Students’ Courage, Hearts and Creativity: Creative Writing Reading

By Haley Campbell (’02)

Last year we gathered from over 80 devices to livestream the pre-recorded Creative Writing Reading on Zoom. The Creative Writing Reading is an annual tradition going back roughly 20 years, and we weren’t going to be stymied by the pandemic, but we needed to shift and evolve. That experience helped expand the possibilities for featuring student creativity; students can narrate from a podium, or their poetry can be overlaid in a film featuring their videography or artwork.

This year we can gather together in person again, reinforcing one of the most important elements of the event: witnessing. Unlike so many of our events, open and broadcasted to the public, this event is for us. We are creating a safe and supportive space to honor the creative process and the vulnerability that creativity asks of us. The pieces you will hear vary from poem to story, raw to refined, witty to poignant. We spend the entire year in this venture, and yet the focus is not on completed masterpieces. The focus is on the process, letting the language, emotions and imagery steep inside the writer before they spill onto the page.

The 11th grade creative writing students have been working on fantasy novels, a venture that organically grew when the students simultaneously discovered they were building whole new worlds that they wanted to live in for a while.

After reading the novel-in-verse, “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo, the seniors reflected on the people, places, questions, and impactful themes and symbols of their lives to launch an exploration of discovering self in relation to others, circumstances and their humanity. They created poetry chapbooks full of the vulnerability, self-awareness, yearning and wisdom that is most richly shared through using language to illustrate imagery and sensory experience.

In English 10, we read Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. Poe’s art circles the drain of grief, destructive love and human depravity as a way of processing the questions that arose from the sorrows in his life, including the tragic deaths of the four women who were closest to him, three of whom died before he was 20-years-old. He posthumously became one of the greatest mystery writers in the English language. His story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” is lauded for introducing the detective genre. He approached each project methodically, first determining the final scene or image. He wrote with attention to how he wanted his readers to feel while reading and experimented with how language can influence emotion. After the sophomores experienced Poe’s art and studied his writing process, they wrote their own scary stories, some led by the genius detective, others hovering in the “atmospheric,” and a few with surprising twist endings.

On the brick façade of a Seattle Public Library is an unattributed quote that reads, “This isn’t art. This is grief and hope and ego, looking in and acting out, an audition for belonging, a wish to dissolve, a dirty window to peace.” Art is one conduit, arguably the most powerful one, where we can process and share what it means to be human.

The school community is invited to join us on Friday, March 11, at 7:00pm in the upper campus Assembly Room to experience and witness our students’ courage, hearts and creativity.

This event is for high school students, their families and guests. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend; however, please be aware that presentations are not filtered for younger audiences.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.



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