The Hate You Give & B4B


By Priscilla Trinh, senior writing coach


At the mention of YA novels, I simultaneously recoil and reach for fond memories. Notorious for its angst and tricky love triangles, YA novels may appear to be superficial and a phase to outgrow — certainly something a senior would not want to be associated with. But think again, especially when regarding The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Released in 2017 as a debut novel, Thomas’s story is inspired by police shootings and offers a human glimpse into a black community’s response to such tragedies. The novel follows sixteen-year old Starr who witnesses the shooting of her best friend one night by a policeman, through her journey of grief while navigating the complexities of racism, activism, and in general “teenhood.” Set in modern time, the dialogue and relationship dynamics are full of humor and expletives that are all too familiar. Starr’s observations highlight both the warmth of a tight knit community and the ugly truths of a ghetto, portraying the struggles of straddling two worlds in a relatable, not condemning manner.

Amongst the praise for Jordans and Fresh Prince of Bel Air are bits of wisdom, gentle prods that flip our reasoning and force us to ask what we would do in those circumstances. Oh, and Tupac. The legend has quite the influence on the story, providing material for the book’s title — “The Hate U Give.” It is in reference to the late rapper’s tattoo “THUG LIFE” which stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody.” This motif is addressed multiple times in the novel but in order to avoid spoiling it for you, it will have to suffice to say for now that the message is significant. #staywoke

Though aware of this novel’s rippling effects, I was not in any hurry to read it at first. But due to the magic of the six minds that run this blog and an enthusiastic media specialist, Books for Breakfast was born and T.H.U.G was chosen as the first novel to be discussed at the book club’s launch. Books for Breakfast was held two mornings this past week, and it was quite a success if I do say so myself. Food and discussions were aplenty, in addition to good vibes. Plus the District has granted the club a lump sum of money, so we’re set for next year! If you can’t join B4B, then at least give The Hate U Give a try and stay tuned for future reads.

My Undercover Afternoon As A Grown-Up Writer

the loft

by Mei Gong, junior writing coach.

Minneapolis has many artistic gems nestled in its (sometimes) snow blown streets. From performance art events at the Walker, to jazz at The Artists’ Quarter, to slam poetry at Kieran’s Pub, I feel lucky to live in a city with such enthusiasm for the arts and delighted with each sparkling site of creativity I find.

One of my favorite discoveries came about this time last year. The Writing Center’s promotion of the Lovett Scholarship introduced me to the Loft, Minneapolis’s very own super hip, super rad literary center. The Loft offers writing classes for all ages instructed by local and not-so-local writers on topics from poetry, personal narratives, and novel writing, to song lyrics, playwriting, and college essays. Their work is varied and amazing and the Lovett Scholarship (available right now in the writing center!) helped me take the leap and learn writing in an entirely new way.

My first class at the Loft was called “Building Your Wheelhouse: Channeling Your Preoccupations Into Poetry.” It was a one day, three hour class about using recurrent preoccupations as a way to open up a poem to talk about the deeper, buried subjects you really want to talk about. For example, we looked at the work of poet Maggie Nelson and her  book of poems about the color blue which wasn’t really about the color blue.

From the online description, I thought the class sounded fascinating, and when I read that it took place on one of the few Saturdays I wasn’t already working, I was ecstatic, cracked open my wallet, and started registering immediately. Halfway through, however, I realized that I faced one, (not so) formidable challenge: it was technically a class for adults.

Now, I knew that they wouldn’t card me at the door, and I figured that they wouldn’t really be offended that an unobtrusive high schooler was taking a deeper interest in poetry. Still, when that fateful Saturday morning finally arrived, I tried to disguise my shameful Gen Z status with the most Millennial lumpy green sweater I could find in my closet, the messiest artsy hair bun I could muster, my large, old-man hipster glasses, and some less-than-successful winged eyeliner.


They won’t suspect a thing, I whispered to my costumed reflection.


Even if they were fooled by my impersonation of a twenty-something year-old Minneapolis poet (and they weren’t), I still would’ve been the odd one out. As you might expect in an adult-level writing class, everyone was at least 30+ years old and had years and years writing of experience, while little ol’ me had just started exploring creative writing a few weeks earlier. 

Feeling way out of my depth, the first hour or so of class I barely said anything. But I kind of didn’t need to. Beyond the great class instruction/discussion planned by our hugely knowledgeable teacher, Mary Austen Speaker, I feel like I learned so much just by listening to the stories of my classmates. I heard about obsessions from bicycling to motherhood to astronauts to cats. In that room, I met a professional poet, an elementary ESL teacher, a data analyst, and a world traveling youth rehab manager. Most impressively though, I had never been in a space where people were so okay and honest about talking about the hard things in their lives, like juggling identities, accepting aging, navigating masculinity, and fighting loneliness.


Cover of the Loft’s spring catalog!

On their website, the Loft says their goal is “to advance the artistic development of writers, foster a thriving literary community, and inspire a passion for literature. ” From the short glimpse I’ve had into the work of the Loft, I am happy to report that they definitely do all three. After just dipping my toe into the literary waters of the Loft, I can barely wait to dive back in this summer.

If you want to try out a class at the Loft, you can check out their selections here or stop by the writing center to ask about other summer writing opportunities.

Happy writing!


Spring: A Time for Photography


By Alexa Vos, junior writing coach

Spring is the season we Minnesotans anticipate and long for during the unending winter months. It is the time for washing away winter woes in order to make way for renewed growth and fresh beginnings. Spring brings sweet smells and beautiful plants that bloom in an array of greens and other colors.

This makes spring a photographer’s dream. For me, I love taking photos during this time since I enjoy capturing unique moments in plant life. It delights me to be able to photograph the stages of growth of greenery and then flip through the pictures later to watch it like viewing a movie. I am a nature photographer, so watching the earth come back to life is something I always look forward to witnessing as the snow finally melts away to reveal something beautiful sprouting. Because nature is reborn in spring, this season brings an opportunity to see things in a new way.

Some of the best times to take photos in spring is when there is a combination of both seasons. Whether it be winter-spring or spring-summer, these transitional phases are perfect for capturing something unique. Also, the obvious interval to take pictures is right as flowers or plants are sprouting. When it comes to spring photography, timing is everything. So even if one day a photographer like you goes out and does not see any unique moments, that does not mean you should give up. Maybe give it a few more days and then explore again because spring is a time full of beautiful surprises.

Normally, spring creates the perfect environment for photographers to unshelve their cameras and explore; however, this is Minnesota. So here we are shoveling the foots of snow that arrived with the mid-April blizzard this past weekend. While our spirits may be down, we at least know that spring will still come and that gives us something to look forward to.

So once the snow clears and the official spring begins, I encourage you all to take out your phones and become a photographer. You don’t need to have a professional camera or be an expert artist, just go out and explore the blooming nature all around, as we all hope it will be coming soon.

Monkey Business: A Primate’s Memoir Book Review


by Alexis Zucker, sophomore writing coach

I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck does this girl want me to read a book about stress levels in Kenyan baboons? And if you weren’t thinking that before, you definitely are now. To be honest, that’s essentially the question I started to ask myself halfway through the introduction. But, by the end of the book, not only had I learned a ridiculous amount about baboon hierarchy and neuroendocrinology, but I also left with a better grasp on the current lifestyle of traditional African tribes, the danger and corruption in many African governments today, the distressing effects of tourism on African ecology, the frailty of the animal conservation efforts in developing nations, and most importantly, how someone can survive it all.

The author of this book, Robert Sapolsky, had only just graduated Harvard when he, carrying not much more than his book smarts, headed straight for Kenya to live with baboons in slightly less refined Jane Goodall-style. He spent his days tranquilizing and measuring the stress levels of the baboons of the tribe in which he lived. In addition to his study subjects—befriended and personalized by the Christian names he gave them—through his well documented travels, Sapolsky encountered conflict and worked towards resolution with neighboring tribesmen, corrupt government officials, and scientists alike.


Sapolsky with one of his baboon pals

Luckily, after returning to the U.S., Sapolsky made the jump from the lowest ranking baboon member to a Stanford professor of biology, neurology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery, as well as a renowned neuroendocrinologist, observational scientist, and author. His considerable and vast knowledge of these topics from such high class institutions has left him with plenty to say and the copious vocabulary with which to say it. In fact, some of the most complicated words Sapolsky uses aren’t related neuroendocrinology, but are actually just used in the run-of-the-mill (and usually very entertaining) plot progression.

I would highly recommend this piece to anyone who has the slightest interest in animal behavior or just laughing at clueless Harvard students. If you are looking for a more in depth understanding of Sapolsky’s specialized fields, you can check out his more recent works of critical acclaim, The Trouble with Testosterone, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, or his online lectures with Big Think. However, if you’re looking for a surprisingly impactful narrative blended seamlessly with intriguing scientific revelations, this is the book for you.  

So really, the question you should be asking yourself is: Why the heck does this girl want me to read a book about blood-drinking Masai tribesmen, the downfall of governments, African scams (not relating to Nigerian Princes,) and a guy who lives in the Serengeti hanging out with baboons? That, I think, answers itself.

Appropriate April Celebrations!



by Luke Bunday, senior writing coach

It’s April! You know what that means, right? No, I’m not talking about the seven inches of the most inconvenient snow ever that we just got (thanks, Nature, but April Fools already happened!), nor am I referring to the fact that it’s National Pet Month in the UK. Here on Writing It Out, April is probably best loved as a celebration of something appropriately writerly: poetry!

The days April 1st through April 30th comprise National Poetry Month, and, in the Writing Center, that’s as good an excuse as any to pull out the (probably metaphorical) party hats.


How does one party

During this here month of verse? 

You ask. “Write!” I say.


Unleash your creativity! You can write haikus, limericks, sonnets, free verse—the sky’s the limit. And, after you’re done, you can submit your work to MUSE Magazine, our up-and-coming literary magazine, for publication! 

But, I also understand if writing poetry isn’t your thing. (As evidenced by my haiku, it’s not really mine, either.) However, that’s no reason to miss out on the fun; there are a lot of great ways to celebrate National Poetry Month besides composing poems.

For starters, Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th, and we at the Writing Center will carry on the annual tradition of donning aprons and passing out free poems.


Poem in Your Pocket Day 2017

If you want to ease into a poetry-based reading diet before gorging yourself on the 26th, try reading a poem a day from the Poetry Foundation or from the American Academy of Poets! (Poetry Foundation also has an app you can get on your iPad or phone—it’s really slick.) Or, if you’re more of slam poetry kind of person, definitely check out Button Poetry, which has a massive collection of performances ranging from the hilarious to the gut-wrenching.

Something that’s a little more hands-on but not quite as complicated as writing your own poetry is book spine poetry. This is my new favorite thing, and a great excuse to re-organize your bookshelf to boot:


(Something in a similar vein is found poetry, which uses the words in a book or any other text to make poems.)

Hopefully at least one of these celebratory techniques has piqued your interest! If not, as a last resort I’ll just leave this poem by the always wonderful Shel Silverstein here, and that should undoubtedly be enough to convince you to partake in these April festivities. 🙂

Poet’s Tree by Shel Silverstein

Underneath the poet tree,
Come and rest awhile with me,
And watch the way the word-web weaves
Between the shady story leaves.
The branches of the poet tree
Reach from the mountains to the sea.
So come and dream, or come and climb —
Just don’t get hit by falling rhymes.