First Field Trip as a CW Freshman by Isabella Hansen

On the first Wednesday of the school year, Creative Writing takes a trip to the Asian Art Museum. This being my first field trip as part of the CW community was a bit daunting. It started with me trying to work the terrible evil MUNI machines to try and get a ticket and having to hurry after the rest of CW. But after that, the trip turned out to be quite fun. We were all assigned a writing prompt and spread out around the many exhibits that inhabited the quiet space. One thing that I noticed was how easy it was for everyone to pull out their notebooks and write. I chose an interesting painting and sat down to examine it. Then I started writing. After we all finished with the prompt, we assembled down in the main entrance. A few other freshmen and I took the elevator with someone already in it to get down. One of my fellow freshmen was wearing a SOTA hoodie, so the guy asked us if we went to SOTA. And at that moment, packed into a tiny box, I realized that I go to SOTA for CW, and all the work that I put into my application paid off. And I was very pleased with my younger 8th-grade self for not giving up while writing another poem for the application. The poem I have written while gazing at that painting is one I treasure because it’s what I call my first “official” creative writing poem.

Naked

Their naked bodies glistened with sweat,
Squirming as the hot flames licked their smooth backs.
The putrid stink that flew out of the shell they pressed their ruby-red lips to
Drifted and landed on the shiny colorless beads that adorned their long beetle shell black hair.
A long white shell necklace that hung well past their quaking knees,
Swayed with the slight breeze they lapped up like a dehydrated dog.

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder
But only a lucky few can stare at the two dancing creatures
And dive deeper
Past the scars
Past the hideous smiles
And descend into the lair
Of the kindness that landed the creatures there
Forever dancing with the fire.

Their eyes are flat as stiff paper
From the decades they have spent up
In the red sky of lit flames
Twirling with the embers that never stopped burning
Much like the tiny bit of hatred hidden away in their hearts.
Because even though it was the kindness that tossed them there,
Hatred is what kept them.

Some say it’s a warning,
Gawking at the apparent pain that these creatures exhibited.
Do not be too kind;
Just look at what happened to them,
Cursed with scars and pain
All because of the pity they chose to show.

And now,
The gawkers have passed
Learning to keep their eyes away
In fear that their once long-passed kindness
Can awaken and devour them whole.

.

-Isabella Hansen, Class of 2023

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

Freshie By Benjamin Leuty

As of today, the Creative Writing department has concluded its sixth week of the 2018 school year, and its brave band of freshmen has survived to participate in the fall performance poetry unit. It’s been a wild ride for us freshies, and I already feel like I’ve done more over the course six weeks than in my entire eighth-grade year.

These first couple of weeks have led my mind to wander back to my early childhood, specifically how young children seem to find such joy and find such novelty in experiences that for their elders, would be considered mundane. That same overpowering feeling of wonder has been present throughout my experience in the Creative Writing department as I explore the alien customs of my new habitat. The feeling was present during the roaring of the yellow-clad crowd on field day, the surreal Kirby cove camping trip, the thought-provoking Magritte exhibit, and has been part of every other enchanting afternoon spent in Creative Writing.                                                                                                                       

My time at SOTA starkly contrasts with my middle school years, as 7th grade Benny so eloquently put it “middle school sucks!”. Middle school was nothing more than an endless cycle of repeating lessons, filled with interminable boredom, and unmotivated, uninspired students (myself included). SOTA has been the complete opposite, every day is different, indistinguishable from the last, which is part of the reason why I can never seem to answer the “what do you even do in creative writing?” question which is frequently asked. Everyone here loves what they do, everyone here is happy, and for the first time ever I am happy to go to school every day.

As with most high schools, adjusting to SOTA is difficult, it’s a very different environment and Creative Writing, in particular, has its fair share of whacky community building traditions and field trips, many of which take place in the first couple of weeks. Every day of these past few weeks has been a blur, as all of us freshmen try to find our place at SOTA and in our respective departments. It has taken a while, but I think most of my fellow freshmen have started settling in, and as the dust settles I’m starting to truly comprehend and appreciate this one of a kind school. I can already tell that the singers and the dancers, the actors and the architects, the musicians and the writers of SOTA are, and will continue to be, some of the most committed and talented artists I will ever meet.

Benny Leuty
Class of 2022

Freshman Playwright by Lauren Ainslie

Creative Writing has just performed its final show of the year, and wrapped up its playwriting unit simultaneously. There were many things I learned from playwriting, and I am grateful for all of them because when playwriting season starts up again next year I won’t have the same what-the-hell-am-I-doing freshman sort of feeling again!

It was an entirely new world. The quiet, thoughtful Creative Writing classroom I had learned to expect was gone every Friday (quite literally, as we had to relocate all the furniture into the hallway), and replaced with a flurry of movement and voice exercises we needed to learn to become familiar with how stage directions physically appear on stage. But the change was refreshing. Just like every other unit we’ve had this year, playwriting changed most of what I knew about writing. Before, with fiction and poetry, writing was something very private and created almost entirely by the author. And that was true of playwriting until we had to act our scenes out, then I realized that the final project was very much a collaboration between the actor, the set, and the playwright. It was all very different from what was imagined on paper.

There were other barriers I had to overcome for playwriting, such as the idea of having to manifest physically what a character was thinking instead of just saying it. Yes, these new changes were hard, but with them came many unexpected creative opportunities. The playwright could dictate the set, the costumes, the sound cues and lighting. The world created on stage is limited to the first glance, but boundless at the second. The playwriting unit is over, but that only means next year’s unit and show are going to be better.  

Lauren Ainslie, class of 2021

First Impressions by Lauren Ainslie

High School is scary, everyone knows that. My experience was no exception.

It’s the 26th of August, and I’m about ready to wet myself. The school is huge, the hallways make no sense, and I think I spotted someone with tiger face-paint. Welcome to Sota. But the thing that scares me most is my department. Will they be nice? Will they think I suck? Will I somehow manage to trip in the doorway? Millions of questions and scenarios are running through my head, because I have no idea what to expect. I walk in, (managing not to trip) and all of my expectations are shattered.

The room is very grey, which surprised me because I thought it would be full of color. There are black tables arranged in a square surrounding the rug, and they are filled with smiling faces, the faces of the rest of my department. There is a door leading out to a balcony overlooking the field and the wall on my right is entirely covered by whiteboards. A clock that has all the numerals replaced by various birds chimes softly. I nervously sit down. This was the part of Creative Writing I was most curious about, the part where I figure out what we actually do. The only thing I’ve heard from other students is that they think we sit in a dark room all day, write sad, angsty poetry, and hiss at sunlight. So far everything else I had suspected about CW was wrong, so hoped this was too. Thankfully, it was. The windows were open, there was no hissing as far as I could tell, and our summer requirements didn’t specify any sad poetry. My nervousness was starting to wear off, and I’m glad it did, because that moment was the beginning to one of the best months I’ve ever had.

There were writing prompts, poetry assignments, and an endless amount of name games. The first week went by in a blur of excitement, revelations, and frequent field trips. The reality of SotA Creative Writing was better than any fantasy I could have dreamed up. The other freshman in my department are amazing friends, my older writing-buddy showed me the ropes of this school, and my writing has improved immensely in the past five weeks. I can tell that everyone in the department deserves and wants to be there, and that active atmosphere is what makes my creativity blossom. I am so lucky to be involved in such a forgiving and cultivating group of artists. We are a family. If you give the assignments your all and print on time, anything is possible.

High School isn’t that scary anymore.

Lauren Ainslie, class of 2021