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20 January 2018

Five Reasons I Love My Learning Community ft. PIANOS

Hi, friends! With senior year heading to a close, I wanted to a create a series with one post a month to reflect on life over these past four years of high school. While they aren’t as heavy or momentous as my middle school self deemed it to be, it’s still four years of my life with some memorable, comedic, tear-breaking, anxious, thrilling, and nuanced moments I’d love to take some time to look back on.

For those unfamiliar with the fact, I attend public school! Cue the gasps for here is an outlier! I have never been homeschooled in my life, for personal reasons, and I’ve never known anything different. One of my favorite things about the high school I attend is the learning community I’m a part of, with a different structure to other learning communities. While other learning communities such as ROTC or the medical academy have an entire period dedicated to their community, our school dedicated two of its hours through a block period, alternating between English and social studies every quarter. In English classes, you mix with everyone from seniors to freshman, while social studies classes stick to their main grade. The program is defined for its emphasis on reading philosophy papers which accumulates to a seminar, a group discussion trying to understand the paper.

My freshman year, I adored this program. I loved the idea about reading papers form different authors and wanting to discuss them— although, I probably should have realized the teacher won’t assign twenty pages of Socrates’ death sentence on “corrupting the youth” in one day all to read, much to the shock of everyone else when I came back finished the next day. The novelty eventually disappeared and problems I never noticed began to surface. For example, no one ever gets to venture out and meet others from the other tangents of school unless a person has an elective. Until this year, the bathrooms were clogged with freshman and senior groups blocking off the entrances unless you physically pushed to get across.

I still appreciate the program! Here are five things which are great about the community.

People tend to laugh at how others tend to describe us and in a sense, the title is greeted with a self-depricating chuckle almost to the point our community has social media pages dedicated to it. My brother and I have this running joke about durable, long-lasting water bottles, and for those new to the school, it’s one of the defining traits of a student from this community. That’s right— the moment a person walks in, Nalgene bottles and Hydroflasks predominantly crowd the desk, each decorated with stickers from the forest fair from the town fifty miles away or from the local pizzeria with the most caloric food worth digging into after hiking up the mountains. The clothing also gives it away, as well, vested in snow gear with knee-high socks and a specific pair of slippers. Now, some may suggest this is merely just the epitome of a “granola” lifestyle— someone who loves the outdoors, for those unfamiliar with the vernacular— but how could it not? We live in one of the snowiest places in the country and are bound to find a chunk from the outdoors. People fall for running outside and exploring the fog and the trees. Of course, there is a small category of folk which I fall onto that do not identify with the extremely outdoorsy folk; they are categorized by their wittiness and weirdness (especially when it comes to strange hobbies and interests).

When I say art, I do not just mean we do art projects frequently. The year prior to my freshman year, the community’s reading thing derived from art— its definition and creation. One of the big projects the community did was create pieces of art in every way possible: portraits, wall paintings, and ceiling tiles and all of the classrooms are decorated with them. Our side of the school is the only section where the rooms are covered in paint depicting the themes in 1984 or the art of pointillism. One of my favorite tiles is the one painted with the word “gullible,” which threw a friend of mine recently new into the program when she entered the classroom and did not trust the word printed in black at the top of the ceiling. I also love the eclectic nature of each of the rooms which also peaks in to each teacher’s personality: theatre posters and action figures, lamps to promote a warm ambience instead of harsh fluorescence, bean bag chairs with surprises under them (LONG story), popsicle-composed body systems for a health class, and Zimbabwean dollars next to a Ken doll and a 3D printed yacht. It’s a great environment.

From the informational standpoint, it gets to one of two parts of what the community does: the papers and the seminar. As mentioned earlier, much of the papers we read are philosophy based, so I got to read works by Aristotle, Machiavelli, Leopold, Rand, Sun Tzu, and even The Communist Manifesto. Some of them induced headaches— Buber, I’m looking right at you and hopefully am in an I-You relationship— while others spiraled in circles, like Tzu and his philosophies of water in the Tao. Personally, I liked the structure of how it was, despite minor problems which arose every once in awhile. I love how we’re able to tackle something we do not have a whole understanding of and try to delve deeper into understanding parts, thanks to the guidance of Socrates, who instills the idea of us knowing nothing. I liked listening to conversations and trying to give input despite a fast-paced cadence. The questions are difficult and there isn’t always a yes or no answer, nor does there have to be one. Our last quarter, strictly dedicated to the roots of philosophy, is going to happen soon and I’m not ready to tackle onto the question of what identity is and if we really have one.

In the community’s wing common, there’s a piano someone donates to the one sector as a senior project. Painted with the colors of the aurora borealis, trees, and mountain lines, it’s a sight to gawk at. Ever since the piano had been installed two years prior, it’s been a favorite during passing period. At someone point or another, everyone’s hands have all rushed to play cringed renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I admit, I’ve tried to play pieces on the piano and they’re not as good sounding. It’s also somewhat awkward when, alongside with your friends, a teacher walks by as everyone screeches songs for the entire hall to hear. There are some individuals who play the piano quite beautifully and will play classical pieces whose names are as difficult to pronounce as the cadence and chord complexity present. More modern songs echo on its keys— some are huge fans of Adele, Studio Ghibli, and even La La Land, especially when “City of Stars” became enamored by the general populace.

I remember the first day of freshman year, my class severed into groups of five, composed from seniors down to freshman, and went off to compete in numerous games. I remember looking bewildered as the seniors ripped pieces of tape and started to tell our group to keep a sophomore connected to the lockers and off the ground— I knew not to expect anything, but my jaw dropped slack and we continued to win first place. The moral of this story is not to stick with a lack of structure (as, out of everyone’s, we just went through three random rolls to get rid of every piece of skin, shirt, or jean pants) but that the sense of community had been emphasized through doing these games every single year. After years of attending movies, watching teachers dab for an eighties dance battle, and tie-dying t-shirts, do I know everyone in this community? Short answer: no, but the sense of a home base exists. While I wish we got to mingle with other people from other parts of the school because adventuring is so important and fun, you still get the sense of knowing everyone, even if you only do say hello to faces you’ve seen these past four years every once in awhile.

What kind of eccletic things make up where you study? Have you ever been caught playing the piano terribly? Are any of the names of the authors familiar to you? Are any of you graduating? What other topics would you like to see as a part of the series?

Friends! Just a little update on what's going on in the next weeks: I will be undergoing a design change, as well as celebrating my fifth blogging anniversary which falls on February 8th! I'm not entirely sure what to do to celebrate it just yet, post wise, but here's a question: would anyone be open if I end up hosting a giveaway? I'm thinking about getting some souvenirs from my home town alongside from writers goods, although I am on a limited budget.

13 January 2018

Writer's Statements & Why YOU Need One Right Now

Happy January, everyone! You know it and love it: I'm revamping All the Writerly Things, which is a series dedicated to examining literature, movies, and all aspects which contribute to honing in one's creative writing craft. I’m currently sitting down, sipping some apple cider, reading, and writing down some notes for some pieces before submitting them to various publications across the country.

Every year, I tell myself this is the year I will dedicate myself completely to writing, where my long-term writing projects shall become an actual living breathing organism outside of the mind space. Only, this doesn’t happen at the extent I’d like it to. There’s so much going on with life that by the end of the year, the potential is bogged down by so much and the self-loathing in my mind begins to build. No apparent way of change presented itself—that is, until I began to create a writer’s statement. Here’s how and why this one snippet of writing is so important.


A writer’s statement is somewhat self-explanatory in hindsight but requires more digging to see the intrinsic value lying underneath. This statement, created by the writer helps concentrate back towards the core of the journey. What do you write? Why do you enjoy writing? How do you hope your writing will change the world? These questions are answered in the statement, touching all three realms of time: past, present, and future. It’s the guiding core of your writing helping you stand up again after succumbing to an existential crisis and feel like you aren’t good enough.

Here are several tips to help you on your crafting process:

1) Think about your origin story! Many heroes and notable world-changers always start off with humble beginnings—not everyone has attended an arts’ school or camp to hone their writing voice. As I’ve mentioned several times, I have friends who are incredibly advanced in the writing world to the point of receiving national awards and giving TED Talks under the age of seventeen, but they didn’t start there. In fact, many of them started through writing NaNoWriMo novels, perusing through the Young Writers’ forums, and battling out which Hogwarts House is the best.

Sometimes, writing starts from reading stories while waiting for the washing machine to finish its rinse cycle or a doodle made from going to a fast-food restaurant in the middle of the night on a napkin with bits of ketchup smudged on the edge. It may not seem significant to others, but this is your life with your perspective and narrative. Draw from it! I won’t say much about my personal origin story, but my blog’s URL practically says it all.

2) Be sincere. This statement is mostly for you to draw on. Don’t hesitate to be vulnerable or candid. The statement doesn’t have to be published publicly for the world to see. It can simply sit on your wall, right in front of your desk where you plot your novels. You know yourself and your writing goals better than anyone else.

3) Plan out the game plan and the goals. Do you aspire to become published traditionally under one of the five big houses, or are you wanting to explore more of the literary press route and present chapbooks? Do you aspire to become a National Poet Laureate, a Pushcart nominee, or earn an MFA in Creative Writing? Make sure to keep note of this—and have a general outline of how you want to get there. Motivate yourself by for every ten twenty-five words, you treat yourself to a box of doughnuts to munch on at home.

The statement doesn’t have to have hard dates, but soft dates can help keep you right on track! Write something, such as devoting yourself to writing a poem every week. Even something such as finishing a second draft of a novel of a series you initiated early on can help push you forwards towards your dreams becoming a reality.

4) Name out the common themes you hope your readers will take from your writing. I remember stumbling onto the right words of what I hoped my writing would transpire to from a comment I left on dear Audrey Caylin’s blog, which says, “… For me, writing…. made me realize gray areas, how life isn't merely black and white and how amidst of all the unruly horror that tries to inject itself into the world, there is good that arises, and the watching the clash between those two things is a tragedy and beauty. And the fact we have the power to shape that world view and bring it to a greater audience… it just stuns me so much.”

For some time, I forgot about this quote until I rewrote my about page last August and thought these words hit stone cold. It’s a common theme and compliment resurging from writing critiques, how I never shy away from the hard truth and how there is beauty and tragedy. This is something I want to highlight on, while also writing from various perspectives, particularly those contrasting to mine. Maybe you write hoping to just inoculate readers with a wonderful sense of bliss and calm or hope to transpire them to another realm where dragons exist because dragons. Don't hesitate to write those down!

Have you ever written a writer's statement before? Write out what you think will be in your writer's statement below!