It's been six years since I went through the Senior Thesis process? Really?
And the differences are astounding.
Though the process is the same--a one hundred page manuscript written over the course of several months then beautifully published by a local publishing company--the venue in which it's completed has drastically changed.
Wes Snell is one of the 13 students in this year's Senior Thesis Creative Writing class at School of the Arts. In his collection of poetry Spelunking, Snell has a poem named "Projects." Of the government housing, he references the boxes of houses held together "by duct tape and prayer."
That was the School of the Arts I remembered: the one held together by duct tape and talent, right in the middle of project housing. Now, after joining with the Academic Magnet, the campus across the street is pristine. Complete with separate wings for the middle and high schools and a new performance space, which pretty much looks like a mini-North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Jean Olsen, teacher at School of the Arts, says of the new Rose Maree Myers Theatre, "Now we have a venue worthy of our student's talent."
(Sidenote: To check out the new campus, go to the school's open house this evening. Performances and tours are lined up.)
Split pretty much down the middle between novels and poetry, the students honestly shared their work in the new theatre, their glossy book covers hanging from the ceiling. (My cover wasn't glossy.)
First up was Allison Hilton and her novel Letters to My Grandmother. At a funeral, the narrator of the novel notices "the best looking black man with smoky gray eyes heavier than the clouds outside."
"Why, thank you," whispered Marcus, my editor, sitting next to me.
Part of the school-year-long process is seeing a mentor once monthly, who will help find your voice, critique your work. Marcus was mentor to Caroline Rogers. In her introduction, Caroline mentioned that she finds religion in nature. Illustrated that fact with the opening lines, "I will talk to God for days, until I realize that I am talking, like Sylvia, to the sky."
Following tradition, Mrs. Miles, the Creative Writing teacher who started the process at the school, closed with a poem written for the class. Before she began--both crying and reading--she announced that this was her last year working with the Senior Thesis class. She commenced to read, no, choke through, beautiful phrasing like, "You are stones that have settled at the bottom of my heart." The poem ended with, "Now is the time for letting go." And more crying.
Maybe the upcoming students will have a better performance space, glossy book covers, but I--and I don't mean to brag--had Mrs. Miles.