I wrote a play…at 2 in the morning.

There was no post last week because I had (my last!) midterms, and my posting policy is that school always comes first. So this week, I’m going to talk about the incredible 24-hour journey I went on last weekend.

I am a part of my high school’s chapter of the International Thespian Society, which is essentially the national honor society for students in theatre. At our meeting about a month ago, we realized we needed to do something this year as a fundraiser. Something big. We originally had the idea of doing a teachers vs. students lip sync battle, but it wasn’t approved in time to get the ball rolling. So, our advisor and director posed a new idea: A 24-Hour Play Festival.

We had the option to be a writer, director, or actor, and in the weeks prior to the event we each put in our preferences. I put writer first, actor second, and director last. The (actual adult) directors then assigned each student to a role, but weren’t allowed to tell us until the start of the Festival.

At first, I was dreading the very idea of the event, and wanted to be a writer primarily because I wouldn’t have to give up my entire Saturday learning a show – or worse, directing one. But as the date crept closer, I began to embrace it and got very excited…until I realized the day of that I had no idea what I would write about. I then secretly hoped that they had made me an actor.

On Friday the 13th I attended an improv show at the school, and afterward those in the Festival stayed to hear their fate. Sure enough, I was chosen to be a writer along with three other students. We picked our actors out of a hat, were given brief directions, then sent home to create our works.

I left terrified. What on earth would I write about?  How late would I be up pacing the floor, trying to think of something? The plays needed to be in by seven the next morning. What if I failed?

On the car ride home, however, the word came to me out of nowhere, splashing across the blank slate of my mind: birds.

At first I rejected the idea, because I knew exactly where that was going: to a very personal experience that would be a risk to write about if I didn’t do it right. But, after 45 minutes of racking my brain and coming up empty, I knew that was the plot I had to work with.

At two in the morning on Saturday, January 14th  I submitted my first original, ten-page play: Birds. The show, on the surface at least, is about a young bird who learns to believe in himself and find his wings, despite other birds around him who discourage his efforts. After I hit send, I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

That day, my friends who were actors and directors worked ceaselessly to learn, costume, and block the four shows. At around noon I stopped by to see how my show was coming along. Watching people speaking my words and acting out my stage directions was one of the most exciting and surreal things I have ever experienced. It was very good fortune that my friend Lauren ended up as the director of my show, because she got everything exactly right, and made it even better than I had pictured it.

That night, all four plays were presented in the auditorium. It was so wonderful to see the fruits of everyone’s hard work, and I think the message of my show was received well by the audience.

The mother of one of the actors in my show is the librarian at the lower elementary school, and after the performances she came up to me and said that with my show’s message of perseverance and inclusion, it would be perfect to perform at the elementary school during a future assembly on bullying. Which is beyond amazing.

If that is able to happen, I hope my show can inspire those kids to spread their wings, just as the 24 Hour Play Festival inspired me to spread mine.

 

Book Review: The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

When I attended the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference this past June, I was fortunate to meet (and actually have a long conversation with) journalist Mary Pilon prior to a banquet honoring Chris Berman. After Ms. Pilon spoke at the program’s commencement, we received autographed copies of her book, The Monopolists.

For years, Parker Brothers have touted the tale of Monopoly‘s origins: a young man named Charles Darrow dreamed up the game and presented it to Parker Brothers, who went on to market it and the game turned into the company’s biggest hit. But what if that story isn’t entirely true?

It turns out that the idea for Monopoly began when a young woman named Lizzie Maggie created The Landlord’s Game in the late 1800’s, intending for it to educate its players on the dangers of monopolies. The game evolved and was passed through hundreds of hands before catching the eye of Charles Darrow. So, many years later, when a man has the idea of a game called Anti-Monopoly and Parker Brothers sues, will he be able to prove that Monopoly may have been in the public domain all along?

This book was extremely well-written. Pilon perfectly mixes fact with narrative to tell the story in a way that is as entertaining as it is educational. Especially during potentially boring court-related scenes, I felt as though I was right there witnessing the action. I became attached to the people she writes about as if I knew them. The coolest part is that all of them are – or were – real. The book is extremely eye-opening, and it is crystal clear that Pilon did plenty of painstaking research in order to present an accurate telling (as is expected with a journalist). I would passionately recommend this to…well, anyone who has played Monopoly and wants to impress their friends the next time they sit down for a game. 😉

My 2017 Book-It List

The adorable bookmark shown in the above picture was given to me as a Christmas present by one of my best friends, with whom I share a love of puns. Getting that bookmark reminded me of the numerous novels that are on my to-read list. So, I’ve narrowed that towering pile down to the six books that I want to read this year. It turns out that 2017 will be the year of the biography (but mostly memoirs).

1.) The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House by Chuck Todd

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During the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference this past June, my friends and I were able to watch a taping of Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press and speak with him briefly afterward. When we returned to the Newseum after the show, we each received an autographed copy of his book The Stranger. In it Todd discusses the challenges Obama faced in his first term trying to change the culture of politics. I am super excited to read this because as we say goodbye to one of our nation’s greatest Presidents, it is better late than never to learn more about the trials and victories of this fantastic man.

2.) Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevlin

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Barack is my President, but Michelle is my inspiration. Throughout the Obama Administration, Michelle has been an icon in public health and female empowerment. I look up to her in so many ways; she is driven, brilliant, compassionate, funny, and strong. Being able to read more in-depth about her life I’m sure will only strengthen my love for her.

3.) Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

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Ok, Anna Kendrick is super cool. She’s real, she’s tough, and she totally killed it as Cinderella in Into the Woods. Not to mention she’s hilarious, and I expect her memoir to be nothing less. According to multiple reviews I’ve read, the book is a collection of personal essays by Kendrick that let readers into her brain as she recounts both the incredible and the ordinary during her rise to fame. I can’t wait to read this because…come on, it’s Anna Kendrick. She’s so cool.

4 & 5.) Wishful Drinking and Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Oh, the beautiful, wonderful Carrie Fisher…Princess Leia was my childhood hero, and I will forever be grateful for your inspiring portrayal of a strong, badass, yet humble leader that always will inspire me. You yourself embodied those qualities, and through your open conversations on mental health and the strength that women truly possess, you have inspired millions. Thank you, my dear. Rest easy.

Having admired Fisher my whole life, the news of her death yesterday morning broke me to pieces, and I realized that I had to learn more about her. I definitely plan on reading her two memoirs because now I’m old enough to fully understand and appreciate what she has to say. It won’t be easy for me, but it will be worth it.

6.) Confessions of an S.O.B. by Al Neuharth

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Yeah, I know, I probably should have read this book a while ago…you know, like before I went to the Free Spirit Conference. To be fair, junior year was hell and I was taking finals up until literally the DAY BEFORE I left for D.C. So I had zero time to read it. Now I do (kind of), so I’m going to knock this off my book list as soon as possible. Neuharth was such an incredible man, and I can’t wait to indulge in his passion and witty humor while reading one of his multiple memoirs. Of course, I have a lot to thank him for, so appreciating his work is the least I can do.

Ok! Here’s hoping come next December, my mind will be full after devouring all of these fantastic books. Happy New Year! *

Dealing with Disappointment

This time last school year, I auditioned for the school musical and was cut, and afterward I wrote this piece for my school newspaper. Now, though the circumstances are much better, I am dealing with similar disappointments again, and I thought it would be wise to share this once more, both for others feeling this pain and for myself.

For my entire life, theatre has been one of my passions. There is nothing I love more than stepping onstage and getting to escape my life by assuming that of a character, no matter how large or small their role is in the story we are telling. Over the past three years, I have been a part of five theatrical productions here at HB. While I only once have known more than ensemble, I am immensely grateful for every moment I’ve spent on that stage.

Nevertheless, my dream for junior year was a simple one: to get a lead in this year’s musical, Into the Woods. In the weeks prior to auditions, I practiced relentlessly, though I was down on my knees praying for a chance to reach my goal more often than I was standing and singing.

When the big day came, I was ready.

I felt my audition went well. I even got my first callback! However, the day after, I was heartbroken to see that my name was not on the cast list. There wasn’t even an ensemble.

Disappointment, especially when it involves something you deeply love, is hard to deal with. However, it’s an immensely large part of life, especially for teenagers who are applying to colleges, going to job interviews, or simply asking someone on a date (I’ve had plenty of those disappointments as well, trust me). In cases like these, it may feel like the world is falling down around you. But it is totally possible to get through it.

First off, go ahead and have a brief pity party. Kick a wall, scream into your pillow, cry on the shoulder of a friend. An article on PsychCentral states, “You need to experience your emotional reaction to the event. It’s important to let yourself feel so that you can figure out what the event means to you.” Don’t keep things bottled up. However, I’m putting a lot of emphasis on brief. Let yourself feel, but don’t keep beating yourself up, or beating down others for that matter. The more you complain and bar yourself from getting over it, the worse it will feel.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to take action until you are in a better state of mind. Don’t immediately begin pointing blame at those you feel wronged you. Don’t even begin figuring out what to do next. Just wait and breathe.

The other thing you have to remember is not to take it personally. Have faith that you did your best. Yes, I had a pretty good audition, but what I needed to remember was that there were 51 other students at auditions, all of whom are incredibly talented, with the same dream as me. I decided to be proud of what I had done and to accept the result regardless. The directors had unbelievably tough decisions to make. And if I wasn’t right for the cast, well, they had done their job correctly.

Above all else, in the face of failure the key to success is having a good attitude about what happened. Believe that this occurred for a reason. If a door slams in your face, know that there is another one down the hall that’s open and ready for you to walk through. Having a positive attitude does pay off.

When I came into choir class on Friday, our teacher congratulated us all on auditioning. Then he said that he and his co-directors had decided to add an ensemble to the show.

I was asked to join because, as he said, I had kept a positive attitude and supported those who were cast.

Life can knock you down, kick you again when you’re on the ground, and kick you a third time, harder still. But then everything quiets down, and you can stand up again. When you get your bearings, you’ll see that you may not have ended up where you wanted to be, but you will be in a place where you can look around and say, “You know, I’m ok with being here.”

So, I’m looking forward to dancing in the background once more, and cheering my friends on from the wings. Because that’s what it’s about: the experience and the fun. I know I’m going to have another amazing time onstage this March.

That’s the power of positive thinking, right?

The Christmas Blogger Tag

I found this tag on Rae Coppola’s latest post, and thought it would be super fun to do! I am so excited for the holidays.

1. What is your favourite Christmas film/s?

I love The Polar Express for its gorgeous music, and the whole idea that there is magic in the world as long as you believe it is there. The book is amazing too; my boyfriend and I both love it. He and his family even got chosen to ride the “actual” Polar Express when he was little! So jealous.

Otherwise, my second favorite movie is Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town. I love the old school animation and it just gives me a warm feeling inside every time I watch it. 

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

We typically open one on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day. 

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
Every Christmas, for me, is wonderful in its own ways. Seeing The Nutracker around the holidays has always been a favorite occurrence of mine. Last Christmas was wonderful because I found out we were going to Disney! We got to see Disney at Christmastime, and walk through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which was so incredible. I’m so lucky I got to see it because last year was its final year. After that, we got to ring in the New Year on the beach of the Polynesian Resort watching Magic Kingdom fireworks. 

4. Favourite festive food?

Chocolate/peppermint bark!

5. Favourite gift?

Probably that trip to Disney!

6. Favourite festive scent?

Pine, I think. And cookies. 

7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

My grandparents come up and stay overnight every Christmas Eve. 

8. What tops your tree?

A star that lights up!

9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?

Ok, time to embarrass myself. When I was younger I was obsessed with the Nickelodeon show iCarly. In my letters to Santa, for about three years straight (I am in physical pain as I write this), I asked to meet the cast, somehow. At that time I wanted to be an actress and I looked up to them as acting role models, and more than anything I wanted to be on a TV show. I’m actually really glad that dream never came to fruition, as being some sort of child actress was NOT the life I was meant to have.

10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

Getting to spend it with people I love and celebrating the birth of Christ. 

I hope you enjoyed the tag! I would love to see you try it yourself. If you do, let me know in the comments because I’d love to read yours! Here are the questions: 

1. What is your favourite Christmas film/s?

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
4. Favourite festive food?
5. Favourite gift?
6. Favourite festive scent?
7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
8. What tops your tree?
9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?
10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

Gratitude

Happiness is something that cannot exist without gratitude. Lately, I have been trying to put more emphasis on writing down, or at least acknowledging, what I am thankful for on a daily basis. I have added a section called “Great Things About Today” in my bullet journal (more to come on that later), where I write down the awesome things that happen each day. At this time of the year especially, I feel it is important to look around and realize all that we have, especially when we feel like we are not enough.

This year, the process was particularly special for me because I realized that I am one quarter of the way through my senior year. As I walked through the halls this past week I reflected on the teachers and events throughout my high school career that made me who I am. But then I realized that these people are not the only people who helped me along my educational journey; down the street was an entire middle school full of teachers who at one point or another inspired me to chase my dreams.

So, last weekend I threw on my apron and baked a few batches of cookies. My best friend, who works at a craft store, grabbed us some baggies and fall-colored ribbon, and I spent my study hall last Monday packaging and wrapping the cookies. I asked my boyfriend, who loved the idea, to join us and that afternoon the three of us went down to the place we had long ago considered our stomping grounds.

Seeing all of our old teachers again was absolutely incredible. Everyone was so happy to see us and asked us about our plans for the future. We will definitely be back there before graduation to say goodbye one more time.

That day I realized the importance of not just being thankful for what you have presently, but everything and everyone that is part of your past. After all, these people and events, no matter how long ago, have helped to shape you into the person you are.

“Pieces” – an original poem

I take pieces of myself and give them away

To almost everyone I meet. 

It’s exhausting, but when I give a piece to the right people

And I watch them hold it

And smile 

And their world gets a little brighter, it’s worth it. 

Most of the time they don’t give me pieces in return

To replenish my own. 

But that’s ok. I can live without them.

But the majority of people to whom I give my pieces 

Do not care.

They will drop it right back at my feet

Or, more often, they will discard them in some random place 

As they go about their day. 

And once everyone is gone, I am left 

To wander about and try to pick my pieces up again. 

Sometimes I find them, most times I don’t. 

But lately, when I have abandoned my quest for the pieces of me,

Tired and distraught,

I look up and there you are. 

In your arms are all of them, for you have found them, 

And one by one you give them back to me,

Arranging them in a way that is better than they were before. 

And when you have made me whole again, 

I wonder if perhaps you did not find my pieces, 

But had them in you all along. 

How to Juggle School and a Journalism Internship

This school year I have been chosen to be the student correspondent for my town paper. Every other week, I publish an article about something going on at my high school. I am very grateful for this opportunity and am having tons of fun, but it’s not always glamorous. Coupled with the stress of college applications, advanced classes, and extracurriculars, the majority of what I’ve learned from this internship so far is how to balance and prioritize.

Planning is key. I have done the scrambling three days before deadline thing in a couple of situations so far, but it’s not fun. I send in my pieces every other Monday, and I give myself the remainder of that week to focus on school work and extracurriculars while finding my next story. Then, I use the weekend to my advantage to plan out a draft and interviews for the coming week. Once I’ve compiled my information, my final article is typically written the weekend of its due date.

School always takes precedence over this internship (and frankly, this blog), so I am often up late on Sunday night finishing my articles. But if I can get all of my information and contacts before that, getting my words down is the easiest part.

It’s not always simple to find a story, but my eyes and ears are constantly open. Often it’s about keeping my finger on the pulse of what clubs and school organizations are up to. I’m happy that lately, people have been coming to me asking me to cover things. I listen carefully during pitch sessions for my school newspaper and pick up story ideas that weren’t taken by anyone else (so far, nothing has overlapped yet, but I’m knocking on wood).

The best part about having this type of internship is that unlike my friends who have “real” jobs, I don’t have to travel anywhere and take too much time from homework. I can do everything from the comfort of my desk (or snuggled up in bed, as is often the case), or better yet, on my devices when I have a free moment at school or anywhere else.

When it comes to taking on many opportunities at once – and this goes for not only internships, but jobs and other commitments – it’s all about finding a system that works for you.

A reflection on my first college experience

For two weeks in July, I had the opportunity to be a part of a program called the Summer Challenge at Boston University. I took two courses, for two hours each: Journalism in the morning and Mass Communication in the afternoon. I learned a lot and gained valuable experience from those courses, however, my biggest take away from the program was my successes – and failures – in adjusting to college life.

First of all – the shower situation was far better than I expected it to be. So don’t be afraid of that if you’re heading to college. Except make sure there are hooks to hang your bath caddy on, otherwise things are going to get real wet real fast.

Being an only child, the aspect that took the most getting used to was having to share a room with someone I didn’t know. I was fortunate that my best friend attended the program with me, however, we agreed not to room with one another because we each wanted to have a truly realistic college experience. My room mate and I turned out to be extremely different people, so we more or less had our own experiences not connected to one another. While I would have liked someone to talk to, I more often was thankful that I could curl up on the bed or at my desk and do my own thing, without feeling pressured to socialize with her whenever we were both in there. Which made me realize a huge part of myself that I will need to keep in mind come next year: I need my space.

I’m what people call an extroverted introvert. Or an introverted extrovert. Whichever. Basically, I love people and I do like socializing, but there’s a limit. I can only do it for so long before I have to go curl up in my room or somewhere private, breathe, listen to music, whatever to recharge myself.

I pushed myself too far the first week. I drove myself to constantly be talking to people, going out with them, and worst of all, I would make myself feel guilty when I bypassed a hangout session to do homework or FaceTime my family. It got to the point where I woke up unhappy and pushed people away.

But one night at the beginning of the second week, my best friend and I went to the quad, sprawled out on the grass, and watched the stars. After a long talk that was therapeutic for both of us, I realized that I needed to look after myself a little better.

Thus, the second week was wonderful. I made friends and had lots of fun – but not any more than I could handle. I had found a balance; one that I will work hard to find again wherever I end up next fall.

 

 

The 2016 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference

When I look back on my experience at the 2016 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, one word that was used prevalently throughout the week continues to resonate with me: free.

We, as people, were free. When I touched down in Washington D.C. and began to meet my fellow Scholars, I realized that there were no pretenses. We all came in as our true selves, free to present ourselves as we were to these 50 new faces. The group was better for this. 51 strangers almost immediately melded into a tight-knit family unit. We freely chose to love one another unconditionally and come together for a common purpose.

We all were free to be young adults. We did not have our parents around to make sure we were ready to tackle the day. We were free to ask questions of and debate with professionals in the field we otherwise would have considered unreachable. We were free to express, to learn, to create, to mingle, and pursue our passion without interruption.

Above all, we were free to learn about what is often considered an afterthought in schools: the freedoms that students, particularly student journalists, have. Students have the right to express what they say both in print and in the hall. We have the right to be free or, or at least have very limited, censorship, so that we can discuss the world around us and broaden our knowledge of social issues. We have the right to stand up for what we feel is wrong in our schools and communities, and we have the right to use our student publications to say so.

Through this conference, I learned how to use social media in the future of journalism, how to ask questions, and what a typical news room looks like, among countless other tokens of knowledge. But my most important lessons was how to be a free spirit; by dreaming, daring, and doing.

Thank you, Al Neuharth.