Stone-cutters hosts first virtual workshop of the year

Daphne Davies

Stone-Cutters literary magazine hosted its first writing workshop of the year Feb. 21, inviting students of all styles and levels of writing experience to read and write via Zoom. The workshop was led by  Chronicle staff writer Lily Lee ’23, Aiko Offner ’23 and Anika Iyer ’23.

Attendees first each read aloud a portion of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian.” After reading the story, they shared their thoughts and reactions, with a focus on whether the story should be viewed as dystopian or utopian.

Students shared various thoughts on the story’s meaning. Joie Zhang ’22 interpreted the story as dystopian with utopian ideas at its surface.

“Even though some people might think of a world without crime as a utopia, that would also mean that innocent people who are wrongfully accused are going to be vilified even more and have a lower chance of receiving justice,” Zhang said. “That’s dystopian if the implicit and explicit racism in the criminal justice system remains unchanged, meaning that BIPOC individuals would hypothetically be targeted to an even greater degree than they are now.”

Iyer discussed the society and circumstances described in the story in terms of policing and crime.

“Something like taking a walk when you’re expected to sit inside and watch television — in a society with more crime — would probably not get you arrested,” Iyer said. “But as a result of the eradication of [crime], something like that gets you arrested. I think people have become more close-minded as a result, and more rigid.”

Attendees also discussed the literary devices used throughout the story.

“There’s emphasis on nature in terms of the imagery,” Offner said. “Even from the very beginning there’s a mention of fireflies, and the atmosphere is very mystical. I think thinking about that, in a dystopian short, is very interesting.”

Attendees then had the opportunity to write a reflection on the story or a literary response. . The workshop leaders encouraged responses concerning society and individuality or emulating the feel or setting of the story.

Responses included blackout poetry, short stories, and ideas of plotlines that echoed the futuristic sentiment of “The Pedestrian.” Iyer said she was envisioning writing a story on the premise of examining the Internet in a dystopian society.

“What was going on on the internet then, in that society?” Iyer said. “Thinking about that and wondering what kind of discussions people had, I vaguely started setting up something there.”

Offner said she appreciated the workshop as a chance to connect with other writers in place of being on campus.

“I think overall the workshop went well because the piece was really fitting for our setting right now, where our own lives sometimes feel a bit mechanical after being in quarantine for over a year,” Offner said. “It was nice because everyone had really insightful comments and the pieces shared at the end were all unique takeaways.”