The writers tale

The writer’s tale

While most of the school practices creative writing in English class, there are several students who pursue writing for fun. Seniors Hannah Wiles, Erin Selinger, and  junior Andrew Mills practice their craft as ELP projects, online challenges, and coffee house poetry slams, trying to express their own unique perspectives through language.

“If you have a passing interest in something like this,” Mills said, “just try working at it, and maybe it will spark a passion. Two years ago, I never thought I would be this into poetry, but I was wrong.”

Hannah Wiles, wise with words

For senior Hannah Wiles, writing is about word choice. Her model author, Edgar Allan Poe, was noted for his large vocabulary, and she is similarly obsessed.

“It’s always a challenge getting a balance between description and action,” Wiles said. “I really want it to be focused on language, but I don’t want people to think of it as a thesaurus. You can’t just use happy, or green. There’s so many words out there. The word is so much more than just the word, it’s what the word means, what it entails.”

Wiles has unique process of inspiration. “There’s a creek near my house. I like to go out there with a notebook and describe things, what I see, what I hear,” she said. “Most of it doesn’t go into actual work, but it sort of inspires it. For instance, going backpacking in the mountains really impacted my writing.”

Wiles has been writing since grade school, where she began a novel, completed over a few years.

“In first grade I started a 160-page novel,” Wiles said. “It’s horrible. But I did finish it.”

She notes specifically how she finished that first novel, something she struggles with while writing. Her writing often starts well, but loses focus and lies incomplete for a while.

“My ambition is always a bit more than my dedication,” she said.

Nevertheless, she is pleased with how her writing turns out. For her, writing is an extension of her thought process, revealing herself on the page. As such, she is often hesitant to share her writing with others.

“I have a circle of friends I allow to edit, on the condition that they don’t judge it,” she said. “Writing is one of the most personal forms of expression, and a critique on writing is a critique on yourself.”

Wiles plans to double major in creative writing and psychology at Coe College in the fall, after visiting the writing center there. Psychology is only her back-up plan though, as her main goal is to write for a living.

“I want to be the best, but you can’t really do that, since it’s qualitative,” she said. “That’s why you have to draw on so many facets.”

Read Wiles’ excerpt from The River of Sorrel here.


Erin Selinger, creator of worlds

Senior Erin Selinger likes to write because of the creative freedom it allows. Much of what she writes has a fantasy or sci-fi slant to it.

“For the most part, my ideas come to me through me just spacing out,” Selinger said. “I kind of have a permanent residency in la la land. Usually, I flesh my ideas out in my head and then just write without much of a written plan, like how I have a world and characters I’ve been working on for almost four years now, but I no longer know how to start it. It’s not really writer’s block. If I ever sit down and figure out a good plot to drive the story, it would probably end up being something of epic.”

Selinger has been writing seriously since eighth grade, when she started considering becoming an author.

“I guess I started writing because of my brother,” she said. “He said he wanted to be a professional writer, so it was sort of me just looking up to him. The reason why I still write now is because I enjoy it, creating worlds or universes or whatever and just letting my imagination flow.”

Selinger believes a writing major is not entirely necessary for becoming a successful author. She plans on studying computer science next year, although she would like to be a professional writer.

The writing process has not been very lonely, especially since this January, when Selinger joined with seniors Sindhu Gollapudi and Leanna McAllister in a collaboration project. Using a random number generator, they created a schedule. On their days, each author would write 1,000 words, then pass the document along. They would not discuss the plot, and could only follow what the others had previously written. Selinger was selected for day one, and they have been going for three weeks now.

“It’s been a blast,” Gollapudi said. “I’ve never done anything this big before; it’s scary, but fun at the same time.  I had written a character, and Leanna took her and gave her ‘wham’ moments, made her much more real. Things like that happen way more than we expect. I’ve learned about their writing, and about my own. Every other author should do something like this.”

The collaboration has been put on hold for the month of April, due to time constraints, but the collaborators plan to see it through to the end over the summer. The break does not mean the writing will stop though, as Gollapudi is working on fanfiction (a genre that uses characters from popular books and shows and re-imagines them as new stories), as the other two participate in Script Frenzy.

Script Frenzy was an online community that challenged each member to complete a 100-page script by the end of the month in April. Although the online community is no longer active this year (due to lack of funding), Selinger is joining McAllister, her fellow collaborator, in their own version. Last year, Selinger participated, and found it a much greater challenge than expected.

“It was bad, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I wish it was written on paper, so I could burn it. I didn’t have a plot, or any idea how to write a script. I’m doing it again this year though, with hopefully more success.”



Andrew Mills, passionate about poetry

Junior Andrew Mills started writing poetry last year as a part of his ELP project. He began by writing an epic poem (a lengthy narrative in the oral poetry tradition), later broadening to different styles. This semester, he is focusing on free verse and performance.

“I’ve always been pretty comfortable getting up to perform in front of people,” Mills said. “It was pretty nerve wracking the first few times, but now I’ve gotten used to it and just have fun with it. Before I perform in front of a crowd, I try it out in front of my family and friends. I think I handle criticism well. I take it all in stride.”

When writing, he only goes through one or two revisions, preferring  to get it right the first time.

“I’ll focus on a single line for half an hour, just to get it right,” he said.

English teacher Ed Walker helps edit Mills’ poetry, although Walker says Mills was already doing fine before the mentoring.

“Andrew came in and asked for help on his performance poetry,” Walker said. “I told him I would do what I could. To be honest, I don’t think he needed much help. The pieces are pretty much in final form, and his performance of them is well advanced.”

Mills decided to perform his poetry for the winter talent show, and was surprised when he won the show.

“That was the most nervous I’ve ever been in front of a crowd, but the positive response I got was great,” he said. “I thought the talent show would be a great jumping off point. I considered (poetry) a talent, so I signed up and had fun doing it.”

Next year, Mills plans on taking a college-level poetry class, to see if it sparks his interest.

“Careers in the arts are always risky,” he said. “I’m just trying to see where my interests take me.”

Read Mills’ poem “My Voice” here.


Hear junior Andrew Mills perform his “My Voice” at a poetry slam night at Java Joe’s.

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