Stress Fracture by Jake Lehner

In the summer before my junior year, I took a two-week long Spanish-immersion trip to Chile. Thomas Jefferson High School, where my peers and I spent our days conversing with the students and sitting in on lectures, happened to have a basketball court. I excitedly asked my host student, René, if anyone really uses the court, to which he replied “no.” My lips curved into a half-smile as I acknowledged the inevitability that I would soon be teaching my new classmates how to run five-on-five. What I couldn’t acknowledge at the time, however, was that I would fall and break my arm five minutes after I began playing. After a fit of moaning, I was rushed to the nearest emergency room by a few of the chaperones, along with the principal of the school. On my first day at Thomas Jefferson High School, halfway across the world, I just had to break my arm—playing pickup basketball. To be fair, I was incredibly lucky to have broken my arm in a country with universal healthcare. Besides, what else could the defense do to stop me from dropping fifty points other than to break my arm?

Why do I continue to express my love for a sport which certainly doesn’t love me back? Maybe it’s the way the seams of the ball feel when I grip them. Maybe it’s the look of devastation on the defender’s face when I sink a shot (a rare occurrence). Or, maybe it’s the freedom that the game warrants. See, basketball, in my eyes, is more than just a game; it’s a reminder of my own free-will. When the ball is inbounded in a game of scrimmage, the receiving player may initiate any one of an infinite number of offensive schemes. Pick-and-roll, pinch-post, motion offense, fast-break, isolation, triangle, pick-and-pop with a cherry-on-top (maybe I made up that last part), you name it; they are free to explore any one of the infinitesimal avenues of offensive play. Basketball serves to remind me that I shall live my life deliberately.

It’s REALLY Not a Diary by Harlan Friedman-Romell





This won’t make a whole lot of sense without reading my last blog; you can find it here.

Hi, me again. Mr. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Get your laughs out now, folks, cause you’re in for a wild ride.

Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a simple, coming-of-age tale that highlights a basic message: be true to yourself and others. We follow Greg Heffley (a sly Zachary Gordon) and his best friend Rowley Jefferson (an adorable Robert Capron) through their preadolescent adventures as sixth graders in middle school. Throughout the year, the very fabric of their fraying friendship is tested through broken limbs, Safety Patrol betrayals, and the Cheese Touch debacle. Although Greg and Rowley’s friendship remains the focus of the dramatic conflict, various secondary characters pop in and out of the story to enrich the world of the film.

Admittedly, if you look at the characters as vehicles to reinforce the message and the scenarios purely as comedic gags, there’s not a whole lot of substance beyond what is directly given. On paper, the book is a comedy aimed at young kids. But, if you look a little deeper, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film is a bitingly satirical social critique of the suburban American lifestyle.

First off, A little background on our protagonist is necessary, wouldn’t you agree?

We, as viewers, experience the story from Greg’s point of view. Greg Heffley hails from the idyllic and affluent white suburb of Plainview in Middle America. Magnificent Dutch Colonials and Tudors line the streets while his parents fall into the stereotypical gender roles common throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Dad (Frank) is on the classic 9-5 grind, while mom (Susan) stays at home with Greg’s younger brother, Manny. The Heffleys are clearly an archetype for the typical American family: a mom, a dad, two kids, and a pet (Manny). However, the Heffley’s are anything but typical; they are dysfunctional, immoral, and self-centered. Frank is solely absorbed in his Civil War reenactments and miniatures, Susan coddles Manny—a huge snitch—while neglecting her other two children, and Rodrick does everything in his power to constantly bully and beleaguer Greg.

So, where does that leave our protagonist? How does Greg deal with all of this? Is he diamond in the rough? Has he any sense of decency?

The answer is a resounding no.

In short, Greg sucks. He is conceited, judgmental, and a pathological liar. Greg obsesses over the fabled number one spot on his self-imposed “Popularity Meter” to an unhealthy degree, tries to change his only friend, Rowley, because he isn’t ‘cool enough,’ and repeatedly lies to his parents, teachers, and peers.

However, that’s the main reason this movie works.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid works because Greg is a dick. So many child protagonists are flawless angels, constantly outsmarting the dimwitted adults and speaking with the vernacular of a 40-year-old white guy (the average Hollywood screenwriter). Not Greg. He’s not precocious, he’s not smart, in fact he’s not even a good person.

“How can we identify and root for a whiny kid?” you ask. “This character must be likeable and compelling for me to watch.”

I raise you this. The opening lines of the film, slightly altered from the novel in a few key ways, reads as follows:

Okay, first of all, let me get something straight: this is a JOURNAL, not a diary. Right, I know what it says on the cover, but when mom went out to buy this thing I TOLD her not to get me a book that said “diary” on it. This just proves Mom doesn’t know anything. If I walk into my first day of middle school carrying this book around, I might as well be wearing a sign that says ‘punch me!’

Okay, so what do we know? Greg is a whiny brat, sure, but what else? We know that Greg is nervous about being bullied at middle school for his ‘journal,’ but we also know that Greg has a strained relationship with his mother, evident when he insults her intelligence. Could we say, mayhap, Greg uses humor and sarcasm to mask his insecurities? Does he lack the ability to commit to loving relationships with his close family and friends?

I think so.

Right there, we’ve already outlined his character in the first thirty seconds. Greg starts out Diary of a Wimpy Kid as a wimpy kid, both physically and emotionally. He’s trapped in this artificial, agonizing existence as a middle schooler, constantly tormented by the mundanity and cruelty of his family and peers.

However, he shall be tormented no longer; Greg is on his hero’s journey. Just as the opening credits roll, we can easily imagine what he will learn over the course of his sixth grade. Communication. Honesty. Integrity. Friendship. After all, this was intended to be a kids movie.

And, by adopting a traditional arc-driven structure as opposed to the vignette-ish musings of the original novel, we begin to care. The novel was simple. Dry. Emotionless. We don’t want to see Greg throw his life away at the ripe old age of twelve, and we need someone to make us feel that.

Beyond Greg and his family, One of the strongest assets that highlights film’s profound subtext lies within the development of the ensemble of rich, complex characters that enliven the story. We spend a lot of time exploring the dynamic of the Heffley family, specifically one powerful scene that deals with Rodrick’s pornography addiction and the social consequences of his plight. However, whether delving deep into secondary character traits such as Rowley’s latent homosexual tendencies, Fregley’s behavioral challenges, or Patty’s abuse of white entitlement, the film expands on the typical tropes found in teen movies with terrific subtlety. I don’t have the time to go in-depth regarding the the blatant stereotyping of Chirag Gupta, the sole minority character in the entire film, assuming the ‘Magical Colored Person’ role. This movie is so much more nuanced and envelope pushing than people give it credit for.

The 2010 film wasn’t well received by any measure; it currently sits at a mediocre 53% rotten critic rating on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, the audience rating score even worse at 49%. I can’t help but wonder why! I think people need to give it another chance.

Visually, it’s a bright, zippy, energetic adventure that manages to capture the cliched goings-on of middle school with sardonic aplomb. The whole thing is deliberately larger than life, which plays so well for a story of this caliber. The plucky child actors give it their all, and the mix of mid-2000s tunes underscoring Greg’s antics matches the tone perfectly. The script and characters are chock full of subtext and idiosyncrasies, ultimately making for a complete cinematic experience.

We’ve got a long break coming up. So, if you find the time, sit down with the family, make yourselves comfortable, and watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You won’t regret it. I promise.

At least it won’t be as bad as getting the Cheese Touch.

Survivor: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast by Grace Meyer

Welcome to Survivor.

Wanna know what you’re playing for?

Lies, backstabbing, and hunger.

What could go wrong?

Survivor is a reality tv show where twenty four contestants compete for the 1 million dollar prize and the title of Soul Survivor. But just like the title suggests, they all need to survive the elements with a lack of resources– especially food. Imagine living on an island with complete strangers, with a cup of rice per day, and without a single trace of technology. From day one, you and your tribe have to fend for food, make shelter and provide for yourselves.

In addition, alliances are formed right off the bat. If you don’t make connections with your fellow tribe mates at the start, that can instantly make you a target. If you make a move too early, you become a target. If you don’t make any moves at all, you won’t have a chance at winning. Survivor is more mental than physical in most cases. No one knows who to trust and arrogance is a weakness. Safety is an illusion and is never certain.

Unless you have an immunity idol, that is. The only way to guarantee your safety in the game is to have an idol in your pocket or around your neck. You can earn them by finding a hidden one around the island or winning an immunity challenge. But I’m getting ahead of myself. During the day, there are two types of challenges: reward and immunity.

Towards the start of the game, the twenty four contestants are split into three or four tribes. They compete for rewards like food, comfort, fishing gear and flint. The challenges determine their physical and mental strength as the majority of them entail lifting heavy objects and solving puzzles. As always, not everyone can win, and you have to earn it. In immunity challenges, they compete for a chance to stay away from tribal council for one night.

Tribal council is what all contestants want to avoid at all costs. Each week when the show airs, one person is voted out and loses their chance of winning. If you don’t have to go to tribal council, you won’t get voted out. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

Like I said before, safety isn’t guaranteed. Everything you say can be used against you, and blindsides can happen any time. Outwit, outplay and outlast, and you might have a shot at the title.

Just don’t get voted out.

Nuanced Narration by Josh Skubby

Image result for huckleberry finnWhen reading fiction, a special bond forms between the reader and the narrator. We engage with the constructed world as though we are a character in the story. It fosters emotional connection and drives the plot forward. We’re all familiar with first person narration. Most works of fiction utilize the style, from classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to contemporary novels such as The Hunger Games.

It’s a simple narrative technique and doesn’t seem to contain any particular flair or pomp beyond the events of the story. Writing in first person is a natural extension of human discussion. At its most basic, it is a recounting of events, like an old friend telling you about their weekend.

As a result of its reliability, writers use first person constantly. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just makes it harder for one particular work to stand out from the pack.

Good writers use narration to deliver their stories. Great writers use narration to enhance their stories. There are 3 novels I shall discuss that particularly demonstrate the impact that narrators have on the writing they deliver.

(Spoilers follow. Tread carefully)

Earlier I mentioned the casual nature of first person. Mark Twain highlights this feature in the aforementioned Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn’s command of language is weak. His grammatical conventions are inconsistent and his syntax is juvenile. However, these imperfections serve a distinct purpose. Not only do we see Huck’s adventures through his eyes, but we hear it through his voice. He’s naive, young, poor and simplistic. And it shows. He reminisces about past schemes, and crudely comments on his experiences. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn surrounds the reader with Huck’s thoughts.

It’s textbook first person. Huckleberry Finn is the story-teller through and through. Twain sought to illuminate the experience of a boy coasting down the Mississippi River. Morally, he is torn between helping Jim, or returning him to Miss Watson. Having access to Huck’s inner thoughts illuminates this dilemma. The reader’s literary experience lurches with the current of Huck’s conscious. We are effectively pulled down the Mississippi on the same raft as Huckleberry Finn and Jim, subject to all its twists and turns, as frightening and exciting as they may be.

My personal favorite novel, The Great Gatsby, goes in a slightly different direction. Nick Carraway generally lacks passion and personality. He routinely plays second fiddle to the larger-than-life Jay Gatsby and lacks Tom Buchanan’s arrogant and bombastic nature. Nick really isn’t the central character of his own universe. Frankly, he doesn’t have to be. His relative indifference illuminates Gatsby as a grandiose and mystical figure.

The other components of Fitzgerald’s novel make up for Nick’s comparative dullness. He’s perceptive enough to let others shine, and other characters often trust him enough to share some of the saucier elements of their personal lives. By making Nick the narrator, Fitzgerald treats the reader to a personal story without compromising Gatsby’s mystery. Nick isn’t the one that’s Great, but part of Gatsby’s greatness comes from his indulgent facade.

All we learn about Gatsby comes directly from Nick’s observations and experiences. This style distances the reader from the book’s wealthy and sultry namesake. Even as Gatsby’s closest confidant, Nick doesn’t entirely understand what makes him tick. At times the reader gets the impression Gatsby isn’t in control of himself. When he meets up with Daisy in Nick’s home, Gatsby is disorganized and nervous. He fiddles incessantly and contemplates abandoning the whole ordeal. Throughout the novel, the reader isn’t quite sure why Gatsby does the things he does. He constantly says “old sport” and accepts blame for Daisy’s vehicular incident. The reader and Nick can infer Gatsby’s intentions and motives, but there is a clear wall between the story being presented and the mind of the cryptic metropolitan.

I do not like George Orwell’s 1984. I think it’s profoundly dull, sounding less like a story and more like a manifesto-in-denial. But even I must admit Orwell employs a deeply engaging narrative style. 1984 is deeply personal, depicting Winston Smith’s thoughts and struggles in a repressive society. Throughout the book, we are constantly informed of what Winston knows to be true.

At least, what he thinks he knows to be true.

While the two books I mentioned prior featured first person narrator-reader interactions, 1984 includes no such thing. The story is narrated in third person limited, so Winston never directly communicates with the audience like Huck or Nick. But instead of sounding cold and detached, the novel brings us directly into Winston’s mind in a strange, roundabout way.

The narrator’s diction is absolute. They don’t simply relay Winston’s thoughts to the reader, they relay his conviction. When Winston is particularly sure of some Party plot, the narrator mirrors his certainty. Phrases like “Winston confidently thought X”  are replaced by “He was sure of X. It was so obvious, anyone paying attention would know within an instant.” Such language slowly molds the reader’s worldview to fit Winston’s. The narrator undermines the unfortunate truth facing Winston, instead bolstering his (often incorrect) judgments about the nature of his life. By the book’s conclusion, it is painfully obvious that Winston has been actively and persistently deceived.  As Winston’s taste of freedom is ripped from his hands, the reader learns he was never as safe as he thought. Orwell presents a narrator who is deeply attached to the protagonist. This narrator is untrustworthy not because they are dishonest, but because they cling to a character who is wrong.

Narration profoundly impacts every work of fiction. Deliberate and conscious decisions ensure a novel’s narrator will actively contribute to the story’s literary value. In the case of theses 3 books, the authors turn a seemingly simple decision into a profound tool to subtly enhance their writings. So the next time any of you indulge in writing fiction, take a moment and think; Who should tell my story?

That’s Enough for Me by Isabela Ponce de Leon


From the airplane window, I see the island of Puerto Rico rapidly approaching. Another summer going to what most would consider a vacation spot, but for me, it’s home. I make the trip to Puerto Rico by myself for the first time. I’m nervous, but I won’t let my confidence falter.

Puerto Ricans view me as a tourist. Unknown to them, my Puerto Rican roots run deep. However, I am no longer comfortable and confident on the island. I’ve become an outsider, alone for the first time, surrounded by people who look at me with animosity.

Throughout the summer I realized that I would never be accepted as a “true” Puerto Rican. I questioned whether I was losing myself. Why are they unwilling to accept me as one of their own? What gives these strangers the right to decide who I am?

My life is a mixture of two cultures. I have a home and family in Puerto Rico as well as in Cleveland. I will never be able to identify with only one culture and neither culture will ever fully accept me. Why did I ever allow strangers’ judgments to define me? Now, as a young woman, I refuse to change a single aspect of who I am. I’ve chosen to embrace both aspects of my unique and diverse self so that, no matter where I go or who I meet, people’s only choice will be to view me as the proud, young Hispanic-American woman that I am.

The Strong One by Molly Spring

In times of tragedy and strife,

I flip a switch inside of me.

I become the strong one,

I put on my mask,

attempting to put the well-being of others before mine.


I disregard my own feelings for the time being,

just so i can make others feel okay.

I bottle up every emotion inside of me,

all for what?


It happens every time.

I never know when to draw the line,

and consider the validity of how i’m feeling.


Just because i cope in different ways,

doesn’t mean my emotions are any less important or valid.


I never take a step back and breathe deeply,

I make myself the strong one.

Paper Cranes by Abigail Beard

Image result for paper crane As a child, I was a connoisseur of all things crafty. I would take trips to Michaels, grabbing whatever caught my eye at the moment, throwing them into the little shopping basket and, in turn, zapping my father’s bank account (I must have spent at least a hundred dollars on craft supplies and materials). I did everything: crocheting, collaging, sketching, sewing, photographing, t-shirt designing, stamping, painting, etc. I thought I had versed myself on every craft on the planet until my mother and I walked into the unassuming book store and my life changed.

You know that feeling when you know that something is destined to happen? That happened  when I saw the thick binder of origami figures sitting on the shelf, waiting for me to take it. In my eyes, origami was going to be the hobby to end all hobbies. Origami was the one craft that I was going to do for the rest of my life.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t last for the rest of my life. I kept up folding for a solid 4 months before I moved on to the next activity. I would occasionally pick up the book on off days from school, telling myself that maybe I would start folding again. My folding inspiration would last a day, then I would re-shelve the book and leave it there for another month or two.

It was only in high school that I began to fold again. This time around, I focused on one figure: the paper crane. Ironically, paper cranes were one of the figures I hated most because of a confusing intermediate step. It took me years of frustration and then one day, it just clicked. After that, folding the crane was a breeze.

For me, paper cranes were a gift. They one: looked so peaceful, two: were easy to fold once I got the general routine down, and three: were something to do with my hands when anxiety struck. I would fold in class or at work-anytime I got bored.

I still fold today to ease tension and give my hands something to do. Paper folding hasn’t just given me a new hobby, it’s given me a new goal: fold 1000 paper cranes. There’s a legend that says that if you fold 1000 cranes, you can have a wish granted. I only have 50 so far but a start is a start.

Slipping into an Echo by Bronwyn Warnock




through the cracks, like water

nothing meant anything

happiness was handed to me

in late night hugs and movies

coming back, words were handed like daggers

stabbing deep

it all started from slipping away



no more slipping

coming back meant so much more

and you can’t slip when you’ve already fallen

those words don’t hurt anymore

they’re only an echo in my past









The Writing Anxiety of a Writing Intern by Ava Byrne

 I have something to confess…up until this year I had excruciatingly bad writing anxiety. I wish I could tell you why this started, but all I know is that it reared it’s ugly, sweat-inducing head the very beginning of my sophomore year. Writing essays, I felt like I was in a fog. I could focus sentence by sentence but I wasn’t able to see the full picture of my essay. I felt like I was writing blind and I’d panic because of that. I hated this feeling so much that my unhealthy coping mechanism of choice was avoidance.

I was so afraid to start essays that I would avoid them to the very last minute until I was forced to deal with them. Of course, this fear-induced procrastination coupled with the writing anxiety only made me more anxious. Let me tell you from first hand experience that trying to write an essay the night before it’s due with writing anxiety feels like you’re a flaming ball of panic racing off the side of a cliff into a pit of despair.  I finally decided it was time for a change after I ended up avoiding the very first essay of my junior year to the point of turning it in a month later. To help me get over my anxiety, I enlisted the help of my freshman year English teacher/mentor. I worked with her after school to create strategies to combat the anxiety and when I did have an essay, we broke the work into chunks so I could do a little bit of it at a time. I would come to her when I felt like I couldn’t start and she’d help me get over my initial fear until I wrote something.

Today, I’m over my anxiety. Even if I do start to feel that familiar hum of anxiety (which happens occasionally), I know I have the tools to handle it, and to help others handle it as well.

Adaptation by Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells

you have
stolen my breath,
you have broken in
to my lungs and
bagged it up.
gone before I could say
thank you.

crackling, they shatter.
ten million tiny pieces of
now it will be easy to tell if
he was a smoker.

but no matter,
my heart can
hold my breath.
my liver could, too, you know,
in a pinch.

i’ll get along just fine,
thank you.