karen Russell. And then I read Miranda July. And then I read Maria Semple. And then I read Aimee Bender. And then I read Marina Keegan. And, most importantly, I read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. And it changed everything. Here was this woman who I’d never before met writing down pretty much my exact manifesto on how I want to live—always remembering to be grateful for and to fully inhabit every day and every moment. This, I think, was the moment I became a modern girl, and by that I don’t mean that I suddenly relinquished my cape of nostalgia or downloaded a snap-chat. What I mean is, after sixteen years of trying to travel backwards in time with a respectable degree of success, I started wanting, not to go forwards even, but to exist and make the most of exactly where I am. Right now.
Emma Eisler, class of 2017
As our final fiction project in creative writing two, we have been putting together small story collections. These collections are compromised of one nucleus story, the story that is at the core of all the other stories, and three orbital stories, shorter stories that engage in different kinds of dialogue with the nucleus story.
As I started working on this collection, I realized I was actually writing two parallel collections, one about the stifling quiet of suburbia, and one about the isolated displacement of travel and being away. Because I could not stomach the idea of abandoning either of these trains of thought and exploration, I decided to combine the two collections into a larger series of two nucleus stories and six orbitals. Although this has added fairly significantly to my work load, I could not be more excited about continuing to work on this project.
Not only am I working on my writing on the usual level of creating, I am also beginning to look at my writing through a larger lens that extends beyond the borders of any one story. Throughout my high school life, I have always had the sense that every piece of my writing has been steadily adding towards something bigger and greater than any of the individual pieces.
Despite still being far from digging my fingernails into this something and holding onto it long enough to write it down, I can already feel how much closer this collection is bringing me. I have an individual voice and I am a writer, and this power extends beyond the last page of any single story.
Emma Eisler, class of 2017
Today it rained more heavily in San Francisco than it has in a long while. Naturally, this prompted me to suggest we take a quick roll in the glass. I raced down to the field with Davis and Clare, laughing loud and strange from somewhere deep in my stomach. I collapsed in the grass immediately and felt the rainwater seeping into my sweatshirt and jeans.
Emma B eventually came down to the field and joined us, and then we ran back and forth across the field in a hysterical, wobbling line. I kept yelling, “It is raining and I am so happy,” over and over in a voice that was loud and uncontrolled like I must’ve sounded as a kid.
Later, in thinking about this moment, I realized what an accomplishment this kind of happiness is at sixteen. It is so easy to become caught up in the drudgery of work and routine and to lose sight of the incredible color and texture of the world. As a little kid, it is easy to be moved to moments of intense wonder or joy but every year the threshold for what is beautiful and what is important becomes a little higher and losing oneself in the feeling of rain in hair and grass on skin becomes just a little harder to obtain.
After coming to this realization, I began to wonder, as I always do after this kind of revelation, how this new understanding relates to my writing. The answer I came up with is pretty simple. When I am writing, I am attempting to portray a more heightened, more vivid version of the world. I am attempting to create something that somehow succeeds in being more real than the literal world around me. In order to succeed in this kind of writing, however, I need that basic love and respect for the world I see day to day. I need to be sensitive to changes in the weather and all the tiny and glorious phenomena that happen every day. Although people usually think of writers as being mature and self-contained, I find that my best writing actually emerges from the intense, unrestrained emotions of childhood and the days before maturity became a relevant idea.
Emma Eisler, class of 2017
Today in Creative Writing we had a new teacher, Ms. Eisler. (Emma E.) All the CW II students have to bring in a short story or excerpt, and then ask us thought-provoking questions based on what we just read. After, they give us a prompt. Today, Emma handed out to us an excerpt from How To Breathe Underwater called “When She Is Old and I Am Famous.” It is a smooth and powerfully written tale about the relationship and conflict between two cousins. The narrator, Mira, is a twenty-year-old visual artist who is studying art in Italy. Her cousin, Aïda, is a fifteen-year-old model visiting Mira. There are many contrasts, such as Aïda being skinny and having physical beauty in her youth, and Mira being corpulent and, in the ways of making art, creating art that lasts far beyond surface beauty.
When I’m reading any type of teenage-fiction novel or even a novel like East of Eden, there always seems to be that perfect girl. You know what I’m talking about, those girls who have ideal bodies, a gorgeous face, has everyone awestruck by her beauty and sheer perfectness. They also seem to have that manipulative personality that makes everyone like them. The cliché of all the guys wanting her and all the girls all wanting to be her. They come off seemingly getting whatever they want and having no problems what so ever. This is how I found Aïda to be portrayed, and whenever I find this character in books, I get this mixture of excitement and exasperation. Excited, because they do give the story somewhat of a zest. Exasperated, because they’re so unrealistic. (I have only ever met one person who had the physical perfectness down pat. But getting to know them more, I realized they too had similar problems to me that I would never think someone with such physical beauty would have to deal with. And they have to work just as hard as everyone else. As I’m writing this I realize how superficial I’m sounding, but in truth these past few weeks of high school has actually taught me that even if you have good looks it will only take you so far. Personality actually does matter.)
To cut to my point, these seemingly perfect characters only are in books. But authors seemingly like to leave these perfect characters perfect. There is no humanization, it’s almost as if they’re a whole other species. (Similarly to how I gave said person-in-real-life a whole different expectation than everyone else, even though they’re just another human being.) However, in “When She Is Old and I Am Famous” there was this moment where the cousin-model Aïda was talking about how she’d have a few good years in her career, then settle somewhere and be forgotten. I feel like this (along with the title) really gave the message. The longevity of art and physical beauty are not the same. Art can last on forever, a beauty that is everlasting. All these seemingly perfect looking people, whether they are in your math class or on the cover of Vogue, their beauty will fade.
And beauty is the eye of the beholder! It really isn’t that important. I’m sorry if I turned this into another rant about beauty being superficial. Super huge thanks to Emma E. for bringing in that excerpt! It was easily the best, most mind-boggling thing I’ve read in the past six months.
Killa Heredia Bratt, class of 2019
Yes, that exclamation point in the title is totally warranted, even if the permalink doesn’t think so.
Voyager is off to a great start— we’ve got our whole cast and crew here: Heather, Tony, Rachel, Carol, Isaiah, Maia… Plus the brilliant tech crew we can’t do without (as Beyoncé once said, “Who run the world? [Tech]!”). For the first time since my four-year-memory (the average lifespan of a high schooler), we’ve got all our Skits-I-Mean-Interludes finalized and roughly staged in the first day of theater rehearsals. We’re also aiming high this year, in that every CDub will have their pieces memorized for the show. I expect to just cruise (badum–CHING!) along this week, until Friday, our big show.
In the mean time, here are some pictures to keep y’all entertained:
by Emma E. (’17)
One of the most exciting parts of planning anything is watching it begin to come to life. During Creative Writing today, we began discussing details of what we want our fall show to look like. Although we are still in preliminary (and top secret) planning stages, the show already feels real and immediate. To help us begin working on the show itself, we had two artists, Tony and Rachel, come in. One of the nice things about enlisting outside help is you get the benefit of their ideas and opinions. Having Tony and Rachel in helped us make our plans more detailed and organized. It’s crazy how much can happen in a class period; at the beginning of the day, we hadn’t even decided on a theme and now our show is already taking shape! One of my favorite parts of the day was when we each said one thing we could bring to the show that was specific to us; the list included knife throwing and onstage cooking, so it’ll definitely be exciting. Today was both productive and enjoyable and I can’t wait to keep planning our show and seeing the new directions it takes!