Friday, April 28, 2017

"Waiting" by Smurph

Here I sit, if you please
Waiting for my slice of cheese
I am waiting, as I must
Waiting to consume some crust
Possibly I’ll take a loss
If I do not get my sauce
All other food appears like prawns
Compar├ęd to my Papa John’s
Nothing else do I want, only
To enjoy some pepperoni
My disappointment starts to rise
As I dream about my pies.
Surely if I keep on strong
My food will promptly come along--
So here I am, and here I wait

For pizza soon to grace my plate.

"Who Cares About Writing?" by Phosphorescent

How is that authors are always able to write without getting tired. Years of crafting precise sentences in coffee shops accompanied by endless nights of typing. If people find printing essays difficult, imagine how authors of the 17th century felt. Not only did they have to handwrite with authentic ink, but they were also perpetuated to find reliable methods to transfer their work. Considering that the 17th century lacked resources such as email, to easily transfer their work; google drive, to prevent authors from losing their work; and, to ensure their work isn’t plagiarized by others, it was difficult to preserve and profit off of writing; however, writers persevered through it. No obstacle was enough of a blockade to these aspiring writers. This phenomenon can be seen transcending all the way to the 21st century. Writers no longer face the same dangers and circumstances as they did in the 17th century due to the advancement of technology.

Technology has allowed for more writers to not only have jobs, but to become genuine authors. For example, there is a large market for writers in the science department. Engineering requires writers to make procedures for their products, whilst Chemistry demands writers to develop coherent labs. Businesses require writers to develop eye-catching advertisements, while the film industry requires writers to make entertaining plots, characters, and stories that motivate and influence society to make the right decisions. Yes you heard that right, well technically you read that right: Writers help society make the right decisions.

Why do students study literature from the 17th century? While it might be due to the fact that your teacher is evil, it’s mostly to demonstrate how a piece of writing could influence a society to an elysian degree. This idea can even be translated to television and movies, which both can be easily translated as a 21st-century take on allegories. All of those Batman movies were really just subliminally teaching you moral lessons. Think about it this way, an adolescent born with opportunity has to grow up alone, coping with loss. All that anger, yet Bruce still fights for justice in Gotham. If that isn’t a moral lesson, then Christian Bale isn’t the best Batman. This advancement of technology has allowed writing to become an art that can be mastered, even if an individual does not wish to become an English major or author.

Just because you might find yourself reading a boring book about a telepathic ape named Ishmael doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Even a book about rabbits fighting (cough Watership down cough) should be acknowledged to own an important moral lesson. It’s up to 21st century writers to take advantage of the opportunity we have, the opportunity that generations of writers did not have due to the lack of technology and motivation. The ability to write without the risks and burdens of the 17th century, the ability to write with freedom and pride. Every piece of writing has a meaning and it’s our duty as humans to honor these themes throughout our lifetimes, to ensure that they remain relevant for several more generations, several more centuries, and several more civilizations in order to uphold our modern morals in the future; to ensure that humanity as a whole advances in the right direction.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Irrational Fears" by emily_fairy1432

I woke up and stared at the glowing stars stuck to my ceiling. Those glow in the dark sticker things were probably the best things to ever happen to me; they make me feel so safe and so at ease which is extremely important in my own home. The longer I laid in silence staring at the ceiling, the more and more frightened I got. I could faintly make out the shapes of the small Winnie the Pooh figures that were plastered on my bright yellow wall. Anyone who even took a small glance into my room could immediately tell I was a fan of the little yellow bear and his many friends. The stuffed animals of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore were scattered all over  my room and I got increasingly more and more mad at myself as I realized I hadn’t remembered to take any of them up to bed with  me that night. I had a loft bed with a ladder on one side to get up and a slide on the other side to get down, so I couldn’t just hop out of bed and look for them. Even if I could, I’d be too scared. I never told anyone that the dark was my biggest fear because I thought if any of my friends knew, they’d make fun of me. They just wouldn’t understand. It’s not the dark itself, but it’s the thought of what’s in the dark that I can’t see. What if someone is hiding and I can’t see them? Or, better yet, what if someTHING is hiding and I can’t see IT? It’s terrifying and others should be able to see that too. After about ten minutes of pure terror went by, I couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed Flatso, my favorite stuffed dog since I was 2 years old, slid down my slide, and full on sprinted to my parents’ room.  Usually they slept apart because my dad snored so loud to the point that you could hear it from the other side of the house. Tonight, however, they were together, which was perfect for me because that meant I got both of them to make me feel better. I ran in their room and immediately shook my mom awake. She knew exactly why I was there as I had done it every night since I had my own room in the first place and responded with a simple, “oh get in”.  Those words were just music to me ears and without any hesitation, I did exactly as she said. I hopped into their bed right in between my mom and my dad and turned on the TV for some light. It was a very comforting routine until the next morning when my mom would tell me it’s a habit I need to kick. Being scared of the dark isn’t something I can just “get rid of”. That’s not how fears work mom. Anyways, this comfort routine continued until I was in 5th grade, yes, I know. But why is this all important you ask? Well, because to this day, I’m still scared of the dark and the amount of times I wish it was still acceptable to run into my mommy’s room and climb into bed with her is just embarrassing.

"SAT: Why was it so bad?" by John Doe

Standardized tests are always a thorn in the test taker’s side. They are another glorious moment in any student’s life, Though many tests are somewhat tame, the vast majority of standardized tests pale in comparison to the hellish experience that is the SAT: the mothership of tests.

Though the exam itself was not particularly difficult on its own, the anticipation was the deal breaker. The moments before each section were marked with an air of fear and anxiety, each participant gasping for air before plunging once more into the cold depths of the “A”s, “B”s, “C”s, “D”s, and “E”s of the Scantron sheets. My prior conceptions about the test clouded the information placed before me, the questions twisting into complicated patterns and perplexing figures of bleak statistics about some new scientific discovery.

At some point, your mind just goes blank. You get tired of answering questions, the massive weight of the world pressing down upon your pencil as you struggle to allot sufficient energy to darken the circle of the Scantron paper. Once reaching this point, there is no going back. Your mind is adrift, focused on the bus outside or the birds flying outside the window. The train of the thought has left the station and crashed immediately.

If, by some miracle, you have the inherent ability to retain your focus, the test becomes immensely more difficult. From trying to recall information on math problems that you haven’t used in years to some obscene grammar rule that Dr.Hull scolded you about on the previous week, the challenges have just began once you sit down to begin the SAT.

Nothing and everything can go wrong once you open up the test booklet. It is truly an adventure, though not one worth going on multiple times. The atmosphere of test taking was the defining factor that keeps you looking at a mirage, keeps you bound to your seat in fear of
failure, or keeps you frozen with doubt in your abilities as a student. One of the most life-changing moments in a high school student’s life is certainly also one of the worst.

Looking back on the SAT experience, it was nothing you can describe. The mental gridlock is unfathomable, and the test unforgettable. No metaphor can truly illustrate the dismay that one faces upon finishing such a grueling challenge. No class can prepare you for it, the SAT is a test worthy of an epic hero, awaiting to be slain by a No.2 pencil.

"'There is Still Fear and Insecurity that Hide in the Blank Sheet Paper': Reflections on How Tutoring and Writing Have Influenced My Architectural Design Process" by HWC Alum Emma Gallagher

HWC Alum Emma Gallagher ('16) tutored in the HWC from 2013-2016. Emma wrote this essay for a class at Virginia Tech, where she now studies Architecture.

My three years as a tutor in the Herndon Writing Center have helped me more than I could imagine being an architecture major at Virginia Tech. In high school, I decided to take Advanced Compostion for many reasons: I wanted to help people; I’m (comparatively) good at writing; it would look good on a resume; I liked my classmates and my teachers. One reason that I wasn’t thinking of as I checked the box for Advanced Composition each year was that the skills I learned in this class would be applicable to my studies and life as an architect. I learned way more from just that one class than I ever thought that I would.

The writing process is one of the biggest focal points of the course. We spent the whole year not only reading about and experiencing the writing process, but teaching it to other students. In Advanced Composition we used this process only in writing. However, I have been using that process every day in my studies of architecture.

Each year on one of the first days of class we read “Madman, Carpenter, Architect, Judge” by Betty S. Flowers. The article talks about being able to just write before writing well. She emphasizes the process of the writing and recognized that that process is integral to the final product. The acceptance of bad ideas, sentences or paragraphs can help the writing overall. It’s okay to cut entire pages out if they aren’t beneficial to the purpose of the piece. Moving on and learning from mistakes are essential in creating quality work. If mistakes in the writing can be accepted and transformed, then they can even be helpful to the final product.

Learning about not only acceptance of mistakes but the process of getting over failures and moving on from them in a positive direction has helped me in the design process every day. Without process, it can be hard to start any project. At times, I feel that a bad drawing can mean so much more than a bad sentence, especially when I worry that my future learning for my college degree and eventual profession is going to be built on the learning that stems from that specific project. There is still fear and insecurity that hides in the blank sheet paper. Many of my first ideas seem to be lacking direction or don’t answer questions that I wished they would. It’s hard to accept that the project that I just spent all day creating didn’t achieve the goals I had set for it. Even in the face of discouragement, I’ve found that being too hard on myself slows the design process and hinders the development and advancement of my ideas. I can move on because of the lessons about process I learned and taught while I was a writing tutor. Being in the Herndon Writing Center helped me understand that failure is common and acceptable, but one misstep doesn’t amount to an overall lack of success. My time as a tutor also showed me how important process really is. The first step to a successful final product is often failure.

Going back to a project after a break often leads me to be able to look at it analytically. I can find where it went wrong and what it accomplished. I use those assessments to cut out the things that didn’t work (carpenter), build up the ideas that were beneficial to my idea (architect) and make sure that all the technicalities of the project (does it fit the size/material requirement, is the construction clean and stable, etc.) are met (judge).

One thing that I haven’t figured out is when the cycle of Madman, Carpenter, Architect, Judge can be stopped. Once everything is clean at the end of a paper or a project, I find that it’s always possible to go back and add to it or change it completely. It’s hard for me to tell when it’s time to put down the pencil and submit the final product. Often, I submit the final product when the deadline comes and I don’t stop developing it a second sooner. Finishing a project is not something that only I struggle with as an architecture and writing student, but that people from all fields struggle with daily.

Another thing that being in the Herndon Writing Center has helped me with is—not surprisingly—the ability to do all types of writing. My sophomore year at Herndon High School we had to write a research paper in Advanced Composition called “writing in the discipline.” Its function was to show that writing is important in every field.  I understood that after I wrote the paper my sophomore year, but I was forcibly reminded of it at the end of my first semester at Virginia Tech. My professor told our class that we would need to describe the depth of our ideas and the months of process involved in just two to three sentences per project for our final portfolio. He wanted us to connect our projects to broad concepts we learned and ideas we pursued while exploring through the project. Without my times as a tutor in the writing center I would have thought that this was impossible, but my experiences gave me the confidence to express myself through writing. I was reminded that sometimes the objects or drawing that I create don’t express every idea I wanted them too. Writing is an important communicator in every situation and profession.

Being in the Herndon Writing Center was a wonderful experience. In high school, it provided me with a good community. It was an interesting class and it was less demanding than my core classes, so I found I could enjoy it more. It helped me develop my communication skills, leadership skills, patience and so many more skills that are necessary in college and in the workplace in addition to my writing and ability to recognize the importance of process. Now that I’m in college, I have been using what I learned in Advanced Composition every day. Being in that class helps me with architecture, and I can see through my relationships with other students I can see that what I have learned is applicable in every field. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"The Care in Carrying" by Betty Rizzo

On nights when my icecream sugar rush plummeted to a crash and the living room TV started to sound like a lullaby, one of my parents would find me curled up on the couch, fast asleep.  Mom or Dad would scoop me up with arms that were strong enough to hold me up yet so gentle that I wouldn't stir; I would only sink further into their embrace as they carried me off to bed.  Maybe there was a little moment of consciousness during the trip from the couch to my bed, though I never remembered the following morning.  Maybe when the stairs creaked under our combined weight, my sleepy eyes would flutter open to look up and see my mom or dad.  But just as fast as I opened them, the radiating warmth of my mother’s chest or the loud and steady beat of my father’s heart would have my eyelids heavy again as they pulled my bed covers up to my chin and kissed me on the forehead.   My dreams were always pleasant on nights like this.  I would wake up in the morning, well-rested but disoriented, wondering how I made it from the couch to my bed.  It was a magical feeling; in my imagination, I pictured myself floating up the stairs and into my room, or sleep walking up there like a zombie.  

Now, when I think back on that surprise of waking up in my bed after having falling asleep on the couch, I think about what it means to care for someone.  It's such a small moment, such a seemingly thoughtless gesture: carrying a loved one to safety.  It seems like common sense when you look at it from a glance.  But it's the act of doing something for someone when they aren't even conscious.  Guiding someone to safety, when they themselves can’t get to safety on their own.  They say your character is built when no one is looking, same goes for committing an act of kindness for someone who you know won’t acknowledge your doing.  So why do it then, if there isn’t any reward or recognition?  For these people, the reward is the liberation of worry they experience knowing that someone they care about is safe and sound. There is care in carrying.

First, caring is a dad taking his daughter up to bed after a long day of fun left her snoozing on the sofa.  Next, it's the girl who’s had too much to drink, the one passed out in the corner of the party.  It’s the boy who waits for everyone to clear out and pushes the hair back from behind her ear, carries her up to room, and leaves a glass of water on her bed side table before heading home.  Not the douchebag jock she was talking to all night, the one who gave her the booze in the first place in the hopes of getting laid.  No, its the boy who knows his gesture will go unnoticed, the one who doesn’t mind that the girl won’t remember his kindness in the morning.  Caring is a son who helps his single mother up to bed after she falls asleep at her desk with her hands still on the keyboard.  Another stressful week at work, he knows how exhausting it is for her to make ends meet.  Caring is an elderly man who, even with his bad hip, insists on carrying his wife upstairs every night so her arthritis won’t act up.  

One day, you might not be a kid anymore and you might not have a person to do your carrying for you.  You might fall asleep on the couch, and wake up in the same place.  It’s a hard reality to wake up to.  It might feel like the magic doesn’t exist anymore.  In the end, you have to care for yourself.  You have to bear that weight and climb those stairs yourself if no one is there to lessen the load.  There is care in carrying.  Where there is care, there is love, there is respect, and there is dependence.  Whether someone is doing your carrying for you or you’re out there on your own, get yourself off that couch and give yourself the comfort and respect you deserve.

"In Cycles" by Hunter Vega

I could try to check myself right now, or I could stop letting them do this to me. Julie is telling me to sit down, she wants me to stop making a scene in front of Theo. She’s wanted to drop me for like the last month.  I’m almost sure she’s sleeping with him already. What does it matter. I’m done with her. She’s been having me watch Girls and keeping me on a leash. I mean, she’s practically had my balls in her hands since we’ve gotten together. And here she goes again, with the darting eyes and cocking head. She always puts on this act in front of people. She says “baby!’ a lot, swinging the second syllable up into screeching registers before letting the word melt into a weird kind of whimper and coaching her blushing face into a mask of saddened surprise. She’ll call me Michael, pretending she knew me before I was just Mike. Invoking my mother’s voice, like she can startle me into being agreeable. The whole thing is a gross display. I’m supposed to duck my head and slink back to her side. Because I’m supposed to be a nice guy. I’m supposed to be sweet or cute, like a kid. I wasn’t supposed to get a girl like her, even though we used to be right for each other. Everyone thought I got lucky. Big things don’t happen to Mike.
Now we’re that couple. We’re a nuisance to all of our friends, and entertainment to the people I met through her. We go places to fight in front of other people. I look like a joke. Her friends laugh. One of them leaves with one of my friends. Theo’s brow knits. He talks to Julie in private. He’ll just stare at me. I almost never get what he’s trying to say when he’s staring like that. I get that there’s no respect there, though. I always fall into line like I’m not a man, and he won’t ever have a real conversation with me. And he’ll probably take Julie home one of these nights. And this group of people won’t meet up again. Because she has to put on this act.
No. I know it’s my fault. All I feel anymore is anger. I don’t get happy. I don’t get sad or afraid, I just know the heat in my face and the dark edges of my vision and the tension in my arms when we go another round. I hate that I’ve started looking forward to this. It’s the bulk of our relationship, It’s kind of all we got.
Julie and I never really had feelings for each other. So maybe this whole thing was a farce. I’ve felt obligated to be with some girl for so long. There was no reason for us to get together, but this disastrous mistake took shape almost without our consent. Everyone around us had shifted, it seems, and we ended up in this cycle of hate., or jealousy, or whatever it was everyone thought we were doing. Their ideas always seemed to matter so much more than ours.
I feel, sometimes, like she doesn’t need this as much as I do. I’m really the reacher, no matter how you look at this. She can have this sort of audience whenever she wants, she’ll call up her girls and head out to go throw drinks in guy’s faces and pretend she’s capable of getting that upset. It would hurt, but nothing really does.

So she’s acting like I’m going to sit down and watch Parks and Rec and let her lean on my shoulder again while she traces the hems of Theo’s jeans with her toes. And I’m feeling like I’m about to break a dam when someone tells us to take it outside. So we do. And when I reach down to kiss her hard, I think for the first time that this might go on forever.

"Waiting" by Smurph

Here I sit, if you please Waiting for my slice of cheese I am waiting, as I must Waiting to consume some crust Possibly I’ll take a...