Literary Voices through Aerie

November 14, 2019

By Bob Koppel, Aerie Instructor

ROBERT KOPPEL is the critically acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction books that have been translated into many languages. His novels are, THE NEXT STEP, WHY LOVE?, and IVAN LEFKOWITZ.



At Wheeler good writing abounds, spanning a spectrum of fact and imagination, sensitive to sight, sound, and feeling, driven by instinct and creativity. Here, our students’ stories and poems serve a purpose, providing intellectual pleasure and meaning, with deeper understanding of character, plot, setting, and experience. These rewards go beyond literary accomplishment, nothing less than insight into the meaning and substance of the student’s life.

With strong encouragement, students are invited to dive into the process of imagining and re-imagining, writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing their poems and stories. Also, encouraged to read and reread them, where the concept of text and subtext is examined. What is the manifest and latent meaning of their work?

They also come to understand the sensory impact of their writing and how to deal with it with a strong newly found awareness of its effects experienced on a visceral level: visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Students also learn how they can look, as if armed with X-ray vision, into the subterranean depth of their writing and see what has been hidden from them for so long. They are taught a technique for scene analysis, encouraged to slice and dice, like a Cubist painter, patterns of behavior that before were not always obvious.

As a novelist reflects on his protagonist’s behavior, the student once engaged, identifies positive qualities and flaws of character, perspective, and attitude, growing as a writer, and as a human being.

Here are a few recent examples, some of the work still in progress, from Aerie Independent Studies:


Catherine Sawoski, 12th grade
An excerpt from Providence

It’s 12:00 now with

a 3:00 feeling in the air,

your glasses wet with droplets

of god knows what.

It could be rain, but

isn’t that just a safer way to say sweat,

falling to us from anxious clouds,

too afraid to cry.

Isn’t the air we walk out of just

what we breathed in and out ourselves,

what we leave behind in every city street

and crowded room when we move

on and out and forward, as we

step into a cold apartment and only realize

as bits of water drip off of stale hair

how ostentatious the storm really was.

Even here it seems that every drop

must think if it is closer to the ground,

then it must be closer to god.


Chantel Kardous, 11th grade

Imagine climbing a mountain. The sun shining in your eyes. The snow sparkling beneath your feet. The goal: getting to the summit, the highest possible point. Once there, you decide to stay for a while, feeling the cool breeze in your hair, admiring the clear sky above you. Looking down, there are smaller mountains and even smaller people on the ground. Eventually, there is no other choice but to descend. Nowhere else to go once reaching the peak. In life, some fall down their mountain without choice. That’s how I would describe this past year and a half. I’m Luna Violet, and this is my story.

Jillian Iredale, 10th grade

(The author is now working on chapter four)

Breathing heavily as the door slammed shut behind her, her heart raced from the thrill of being out at night. Sliding her identification card into the small machine on the wall, she waited patiently as it beeped and ejected her card, allowing the doors of the lift to part for her.
As they closed, she caught a glimpse of the familiar poster hanging on the far wall. It was an image that she knew well from its placement in every building in the city. She had always found comfort in its simplicity, as if it was there only for her. An ocean of iris surrounding a large black pupil. Below it, in bold letters, OUR UTOPIA, and the familiar Board-approved stamp, a vivid red, like a puncture wound.

Samantha Flum, 9th grade

Can a heart beat so fast it jumps out of your chest? That is what I asked Grace, my therapist. I was dead serious. You may think it an obvious question, maybe even a dumb one, although my science teacher says, “there is no such thing as a dumb question.” I guess somewhere in the back of my brain, I know the answer. But it’s really damn hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not. All these messed up thoughts swimming around in my mind. Grace is just about to answer, probably go on some long rant about how, “it’s just OCD,” and “I can’t listen …” all the stuff I hear every day that doesn’t help or make them go away.  Just then, my phone rings. It’s my best friend May face-timing me. I inappropriately answer.

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