by Hazel Mankin (’13 )
From the Truong Tran Unit

My goodness
Look at you
Honey, you’re looking so sweet there
In your thin summer dress
I just want to wrap my arms around you
And gouge your spine right out of your back
I’ve never wanted so badly to
Peel back a person’s skin
Just to see their veins,
Their blood pulsing along those crucial little footpaths
I could just sink my thumbs into your eye sockets,
You precious thing
You are a treasure, my love
I’ll bury you deep in the damp
So no one can take you from me
The way your mouth stretches wide when you smile
Makes me want to pry out each of your teeth
To hang from my ceiling like stars
I want to
Plunge your face into ice water
And hold it there
You know I just love the way you move
When you’re fighting for air
No, I’ve never seen anyone move with the grace
You’ve got with five broken ribs
I’m going to lay you down in your grave
Ankles tied and that silk handkerchief
Stuffed in your mouth
Your eyes are green and glistening as gems
When they’re wide with terror
You look so elegant
Laid out there
I’m always going to remember you
Just like this.


I’m sure many of you wonder what the near future holds for the current Creative Writing Seniors. Well, here is a little blurb about Hazel’s plans.

Next year, Hazel Mankin will be attending UC Santa Cruz, where she expects to study writing and literature. However, she is also excited to expand her knowledge of mechanical engineering, world history, architecture, hand-to-hand combat, and cooking. She’s excited to move forward and see where life takes her.
Picture 34

Declarative Statements About the Future

by Hazel (’13)

It seems that kids are supposed to know what they want to do with their lives at younger and younger ages. Anyone who is in school right now (and possibly others, though I can’t speak for them) will probably know what I’m talking about. The thing is, it’s so accepted that it’s not one of those things people complain about as they congregate around their lockers between classes; it’s just an accepted source of stress.

Considering the specialized nature of SOTA, there actually are a lot of people who have a pretty solid sense of what they want to do in college, if not for the rest of their lives. It’s admirable, it’s impressive, and I wish those people the best of luck in pursuing what they love. And yet, the proportion of people who seem confident in their plans for the future strikes me as implausible. Can all these people really know themselves that well? The very thought of it baffles me.

Like many people in high school, I usually try to blend in, and when I see someone else doing something I like, I try to do it too. So, because I perceive other people my age as having concrete goals that are relevant to the rest of their lives, well, I want them too. So I’ve started making these big, declarative statements.

“I’m going to get a low-paying job to support myself while I write books!”

“I just want to own a bakery!”

“I’m going to go to trade school and become a mechanic!”

All of these things sound nice. But goodness gracious, I am only seventeen years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I say things like this because everyone else seems so confident and that scares me. But I have to be honest with myself and with everyone else. So here’s the new statement:

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know what interests me. I’m going to go to college, try out lots of things, and eventually find that one thing I could do for the rest of my life. As much pressure as there is to decide right now what my future career will be, I refuse to choose, because I would only be lying to everyone present.

This is why, after months of consideration, I am planning on going to college next year. I always assumed I would, but after talking to classmates with different plans or at least concerns, I became less sure. No one system will fit every person’s needs. But one thing I know is that I love learning, and while there’s a lot I can learn wherever I end up, there are things that I probably could not teach myself, so I’m going to go find some folks who can. And one day, it will all come together and I’ll know what I want to do. But there’s no good reason to rush.

(I Wanna Take You to a) Play (Bar)

‘Aight, here are the long-awaited behind-the-scenes photos.

The Girl Who Cried Tortoise

Now there’s a guy that looks good on his hands and knees.

Mommy Hazel with Hammer Baby

Maxine and Johnny (and Jonathan)

Constructive Criticism

My Favorite Raccoon

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes videos, for an in-depth look at CW’s creative process and waffles.


“These Are the Best Years of Our Lives”

by Hazel (’13)

“Best” is sometimes substituted with “easiest.” Either way, this is a statement a lot of teenagers have heard. And sure, maybe the stakes are lower. There’s all that “do well in school or you won’t get into college” stuff, but it’s not like a teenager has to worry about the mortgage or feeding their kids. The “job” they perform most days of the week does not have extrinsic value, that is, it is not providing a good or service for which they are paid.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. High school age kids are spending at least six hours a day (that’s without lunch and passing periods) doing essentially meaningless work (I’ll go further into that one in a moment) in a space where their competence is doubted, their movements are restricted and monitored, and whatever constitutional rights they have as minors come second to maintaining order. Then comes the hours of homework that swallow their afternoons. And evenings. And weekends. Recreation hours are tinged with the stress of looming work and the guilt of “unproductive time.”

Now let’s talk about schoolwork. It’s not as though learning is a meaningless activity. I personally love to accrue more and more information, apply it to new situations, see how it all fits together. But teachers, whether they want to or not, cannot simply teach. They must follow a curriculum that culminates in standardized tests that, in some cases, test a student’s ability to take standardized tests as much as their understanding of the subject. Some teachers give homework because it is what is expected or because they would be reprimanded for failing to do so.

And now: the brain. We all know that teenage brains are a strange soup of hormones and angst, undergoing constant development. I recently heard Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor speaking on City Arts and Lectures about the teenage brain. She talked about the amygdala, which controls the “fight or flight” reflex—that is, in the presence of possible danger it prepares the mind and body for confrontation or escape. Apparently, the teenage amygdala is more easily activated, and thus teenagers are more likely to react to stressful situations (whether danger is real or perceived) with something of an “oh god I’m going to die” response (that’s what we call “scientific lingo”). This is even more true in depressed teens.

In the “Motivation and Work” chapter of my Psychology textbook, one can find this passage:

“People’s quality of life increases when they are purposefully engaged. Between the anxiety of being overwhelmed and stressed, and the apathy of being underwhelmed and bored, lies a zone in which people experience flow.”

(486, Psychology: 7th Edition by David G. Myers)

I can agree wholeheartedly with the first sentence, but I take issue with the second. Many (if not most) high schoolers are stressed and bored by the work they are assigned. The adolescent frustration with schoolwork is not based so much around quantity as quality. A huge volume of busywork will not teach a teenager anything, both because it is badly designed work and because the amount is impossible to cope with. A small amount of revised, concentrated work will present a student with new information in a challenging and engaging format without overloading their brain with superfluous data.

Teenagers can be irrational, surly, dramatic, moody. This I will not deny. However, at least part of that must be attributed to the overhauling and reprogramming of their brains. Another part must be attributed to an educational system that is designed by adults, who struggle to create lessons and an overall institution that will benefit people whose brain functions they do not understand. Another bit of responsibility goes to the scorn teenagers face as inexperienced children trying to stay afloat among all this.

I am a poster child for inexperienced youth. There are all sorts of folks out there who can tell you in more detail and more depth about these exact issues. I’m mostly here to say, go look for them, because it’s interesting and it’s important. I’m also here to say, on behalf of teenagers, sorry we’re grouchy sometimes. It’s scary over here, and we’re doing what we can.

Poetry Through Jazz

by Hazel (’13)

We recently finished our Poetry through Jazz unit in Creative Writing II. It was a new approach in that it gave our writing a historical context, both in terms of subject matter and style. But the one thing that will really stick with me was something that Justin (our artist in residence) said on the last day. He invited us to thing about sentimentality and rationality. We’ve all been told, or perhaps told ourselves, to “stop being so emotional and just think rationally.” I’ve relied heavily on this approach to life, especially in recent years. I would banish emotion by placing it into ill-fitting, “rational” boxes. But here is the underlying issue that Justin brought to light: why is emotion fundamentally inferior to sentimentality? I think one would be hard-pressed to say that it is not viewed as such, at least not in the academic world (by which I do not solely mean schools, in case that was unclear). I view my own emotions with a certain contempt, subject them to scrutiny, and place them below essentially any “reasonable argument from anyone, no matter how unreasonable it may be.

I suppose my question is more of a “how” than a “why.” How did we end up here, thinking as we do? Can we find the roots of such thinking in the Enlightenment? Or is it older than that? Is it more prevalent nowadays, or is this simply the era in which I am alive and sentient? How is it affecting us, personally and societally? What would we be like without this bias? How would our thinking on a plethora of other subjects be altered if we did not hold it, if it had never existed?

Those are a few of my questions. Now here is my statement: let’s stop. Not entirely, of course; I’ve expressed my personal love and use of rationality. However, we should not discount our emotions simply because we have been taught that we are above them, that to feel is childish. To feel is not to be infantile, but rather to be mortal. We only have so much time, but there is enough both to feel and to reason. There is certainly not enough time, however, not to be honest with oneself.

ps. This was not just me building up to a yolo joke, I promise.

Planning For Next Year

by Hazel (’13)

Recently, Heather set aside a day for the CDubs to help plan out next year’s curriculum. The beginning of this year, while certainly interesting and multi-disciplinary, was not the ultra-productive first two months that usually fuels our fall show, and so a little reorganizing was in order for fall, 2013. The seniors gathered in a corner of the room, and soon we had filled a page with names, notes, and ideas concerning what makes us productive. Throughout this process, I had to keep reminding myself that we were planning not for ourselves, but for the grades below us and the future freshmen we would never know.

I’ve heard many people talk about what finally made senior year “real” for them. This was it for me. Before we sat down to discuss the specifics of the year to come, I didn’t realized what “the year to come” would entail. Every year I find myself with a few memories, fond and not, of my academic classes. Creative Writing is the only one that maintains a consistent narrative, that is populated almost entirely by people who intrigue me, whose life stories I would be more than willing to sit down and listen to in full. It is where I find the majority of the people my own age who are very important to me. It’s hard to imagine life without that.

I know that once I am out of high school, everything will change. But, in the same way that Creative Writing is significant now, it will be the thing I miss most about high school (though if we are being honest, how many people miss much about high school?). The way I act in the real world will reflect the array of things I learned in Creative Writing, and I’m not even sure that list is topped by writing. It is no doubt too early in the year for a sentimental senior-year post like this, but essentially, thank you. Thank you all.

Field Day: Creative Winning

As many of our readers probably know, Creative Writing became the first ever art department at SOTA to win Field Day more than once. It’s an honor, guys, and here are some words on it:

By Mollie (’13)

There are several misconceptions about the Creative Writing Department: that we spend our two hours of art discipline time only writing, that we rarely leave our room, and that the muscles of “CDubs”, as we’ve named ourselves, have atrophied from disuse. However, on Field Day the misconceptions of our department as dry, pasty, and un-athletic was destroyed as all members of our department consistently exceeded our resting heart rates, scoring point after point (albeit surprising point), finally earning the revered Field Day trophy. My favorite part of Field Day, however, is not the glory of winning. More than the great pleasure I get of smugly informing people of how Creative Writing, the smallest department in number and physical size of students, has now been Field Day champion twice, I enjoy the festival itself. Field day is a day for the eccentric and inherently SOTian student. On Field Day the different departments flamboyantly bathe themselves in their department colors: Creative Writing, yellow, Tech, green, Vocal, pink, and so on. During Field Day a sea of jubilant and raucous teens make their way to the field beside our school to celebrate our individuality. Where else will you find adolescent boys so willingly dressed in pink tutus and girls in grape-colored Teletubby outfits? Societal norms and restrictions seem to fall to the wayside at SOTA and rightly so. SOTA is filled with those who do not conform, artists as we’ve come to name ourselves. If San Francisco is a liberal bubble and artistic Mecca within the United States, SOTA is the same within the San Francisco Unified School District. As a senior, winning my last Field Day, I am ecstatic, but more so, I am pleased to go to a school where we can have this riotous event. During Field Day glitter, gloriously-costumed people, and music fill our field for a day, and we celebrate ourselves as artists.

By Hazel (’13)

I love my department. I can’t say that I tend to exhibit a great amount of enthusiasm or school spirit, but truly, if I were not at SOTA, in Creative Writing, I do not know where I’d be.

Now, as I said: not a lot of school spirit. I doubt that that makes me an exception in a school of brooding teenage artist-types, but I believe it bears mentioning. At this point, I barely dress up for spirit week, I tend to avoid interaction (with pretty much anyone at school) whenever possible both because it terrifies me and does not hold great weight in my mind. But on Field Day, I found myself screaming and cheering while hardly aware of it, and when we tallied up our points (even before the winner was announced) I could not stand still for excitement. When our department was called up and presented with the trophy (or rather when we ran out onto the track and claimed it), I was leaping and celebrating with all the competitive types who made a point of practicing our pyramid until it could be done in less that five seconds. When people began gushing about their joy over winning back in room 202, I found myself nodding and smiling.

In retrospect, I had to wonder why this meant so much (or really anything) to me. I have little interest in athletics (if you want to call Field Day “athletic”) and am distinctly uncomfortable with intense competition. Why did I care if we won or lost?

I came to the conclusion that what I was so excited about was not the victory itself but our ability to win. As I said, my department has become an integral part of my life and I love everyone in it, even those I don’t know as well. It is a department full of interesting, kind, and talented people, both because those are the type of people admitted and because being around such wonderful humans tends to influence your opinions and behaviors in positive ways. I cared about winning Field Day both because I knew it would make others in the department happy and because it is further tangible proof that we are a bunch of innovative, in-synch, and miraculous kids (plus Heather and Isaiah, who I think deserve honorary child status).

So I thank you all for being who you are. Creative Writing is perhaps the most close-knit department out there, and one of the few institutions I am comfortable referring to as my second family. You help me function and you make me my best. We kicked ass out there and I am so proud to stand beside you in that ridiculous color we call ours.

As an afterthought, I sort of hope that no other departments read this blog. I feel like my excessive affection could be construed as elitist sentiments and casual gloating. This is not at all my intention. We’re just pretty cool.