Calling All Star Wars Fans: the Saga Continues!


My two consecutive Star Wars themed Halloween costumes

by Ceci Stratton, junior writing coach

A long time ago in my grandparent’s porch I watched Star Wars for the first time. I was hooked, and remain obsessed to this day. Of course, the new movie helped to rekindle this obsession and crank it up about 100 notches.

So here we are, anxiously awaiting what will possibly be the highlight of my year thus far.

Seriously. I am not exaggerating. I teared up watching the trailers. I mean, how couldn’t you? John Williams just does that to me, and seeing my all-time favorite movies being brought back to life? Priceless.

I have my timer going, and by the time this is posted there will be approximately 11 hours until I am sitting in the movie theater, eyes glued to the screen, and watching the classic Star Wars crawl text (JJ Abrams better not leave this out) scroll across the screen.

But let’s get to the point: Star Wars nerds went crazy with accusations and premonitions about the new Disney owned Star Wars. The trailers especially sparked some crazy theories. Has Luke Skywalker turned to the dark side? Is Rey, the new female protagonist, Han Solo and Leia’s daughter? What the heck is everyone fighting over this time?

The possibilities are endless because the movie has now been declared canon; this means it is not required to include any information from the massive Star Wars expanded universe (comics, TV shows, books, etc.) and is only based on movies I through VI.

Of course some were outraged, but it really does make sense. In the expanded universe, Chewbacca dies, Luke has a son, Han and Leia have a set of twins, a girl and a boy, and another son. I mean, you can’t expect JJ Abrams to make an amazing movie if he had to pay attention to every single thing that has ever happened in the expanded universe.

But hey let’s face it, Star Wars fans have REALLY high expectations. In other words, don’t screw this up JJ. Please.

With all of that aside, let’s appreciate the new Star Wars for what I believe it is all about. Yes, it is the continuation of a classic story, yet it is so much more. The Star Wars movie gives our generation the opportunity to be a part of movie-making history. It is the start of a new story, of new surprises, of new classic quotes and characters, and all of these are linked to us—to our time period. These are things we will identify with in our future. But really, how cool is it to tell someone you went to the public premiere of a Star Wars movie, or even to have simply seen it in theaters!

Now on to some fun facts about Star Wars, because who doesn’t love some fun facts?! Also, if you ever feel out of the loop with your nerdy friends, whip out a few of these and blow their minds.

  • Chewbacca has a son and a wife! In the 1978 Star Wars Christmas special, Chewie’s family is showcased on Kashyyk waiting for Chewbacca to celebrate Life Day with them.
  • “I have a bad feeling about this” or “I have a very bad feeling about this” is said in EVERY Star Wars
  • David Prowse who was in Darth Vader’s costume (he doesn’t portray his voice) is banned from all official Star Wars events because George Lucas found him annoying.
  • In The Phantom Menace they had to rebuild all of the door frames because Liam Neeson, who portrayed Qui-Gon Jinn, was too tall!
  • You probably always thought Chewie just stuck with Han Solo because they were best buds, but think again! In Wookie culture if someone saves your life, you must dedicate your life to protecting them. This is called a life debt. At some point between the 3rd and 4th movies, Chewbacca became indebted to Han Solo, resulting in their inseparable lives.

And now for some fun Star Wars quizzes:

Okay I suppose that is enough … for now.

What do you think is going to happen in the new movie? Who is your favorite character? If you could have any lightsaber color, what would it be? Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Leave answers in the comments below!

The Force Awakens is bound to be amazing.

Don’t be a nerf herder. Go see it in theaters this break!

So long, and may the Force be with you.


P.S. This is called a Force FX lightsaber. I’m sure Santa won’t mind a last minute addition to your Christmas list.

Unfamiliar Horizons


by Rachel Pierstorff, alumni writing coach (’15)

Roughly eight minutes after I reunited with my family in the baggage claim of the Minneapolis airport, my brother and I began bickering about which one of us deserved the chief driving rights to Curvy Rhonda, our affectionately named Honda CRV, for the next six weeks of my winter break.  Though my mom was exasperated, I was comforted to know that three months of separation had not changed the rapport between me and my brother.  After all, the past three months of college life was a time of wholly new and different places, people, relationships, inside jokes, experiences, dining habits, sleeping standards, effective study locations, academic expectations, bedroom window views, etc.

It took coming home to realize just how much I appreciated the change of scenery.  Not only was it exciting and invigorating to live in an unfamiliar environment and get to know a new city’s layout and rhythm, but also it was so valuable to be surrounded by students from across the country—to hear their stories, strange accents, and styles of humor.  While I was at college for three months—certainly not long enough to make me the expert—I came to believe in the importance of using college as an opportunity to explore a new part of the world and meet people you’d never encounter otherwise.  If you’re a college-bound high schooler, I simply ask you consider my perspective.

Minnetonka can be a bit of a bubble community: a lot of similar people following similar life paths, coming from similar backgrounds.  Maybe you understand this phenomenon, maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you don’t really know what it means.  In any of those cases, I urge you to experience all of the newness and unfamiliarity of college in a new and unfamiliar place.  There’s more than one way to get out of the bubble. Figure out the percentage of in-state and out-of-state students at your prospective schools.  Seek out the opportunity to live in a living learning community, or join another program that attracts people of a variety of backgrounds.  Don’t worry about finding a roommate with the exact same lifestyle as you.  Or, do what I did and use college as the perfect opportunity to grasp that instinct for travel and adventure that exists somewhere inside all of us. Use it to find yourself a wonderful college outside of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, or even the Midwest.  To leave your home is, of course, terrifying at first.  Yet the nerves and anxiety are, in my opinion, way worth the experience of becoming an individual in your own new place. Meeting people with fascinating life stories, comparing accents, exploring sites in a new city, asking professors their recommended routes to the airport, finding the best spot to watch the sunset over the mountains or the oceans or the fields or the city—these are experiences unique to setting out for college in a new place.

The underlying principle of college is that it’s about broadening your horizons—not only academically, but literarily, societally, mentally, socially, and geographically.  What I’m trying to say is this: Minnetonka, Minnesota will always be here with its lovely lakes and frigid winters we all love to hate.  When, in a year or two or three, you return home from your university for winter break, you’re going to realize that you still drive to your best friend’s house on instinct, without so much as a second thought as to whether it’s a left turn or a right turn.  You will still follow the same sequence of motions as you get in the car you left at home for your younger sibling to use (adjust the radio, then the seat and mirrors).  You will not only feel comfort in the familiarity of home, but also sureness in yourself for meeting the new and unfamiliar with open arms.

And then, of course, you can write about all of it.  Fill journals describing your new experiences, write poetry in your favorite new local bookshop, send letters to friends and family detailing why they should travel to your new city (and ideally buy you dinner).

There are too many experiences to have in this life.  There are too many wildly unique people to meet, too many mountains to climb and streets to meander down.  There are too many books to read, and far, far too many words for you to write.  There’s too much to see in this world to not seize any chance to see another corner of it.


Rachel’s Advice for Future Skipper College Students:

  1. Make lists—books to read, movies to watch, TV series to binge-watch on Netflix, what to pack for college, what not to pack for college (every pair of shoes you own—heavy).
  2. Call your mom, aunt, or grandma when you do your own laundry for the first time. Or Skype her and bring the laptop to the laundry room so you make sure you get everything right.
  3. Appreciate the academic skills you’ve gained from Minnetonka. No matter what skill level you’re at in any subject, appreciate the teachers and staff who’ve enabled you to learn like very few other students in the country have the opportunity to learn.
  4. Practice a Fargo-esque Minnesotan accent to impress/shock the out-of-Minnesota people. It’s a surprisingly effective way to make friends.
  5. If you’ve been rejecting potential universities solely because they’re out of state or out of the Midwest—stop. Jump at the opportunity to see a new piece of the world.




photos courtesy of Elise Johnson

by Morgan Erickson, senior writing coach

If I had to use one word to describe last week’s Writer’s Studio, it would be genuine. If you’re unfamiliar with Writer’s Studio, it’s an open mic night that the Writing Center hosts every couple of months. The goal is to have an outlet for writers to share literature that they love, have read, or wrote. The Blackbox theater becomes an intimate setting focused on a podium adorned with some holiday lights, and students walk to the front when they’ve signed up or when they feel like they’re ready. My favorite aspect of Writer’s studio is the complete authenticity and openness of the students that choose to read and the respect of those who choose to listen. Favorite book passages, poems, and song lyrics are shared passionately. Students read short stories or poems that they’ve written, and you can always see another student’s disbelief that one of their peers has created something so incredible and poignant. Through an open mic and their favorite works of poetry or prose, students create an atmosphere of trust and encouragement. I’m always amazed by those who choose to come to the front and share a part of themselves in front of their peers. As we begin planning the next Writer’s Studio, I’d encourage you to come and see the hearts and minds that make Minnetonka High School incredible, all standing behind that light-covered podium.


Come on, Kikuji!


Connor blog image #2

Courtesy of

by Connor Erb, junior writing coach

Many of my favorite books have a character who continually screws up throughout the story. These characters, while beloved, often make me cringe.  There are a myriad of examples ranging from Ron Weasley of Harry Potter to Huckleberry Finn, from Jay Gatsby to Kikuji Matani of Thousand Cranes. What all of these novels have in common is that while their characters don’t always come out on top, they are interesting and quality books to read. Kikuji is the type of character who makes you want to cringe and is at most points in the story hard to love. I’m going to spend most of my time discussing the novella we recently finished in IB HL English with Mrs. Mosiman, Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (and, if you were curious, you can see me and Mrs. Mosiman as the models for the month of December on the district calendar…it’s pretty great). So, this post is for people who are into Nobel Prize-winning literature, or anyone who wants to hear me rant about the colossal screw-up that is Kikuji Matani. If you’re in HL English, I’ll be preaching to the choir.

The gist of this Nobel Prize-winning novella is that the main characters are a man named Kikuji Matani and four other women. The setting of this story is Japan in the 1950s. We learn that Kikuji’s parents are both dead, and that he is a bachelor. He goes to a tea ceremony with his dead father’s former mistress/tea guru. There, he meets the “thousand cranes girl,” and the whole tea ceremony is a way for Kikuji to check her out to see if he wants to marry her or not. After that whole tea-with-the-dad’s-mistress happens, he runs into his dad’s second ex-mistress, Mrs. Ota. Yeah, I know, Kikuji’s dad gets around…and, yes, it is kind of weird that Kikuji is in contact with both of the ex-mistresses. This is the part where it starts to get complicated and turns into the Japanese version of the Dustin Hoffman classic The Graduate (which you should definitely check out if you have time and Netflix). Basically, Kikuji and Mrs. Ota start a love affair that isn’t good for her, but Kikuji enjoys it. Then, because of her love for Kikuji or the guilt she feels over what she has done, Mrs. Ota takes her own life. At this point, for a split second you might think, “Oh, poor Kikuji, the woman that he loves just died. I feel bad for him.” Nope. Wrong. After her death, he immediately starts to try to get with Mrs. Ota’s daughter, Fumiko. Basically, at the end of the story, it’s just Kikuji alone.

Throughout this novella I found myself trying to root for Kikuji. After all, both of his parents were dead and he was all by himself, but over and over he continues to do things that end up harming himself or others (Mrs. Ota and Fumiko). Everytime he is about to do something that is pretty questionable, I thought to myself, “Oh no Kikuji, please don’t do that!” …and then what does he go and do? The exact thing you don’t want him to do, which usually caused me to say, “Come on Kikuji!” It is hard to be empathetic towards a character who barely shows any emotion throughout the entire novella. One example of Kikuji’s stone heart is right after Mrs. Ota dies. He says nothing about being sad or depressed due to her death. He only mentions that he “had trouble sleeping so I took sleeping pills.” I was dumbfounded by this lack of thought or emotion by Kikuji. In addition, and as I mentioned before, Kikuji is a bachelor and he tries to get with everyone who isn’t Chikako (his dad’s first ex-mistress) during at least one point in the story. Seriously, Kikuji, get a hobby! Learn how to perform spoken word poetry, or maybe try knitting…? This guy spends all of his time, energy, thoughts, and seemingly every waking moment he has trying to find someone to love him, even though he is so hard to like.

I’m sure many of you awesome blog readers who have managed to get to this point are asking, “Connor, what’s the point of all of this?” Good question. I wrote this because this beautiful, frustrating, confusing, and at some points straight up weird novella made me think and feel all of those things. Though you may not always enjoy reading due to a frustrating plotline or an unrelatable character, reading is still worth it because it stimulates your thoughts and emotions in ways that watching hours of Bob’s Burgers will not. So, I encourage you to go out, brave the cold, and head to a bookstore and/or library and spend some time finding a book…and finish it! Finish it even if the main character is crazy. Finish it because, in the end, it might just surprise you and make you think…at least more than binge watching any show on Netflix would.


Writing Center Events!

Writers Studio

Writer’s Studio podium…picture courtesy of Grace Bonde

Lots of events are coming up in the Minnetonka Writing Center in the month of December! (Disclaimer: all of these events will feature food.)

Writer’s Studio: share spoken poetry, favorite literature, personal works, and more

Writer’s Studio is happening tonight, December 4th, at 7:00 in the high school’s black box theater. Writer’s Studio has been dubbed the “coffeehouse for writers,” and anyone can perform anything of their choosing: their own work, someone else’s poems, the end of their favorite book, spoken word, their rapping skills… you won’t want to miss this. Don’t worry, though: Writer’s Studio happens several times a year, so if you can’t make it tonight, you’ll have more opportunities.

Romeo and Juliet Writing Party

The first writing party of the year is happening on Wednesday, December 16. All the 9 honors English students are invited to work on their essay, win trivia contests, and dress up as their favorite character (if you so choose).

Winter Writing Extravaganza

This is a new event occurring on Monday, December 21st right after school in the WC. Movies, poetry, MadLibs, and cookies will all be features of this wintery writing bash. Come check it out for camaraderie and bonding with your fellow writers – everyone is welcome!

We hope you can join us for some (or all!) of these events in the Writing Center this month. And, as always, stop in for a conference for any writing assignment you’re working on!

Love, your editors: Sam, Elise, and Anna





Let Traditions Carry You to Winter Break

Christmas Carol

by Anna Heinen, sophomore writing coach 

It was that time of year again, time for my dad to flip to the first page of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and begin our traditional Christmas reading. Charles Dickens holds a special place in my heart, especially around the holidays. For as long as I can remember, my dad has read A Christmas Carol out loud to me and my siblings. We start at the beginning of December and read up until Christmas Eve, when the story takes place. I looked forward to that night, which I knew would be spent reading the old, crisp words of Charles Dickens.

When I was about seven years old, I curled up on the couch next to my dad and brother. It was dark outside and the bright and colorful lights on the tree reflected in the black windows. My dad began to read in a deep voice suited to the attitude of the book, “Marley was dead to begin with… Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.” Dead as a doornail. I loved that. No one can really investigate that simple phrase like Dickens. He goes on a mini­ rant about why the phrase “dead as a doornail” is preferred above, perhaps, a coffin nail. It was like Mr. Dickens was bestowing his knowledge directly on me, even though his coffin nails were pounded into his coffin long before my time. Like traditions, Dickens’ language continues to give joy to readers hundreds of years after he first put pen to paper.

That night, we got to one of my favorite parts of the book: when the mournful ghost of Marley glides into Scrooge’s ancient house in his ghostly manner. I was always scared by how all the bells started ringing in Scrooge’s house, then each one of the locks on his door slid open; it nearly gave me nightmares when Marley walked into the room and sat down on the chair. But the warmth of our family tradition kept the nightmares out and I slept like a coffin­ nail that night.

Years later, reading Dickens remains our family tradition. When the days get shorter and colder, I look forward to our nightly readings of A Christmas Carol. This and other traditions help me find joy in December. Other families may enjoy lighting candles on a menorah, going on a skiing trip with your friends or family, or buying high quality Christmas pears. One tradition that everyone can look forward to is just around the corner: winter break!