Standing on a Ledge by Rae Dox Kim

Here I am, in a place I have never imagined actually being in. I’m about to be a senior, or more specifically, a senior in the summer after junior year. Here is when all my morals will be tested, and I will be at the mercy of faceless bureaucracies until I get into a college. My parents’ friends are descending on me like vultures, taking advantage of my vulnerable situation to talk at length about their own college experience. “It was so easy,” is a favorite line. As I stare down into the swirling whirlpool of application and rejection, I cannot imagine any easy path. Watching my senior friends, warm and content in acceptance letter light, gives me a watery sense of peace. I am happy they are happy, and I know that if they can succeed, I could too one day when it’s my turn at the chopping block. Until then, I’ll have to get my self in order, organizing my personal internal chambers so when the College Board comes a-knocking, I’ll be ready. 

–Rae Dox Kim, Class of 2020

Reflection and Advice by Solange Baker

As our nonfiction unit comes to a close, so does my time in Creative Writing II. In a week, we’ll be in our playwriting unit (this year taught by Sara Broady), which is taught to the whole of Creative Writing. I’ve had the same conversation with several of the other Creative Writing Seniors about our sudden realization that our four-year ride at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts is rapidly coming to a close.

This coming week is my last in Creative Writing II, in a month or two I’ll know where I’m going to college, in two months I’ll have my last show (April 26, our playwriting show), the day after is prom, and a month later I graduate. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I’m excited to graduate, to start a new chapter in my life in a new place with new people. But on the other hand, I’m deeply saddened by the idea of leaving San Francisco, leaving my friends and my family, my pets, all that has been my world for the past nearly eighteen years. I’m trying to live in the moment and appreciate what’s happening now, it’s hard with the chaos of financial aid, scholarships, and general life. But as I approach the great old age of eighteen, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my time in Creative Writing.

Three pieces of advice I have for current/future members of the department on your time in Creative Writing:

  1. Learn to workshop: Workshopping is the core of Creative Writing. You improve by both having your piece edited and editing the work of your peers. At first it’s a daunting concept; other people (older than me, better writers than me) are going to read and critique my work? But learning to distance yourself from your work and understanding that the edits you get are not malicious but born from passion and a genuine interest in helping your work succeed is important. Learn when to take edits and when to leave them; when to know that yes, this Junior is right this paragraph is convoluted and has way to many adjectives, versus knowing to maintain your artistic integrity.
  2. Take opportunities: Heather and other teachers will present opportunities to you both within SOTA and outside of SOTA. If they interest you, take them. No matter if they seem intimidating or if you don’t think you’ll get into the program or whatever it may be, take the opportunity. You never know where it may lead you. My Freshman year I auditioned for an original play along with three other Creative Writers. I got paid to act in the production, which was wonderful, but it was also an enriching experience. I improved my performance abilities, made connections, and could say I felt proud of what I accomplished. My Sophomore year I performed at the Nourse Theater with Youth Speaks for their 20th Annual Bring the Noise event. I don’t get terribly bad stage fright, but that was one of the scariest things I’ve done. Looking out at a sea of 1600 people made me dizzy, but performing and hearing an audience respond to my work was euphoric and beyond well worth all the hours of rehearsal and anxiety.
  3. Focus on your own work/Don’t try to emulate others: It’s hard not to compare yourself to others: how many times people have been published, how many edits they get on their papers, grades they get on their assignments. In an environment like SOTA you’re surrounded by extraordinarily talented teenagers and it’s easy to forget that a) this is not a normal school and b) you’re one of those extraordinarily talented teenagers. Comparing yourself to others does absolutely nothing but make you feel bad about yourself. Art is subjective. Getting published doesn’t automatically make someone a better writer than you and getting published doesn’t make you a better writer than anyone else. And besides, sitting around complaining that you think everyone else is better than you isn’t how you improve your craft. A mistake I made in Creative Writing was that I got caught up in what other people were doing. Consequently, I stopped writing the way I wanted to and started writing what I thought other people wanted. The results were not my best work. Once I regained my voice, realized that trying to emulate others was boring and that I have my own skill set to offer, I started producing work that I was genuinely proud of for the first time in a long time.

Although it may not feel like it in the moment, high school goes by fast. My biggest piece of advice is this: make the most of it, whatever that may mean to you.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

On the Senior Thesis by Anna Geiger

As I near the end of my four years in the Creative Writing department at School of the Arts, I have begun writing my senior thesis that will embody everything I have accomplished here, from the development of my writing skill to the development of my understanding of myself and the world around me. neatly bound together in print for my friends and family to enjoy, file away, and forget about, as I will most of my memories of high school. What I will take with me are recollections of my years in the Creative Writing department, the tightest-knit and most fruitful community I have ever been a part of. As small a community as the department is, I have learned the writing style and voice of every other student, and realized how much I can discover about others through understanding their perspectives. Having spent hundreds of pages pouring over the junctures of other students, I have empathy for the unique experiences of every individual, and each of their time-worthy moments that has amounted to their present experience. Never before in my life has a community made me feel so safe, confident, or excited to discover the stories of a myriad of new people upon leaving high school.

In addition to taking the time to understand the thoughts and experiences of other people, Creative Writing has led me to do the same with myself. Learning to translate into writing years of watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge and dreaming of fog signals, dancing down neon Bourbon Street and swaying to the jazz of Congo Square, getting lost in the reels of the Internet Archive, has allowed me to appreciate and reflect upon my time as a teenage to an extent that I couldn’t otherwise. Taking every night to relive a new experience through writing has molded me into someone who takes no experience for granted. If I had not spent hours in a tent under lantern light scribing the sound of Aspen tree leaves in breeze or the quiet peace of my childhood home, I would never remember to appreciate them in times less tranquil.

Reading my thesis in its pristine, printed final form, there is a symbiosis between the richness of my language and the richness of my experience; each year they grow together. In studying metonymy and synecdoche, in memorizing the meter of a sestina, in reading Sappho and Hemingway, I learned the significance of every moment, and the detail that it deserves. Because of this education, I have felt the elation of hearing my words performed on a stage and reading my poems in the pages of a literary magazine. It has never ceased to awe me that the thoughtfulness which undercurrents my writing could inspire someone else to view life through the same open and optimistic lens. It is my hope that my thesis will be that catalyst. So when I am next asked “What do you even do in Creative Writing?” I will laugh and say “I have examined and interpreted a thousand moments, found the joy and lessons in each of them,” and hand them a copy of my senior thesis.

Anna Geiger, class of 2018

Senior Year by Harmony Wicker

Finally, after a great and laborious four years, rife with chronic sleep deprivation, emotional turmoil, and the purchase of thousands upon thousands of pens that were immediately lost—either at the bottom of my backpack, my room floor, or to the grimy hands of my classmates, I, Harmony Sweetwater Johnson-Wicker have made it to senior year.

Feel free to applaud. It’s been amazing to be able to chant “last year here!” in the halls with your friends and to terrorize freshmen, however, while I have the finish line just in sight, there is this scary thing called college applications that is casting a shadow over my joy(que ominous thunderclap).

Along with college applications comes the terrifying personal statement. The personal statement is a dangerous beast that resists all efforts to be tamed through tireless efforts. It’s an odd creature, really, consisting of the egotistical words of self praise depicting how, “last summer I saved a group of drowning children and the ruler of the universe awarded me with the honor of being the most valuable human being ever born, and therefore you should accept me, me, ME into your college for a low price of fifty-thousand dollars a year, free of shipping and handling to which I will so generously pay.” As a senior, you are expected to master the art of highlight your best qualities without making it seem blatantly obvious. In a way, one takes on the appearance of packaged meat— all organic, free range, non-GMO, and SAT scores above 1200. And honestly, this has all become increasingly terrifying.

I am constantly trying to think of what makes me such an indispensable commodity that is absolutely necessary in the greater context of the world around us. Recently, in Creative Writing, a former CW student taught a week- long unit. During her unit, she had us write artist statements. These pieces functioned as an in-depth exploration of why we write. Afterwards, we shared our responses, and I was truly impressed by how no one’s work sounded alike. Viewing the exercise through the lens of being a senior and having to produce personal statements, I realized how beautiful it was that we were able to tell such a diverse range of stories that demonstrated how we use our writing to process and understand our own beliefs, our school, and the environment we all live in. The experience simultaneously made me feel so small, because I realized that I am just a single piece of an ever- expanding puzzle and yet, at the same time, it too made me feel so large because my own puzzle piece, along with everyone else, is so uniquely shaped and colored..

And while the personal statement still remains an odd creature (and remains to be written), working on artist statements has overall helped me approach my own story in a more forgiving manner and, unexpectedly, has made me wonder about how many statements have gone unheard and are just waiting to leap into the quilt made up of our species history.

Harmony Wicker, class of 2020

Eighteen by Noa Mendoza

Things You Can Do When You Turn Eighteen:
1. vote
2. buy spray paint
3. buy a lottery ticket
4. buy things from TV infomercials
5. buy a lighter
6. buy cigarettes (and then promptly throw those away!)
7. buy your own plane ticket
8. rent a hotel room
9. get married
10. drink a beer in most countries outside of the U.S.
11. have a full time job
12. call all your underage friends “children”
13. convince your parents to buy you something big
14. get a state issued I.D.
15. get a tattoo
16. donate blood (whoop! whoop!)
17. change your name (I will henceforth be known as Queen Esmeralda Anastasia Rosebud)
18. get jury duty

Things You Cannot Do When You Turn Eighteen:
1. Say “but I’m an adult!” when you don’t want to do dishes
2. Say “but I’m an adult!” when you don’t want to go to Calculus
3. Say “but I’m an adult!” when you don’t want to write a blog post
4. Say “but I’m an adult!” when your work doesn’t get published

Noa Mendoza, class of 2016

Senioritis, by Josie Weidner

“Senioritis. Noun. a supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.”
–Google Definitions

Let me begin by saying I’ve been listening to a lot of Justin Bieber lately and I totally have senioritis. I’m not sure yet if the two are related.

I have approximately three months, nine days, fourteen hours until graduation, not that I’m counting or anything. But I’m really not. I’m reveling in this feeling of apathy. It’s liberating to realize that you basically have nothing to lose. A dangerous feeling, perhaps not what I should be feeling, but freeing nonetheless. Thus far, it has translated really nicely into generating new work, and taking risks with my writing. Come second semester, I’ve found that the emphasis of my personal writing practice is not centered around revision, or writing the best thing, or spending a ton of time on a piece, but trying things I’ve never done before. Being weird with my words. Mixing it up formally. Writing from perspectives I’ve never tried to write from before. Breaking out of this mold that I’ve been stuck in for the past three years has felt so good, and I think I’ve generated some of my favorite pieces during this time of extreme motivation decline. And all that time I spend skipping class and avoiding homework, well that’s just purposeful building of experience for my writing.

So, in a lot of ways I think listening to Justin Bieber and senioritis are correlated. Freshmen, sophomore, even junior year, I would have died if someone found out I occasionally dance around to “Baby”. Yet, this year, strolling into school after a restful sleep (because senioritis is really a stress free affliction), I love blasting “What Do You Mean” and even singing along as I past the nervous packs of underclassmen, just trying to figure out what it all means.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that everyone should adapt a little form of senioritis. So you can let go of your inhabitations, and realize that you really have nothing left to lose. You can be happy, and not care what other people think, and it may actually end up benefiting you.

I’ll end with the inspiring words of JBeibs himself: “Love Yourself” and “Never Say Never”

Josie Weidner, class of 2016

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.