Sophomore Year by Lauren Ainslie

Early in the semester we were given an article titled, “Is Literature Dead?” We then analyzed and discussed the points it brought up, which mostly centered around the rise of technology and the decline of literacy. It was old news, but I still became depressed when it mentioned cell phone addiction and the decrease of recreational reading, as I am afflicted with both. But just as I thought my mood would be ruined permanently, I remembered something that happened a few weeks before.

This was my first year with Mr. Slayton, a freshman/sophomore English teacher. Something he does as a warm up before starting class is pass out poetry, and then ask us to discuss and write about it. I won’t get too much into how I loathe the way he goes about this, but it usually doesn’t inspire much response from the class. We usually doodle until he tells us the answer and then we write it down and turn it in. This process is quite disheartening as a Creative Writing student, seeing the wonder of poetry be permanently corrupted in the eyes of my peers, but I learned to accept it.

This was true until the day we were given “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning. It was one of the few poems he gave us that I actually liked, and I was happy to write about it. It was light and romantic, and used wonderful concise imagery. The discussion was livelier than usual, students giving personal opinions and guessing at the true meaning of the poem, especially one student, named Ben (His name was changed for privacy). I knew Ben was smart, we had physics together the year before, and he was quite outspoken. But in English he didn’t seem to possess the same passion or drive to participate, until now. When called on he spoke for a number of minutes on how perfect the language was, how he didn’t usually like poetry, but this was “crazy.” I watched him stare at his paper with uncharacteristic focus, hear him mutter “Wow,” and even shake his head in disbelief. “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning had touched him, moved him, as cliché as it sounds, and it he looked astonished at his own reaction… Ben, the person I least expected, appreciated poetry, and it was wonderful to watch, funny, even.

So when asked the question “Is Literature Dead?” I say no. It’s lethargic, a little worn, but not dead. Ordinary people like me or Ben can be moved by it at any day and at any capacity, and from that experience, I know literature will live forever.  

Lauren Ainslie, class of 2021

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

Fiction Block by Lauren Ainslie

Fiction. An entirely new world for the freshman. Of course, we have all written it before, but it wasn’t fiction like this. Now there are workshops, revisions, and discussions. Almost every day we read and analyze short stories. I am starting to understand the complications and craft of creating a good short story, and it is extremely hard! You need to remember to have a solid plot,  to distinguish narrator and character diction, give character backstory through showing, not telling. It all leaves lots of room for mistakes, but it is incredibly worth it. All stories I encounter, through books or movies or something else, have a higher criteria to meet. Books I loved before this unit I now hate, because I can identify problems in them that I never saw before. Because of this, I am afraid to read books or watch movies from my childhood, for fear of ruining them. I nearly died watching The Princess and the Frog because there were so many plot holes. But when a story is good, I can appreciate it much more, because I know what goes into it.

It was hard to transition into fiction, because we had been doing a poetry unit just before. That poetry unit (the first unit of the year) was the only training and information I had ever had for anything to do with creative writing. My brain had taken in those lessons and stuck itself in a poetry mindset, because that was the only thing I knew. The earliest thing you learn in poetry is to identify and omit unnecessary words, and to realize the weight of your words, since there are so few of them in poetry. So when we started fiction, I was lost because there were more words and more to say; the weight of each words lessoned a little bit. And from that lessoned weight came all these unnecessary words, because I was focusing more on the story than on how you told it.

I like fiction, because it puts everything into a different light. I am excited to see the fiction writer I will become, and I am excited for the short stories waiting for me in the next Creative Writing class.

Lauren Ainslie, class of 2021

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.

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