Open For Business! by Caitlin Cullina

         The Shaker Writing Center has officially opened for the 2017–2018 school year and I can’t wait to start conferencing! It was wonderful to see students fill up the tables, ready to learn more about what we do here as interns. And we received plenty of creative submissions in our “Title Your Memoir” competition. Some students were even ahead of the game, and stopped by to ask if they could get a session on our first day. Unfortunately, we had to say that we couldn’t take any students until the next day because we had classes coming by all period; nonetheless, seeing eager students come by definitely boosted my confidence.
         It was a pretty surreal experience to see students in the center. It certainly got me excited to begin working with them, but honestly it also made me a tad nervous. Writing is a very intricate process and my peers trust me to give them good advice. Also sharing one’s work is makes a person quite vulnerable so I hope that I’m able to get through to students and have them respect my opinion.
         I already care a great deal about the opportunities the Writing Center is sure to give students. I’m also interested to see what kind of things that I learn along the way about writing, tutoring, and myself.
         We also took a group picture of the interns and our two advisors, which was kind of crazy and fun. I loved seeing the whole gang together in our t-shirts! I can already tell we have such an amazing dynamic. I’m ready for the year to come with the Shaker Writing Center.

College? College! by Mattie Conley

Unpopular opinion: I love thinking about college.
            I know, I know, shocking, right? A senior who hears the word “college” and doesn’t immediately cringe or curl into a stress-induced ball? Unheard-of.
            Yet, when asked about my plans for next year, I am more than happy to dive into a discussion of colleges and where I am with my applications. Want to know what I thought of the tours I went on?  In short, they were amazing. Curious about how the SAT and ACT went? They were very long but went well overall. Wondering how are my essays coming along? Currently they are very much in the drafting phase, but they’re getting there.      
Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve looked forward to going to college. As someone who truly enjoyed learning, college seemed like the ultimate achievement. Back then, college was the idea of being immersed in a higher level of education and all the bells and whistles that came along with it. I was so excited to be given more freedom in choosing my courses and to be able to pursue topics that truly fascinated me in depth.
In the past couple years, however, the reasons for my excitement have shifted ever so slightly. Before, I was pretty much exclusively excited about the idea of college itself, but now it seems that that dream has been somewhat corrupted by the desire to get out of high school. I often feel like I’m somewhat more anxious to get away from the system of high school than to actually get to college. As high school students, we have the same seven classes every day, each one giving out huge amounts of homework that can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Every week it seems like a lot of students are just trying to make it to the weekend; from Monday to Friday there is no time to catch a breath. A lot of my old excitement for getting to go to college remains, but it is unfortunate that it has been tempered by a more negative reason.
 I love thinking about college, where “college” refers to all  being there next year. I had so much fun going on tours and getting to see a little bit of campus life in person. I came home from college trips bursting with anticipation and with an eagerness to apply. However, now that I’ve been working on applications for a while, I have found that I am not all that fond of the application process itself. Filling out the extensive sets of required information on the Common App is very tedious, and the number of essays I need to write has added up quickly with each college I’m applying to. This raises the question so many seniors are currently asking: when am I supposed to find the time to get everything done? Balancing applications and normal homework is not easy, and it can sometimes be hard to know whether homework or applications should take precedence. It has taken a good amount of planning and self-motivation, but I have worked out a schedule for trying to balance everything. I’ve found focusing on normal homework during the week and setting aside time during the weekends for applications works fairly well (or at least it has been working so far). Perhaps one of the reasons I don’t mind discussing the college application process is that it keeps me focused and organized. By talking with other people, I can sort out my own thoughts and even get a little advice in the process. As the November and January deadlines creep steadily closer, my stress levels and levels of excitement are both on the rise. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but with the end so close in sight, I can’t help but feel a sense of elation. My elementary school self is so close to seeing her dreams of college come true, and my current self is right there with her.

I – by Indee Sanders

My boss is a Letter.
He wears blue every Friday, his hair (blond) is never combed and he is Zaccariah Finch. Little Debbie snacks are his best friend. His teeth are straight, he wore braces as a kid and he isn’t Zaccariah, he’s Z; A thirty-something year old nobody’s boy with a sleeve of ink and electric blue eyes that watch me persistently: when I’m stocking the shelves and the door chimes and in steps a middle aged couple drowning in laughter; when they spot me and request some forgettable album from the seventies and I point them toward the back; when I notice the clay they’re tracking––spreading––along this prehistoric tile and I sigh. Sweep; when they leave empty handed, still laughing about whatever and the door slams shut with a jingle; when it’s silent for a beat, save for the AC system in which Z has yet to have repaired, and I slide up to the check-out counter, requesting a ten minute break and he nods his head––Sure––and I go away.
I spend my nine minutes and forty three seconds standing beside Screaming Sammy’s hot dog stand, scarfing down a sub-par polish boy. The vendor attempts to make light conversation––Wonderful weather, eh?––but I’m not listening. I’m too busy looking for you, searching for you in every throng that passes. In every man I spot…Too busy despairing over your perpetual absence from the afternoon crowd. And I think I see you once. But that isn’t you holding the blonde’s hand, pulling her close and kissing her head. Hopping off the curb and entering a gray Camry. No. And I think I see you twice, but that isn’t you biting your nails, nor you scratching your nose before disappearing into Barry’s Books and Things to browse. I don’t think I see you again because I don’t see you. You’re not there––you never are––with your awkwardness and forced smiles. Your odd-colored tees and scuffed Chuck Taylors. It’s not you. And when I’ve had enough, when your non-appearance ticks me off,  I slip Sammy his five dollars and fifty cents––No, keep the change––and trek back to the shop.
Z is ringing up a customer (female) when I slip inside the store three minutes later. She’s tall and she tucks her hair (brown) behind an ear and she laughs at nothing. Her nails are pink. Her earrings dangle. She buys Led Zeppelin and she wears Prada and she is inclusive.
She says, “I’m buying this for myself.” As she taps the cover of Physical Graffiti and I know it’s a lie. She has curls, an embryonic Coach purse and she wears fuchsia like it’s her anthem. Her lips are purple. Her heels are high. She’s not a fan of Zeppelin, she’s the epitome of a Spice Girl and she is Viva Forever.
Z, he responds in that harsh, cumbersome way of his; only lifting a blond brow to appease her initially.  Then it’s this: Z handing the woman her money while his eyes are on me.

“Seven sixty is your change,” He remarks. “Have a wonderful day.” And the woman snatches her bag with a huff, leaving in her absence a haze of flowery perfume.

An Optimistic Take On the Futility of Writing by Renold Mueller

The greatest challenge I struggle to overcome when attempting to write is not a lack of ideas; on the contrary, I have too many, none of which I think are good. I find the whole process similar to being lost in a hedge maze.
I start down one path, and because I sense purpose further on, I wander a bit in that direction. Then I hit a dead end, and I have to figure out where I took a wrong turn, and by the time I work my way back, I run into a choice between three separate paths, one of which I must have taken already, but I can’t be quite sure which one that is.
Writing is neither an easy process nor a rewarding one. If I ever want to navigate my ideas, I have to whittle away at the desk for hours and days and weeks and months. I feel awful about my abilities the whole time, and often doubt the soundness of the subject I am trying to tame. Furthermore, all the reward and justification that I search for through writing usually appears as little bouts of self-confidencewhich come about when I finally complete a piece. Even when my work is wonderfully received, all of those shoots of satisfaction slink away into the void, leaving nothing but frustration with the shortcomings of my completed work. I have yet to write a paper I am entirely proud of, because I always find a hundred more interesting paths I should have taken instead.
Now, given my lament above, you ask what the hell I’m doing here, working as an intern at the Writing Center. You would like to know where the upside is. You are wondering what reason I could have for wanting to keep writing, after reading my bleak outlook regarding it.
I write because I desire what lies at the end of the maze.
At the end of the maze is what every human being searches for throughout life, and never finds. At the end of the maze is meaning. And every time I fail to find it amongst my scrambled thoughts, I witness a glimpse of it. That sensation that every writer experiences, right when they feel proudest of their work, thats the feeling of profundity. It is fleeting, not because it wasn’t authentic, but because you know that there is more depth to the limited meaning you’ve found.
My blogs this year will all be failed attempts to give real meaning to the world as I see it, but I hope each one offers just a little bit of meaning to readers. May you continue to explore the maze in the coming year.

Study Finds Shaker Seniors Taken Aback By Audacity Of Teachers By Lily Roth

SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH — Comprehensive study recognizes a newfound discomfort of the seniors of Shaker Heights High School.  In addition to the stress from family and friends, local students are dumbfounded by the audacity of teachers.  The number of situations in which students are forced to think, work, or create — sometimes all three — is disgraceful.

“I swear, it’s like people expect me to work hard or something. Who do they think I am?” says senior Claire Jax.

Bravo, Claire.  We were all thinking it.  In every single class, teachers expect students to take responsibility for matters and analyze and interpret them, and perhaps even do something about them.  Some nerve they’ve got.  It’s hard enough to keep your eyes open in class, let alone read with them!

The daily request that students not only show up to class physically but also be mentally present is simply asking too much.  A new scientific study shows that stress can lead to colon cancer and tuberculosis.  It is safe to say these teachers are crossing a dangerous border.

“I’m sick and tired of adults telling me what I can and can’t do during class.  There are outlets on the wall for a reason, Mr. Young.  So, maybe think next time before telling me my Nintendo DS Lite doesn’t belong in the classroom,” says Jax.

Students are sick of it.  All these hot shot teachers say, “education is important,” “Homework is only here to help you,” “Hard work pays off,” BLAh, BLah, Blah.  It’s these same teachers that claim they are advocates for child safety and mental health.  Oh really?!

This is frankly outrageous. The next thing you know, teachers may be asking students to work hard outside of school! HA! Dreaming is a beautiful thing… but enough is enough.

Writing Pains by Phillip Kalafatis

Writing is pain. Well… not physical pain, unless you’re writing epic poems out by hand (calm down Homer.)
It’s the type of pain that makes your head pound and words blur before your eyes. The feeling of all the words building up in your head but not coming out through your hand. Come on hand, you think, get with the program. This Gatsby essay is not going to write itself. 
If you thought that writing in any form, whether it be essays or stories, was going to be easy — especially in high school — I got bad news, buttercup. It’s hard. For me though, it is the pain that I enjoy. The feeling of creating something unique, something new, that’s why I like it so much. I didn’t always like writing as much as I do, specifically essays for school.
I always found the essays we had to write for English to be bland. That was until I realized that I could enjoy writing the essay by writing about something I enjoy. Shocking. The key that I have found to be the most effective for good writing is to write about something, or even anything that draws your attention. If you’re scanning a list of proposed essay ideas, one might grab your mind and set it spinning, drawing connections, and forming in your mind.
Well duh, you might say, but what if that topic is super difficult? What if it requires more quotes, more research, and more analysis? Do it. Write the best essay you can about why yellow is the single most important aspect of Gatsby’s parties. Write that essay about the sun imagery of Lucie Manette.
The beauty of writing is that you are creating something new. You are bringing new thoughts into the world. Even if the topic has been beaten to a quasi-literary death, you are still bringing your unique view.
Because if you don’t write your thoughts, who will?

Love! Love! Love! by Jocelyn Ting

Piles of love poetry from a young Jocelyn

“Do so then my clever student.  Tell me of love…  To attempt to describe it will drive a woman mad.  That is what keeps poets scribbling endlessly away.  If one could pin it to paper all complete, the others would lay down their pens.  But it cannot be done.” – Vashet, Wise Man’s Fear  

I carry on the long scroll of scribbling poets. We are in the business of describing the ineffable. We are translators chasing 7.4 billion marks, each with shifting connotations, our perspectives colored with undulating patterns. A classic example of this problem is how we perceive colors. How do I explain what I see when I look at a “blue” shirt? Science tells us that my “blue” is probably different than yours, but we do not have many more words to describe colors – cool, sad, calm, turquoise? We have other colors, sometimes emotions and temperatures, but those words also create different feelings for each person. See the conundrum? 

Music is one language that is universal. It at once carries more meaning than words while floating over any glitches in translation. I do not glean much from my friend telling me they are tired, but I feel exactly the emotion of the musician as his accordion strains out one last dissonant chord. My French horn teacher phrases a passage and I play it back almost exactly the same. I am able to reflect her message exactly, even if we describe the music with different words. She tells me the note is “full” and I tell her it reminds me of a quote about learning to love food. The music she has described in words is an imperfect translation; I cannot physically feel what her body is feeling when she demonstrates the note. Nevertheless, the essence of the thought transfers through the music and the quote acts as a key, compiling the knowledge into my own language. As I play I remember how I felt and she beams as she feels the note is “full”, just as she asked.

So it seems I may be writing this blog in vain.  Perhaps I should compose a symphony instead, of frustration and modulations as it jumps from instrument to instrument.  You may be wondering how I, as a writing intern, can seem to have such little faith in words.  It is not a lack of faith, just love for a wily child.   Words are beautiful because they are so untethered, so disregardful of our original intentions,  like street art made of sand.  We may never master words, but to my clever student, my love-struck poet, do not despair.  

“[T]here are other ways to understanding!” he shouted, laughing like a child. He threw both arms to the cloudless arch of sky above us, still laughing. “Look!” he shouted tilting his head back. “Blue! Blue! Blue!”  -Elodin, Wise Man’s Fear

Redefining Sisterhood by Mariah Jordan

“Spelman College, a Historically Black College whose mission is to serve high-achieving black women, will consider for admission women students including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth”.

This week, Mary Schmidt Campbell, the President of Spelman College, announced that transgender women will now be considered for admission at Spelman College for the 2018-2019 school year.  Spelman College attracts hundreds of female applicants, including myself, because of its principles of community, diversity, acceptance ,and sisterhood. But as I prepare my application, desperately hoping for admission to this sisterhood, I can’t say that I thought transgender woman would be hoping for the exact same thing.

To my surprise, Spelman College is not the first female college or historically black female college to open its doors to transgender women. Smith College, Barnard College, and Bennett College are a few of the progressive colleges to make this change. Despite these changes, transgender women, especially those of color, remain a leading target of transphobic violence and isolation across college campuses. I’m glad Spelman recognized their responsibility to protect and educate all women of color and fulfilled their obligation by making this change.

Not everyone supports Spelman’s new policy, especially in the black community. Some question why black womanhood should be shared with a “non-woman”, while other wonder whether Spelman’s traditions, built on sisterhood, will continue as Spelman’s narrative evolves.

Critics of this new policy fail to recognize the right that trans women have to learn wherever they please. And, because of this, they don’t understand the principles Spelman stands for. They don’t understand that Spelman’s sisterhood is strong enough to combat transphobia, love and welcome trans women as their sisters, and redefine society’s outdated definition of sisterhood.

“I’m not a writer!” by Madi Hart

I’ve written short stories since I was a little girl. I try to write poetry on nights where I feel artificially inspired, trying to become someone who I’m not and develop skills I don’t have so that I can attempt to grasp who I am. I wrote a forty page (8.5×11) single-spaced fan fiction about Niall Horan (One Direction, may they solo artist in peace) in sixth grade. I wrote (and rewrote) book reports for ELA. I’m writing my Extended Essay. I write Internal Assessments. I write emails, letters, text messages, journals, blog posts, cover letters, and resumes. Sometimes when I’m trying to sort out my thoughts on a rainy Monday afternoon, I write about my feelings. But when my Spanish teacher asked my class today if any of us were writers, I sheepishly replied, “Eh, I guess.” What is a writer? One that writes. What do I do? Write. A lot. So why am I not giving myself credit? Why do I sell myself short, especially in an area where I usually excel? I’m afraid. I’m afraid of “She calls herself a writer?!”‘s and “Just because you can put a few sentences together doesn’t mean you’re a writer.”‘s. I’m afraid of finding something else I’m passionate about, writing less, and people preferring the person that we thought I was to the person that I could become. I’m afraid of being tied down to something that I could lose.

I guess I’ve figured up until now that unless I label myself as something, people won’t label me as such. But, why does it matter? Why should my fears inhibit me from applying for scholarships that require good writers? From being proud of myself for stringing a few poetic words together? From expressing my dizzying thoughts in neat little lines on crisp white paper? I shouldn’t.
Welcome to the Shaker Writing Center blog. I’m Madi Hart, and I’m a writer.

A Plea to all the Dreamers by Isabela Carroll

A Plea to all the Dreamers

I re-watched the film Amelie (directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet) recently and after the film this one line kept repeating in my mind,

Times are hard for Dreamers

The more I think about this quote the more I see its reflection in the world. To be a dreamer is to be a fool, because only a dreamer can still have hope after they’ve been kicked down again and again. Everyone in some way is a dreamer. Simple things suffice, like keeping sweets in your pocket for a quick boost, listening to music on your walks, or covering your paper in doodles. To be a dreamer is to escape, to hold a secret hope so close that it keeps you safe when the world feels like a dark sheet closing in around you.  We are all just hanging by a small thread, with politics and natural disasters and faulty relationships and deadlines, each time our optimism slips.

Now more than ever we need some hope to hold on to.

So to all the dreamers I plea, ignore the instances that tell you its all over.  Hold tight on to the sweets in your pocket, the headphones in your ears, and the pen in your hand.  These are the twinkles of light that make the world a little brighter.