Category Archives: Creative Writing

Creative Writing Workshops; Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 PM

creativewritinginstagram Forget about essays and homework and discover means to truly write creatively at these weekly workshops. In these drop-in, informal, supportive workshops, we will read and discuss poetry, fiction, non-fiction, slam poetry, and any other type of writing that strikes our fancy. These workshops offer the opportunity to explore your writing skills in a relaxed, fun environment. Creative Writing Workshops aren’t about getting a good grade or writing a critical analysis, they are about trying new things and creating something exciting to put on a blank page.

313393_283129255049078_100000560186552_1070834_1377457794_nIf you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine too, you are always welcome to just hang out, eat candy, and listen to what others have to say. 

Student writing can be found here.

Like our Facebook page here.

Creative Writing links of interest can be found here.

Contact Katie (workshop facilitator and Young Adult Librarian) here. 

Workshops are open to high school students, including rising freshmen and recent high school graduates only

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I Read My Will by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

You read a will…

Ohio and California no longer have

To be distant relatives.

They could be friends

 

In an obituary…tousled with

The wrong patches on jeans;

Married cousins.

Water-in-the-brain.

 

Some dig up old photos,

Stick hearing aids in their eyes

To see the future.

However many yells will get someone

 

To close the garage door.

Too many of us have

Lumpy foreheads, tally charts on

Blood sugar

 

Or we hoped that our children

Would. Earthquakes in our

Fingertips, not on fault-lines…

I’ve never felt one in my life.

 

 

We read a will…

Those ankles could have

Been swollen another day.

She says, “They’re not okay, but

 

They’re okay.” I didn’t

Rhyme to please anyone,

I rhymed to point out the

Wrinkles in a hyphenated nam-

 

e. Some die three months

After you meet them, some can’t

Decide whether they look better in

Scales or fairy wings…

And you don’t decide for them when

You drive a rental car, and still carry

Two cans o’ Pringles

From the plane.

 

We’d hoped “330” would grow fond

Of certain cell phones, and every voicemail

Would go unfinished because it had been picked

Up. Fortunately, area codes don’t grow on people.

 

 

I read a will…

And I shake a stranger’s hand

On Thanksgiving. I listen

To my relentless soliloquies

 

As if scripted to do so. I admit

I do not speak Turkish or Romanian,

I was never told

My blood type.

 

I dance in my own introspections

Because when I was born, the

Scholars had already taken

Their words to the clouds.

 

I yellow when fireflies play

Hide n’ seek without me…

‘Cause I’m a foreigner, and I don’t

Dim like they do.

 

I read my will…and all my

Money rains in the Mediterranean Sea.

They’ll all be drowning,

While I wait on the shore.

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Mechanisms of Coping by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

My only defense was to write down every word they said. The cats in the street, the petitioners goading our window sills for signatures. The little girl on the telephone, her wide-limbed brother starting up the car. The two dog-walkers who said “hello” today, but not yesterday. The construction man who just looked at me with his ladder on the left side of his chest.

I made it to the top of the hill this afternoon, around 5 o’clock, conversing with the wind. And all the travelers, vacationers at the beach who always seemed to walk against him. I believe I made too much of an effort to remember what he told me. That fog gets in the way. That people carry on, haphazardly, suspending their footfalls so they’ll be late to dentist appointments and plain dismal settings. I wrote alongside the wind, instead of in front or behind, before or after. I did this so he would not be angered, and potentially blow me away.

Earlier in the day, my mp3 played dead, and my headphones hid themselves. I went out walking anyway, thinking about that nylon-contrived love in the old movies. The 40s, where everyone says, “I love you” before they embrace. They dream before they do anything. And then all the doing comes after the credits have rolled and the “black and white” is replaced by secondary colors. The screenplays were just witty propagandas, tied up into neat packages and box sets. Twain and Steinbeck were among the few who told the truth, only to have their books burned and banned. Schools, libraries forgot that honesty was on their shelves, and they burned that too.

I heard that one’s job is to “say what [they] see.” Yet almost all of it is too surreal to snare into one…too randomly filled with meaningless gestures and stares that last for longer than expected. Fragments of something (going out), I notice are there. And I collect these fragments like blackberries. And I strain them in my sink, so they might be cleaner and fresher than when they were on the bush.

I write down everything they end up saying, maybe doing as well. And, it is not a defense mechanism so much as a hobby or a pastime. A way out in a sense, from birthday cakes that don’t have to arrive every 365 days. Baby doll greetings in cafés, as if you could just steal a line from Barbie, and I’d be okay with that.

Listening to the wind, and following strangers may be one of the only methods of coping. As I’ve grown away from everyone: the little girls on telephones, even the mailman.

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Barista With A PhD by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

I was unsure whether the barista was conducting a science experiment, or making chai tea. The strainer appeared like some kind of double light bulb. Bubbles rose from the bottom teardrop, and heated the water in an identical container. The woman in the apron carefully stuck a thermometer into the spherical vase. It must have been boiling. She poured loose tealeaves into the water, and moderately fast, it turned an autumn brown. Instead of stirring with the two spoons, as she had done before, the barista grabbed an oak wood stick, and spun the liquid ever so gently.

She had unusually blonde hair. Her nose ring went quite well with it, however. It hung over the glass as she sniffed, once, then again for a second time. She didn’t mind the steamers and the coffee machines a couple feet away: mochas and Americanos playing caffeinated tricks. Leaning down, she pressed a button that separated the leaves from the dyed water. Other waiting customers seemed amazed at the innovation: they pointed and smiled as if everything were behind a case, captioned and formally explained. Once all the tea had drained to the bottom, the woman screwed off the empty glass. She clapped her palm against the clear curves, dumping the unused clumps of tea. She placed the glass next to all the others in a dish rack, and then shifted her head and neck. I noticed some black hair beneath the blonde. I guess you can change more than the color of a tea bag in a cup.

I had to leave immediately after, because my order had arrived, and I asked if they’d make it to-go. An employee had drawn waves in the foamy milk. I didn’t ask for anything artistic…but I take it some people don’t have to be asked. It was only a single cup, and there were no holders. So I managed with the sting of hot coffee around my thumb and middle finger. I sipped a bit off the surface, with my history of spilling in front of city folk. I grabbed a traveler’s lid from the corner and took off. The line at the café wasn’t so long after I scooted by a man in a green shirt on my way out. I made an estimate, that if I had come at least ten minutes later, I wouldn’t have been standing aimlessly, single file, in something I could have lived out much more easily (in another time).

This was near Fifth & Mission, San Francisco, where everyone seems to leave their hearts…and lose their keys. Where everyone’s cars break down because the hills are too strenuous for two sets of wheels. Where the fog means it’s summertime, and the sun means it’s December. Where Hitchcock took advantage of the weather, and a bridge-way of suicide attempts. Where I paid for coffee at the Blue Bottle, mistaking it for a chemistry lab sometime or the other.

When I leave myself this way (if I do, that is), I’ll grow accustomed to the occasional pauses in my voice, where I read this sentence over, and I grow accustomed to the occasional pauses in my voice: the sweet spots in my mid-tones, the cracks in my chest, the reminders of my days hitting high Cs, playing melancholic chords. Thanks to music, my lower back sagging on the porch steps, my ears: I can write undisturbed. And I can listen to myself…talking.

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Urban Introspections by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

There is no difference between compassion and rejection. I learn strategically, crossing the street with the rest of them, when the red hand goes up. I was on 17th and Mission, where the bagels smell like shades of memories—warm, uninterrupted—and the people smell, well, like people. We had to wait for a right turn because a one legged man wouldn’t smile and say, “Go ahead”. We had to cover our heads when we walked under a scaffolded building because we were afraid the nails might rain down. Then again, I guess it was just me that was afraid.

We were parked 3 blocks from the studio, and I was confused when the homeless man yelled “pity” at my shoes. My mother passed a drunken man, when she was alone. He was smiling, the euphoric kind, where the lips are too damn high just to say they’re “happy”. I wondered, if I was there: would I feel drunk too?…would 21 greet me at a green light and I’d feel too young to be a child?…would I be drunk if my shopping cart were my suitcase?…if Japanese tourists were my neighbors 25 hours of the day?

My mother said the Mission was never on the city’s restoration list. “Bernal Heights had been checked off,” she told me, “Noe Valley; that was another lucky one.” I nodded, pressing my lips together.

Drained noise, from the insides of the passenger window. The graffiti was ashen, even the murals in the schoolyards. The million dollar apartments, stained with the profanity of strangers (all over garage doors and fire escapes).

We drove down Divisidero. “No traffic,” I said. Despite the construction and the minute hand pointing to rush hour. “The locals keep to the indoors on Wednesdays,” I suggested. Maybe the bachelor didn’t shave his beard. Maybe the hooker didn’t shave her legs. Maybe for once in everyone’s lives, the fog was telling them where to go. I must have been unfamiliar with where it was they were going.

I am astonished at a Golden Gate that would be so much as red if its towers weren’t rusted with the stop and go of foreclosure signs, empty storefronts, and singles protesting social injustice. He stopped us, a white man who brought up starving children and racism all in the same sentence. We were out to lunch, and we said we would come back. “Keep up the good work,” my mom whistled back from an adjoining block. We didn’t come back.

I had a twenty in my pocket—it wouldn’t take much to toss it in a guitar case or a plastic bucket. It wouldn’t take much, I said to myself, to read a cardboard sign that had “God Bless” scribbled in Sharpie. Give a hollow man my takeout. Anything.

But I didn’t. I walked those 3 blocks to the studio. I took class like I was back in Marin County, and I had clothes, and I had an identity that had more or less manifested itself into a journal for 4 or so years. So yes, I am capable of patting an untalented child on the back. I am capable of biting my brother’s arm if he’s watching too much TV. I learned strategically, however, that I cannot ride the MUNI without washing my hands 7 times over after I get off. I cannot stare at a pedestrian without saying that I’ve had a life-changing experience. I cannot observe that green-glass sea without imagining the bodies breathing un-hopefully at the bottom. I cannot live here. I can only look here.

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Ms. Calner’s Lucky Underwear by Kate Luebkman

High school; the place where dreams simultaneously take off, and go to die. The place where teen angst is more common than herpes; where herpes is more common than self confidence; where self confidence is more common than good fashion sense; where good fashion sense is more common than inspiring teachers; but, where none of the above is more common than terrible drivers.

High school is where I met my best and worst versions of myself. Well, the worst version of myself trying desperately hard to be the best version of myself. High school is also where I met Ms Calner. All while trying to pull off a tube top.

Ms Calner was the teacher every girl wanted to be and every boy (and selective girls) wanted to bang. She had a pre-pop-Imma-do-what-I-want-support-all-girls-Taylor-Swift hair, Mila Kunis cat eyes, a figure Rihanna would be like “Oh na na, what’s YOUR name?” and that Beyonce angel glow.

She was also smart as hell.

My favorite story of Ms Calner was in the spring of my junior year. We were all trying to keep our cool while amidst substantial pressure surrounding our futures; and still saving energy to get crunk on Fridays. It was rough.

Ms Calner had decided to take the challenge of teaching us all about the different government parties in the US while also keeping us awake. Talk about some American Ninja Warrior s***. This bad-ass teacher was having none of our excuses, and all of our attention.

“I want you all to be able to turn eighteen and walk into that voting booth with the confidence of a six year old losing their first tooth. You’re going to change the world people, we need you.”

Two things happened in the next fifteen seconds that broke our momentary concentration. A quiet boy in the back named Alex whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, “no I need YOU Ms Calner,” to cheers of “yeah you do’s” and whistles. Following his outburst, an unnamed person ripped a huge, jupiter sized fart.

Then the incident began. The one known to future students at Rosemary High as “Fartgate 2014.” It was magical.

A kid named Hugo responded to Jupiter Farter with a mousy little fart. Then Stephanie, known for the one time she brought a $50 wine bottle to a dirty house party and drank the whole thing like a classy mother, blasted Hugo out with a giant one. Robert, who was rumored to have eaten a burrito for lunch that day then redefined “Smoke on the Water,” and we all called encore. Karlie took one for the girls and was joined by her twin Karina right after. Twin synchrony is a real thing.

Fart after fart, the class was going wild. Then all of a sudden, a fart that Barney Stinson would deem “Legendary” occurred. It was loud, demanding, awesome, and it came from the very front of the room.

We gasped. We admired. We surrendered.

Ms Calner smirked as she gazed at our open mouths,

“Well, I did wear my lucky underwear today.”

Ms Calner turned around in those beautiful jeans that displayed her perfect booty, and we applauded. “Now can you please all quieten your buttholes and pretend to care about democracy.”

That was the day I know I wanted to be a teacher. That was the day we would talk about for years and our highlight of high school. That was the day Ms Calner earned the #BOSS t-shirt Karlie printed her at the end of the year. That was the day we all payed attention to democracy. That, was high school. And that, was the day Ms Calner wore her lucky underwear.

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I Don’t Know If by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

I don’t know if I care that I’m not in their photos, their squad slideshows, their monthly binges at In n’ Out. I’ve never been much for bikinis and car keys at my side. I feel that I’m not a part of something when everyone’s arms are cold by the time they hug me. I’m on another bench, or in another pool, waiting to think of something clever to say. I’m not spontaneous, I don’t laugh at my own face, I’m not someone who walks into a crowd and gets mugged. I might have a light smudge of lipstick on my cheek, or a wrinkle in my shirt, but I won’t be made up. I won’t put on red lipstick or fake lashes. I won’t make fat rolls with my chin. I won’t parade down red carpets as if I had the legs for it. I’m not per say, notorious for my neighborhood.

My name might be mentioned once or twice when I arrive, and I kill the boring streak. Or when I leave, and one more name can be checked off and go stale. I try too hard…I regret it. I’m quiet…I regret that too. I don’t understand why every little piece of information is one-sided, why it’s small…and meaningless. I knew this day would go a certain way. I told myself: there might be a give or take in the end result, but eventually it would take to Maple Street, maybe Sir Francis Drake. It would make me say, “damn” as I took a shower, then again as I went to bed. It would make me satisfied that I predicted the percentage of lonely in my nighttime prayers.

I don’t know if I care that I’m not one of them: the one with the towel and the baseball hat, the one with the funny shirts. Am I too cynical? Are they afraid of me? Is it my hair?

I don’t know, I really don’t know. I’ve tried the lying thing: I guess all them high schoolers are better than me. Everyone is used to lying through their teeth, and puffing smoke, and asking people out like it was just another item on their grocery list.

I’m not used to that: I haven’t done anything. I don’t drive, I listen to drug-ed teachers, I listen to my parents, I don’t drive. I’m not ten anymore, so my art can’t look crappy, and I’m not allowed to wear a damn bow in my hair. I can’t hold my daddy’s hand. I can’t talk about my brother without imagining he was dead and everyone saw me for the first time. You know, the pity kind, where everyone pats your back. Maybe just looks over their shoulder, presses their lips together. Not a pout, but a gentle smile with the lower lip…a pity smile.

It’s because I listen to the right people that I haven’t done anything. I don’t dye my hair, because of the chemicals. I don’t drink Slurpees, because of the chemicals. I don’t talk to kids my age…because of the chemicals.

It’s because I listen to the right people that I’m not in anyone’s pictures, I shove off my mother when she stalks me with her disposable camera, or when my dad comes to school to bring my lunch. The fact is: I’m not interesting anymore.

 

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Spent in a Room by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

I’ve always wondered if my dreams were real enough, I could cast myself into my classmates’ houses, their rooms. Then I’d know what words lay on their bed sheets, which names were crossed off in a yearbook, which ones had little sharpie hearts drawn around them.

The boy who wears wife beaters, plaid, and leather jackets…I wonder if there are cutouts sprawled across his desk. Phrases here and there, quotes from magazines he thought were worthwhile. He’d sit down with his glue gun, and arrange all the letters on his shirt. He’d put it away so no one would know about it. No one would even ask. An illusive poet who feels it best if he takes from others; scrambles a Pulitzer-prize composition into a diary entry. All he wants is to be alone.

I’ve also wondered about the boy with all the beanies and the purple V-necks. He wears sneakers: flat ones. He feels comforted by the way his earphones hug his neck. I’ve thought about his house, his room: the significant lack of textbooks, the miscellaneous strawberry on the bathroom floor. But there are real books, paperback collections of clean stanzas and unexpected commas. There are line breaks in the most fickle places. There are eyes in the back of his head. He’s a philosopher, a walk through a Japanese cherry orchard…quiet. I know this because he’s quiet.

And the rookie, with the gang symbols on his sweatshirts and the dandruff in his hair. If only—I wonder—he was putting on a show for us. Maybe the weekly concussions are a ruse. Every complaint belongs in his medicine cabinet, because he’s a little too high today. I feel like I know his nightstand, how many tissues he unravels before hitting the sack. He has a nightlight in the corner of his room, because he’s never gathered the courage to unplug it. It’s a redwood tree, or an oak tree, one or the other. This guy owns a dog that’s too afraid to sleep by his side. He only wishes it could kick him in the middle of the night. He lives his dreams a bit sadly, recently so.

I seem to hope that every guy I meet has a secret, or a writer’s words in their leather jacket. I seem to hope that these people are better beneath the cellophane. There is subtle beauty on their lashes, a hint of potential in their widow’s peak. But I seem wrong in my brutally honest ignorance. I seem wrong in my careful attempts to read between the lines, my guesses on monopoly boards: every adolescent doesn’t let me pass go. I seem wrong in my predictions.

I waste time on poems that leak lies, upon lies, upon lies. I waste time on all of you. Time was better spent sitting outside, pretending I had never seen you before. And yet I stare, on and on, trying to work the gears in the teenage clockwork. Because you’re interesting.

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Creative Writing Links and Wisdom

Thanks to the weekly Creative Writing Workshop for high school students, I do a lot of reading about writing. It seems selfish to keep such a plethora of knowledge to myself. If I find an article/post/cat gif that I, in my totally subjective way, find pertinent to the craft of writing, I will share it here. Generally speaking, I will only post the title and/or first few lines of something, with a link to the full text. If nothing else, this will be a useful repository for me to collect the interesting writing articles I find and usually promptly forget about. There may only be a few pieces to start, but I promise to continue to add more. If you come across something you think should be here, email me or post it to the Facebook page (which pretty much only I read) and I will repost here.  Read/Write on!

~Katiechuckwendig

  • All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.– ERNEST HEMINGWAY

  • I don’t follow Quora much but this showed up in my inbox and if Lois Lowery is talking about the process of writing a novel, I want to read what she has to say.
  • This illustrated version of Charles Bukowski’s “air and light and time and space” is awesome. 
  • I am living by this excerpt from Anne Lamott’s great book on writing, Bird By Bird.
  • I mean, you can be sure I am going to include lots of quotes from my boy Hemingway on this page: 

“When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day next you hit it again.” – ERNEST HEMINGWAY

  • Although this does not bode well for me, as I am actually the least athletic/exercise-y person alive, I am sure what Rebecca Makkai says is true:

“My cures for writer’s block are alarmingly pragmatic and physical. So pragmatic that they arrange themselves in list form! To wit: 1. Get up and walk around. A few years ago, I realized that the solutions to most of my writing problems would come to me in the bathroom. It wasn’t the bathroom itself, of course, that was magic, but the act of getting up from my desk and walking there, getting the blood flowing, and tearing my eyes away from the computer screen. So now, when I’m staring down a huge plot problem, I take a long walk—without a notepad. It’s nearly always solved by the time I get back. 2. Vitamin B. It’s better than caffeine. It makes you both calmer and smarter. I keep a bottle on my desk. 3. If you can, sleep late. That last cycle of sleep is when the weird dreams come, the ones you’ll actually remember. (And how great is it to say, “I have to sleep late for work?”) 4. Yoga. My point with all of these being: Writing isn’t entirely mental. You’re a physical being, and sometimes when your writing is broken, it’s your body that needs attention, not your mind.”
—Rebecca Makkai via The Millions

  • Finished a draft of something? Here are six questions to ask your reader to ensure they give helpful feedback.
  • Failure is Our Muse by Stephen Marche (good, because one of my stories keeps getting rejected and it’s giving me a sad!)
  • “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” JOSEPH CAMPBELL

  • What Writers Can Learn from “Goodnight Moon” by Aimee Bender
  • Fiction Writer's Cheat Sheet by RipleyNox

    Fiction Writer’s Cheat Sheet by RipleyNox

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Someone by Maxine Flasher-Duzgunes

I’m looking for someone. Not someone to grow old with, someone to rock with till the lullabies go flat. benches-186309_640Not someone to hold my hand at graduation, because I am uncertain I will remain among my colleges by then, these pupils I’ve seen grow old. Old with snap chat stories writing their futures, old with excuses, concussions of guilt that get every football jock out of their math test.

I’m looking for a young person, one who I can stand to be taller than, have a few freckles on their cheek. I can stand some makeup in the most unnoticeable places. I can stand a smile. Not an optimistic one. No. A somewhat hopeful pout, or a twinkle in the corner of their eye. Anything that proves they don’t wish to contradict me, to slur every one of my phrases when it is most raw. I don’t want someone like that.

They don’t even have to be a high schooler. They could come with a barcode, categorized under the young adult section in the library. A little gloomy, like all the books there want to be, a little moody. I’m looking for someone, not a back-talker, a frantic typer, a socialite, none of those things. I look around, searching with one strap on a shoulder, more than waiting or longing. It’s more than standing outside of doorsteps in the rain. It’s more than sitting at an airport with a label-maker. I’m actually looking.

I’m not saying the fellows I have are unsuitable. They are genuine, they are homey, they are “nice”. I’ve found, however, they are nothing but that. Nothing but a high-five, an un-hungry applause at each one of my attempts—attempts to find puns in the scarcity of textbooks, attempts to be a good listener, and pretend to give a crap about their run-the-mill antics. My fellows: their words of wisdom do not belong in the chinks of English quote books (I cannot be their companion anymore). I cannot stand the buzz of inadequate whining; undesirable voices that gather the worst words out of our dictionaries. I like them, I do, but I’ve outgrown them. I haven’t grown old, but I’ve outgrown them.

This position is quite uncomfortable; this situation could never be a couch cushion or a restaurant dinner booth. No. I only sit in such places when I am alone, when I am still combing through the cracks of the TV remote, or underneath the lamination of the specials menu. A time and place: a perfect moment for time and place. A cozy seat warmer, a hot water bottle, a leopard print blanket. Only in warmth can time and place find whatever it was they were looking for. Yet I am still looking for them. The conventional stretch of that minute hand will someday lead me to that someone.

They don’t have to be like me, they don’t even have to like me. They could be plain and simple if they wanted to. Straightforward, not afraid of criticisms for the love of every mistake I have ever made. Maybe they could get their point across, unlike me, and my day-to-day unnecessary sentences. Maybe they could tell me when enough is enough, and I don’t fit into my anecdotes like puzzle pieces do. Maybe they could hold my hand in the metaphysical dankness of a thought tunnel, but in truth, not really hold my hand. Maybe when I don’t want to go to my graduation, that someone will say it’s okay.

That I will say it’s okay. And I’ll stop looking.

For more writing from the Creative Writing Workshop, click here.

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