My Burgeoning Love For Creative Non-Fiction Through A Bon Appetit Op-Ed by max chu

AS OF writing this blog post, Creative Writing Two is in the third week of our creative non-fiction unit. Ploi Pirapokin has returned for her second year as an artist-in-residence to lead us through what it means to write non-fiction, as many of the CW-2ers are out of their depth.

LIKE MOST people, I was raised on fiction. My mother was a massive supporter of children’s books, and classics like Goodnight Moon and Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type were nightly adieus to dreamland for my sister and I. In second grade, my sister brought in the family collection of Berenstain Bears for her 100 days 100 objects project. From there, we moved to early readers like Geronimo Stilton and Animorphs, and finally to the gatekeeper of children’s literature, Harry Potter. With such a strong (yet typical) fiction reading base, the path to writing, and then to SOTA, is one that many in the department surely share. Due to these similarities, this is why I believe that the move to a creative non-fiction mindset has been such a trial.

MY FIRST encounter with creative non-fiction, and yours as well, is with advertising. Day one, your first step out of the hospital, you’re suddenly berated upon by shop lights and big colorful billboards and even names of stores, asking you, baby, to spit up your hard-earned capital to stimulate the economy–a stark contrast to the conservationist lifestyle you were living before in the womb. The second run-in with creative non-fiction I had was with local news. My mother’s a devotee to the regional local news wherever we go. Over the winter at my grandparent’s condo in Florida, my mother was ecstatic that she could reach both the Tampa local news as well as New York One, despite the fact that we were hundreds of miles from New York City. Naturally progressing forward, there were SSAT essays, and a news unit in eighth grade, and finally there was House Meal.

AN OP-ED written by n in the winter of 2017, I did have to read the piece a couple of times before I really fell in love, but once I did, I fell hard. Tamar Adler’s Everyone Should Have A House Meal describes the most baseline part of a relationship: food. This is not the Valentine’s Day gaudy supper, but every single other night. The house meal “is a meal that one automatically falls back on whenever there is no other plan.” This concept resonated so vigorously within me, as relatable, poignant, and introspective, that I had to find more like it! Books of essays began creeping their way into my to-read pile, and I began to pay more attention to the local news every morning. I began to read the news on my phone, or at least take it past just glancing at headlines, and what I found shocked me!

What constitutes as creative is broader than I could have ever imagined, and I love it! To describe mundae events as intriguing is as much as of an art as to create them out of thin air! We’ve only just begun, but I know I’m going to love Ploi’s creative non-fiction unit!


Max Chu, class of 2020

“I feel like an old oak door” by Max Chu

Over the summer I was in a funk. Whenever I tried to write, I got the overwhelming sensation that I was wasting my own time, in addition to whichever poor friend who had to read my own piece. For months this creeping sensation followed me, making itself intertwined with the heat of the summer like a cat in a curtain! I roamed about my day to day of summer nothings with this funk gnawing away at my creativity and only at night when it got cooler could I assess the damages. After the summer, I named this time in my life the “Funky Hours,” and out of the Funky Hours came nothing but that grey spitting funky mush.

The one and only salvageable thing I wrote over the summer came to me thusly, on the hottest day of the year. I was sitting at a kitchen table, sweltering. The window yawning, and through its mouth I could see the greater countryside of Britain. A man stood in front of me, and had been talking and talking for maybe days, who was I to say? I tip my chair back, and while balancing on the tip of two legs is when I deem it appropriate to evaluate how each part of my body is feeling, specifically (as I do in moments of great…inaction). I start with my toes, work up, and come to this conclusion, expressed best in the poetic form:

I feel like an old oak door

by Max Chu

feel      like
an        old

This may be the best poem that came out of the Funky Hours. In the moment of conception, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the truest poem I could have written. As the author, I can tell you with full assurance that the speaker and the author are one, that the old oak door that the speaker describes is the same to the one that the author envisions in his mind’s eye! Therefore, whichever old oak door that the reader envisions the speaker to be envisioning is the same to the one that the author, me, is envisioning.

My godmother use to own this enormous house in the wilderness of Inverness. Whether it was actually in the wilderness and whether it was actually enormous is unknown to me, as I have not been back to the house since my childhood. However, in the mornings, my godmother would take a dog food dish and fill it with birdseed before leaving her front door and placing the food on the front porch. Then she would turn around and go back inside, closing the red old oak door behind her. I bet you didn’t expect it to be red!

Max Chu, class of 2020

At the EPA Hearing by Max Chu

On February 28th, 2018, I attended the EPA hearing at the Main Public Library alongside my fellow Environmental Club.  The hearing was organized so that EPA representatives could hear the word of the people of the Bay Area, in reference to the recent announcement that the Clean Power Plan would be repealed. The people of the Bay Area who were dissatisfied with this ruling came to make their voices heard, including the students of SOTA. Below is the speech I delivered at the hearing from students at SOTA. The activists at this school inspire me.


Hello, My name is Max Chu, and I am a 16 year old student. Today, I am here to bring to your attention one very specific idea that I find important and want to share with you, and that is a seed vault. A seed vault is a place where lots and lots of different types of seeds are kept, and in the event that some one of the species kept in the vault goes extinct, scientists can go into the seed vault, replant that plant, and the species is saved. These vaults actually exist, and the one that is most popular and the one I would like to bring to your attention is the seed vault in the archipelago of Norway called Svalbard. The vault is nicknamed the “Doomsday Vault” due to the fact that if the world were to ever need the vault, we would be in or past the point of “Doomsday” and would need the seeds in the vault to reestablish society. This vault is encased in 120 meters of sandstone and chilled in permafrost. What I would like to tell you is that the permafrost is melting. This idea of frost that would never melt, hence the suffix perma-, is melting. The vault is about 800 miles from the north pole but the north pole was 60-70 degrees warmer than normal this last winter, and so the permafrost is melting around the vault, the seeds are at risk, and so when “Doomsday” comes, we’ll have no contingency plan. What I ask of you, EPA representatives, is that in light of this hope of the vault under threat of being extinguished, I ask that you give us some semblance of hope that we are trying to stop this. That we are working against the “Doomsday” and not with. Thank you.

Max Chu, class of 2020

Divination by Max Chu

When you google the definition of divination, what pops up is the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means. As always, the dictionary is half right. In life, there is a natural forward entropy, or fally-apartyness, that everything animate and inanimate possesses. Everyone will die, every country will fall apart. Every mountain will crumble, and every star will fall apart or brilliantly detonate. In this pessimistic way to view the world, there is no point in reading the future, learning from the past, or even existing at all. When you look at things in the grand scheme, most everything is pointlessly pointing in circles. Life points to death points to life. Or if you will, creation points to destruction points to creation excetera. It’s all just circles.

However, we live in just one circle of this everlasting cycle, and so theoretically everything happening to us should be all new. In one lifespan, the future is as blind as the past, or it technically should be. However, we have writing and speech and such, and so we as humans have begun to analyze the past. And such is a form of divination: looking for patterns in past things that repeat over and over again to tell where and when they will repeat in the future. This can be politically, socially, anything with a broad, well categorized history. This is the stuff that is touched upon in all the pop culture cliches about immortals. They’ll say something along the lines of, “I’ve seen this all before! History Repeats Itself™!” and the protagonist will be like, “No, it’ll be different!” The good novels and literature will then eventually circle back to the beginning at the end of the book, with some easy poetic closure.

Now there are of course other ways to tell the future. One way is through the Chinese I-Ching. The I-Ching goes as such: one throws two coins, and if they’re the same, you mark even. If they’re different, you mark odd. One does this six times, then reads the proverb and prediction for the corresponding series of evens and odds. Another method is through Tarot cards. Another is through divining tea leaves. There are many ways to tell the future, but the most reliable (in my opinion) is ones that utilize chance.

The idea of looking at the future through something that can be different or the same any time that you do it is the idea of tapping into the natural entropy in the universe. The idea of randomness is the exact same idea that is slowly building the future, as well as pulling apart the universe. So it only makes sense that when you throw coins, the result will have something to say about the future.

And finally, it is important to note that when you seek out the future, nothing is definite. Any “prediction” that you can receive can only ever be a lens in which to see events unfold. For an analogy, imagine a beam of light shining on a painting in a gallery. The beam is clear and you can make out the ocean and men and women in this painting. However, someone comes along and holds up a red colored piece of glass to the light. Suddenly the painting is bathed in red light. It is still the same painting, with the same strokes and frame, but the ocean looks like it’s full of blood and the people’s skin have changed color. There’s a different perspective on the same situation. This same idea can be applied to divination.

Next time you throw the dice, or get a Tarot reading, remember the natural entropy in the universe is giving you a lens in which the future is recommended to be viewed. The recommended setting.

Max Chu, class of 2020

On the Nature of the Decision… by Max Chu

on the nature of the decision of a medium in which to create art, the nature of the title and why it is important, and the word cloud at the bottom of this website (with a side note about the not quite widely known artist Lee Lozano):



  1. sometimes it comes and goes with my mood, i think. per request pieces are the most difficult, as most often always i do not have any clue as to what to write about. or make about. I have a big box of old magazines in my room, with a glue gun and pages and pages of blank notebooks and colored pencils and paints and i think the untapped potential sneaks peeks at me while i sleep at night. sometime, i say. someday.
  2. but i must say, art is what id like to do for the rest of my life! creating and sharing are what i live for, i think, and i think that is the case for most everyone in the creative writing department. ive just watched a TED talk about procrastinators, and by the end the TED talker had accused everyone of being procrastinators, and so by the end of this blog post, i shall accuse you all of something (in an attempt to draw the reader to the end).
  3. there are three different types of art i personally can create: visual, written, and audible. i do believe that writing is necessary in most anything that anyone wants to create, but in this instance writing holds a concrete space in my artist’s mind, and such has a different feel than the visual feeling (which i might only choose to create something visually pleasing), or audible (which i might only choose to create something audibly pleasing). i suppose that if i were a chef, i might then think of ideas that could only be characterized through taste. for now, all of my ideas can be characterized within the three senses of the mediums i can work within. i do not come close to having ideas that without work can become some form of art, and such is a blessing i think, although may be inherent.
  4. make art, for sure. and yet, art is widely defined, so find a feeling < a sense (physical) < a medium < a time. this is a formula that might help some linear thinkers.



My favorite artist of all time is Lee Lozano. Lozano is remarkable for she brought up questions to what it means to be a person and an artist at the same time. Born November 5th, 1930, she lived most of her artist life in New York and Texas. Might I say something strange and unruly? Mostly, Lee Lozano exists beyond written word within my mind, which of course is uncouth to say as I am in a written department, but that of course is why I do not talk about Lee Lozano. So instead of telling you why Lozano is important to me, I’ll try and paint a picture of the circle around why she’s important, and maybe she’ll become important to you. No pressure, though.

  1. I first stumbled upon Lee Lozano in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. Lozano holds the entire top floor, for she created lots of physical art, large enough to take up gallery(s). Most all of her art is vulgar and full of rough edges and messy lines. This is unusual because the fine art world, in which Lozano was keenly aware of, is interested in just the opposite (mostly). From first stepping into the gallery, I saw her Waves series, which without context is underwhelming. From there, I read her journals, and I was changed.
  2. Lozano lived in such art she called “Pieces,” which ranged from smoking grass for a month straight to refusing to talk to women to boycotting the “UPTOWN FUNCTIONS” to living wholly as an artist in every being and fiber, every moment and breath.
  3. This is where i leave you, and you do not need to go to Madrid to fall in love and you do not need to paint to be an artist.
  4. Being an artist is the experimentation with life; art is the recording of life through the lense of the individual’s soul.



Part two, or,  the nature of the title and why it is important.


  1. In recent days, titles have become less of an art and more of a way of classification, or tagging within the art scene. I believe this is because people still want to convey meaning in titles, but they don’t want to be penalized for “wrong titles,” which most oftentimes are simply not conducive towards the format. Artists should have the freedom to title art whichever they like, although I do enjoy a good informative title. In fact, those pieces that don’t make sense without a title are some of my favorites!
  2. Those pieces which are untitled are the worst offenders, as the artist had given up. I do not like Kendrick Lamar’s album untitled unmastered. on principle.



I want to be in the word cloud at the bottom of this blog. There are other students who have their own tag, and so I would like one. However, this is not a blind request, as I am aware as to they are exceptional or have lots to write about, and so I propose this: I will write many blog posts to get my own tag. Look forward to more of what’s here!


  1. (redux)

I accuse all of you reading this of participating in an art project for these minutes we have shared, and such makes you an artist.


  1. (redux) (part 2.)

You are all artists.

Mac Chu, class of 2019

Where I Get My Inspiration, by Max Chu

There’s something about holding a cold glass bottle that makes me feel sophisticated. When you pinch it by the rim with two fingers, how the glass on my finger somehow feels exactly like when I first perfected me card shuffle bridge. Suddenly I’m on the deck of an ancient house in the middle of the midwest (middle of the middle of the west) at sunset. Some jazz record is playing on the record player back in the house, and I can faintly hear it. I got one arm back on the railing, and you’re not afraid of splinters because I;m too cool for that. I got a cool bottle of something delicious in my hand. Nothing can flip my groove. Now I’m not talking about any alcoholic beverage here, folks. I’m talking about the pure stuff. The ginger ale at BiRite that costs $1 for ginger ale and $4 for feeling cool while I hold it. I’m talking about the cream soda that goes down like a freshly laminated comic book. I’m talking about the Trader Joe’s 100% Pineapple Juice, the acquired taste of acquired tastes.

One year at summer camp there was a girl with sunglasses that had reflective lenses. They shielded her eyes from the sun while at the same time concealed her motives. They had pastel blue frames with nearly perfect reflective lenses. She looked mysterious as she protected her eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun; the ultimate victory. At the time, my own glasses paled in comparison to hers (red wood frames with rainbow lenses) and so we traded. An hour later, I sat on mine. Four months later, she lost hers.

There’s a stall in a market in Bangkok that sells the most revolting shaved ice in the world. Shaved ice, for those who don’t know, is easier than scrambled eggs. Shave some ice into a bowl and throw some sickly sweet syrup on top and boom! Perfect shaved ice. The criteria for shaved ice is rather low, so a “perfect” shaved ice isn’t that difficult to come by. This place obviously didn’t get the memo, because their product tasted like greek yogurt, peach cough medicine, and a salty D- on a test you studied for. How they’re still in business is beyond quite frankly every living being above the mosquito. The locals obviously know to stay away, so they must have to apply even more goat intestinal fluid to attract the unsuspecting tourists with the colorful chemical green hue. Oh, “It’s a local delicacy” my ass! The omelette my sister forgot to eat but still put in the fridge five weeks ago has more culture and is more appealing.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that everything has a story, it just needs to be drawn out. And if drawing a story out means lying face first in a couch for twenty minutes to an hour listening to local news, then so be it (although my mom say the best way to draw something out is to soak it in hot salt water but I think she was talking about splinters).

Max Chu, class of 2020

Notebooks by Max Chu

My notebook, in which I write all of my prompts and poems and draw all of my stick figures and mindless doodles, is larger than most; or at least larger than the standard composition notebook that one uses in math class, with the ruler and metric conversion tables. The cover is vibrantly red, with a three sided black diamond drawn in sharpie and a looted bar code sticker pasted in the middle. The pages are blank, not lined, and presumably are intended for professional drawings and paintings, but are instead covered in multicolored ramblings about the ocean and interesting words or phrases overheard. Everything about my notebook is uniquely me. Every inch has been touched or written on, and it’s been shoved in my backpack so many times that the corners are all crinkly. There are many stories in my notebook, literally and symbolically and if you ever meet me, ask to see it, and I will gladly show you the place where there used to be a sticker, but I decided against it, or a list of books I’ve been meaning to read, or some drawing that looks like it took seconds, but in actuality took hours.

Kenzo’s notebook is small and black and a very nice Moleskine, which he’s drawn all over with gold sharpie. The front has his initials, K.F., in the center of a diamond. Every one of the pages in his book is taken up by a comic strip in which two detailed stick figures are forever fighting. In fact, there are more drawings in his book than actual writing. You’ll see a place where he finished detailing a prompt, and then in the last minutes, drew an entire comic book. Harmony’s notebook is large, but not quite as large as mine. It’s light blue and somehow gives off the feeling of being cloudlike and holy. The pages are lined with a block at the top of the page for the date, in which I’ve seen her put quotes, drawings, and on occasion, the date itself. Huck’s notebook is a purple variation on the classic black composition. It’s contents are very too the point, no doodles or drawings, only sentences in Huck’s scrawled handwriting. It gives you the feeling that he’s someone like DaVinci or Newton, someone who’s thinking great thoughts at a rate that’s too fast for his hand.

Every creative writer has a notebook like this, where they put their deepest darkest, most controversial fears, or where they are outlining the next great dissertation. Each one is unique and reflects the writer’s own style and aesthetic so well that if a stranger were to look through the notebook, by the end of the reading they would know the person as if they were a friend. Every single thing that we put in our notebooks says something about who we are, from the size and style of our handwriting, to what’s in the blank spaces of our sentences. The variety of styles that you could find in creative writing just goes to show how much creative wiggle room we have; how much ability we have to express ourselves as the unique individuals that we are. The painters have their palates, the musicians have their solos. We writers, well we have our notebooks.​

Max Chu, class of 2020