Sharing a Part of You by Kendall Snipper

Creative Writing began the first workshopping sessions of the year this week. We were instructed to print out three of our summer work poems. Wanting something better to work with than the haiku and tanka poems I wrote, there were three longer poems left. I read each line over, making sure there was nothing to be kept away from my classmates.  Each poem was a part of myself, something I had written to express my emotions in the moment. Honestly, I thought about the different ways to avoid the assignment. Writing a newer poem, pretending to forget to print, anything so I wouldn’t have to show this part of me. My writing was never something I’d shared with others. I keep each piece to myself as if I’m rationing off parts of my brain for me alone to enjoy. 

Inevitably, the time for Creative Writing came along and we split off into workshopping groups. In a group of four, I was among a junior and two sophomores. “Freshman first” is such a common phrase at this point, so I wasn’t surprised when I was urged to go first. Each poem I printed out seemed way too cliche for me to read aloud. Reading over my summer work was just like the feeling of hearing a second grader’s joke: cringe-inducing. But I handed each group member a copy of my poem and began to read it aloud. Reading my writing to others was never such a problem to me, it was more of an issue when I knew they had a physical copy. My issue was realizing that somebody could now read over a line multiple times and see that it doesn’t make sense. Sitting at a table in silence while your older peers critique your work is probably the scariest thing I’ve done in high school so far. After each of them finished reading and annotating my poem, we discussed it. Hearing my classmate’s voices on my work was such a relief to the quiet, that I forgot about my nerves. Instead of overthinking what my peers were going to say about the poem, I sank calmly into the discussion. Each and every person was respectful with their critiques, and overall each sentence was something helpful or reassuring. I learned so much about how others can perceive your writing, and ways that I can definitely improve. Opening up the portion of my brain that once hid all my thoughts is something I find enjoyable now. I’m grateful to have a safe place to share and put my emotions down on paper.

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.

What is Personal Space Anymore? by Sequoia Hack

In writing, I often find myself probed to investigate my deepest insecurities, expose any secrets I keep silent, and dive deep into my inner psyche. I’m told that these topics—the ones that make me digress from self-discovery to self-loathing—are the topics most enthralling to readers. In the era of the pandemic too, when I’ve spent more time with myself than I ever have before, I have little inspiration from the outside world to write about anything but aspects of my life.

Frequently I write with the intention of the final piece being read by peers, and not with the idea that I’m writing for just my eyes to see. I find this ironic for one reason, primarily. Writing is one of the purest forms of self-intimacy and vulnerability but nearly all the writing I’m doing is shared with others, my inner life subject to the judgement of those who will never see how I see or think how I think.

Now I know that reading writing about the pandemic gets old quickly. Like, yeah, we’re all living through this era of pandemonium, what more do you need to say about it? But I promise you, this is relevant to my story. 

Many of us used to have a clear separation of personal life and work/school life due to a difference in location, community, and time of day occupying that given space. But as months have progressed over the past year, at least I have found it increasingly difficult to establish a distinct boundary between home life and school life. I do labs investigating the Earth’s core in the same space I used to only relax in. I’m learning about logarithms and statistical significance  with my cats in the backyard. I’m planning our graduation in student government while sitting at my kitchen counter. 

My sanctuary of a room, smelling of lavender and birch, has become a type of anechoic chamber. The voices of my teachers are all I hear, lessons loud in one ear flowing silent straight out of the other, day in and day out. The people whose presence I associate with a space opposite that of my room are suddenly being drummed into my head as I fidget out of restlessness at my desk. It feels so wrong, every day I log onto class, to have the awareness that I woke up not five feet from where I’m attending AP U.S. Government or English class. 

When I combine this invasion from online classes with also having to write every day, I’m left with the feeling that none of my being is any longer reserved for just me. My physical personal space, infiltrated by school, alongside my own headspace, repeatedly exposed to vulnerability through writing, has left me feeling more exposed than I’d ever like to be. 

Will I ever be able to sit in my room without worrying if my laptop has enough charge to get through class? Will I ever be able to write without feeling like all that there is to talk about is how my ice cubes melted too quickly in my coffee or how my laundry hasn’t been done in four days? When will I be able to abandon this invasive daily cycle?

Sequoia Hack, Class of ’21

[DR]: 12/13

by Frances (’14)

On Friday, we continued our playwriting unit by workshopping our plays. I’ve always liked workshopping. It’s a staple of the Creative Writing department, and a good complement to the feedback we get from our teachers. Peer perspective is much different from professional perspective. When, for instance, Isaiah gives us criticism, he focuses on what he thinks we should change because he is viewing our plays from the eyes of a more experienced playwright. During workshopping, we tend to see each other’s work the way an audience might see it. We let ourselves get excited about our favorite parts. This is important, I think. We see our art the way an art viewer would see it.

In other news, Midori lost her phone and spent a good deal of class looking for it. At first, she assumed that she’d left it in one of her morning classrooms, but then she used a GPS tracker to locate it, and realized that it wasn’t even in San Francisco. She watched helplessly as it moved from city to city across the peninsula. Molly called several police departments. It was only after a lot of strife that Midori realized her classmate, Cristina Rey, had taken the phone.