Open Up to Vulnerability by Oona Haskovec

As a current sophomore, I associate workshopping with laughs, improvement, and an overall pleasant time. However, this time a year ago, I had an entirely different take on the matter. As a freshman, I was put into a group with only upperclassmen, including a senior, for my first workshopping experience. I was terrified, both of the critique I would receive, but also the critique I would have to share. Those were people who had been doing this for years and I felt incredibly out of place as I smiled and nodded along with others’ intellectual insight. However, as the year progressed, I found comfort in workshop days, and I gained a more established sense of the writing styles of those around me. This could not only aid in better critique for others, but also in getting to know them as people.

This is why, in my second year, I have been making it my goal to enforce workshopping as a marvelous time for this year’s freshmen. Not only does it open up the opportunity for improvement, but also to get to know your peers and their work. The sooner you allow that vulnerability, the easier you will find it to be absorbed by the wonder that is the Creative Writing community, both social and academic. In my personal experience, workshopping opens up ideas in your work that not even you, the author, noticed at first. This can lead to richer pieces as well as richer bonds with everything. 

 I truly find critiquing to be one of the most beneficial activities one can partake in. If you can allow yourself to accept your flaws, and find a way to see benefit in the momentary discomfort, before long, the answer to that awkwardly worded line, or sometimes even just the flow of a piece, will be revealed.

Staying Consistent in Art by Amelia Reed

Creative Writing is, in its truest form, a consistent art; one cannot write a poem, take a break for a couple of months, and then come back with the same groove and gusto. Unfortunately, that was nearly exactly what had occurred in my case; after spring break, which began exactly when the lockdown did, I expected to return to creative writing with energy and a sense of eagerness, and, for the most part, I did. I found the poetry unit to be just as interesting and engaging as always, and was excited for the fiction unit which was soon to follow; that is, until the subject of the semesterly film response returned into my line of focus. I knew how to write a film response, of course, and the film I was writing it on had plenty of material for me to flesh out; but for some reason, it simply wasn’t the same. When I wrote, I didn’t feel like a stream of opinionated words flowing onto the page, or even the usual begrudging yet prepared student. It felt as if I had lost everything, all of my knowledge, over the break. It was true that I hadn’t been writing regularly over those few weeks, as my mind had been elsewhere, but I hadn’t expected it to be this difficult to return to my usual flow. When my score for the film response was returned, I had gotten a rather low score on it, which I had expected, and so for the next few weeks I prescribed myself one short prose piece per day in a desperate attempt to regain what talent and vigor I had preceding the lockdown. I will not pretend that I kept consistent with this, nor that I enjoyed it the entire time, but it was eventually fulfilling to be able to sit down and write a quick, sloppy piece about how my day had been and where my mind had wandered during it. Sometimes I would write poetry rather than prose, and sometimes I would simply select a few words which felt “right” and encapsulated the feeling I was going for; and after around a month of this, I could feel my writing coming along much easier and sounding more put-together than it had even before the lockdown.

While it’s difficult to be disappointed in your own work, it is important to keep in mind that growing as an artist is not always a linear path. If I had not noticed the rut I had fallen into, it is unlikely that I would’ve made a deliberate effort to become better; at risk of appearing cliché, a moth must slam itself into the lampshade a couple of times before finding its way to the light bulb. That being said, staying consistent in your writing is a keystone to becoming a better writer, and one cannot improve if they wait to practice their art until it is required. 

I have found myself, nowadays, looking forward to film and reading responses, and the fiction unit is going wonderfully. I still enjoy writing prose or poetry at the end of the day, just to cool down; it helps to remind me that writing is not restricted to schoolwork. Below is a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago after staring out a muggy window at the cars parked outside and deciding to create something more interesting; some of the lines are reused from previous poems I had discarded, and some don’t mean anything at all, but it captured to the best of my ability how I was feeling at the time.  

Muggy Day “Sonnet”

my fingers, dented with sewing, red, cracked

yellow threads, pepperjack svelte in loose loops 

a lavender sack atop a doll’s back:

tight canvas feels like giggles of bishops 

‘cause what is life but treasuring knick-knacks,

yearning for memories our minds misshape?

and oh, you smell how men describe women

smell like cheap teas and drowsing in public

the doll, animate weight, colour of cumin

in-jokes are mere meat; I’d like a cutlet 

my friends, they oohed at the light, the lumen

the way ripe lavender gives you a lick

remembering is brief and subhuman

Oh, you taste how women describe women

Amelia Reed, Class of ’23

An English Class Poem by Emilie Mayer

Three weeks into my English class’s poetry unit I had managed to produce nothing that I could be proud of —although that could in part be due to my pandemic-induced creative rut. All of my poems were shine with no depth. They contained long, elegant lines, but I for one could not tell you what they meant. It was at this moment that a chance conversation with my student teacher completely turned my mentality upside down. Another student had expressed their struggle with producing work, which had compelled my student teacher to give an off-the-cuff monologue on writing. He had said, “Poetry is all feeling. Just write down your emotions, and then add in the fancy words later.” It sounded so simple. In fact, the Creative Writing Department Head had said something similar a few weeks before: “Your work doesn’t mean anything unless you’re taking risks. You should be crying over your poetry at times.” Even Emily Dickenson said, “If I physically feel as if the top of my head were taken off, I know it is poetry.” 

And so, I did as I was prompted. Later that class period I sat down with my notepad and wrote about a moment that I had been unable to express up until that point. My inability to write stemmed from my search for the “correct” words. The moment that I just wrote whatever came to mind, my memories were finally able to exist on the page. Granted, the piece I produced was rough. After several revisions, I still believe that it needs about a hundred more drafts of work. But still, while I was writing that poem I cried. And I remembered the hidden and beautiful world of literature—the reason why I came to S.O.T.A. in the first place.

Emilie Mayer, Class of ’23

Crows, My Muses by Emilie Mayer

Starting in third grade, teachers would find novels concealed within my textbooks. Throughout middle school, I would write songs that I imagined One Direction could sing upon their reunion. Last year, I discovered that math quizzes are the ideal place to test out new poems. Other than providing evidence that I am not the most attentive of students— these instances show how I’ve used words as a preoccupation, something to fill the gap that the day’s mundanities leave within my mind. That is, writing filled that space until this year.

This year is an outlier. I have little motivation to submit my homework assignments, let alone write a five page story. And while the first few months of Shelter in Place were filled with inspiration, recording an inexplicable experience, there are only so many poems you can write about staring blankly out your bedroom window. All this is to say— Netflix is running out of shows for me to watch, while my writer’s portfolio remains rather slim.

   For all the writing time lost, exercise has taken some of its place. Over Shelter in Place, I’ve become solely responsible for walking our family dog, a sickeningly energetic German Shepherd. Due to her size, and the fact that if not thoroughly exhausted she’ll wake my father at midnight, my dog requires an hour minimum of outdoor activities. She was pulling me home after one such excursion, when the two of us spotted a flock of crows. While I had not truly been moved to write in months, I sat down on the pavement right there —my dog sat upon my lap— and began drafting a poem on my phone. The opening lines said something similar to “everyone hates on crows, but really storks are harbingers of a kind too.” I’ll admit, the poem wasn’t my most insightful piece ever, but it was the first piece I had enjoyed plotting out in a long while.

The next day, I spotted the flock again. Or perhaps it was a different flock, but they were undeniably birds. I sat down —this time on a bench— and wrote another poem. In the last three weeks, I’ve completed five poems about the crows of my neighborhood. Honestly, I feel if I keep writing crow poems at the pace I’m going then I might eventually give Poe a run for his money. Either way, I’ve rediscovered that sparkle that writing used to have for me. Writing is like a game, a puzzle to solve in your free time. Words are to be arranged until they make me giddy after reading what I’ve produced. Writing isn’t a chore like classes, or something to be mindlessly consumed like Netflix. It’s exciting, and difficult, and ultimately something that should be fun. Now, I’m ready to start this next calendar year fresh with a more energetic, crow-filled, mindset. 

Emilie Mayer (Class of ’23)

Daily Thoughts by Gemma Collins

As sophomore year has progressed, I find myself in a perpetual state of confusion. Lately, I ponder what I am doing and what is happening. This feeling has become familiar, as I wait for it to greet me in waking from many daydreams. One question that has recently been frequenting my mind is this: “how did I get here?” An enigma in itself, this thought plagues me, seeping into my head and infiltrating my dreams. The other night I even dreamt of a talking fish, and if that’s not bewildering enough, I do not know what is. I may not be a psychologist, but I would assume this thought comes from a jumbled sense of time. See, each month feels long in the moment, but short in retrospect, and spending most of my time at home causes the hours to blend together, leaving the all but delicious stone soup of my lovely days. The first semester’s end looms, however, I barely remember the beginning months of this school year, hence the question: how did I get here? Still not sure. 

This question emerges occasionally throughout my day in various scenarios, including walking into a room and forgetting my tasks, or waking up and momentarily forgetting where I am before realizing I just had unexpectedly fallen asleep. In these common situations, my memory and logic return soon and the moment of confusion is fleeting, leaving me without much to wonder anymore. Pondering how I am suddenly half-way through sophomore year has proven to be much more difficult to answer. Lately, academic shortcomings provide an exhilarating sense of risk factor that enhances my life, filling the gaps created by my questions. Creative Writing functions as one of those high stakes things that allows me to devote my attention to currently overflowing assignments instead of exploring the ins and outs of existential questions. The question: “how did I get here?” is hauntingly unresolved, however, now I figure it is merely one more item to add to my list of thoughts to attend to at midnight.

Gemma Collins (Class of ’23)

Struggling With Poetry By Otto Handler

Performance poetry is usually the first unit of the year in the Creative Writing department. Last year, as a freshman with two weeks of workshopping summer work, I felt like I wasn’t ready for the unit ahead of me. Not that our performance poetry unit last year was unsatisfactory, quite the opposite. I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I didn’t have the case of the freshmen nerves.

Our artist-in-residence, Preeti Vangani, has helped me look at poetry with less tribulation. Now, as a sophomore, many things have changed, I have chosen the elements of writing that I feel I am better at. I am becoming more confident in my work as the unit progresses. Poetry is still a form that I need the most work on. I am fine with this fact and still have two more years to work on improving my writing skills in general.

I was able to fully experience and participate more like a full member of Creative Writing during this unit. I have written a more promising peace for the show coming up in late October. I am looking forward to the show because I now have a piece I feel more confident and generally happy about and that I didn’t just choose this piece a few short hours before school. I’ve actually had some time to type up some of the prompts, that I had written throughout the week no matter what I had thought about them originally. This is a poem that I wrote for this year’s performance poetry unit:



You don’t like that word?

You like that word?

Burn in hell

I don’t care

Because I hate it

So, we’re gonna change it


And I mean NOW!

The world will immediately and without noise bend to my will.

No one and nothing will ever describe anything as unchangeable again

No more unchangeable ADHD

No more unchangeable slow processing

No more unchangeable other things


How ‘bout

We knock the two letters “U” and “N” off a cliff

Never to be heard from again.

Let’s see what we have left.

You see, everything just becomes changeable.

Unsatisfied becomes satisfying

Uneven becomes even.

Unfortunate becomes fortunate

How does that sound.


I know and don’t care if its not grammarly correct.

That’s not the point.

What is the point one asks?

To change that mental mindset everyone carps about

No those words suck too

When one uses those words

They make me want to run away screaming






I know all of this

Small stupid rant

sounds too positive

So full of sunshine

So full of promise

So full of hope

So, I assure you

It will never happen

The two letters are

way too important to the English language.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t hope.


-Otto Handler, Class of 2022