by An Hoang ’14 –Before going to Pomfret, I had never thought of creating any stories on my own. In my mind, writing a story was something completely impossible and for skilled writers only. Now and then, I would come up with an idea for a story, but as soon as I was about to write, my mind turned blank. I got fed up with creative writing after several failed attempts.
It was purely coincidental that I took the writing short fiction class. Having signed up for the journalism class in the first place, I was distraught when I found out that the course was full. I then took a risk and tried the creative writing course with the mindset that I could drop it if I wanted to. However, this idea subtly faded away with every class I took. My teacher, Ms. Michelle Brown, was one of the reasons I changed my mind. She taught the class with all her heart and passion, patiently helping us go through the obstacles that a writer has to deal with. Ms. Brown has a very unique way of teaching – she showed us the basics and from that we were allowed to develop our own ideas and style freely. When analyzing a fictional story, she gives everyone a chance to express their opinions first and then adds her own. She does not tell us the way we must feel about the story, because she believes that a story can be interpreted in many ways, depending on how it relates to the reader. This is why everyone in the class was so willing to participate, making the class more dynamic.
We had to write a short story each week. Although the class was intensive in writing, the prompts and assignments were so interesting and thought provoking that I did not feel stressed at all. I remember the first assignment, which was to write a fable with an undefined moral. We wrote various prompts – from imitating the style of famous writers to fictional dialogues, from a response to a picture we saw to flash fiction, and finally a five to seven page story. Intermittently, we had some fun exercises like eavesdropping on a conversation, memorizing and reciting a dialogue and reading our stories for the national radio – it was actually for the Pomfret School radio – but we’re did it in the style of National Public Radio. Throughout the course, I was challenged to imagine I was someone else – not a 16 year-old boy in a boarding school. I transformed myself into a spider, went back in time to be a little kid, placed myself in the shoes of a widower and even morphed into a middle-aged woman who had lost her son. The course taught me that there is no limit to anyone’s imagination.
Creating something original is hard, but fixing it to make it better is even harder. That is what the workshop sessions had taught me. On every Monday, we sat down as a class to talk about everyone’s stories. At first it was a little bit hard, but as soon as we realized how much it would benefit us as a writer to criticize or have our stories criticized, we all gave each other earnest and constructive opinions. Because of the workshop sessions, I tasted the bitter disappointment of a writer who realizes that his stories – the ones he spent hours and so much effort on – were nothing but trash under the ruthless critique of his peers. However, I also benefited a lot from these experiences. Day by day, I became audacious and bold. I dared to try and dared to fail. I loved my stories because they were my sweat and blood, but I was not afraid to fix them and make them better. In the end, my effort proved not to be fruitless at all. I was able to compose my first and original portfolio named Agony for the end of the class.
To be honest, there were times when I thought of nothing to write and that I wanted to drop the class. Nevertheless, the encouragement of Ms. Brown and my peers helped me get through. Looking back at those moments, I realized that I am capable of doing much more than I could imagine. Right now, I am taking the elective Advanced Writing, challenging myself with poems and fiction at a higher level. I will also attend a writing camp next summer, since I had found out that creative writing is my passion.