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