My New Writing Friends

Being abroad with twelve other people is amazing. It forces you make friends in way you usually don’t: being trapped together. This trip had an extra twist: we got to write together too. But I don’t want to waste this blogpost by congratulating myself over the new friends I’ve made. Everyone makes new friends studying abroad. Hell, that’s kind of the point.

What I will say, though, is that I’ve cultivated a far more intimate writing relationship with these new friends than I have with anyone else in my life. We interact at once on a personal and academic level. We laugh and joke together, but we also write together. I have never felt comfortable reading my pieces aloud to others or commenting on other’s works. Especially people I don’t know. Yet being abroad with other writers has made me more comfortable. I feel like I can share my pieces without being belittled, bullied, or berated. I do not dismiss their feedback. I do not fear giving feedback. Because I trust these people.

I trust these new friends of mine because they are my writing friends. Our relationships have been forged in the crucible of the workshop. The long and tedious, yet endlessly informative workshop. I’ve never had writing friends before, and it feels good. I no longer look forward to comments on my pieces as a way to validate myself, but rather to learn what my friends have to say about it. And I no longer look forward to commenting on other pieces as a way to sound smart and be pedantic, but rather to hear what they have to say.

I’ll finish up by simply saying that writing with friends and for friends has made writing way more fun. To have an audience that you want to impress, not for a grade, but because you genuinely crave their feedback and their knowledge is not a common thing in college. For once I have enjoyed the challenge of revising my pieces and the hard work it takes to come up with original material. I like my writing friends. I want to keep them. And I want to make new ones.

The Rock Library: Sam Schacht, Noah Coates, and Elizabeth Pellegrino

A warehouse of stone and metal houses a collection of historical value oft overlooked.  Filing cabinets extend along the length of the one-room library in fourteen rows, not counting those running along the outer walls.  Each cabinet stands approximately five feet tall and has forty thin drawers, each filled meticulously with labeled, compartmentalized samples of rock from all over the world.  I walk the rows, stopping in front of one of the cabinets to open the top drawer.  I reach in and pull out a rock labeled with tape, “Lilta-Sandfell, Iceland – Basalt.”


It was a short nine centuries ago that I left my home, that place which we all call home, in the thick, torrid porridge found far beneath where we am now, far beneath the clouds, far beneath the treetops and the ground and even the bedrock below. We started to grow, cozy in the magma chamber. As time passed, we fractionated. Magnesium dragged down to the bottom of our molten body by solid olivine, changing the chemical makeup for those of us still liquid.


Turning the rock over in my hands, I immediately notice its black color, which suggests it’s a mafic rock. This chunk in particular is chock full of magnesium and iron. The grain size is very small and filled with vesicles, meaning it cooled quickly. One side of the rock has a peculiar texture: a glassy rind. Glassy rinds form from exposure to water, so this rock must have cooled in water or ice. Since it’s from Iceland, ice is more likely.


I played witness to my own creation under two-thousand feet of ice, when the molten slurry of Earth’s interior broke through bedrock, reacting violently with the temperature of its new environment. For decades, it had pushed painstakingly upward, forcing against gravity, flowing through a plumbing system of nature’s design. It became sluggish. Its surface formed a glassy rind. But it kept going, driven by the determined magma below.

     The further it ventured, the cooler it became, and we were soon forging a plumbing system of our own, through ice and air, solidifying all the while. Cool liquid fizzed on our surface. Pores broke out under our glassy rind. We were lighter, and all around was glacial blue. Now more solidified than we had ever been, we began to gain familiar shape at expense of what little viscosity we had. Cast aside by the still-flowing magma on its tireless journey forth, we found little comfort in a new home ever-changing. We were constantly pushed further and further from our access point by newly solidified pillow basalts. We grew in size, piling on top of each other.


The overall shape and texture was pillow-like, the marker of a pillow basalt. When a subglacial eruption occurs, the magma on top is cooled instantly, but the magma below continues to push upward, swelling the top layer until it bursts, the new magma cools, and the process continues. Judging by the lack of olivine, this rock was from the top of the flow. Since olivine tends to sink into the lower levels of the magma, this rock must have been one of the first layers to reach the surface of the glacier. Yellow and tan splotches reveal palagonite on the surface, which was most likely caused by erosion from glacial meltwater.


Above, some still-molten material was finally meeting atmosphere, flowing laterally at gravity’s command, released from the confinement which was all it had ever known. Flattening around the epicenter of the eruption with no particular regularity, an earthen structure was crafted where only ice had once lived.

    As the centuries wore on, the atmosphere gradually warmed, and the glacier gradually melted away. We were exposed. The glacier’s meltwater had stained much of me yellow. Fierce winds scratched and scraped me, but I held firm. That is, until the quarriers came. With massive equipment they ripped us apart, and where was once a sturdy outcrop now sat a collection of loose cobbles. The miners continued to smash us, and finally, defenseless against the forces of humans, I broke from the rock that held me, tumbling down and cracking as I fell into the heap below.   


I turn the rock over slowly in my hand, sliding its gritty pores across my palm. Gingerly, I place the rock back in its designated bag and press my fingers on the seal until I hear it click. The drawer’s thud ricochets around the vast warehouse, the echoes settling after a few seconds. I peer down the long row of cabinets, unsure of what rock to pick next.  I hustle through the cabinets, running my fingers along their cold, metallic sides. My hand finds no handle in particular, and my thumb depresses the locking mechanism.  I reach in and pull out another rock.

Why Place Matters in Writing



While looking for a little bit of inspiration for this first blog post, I simply googled the terms “place” and “writing” separately to see what might come up. “Place,” obviously, came up with pictures of places with the image name “place.” Not very helpful. “Writing” was equally unhelpful, giving me pictures of pens and paper. But then I stumbled across this word cloud. I remembered doing these in elementary school, and so I checked it out.

I couldn’t help but notice that this word cloud didn’t include the word place, and that’s why I have chosen to add it here. At first I thought perhaps this word cloud simply had more literal terms and ideas in mind, words and concepts that are involved in the act of writing. “Skill,” “help center,” “abilities,” “university” seem very practical. But then I saw “people.” Surely the term “place” is just as general as “people,” so why isn’t it included?

I don’t know the answer, but I thought that I would use this blog post to figure out why. The way I see it, place informs every other concept in the word cloud, whether we know it or not. Place informs our subject matter, fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose, because everything happens somewhere. And even if you are writing about a concept in some meta fashion, without any setting, you are still in a place when you write. And that place still shapes your opinions and your work, be it the people in your place, or the sights or the smells or the sounds.

We often think of writing as a tool to take us other places, a way to escape where we are now. I think of it this way too, but in writing this post, I have realized that no matter where the writing takes you, real or imaginary or somewhere in between those two, all of those places in our writing come from places we have been and the place we are in while we write. Place does not have a single effect on writing, but it is always there, just as the place you are in is always there, in the background, whether you are thinking about it or not.