Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel, page one.

By Sophie Stephens. 1 December 2017.

I have a strange love of words. Any words will do, really: nouns or adverbs or adjectives. When I feel something or think something I can’t express on my own, words are always there to help me out. If there aren’t words in English to back me up, there are words elsewhere: French, Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, Swahili. Words in poems, in songs, in essays, in novels. Somewhere out there in the beautifully big world there are words that are exactly what I am looking for.

Words, when used correctly, can express something deep down; something that is a feeling, a thought, an expression.

Words are there to help when something is right on the tip of your tongue or just tickling the back of your brain. That burning in your chest: passion. That beautiful smell of rain, before, during, and after the storm: petrichor. Words you didn’t even know you needed; ya’aburnee: Arabic for the declaration that you will die before someone you love because you know you couldn’t live without them; l’esprit de pescalier: French for a retort you think of too late, after the time has passed and you have departed; cavoli riscaldati, Italian meaning reheated cabbage but more often used when someone tries to restart a relationship that will never succeed.

Words have never let me down. I’m rarely–if ever–at a loss for words. I have made it my goal in life to learn as many words as I can. All words, multiple languages. I try to be well read, for all genres and difficulties, classics and new releases. Plays, poems, novels; British or American or Anglo or Dutch.

I mean, think of how many words you use a day. Thousands. Talking to your friends, writing emails, texting friends, completing homework, reading a book for fun. The second you step outside, your brain recognizes the sensations, the way you feel, and connects those feelings to words: whether it is humid outside, wet, freezing cold, or scalding hot, your brain uses words to explain what you are experiencing. When you see a little puppy, you instantly find words to connect to the feeling you have upon seeing the adorable thing. Look: “adorable.” A simple word to convey such a strong feeling inside of me. When you listen to a song, do you ever feel…something… that unexplainable “something”? Good chance there is a word somewhere out there to explain that. When you view an incredible piece of artwork (again: “incredible”), you instinctively connect what you see–what the art makes you feel–to words.

I think words are the greatest thing humans have created. So yeah, I am in love with words.

So I guess it’s only fitting, a sort of osud,* that the first time I faced a situation where I absolutely could not find a single word in my eloquent vocabulary, my upu lelei,* if you will, it would be the day that my entire life and way of being as I know it would be completely demolished.

 

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Silent tradition

By Sophie Stephens. Originally published on wsspaper.com.

The rules are simple: be completely silent.

No audible conversations. No getting up and walking around. Just sit, relax and take a few minutes to get a clear head and prepare for the night.

This is what head football coach Garrett Hartwig expects for 15 minutes. This allotted time, deemed “quiet time,” happens before each game to allow players to mentally prepare themselves.

The 49 varsity players sit in the cardio or weight room as far away from each other as possible to avoid any distractions. There is no verbal communication allowed. The players have the 15 minutes to themselves to clear their minds and get ready to play that night.

“Quiet means different things to people,” Hartwig said. “[The room] is just dead silent to walk into, but players listen to music, look at social media [or] some actually do homework … They may communicate through text messaging or social media, but there’s no talking whatsoever. Some students and players take a 15 minute catnap, some just sit and think. It’s just a period that’s completely dedicated to them for 15 minutes before the chaos of the game.”

Hartwig implemented quiet time for the varsity football players two years ago. He got the idea from his time playing college football, where his coaches allotted time for the team to mentally prepare for the games.

After the 2016 season varsity team tried and enjoyed quiet time, Hartwig made the 15 minute period a mandatory part of the team’s Friday night routine for subsequent seasons. Hartwig believes the most important part of the personal quiet time is the repetitive routine and that it is to credit for the football team’s success in recent years.

“I think preparing for a football game or any athletic competition is about routine, and I think that the body is triggered for physical exertion through activity and consistency and this [routine] is part of it,”  Hartwig said. “The more consistent your routine is, the better you will perform. Your body goes through a process of preparing, and this is a time where the body gets all the way down to a completely relaxed state and the mind hopefully as well. You’re hopefully feeling and thinking at the highest level you can for competition.”

Varsity fullback and linebacker Will Hoeft ’20 says that quiet time does not personally help him play better during a game. However, Hoeft believes it is important for the team to have enough time to get themselves prepared for a game and get into a relaxed and focused mindset, whether it be a home or away game.

“I think that football is a pretty mental game sometimes and it just requires a lot of time to get yourself in the right mind frame to go out and do your job and do it well,” Hoeft said.

Although some players may not credit quiet time to better performance in a game, they do accept the fact that quiet time is a required part of the Friday night games and use the 15 minutes to do whatever they personally need to do to get focused.

“It’s not a big factor into how we play, but I think it just helps everybody focus, to just know that they [have] to get ready, and when that ball is kicked on that first down kickoff that they [have] to go,” said running back and defensive end Xarminto Lubuelo ’19. “After quiet time, everybody is in their own zone and getting ready how they get ready … After it’s over you just go get your pads on and get ready for the game.”

While quiet time is a ritual for the team, much of the student body is not familiar with it. This has led to some misunderstandings concerning the team’s schedule, routine and other activities.

One common misconception about quiet time is that the varsity football team gets released from class after sixth period to participate in quiet time. However, the football players are actually released after sixth period to have ample time to eat before the game. Since a large majority of the team has seventh period open during football season, their early release does not actually affect their school work. Because of the way both the school and the football schedules are set up, if the team were to be released at 4:00 p.m. and start practice at 4:30 p.m., there would be no time for players to eat before the game.

The conflicting schedules also mean that the athletes do not have ample time to mentally prepare for the game. Players that do have seventh period classes would leave the school day and go directly to practice. According to Hoeft, this would mean no time for eating, getting organized or going through other processes of preparing themselves, like getting their uniforms ready and doing quiet time.

Although the players are released early from school, the team takes this time seriously. Players utilize the extra time away from class well, as this time is a vital part of their game day routine.

“When we get out, everybody knows it’s not really a time to fool around even though we [have] time before the game,” Lubuelo said. “It’s a time to get your stuff ready, get your protein or nutrients … I don’t think anyone takes advantage of it and just goofs off.”

Many students at West have demonstrated confusion towards the football team’s schedule, citing that other sports are not released early for home games or meets, prompting arguments of special treatment to the football team. However, both Hartwig and varsity football players say it’s fair for the team to take time out of the day to get ready for the game, including eating before the long nights.

“I guess every sport is different and when it all boils down to it, all the sports get different things that other sports don’t,” said Hoeft. “It makes sense why people are a little upset but … [for] wrestling, sometimes we get team dinners and sometimes we get charter buses with a lot of space on them. For wrestling we’ll miss a couple of days of school to go to a tournament out of town. For baseball we get sandwiches up to the game. I feel like there is special treatments each sport gets that some other sports don’t.”

Although football does receive extra time for home games that other sports may not, the time is a vital part of the team’s friday night routine. Leaving school early allows the team to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenging night ahead.

“It takes a while to get ready mentally and there are a lot of logistics that go into football that people don’t know about,” said Hartwig. “I mean, we have walkthroughs, we have quiet time, we have mental checks just to make sure that players remember game plan situations … and it may sound trivial but it’s helped us to be successful over the years.”

A new home

By Sophie Stephens

For Emi Ariaux ’19, moving from La Garenne Colombes, France to Iowa City for her senior year was something she had dreamed of doing since her relatives told her stories of their time spending senior year abroad.

Ariaux has immersed herself in American culture by attending the Iowa State Fair, making s’mores for the first time and eating McDonald’s at 10 a.m. Additionally Ariaux has also been introduced to an ordinary part of life many students take for granted: having a sibling.

Being an only child in France, Ariaux has had to adjust to having two siblings here in America. As an only child, the experience of living with a sibling was something Ariaux was looking forward to.

“If I didn’t have this [host] family I would not have the same experience, and I’m so happy to live this experience right now,” Ariaux said. “I know they’re here for me, and if I need help they will always be here.”

Despite being separated from her friends back home, Ariaux has developed new friendships with her host siblings that transcend language or cultural differences.

“She just really is here to make friends and live how we live,” said Ryan Gamble ‘19, Ariaux’s host brother. “I feel like she is just wanting to build more connections with people.”

Other differences like sharing a bathroom with siblings, getting ready with her host sister Emma Howes ’19 in the morning and the freedom she has at school to switch classrooms throughout the day and take elective courses like AP psychology and introduction to theater have been exactly what Ariaux has been looking for.

“I think we have more liberty here to do what we want to do,” Ariaux said. “We can choose the classes that you want. The teachers are more friendly [here]. In France it is like the teacher and we are under the teacher and here too we have to respect the teacher but there is not this connection [in France].”

Although Ariaux may occasionally surprise her host brother and sister by slipping into her native tongue, the social and cultural differences between Iowa City and La Garenne Colombes have only made her experiences more authentic and meaningful.

See the full article here.

Novel conversations

By Sophie Stephens

A recent rise in minority authors has kickstarted a literary movement that tackles issues like racism and police brutality through young adult fiction. Books like “Dear Martin” provide a way to bring students together through understanding each other’s backgrounds.

The 2017-18 climate survey revealed that minority students at West felt unsafe, unwelcome or targeted by both students and teachers. The administration had to step back and use these results to find ways to create a unified community.

Librarian Jill Hofmockel was surprised by the results of the survey and wanted to create an environment where students would feel welcome.

“Even though maybe we think that we are creating an atmosphere that is supportive of all students, we need to do better in showing students that we care about them and that their representation matters,” said Hofmockel.

She and fellow librarian Beth Belding took action by creating a school-wide diversity book group. Each month, interested students will meet to read and discuss books written by minority authors that focus on central characters from the same background.

This month, students read “Dear Martin.” Students listened to author Nic Stone speak during small group discussions throughout the day Sept. 18. Jo Dixon ‘19 read the book and attended one of the author visits.

“I’ve never really read a book where they hit the facts like this, so blatantly,” said Dixon. “Other books, they’re kind of low key about it but this book is just hitting it head-on and I really like that.”

Author Nic Stone drew on her own childhood experiences and on being a mother to two African American boys for the book. She was also inspired by the story of Jordan Davis, an African American teenager from Jacksonville, Florida who was shot and killed at age 17 because he was playing loud music.

Stone writes books to create characters that other minority readers can connect to and to shine light on the racism and police brutality that is happening in America today. She hopes that the more these topics are written about, the more attention it will get, and hopes that literature will be a way to minimize racial profiling.

“Elie Wiesel was a holocaust survivor and he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986,” said Stone. “Something he said in his speech was ‘It is the memory of evil that will serve as a shield against evil,’ so as long as my book is in print I hope that it will serve as a shield against evil in highlighting some of the terrible things that have happened to black boys over the course of the past six years or so.”

Books like “Dear Martin,” “The Hate You Give,” by Angie Thomas and “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds have created a movement that breaks molds of what historically has been whitewashed literature for young adults. Hofmockel chose “Dear Martin” for students to read because of its new take on topics like racism and police brutality.

“She’s written this book that I think just blows stereotypes out of the water and she’s unafraid to talk about how it makes people uncomfortable sometimes,” said Hofmockel. “I think that it’s healthy to use literature to experience something that maybe you wouldn’t experience and to then use that to grow. Anytime you can use literature to broaden your perspective I think is a benefit.”

The diversity book group named “These Books Are Lit” will meet once a month. The first few meetings will be organized by the librarians, but after that will be run by any students that want to attend. All books will have diverse characters from minority backgrounds. Meetings will try to build understanding between students of all backgrounds and start a discussion about current events.

“People are going through these things everyday and we really need to sit down and think about what they really have to deal with on a daily basis and figure out a way to change,” said Dixon.

 

See the video and full original article here

The repeal of diversity in fashion

By Sophie Stephens

Just as the fashion industry begins to include more models considered plus size in campaigns and magazine spreads, preaching the beauty in differences and imperfections, the fashion industry has taken a big step backwards.

CNBC released a video in mid-August revealing the faces of Shudu and Miquela, two digitized models branded as the new faces of the fashion industry. Termed “virtual brand ambassadors” by the CNBC reporter, Shudu and Miquela will soon be incorporated into social media campaigns and photo shoots, including Shudu’s most recent Vogue Australia magazine spread and Balmain partnership.

The nearly $2 trillion fashion industry hopes to eventually replace models with digital designs out of convenience, raising ethical questions.

From a fashion perspective, the idea of creating perfect models with computers is disappointing and unsettling. Just from the first glance of Shudu, the first of the two digital models, it’s apparent that she’s beautiful, created to be flawless in every aspect, but clicking through her Instagram photos is off-putting.

Although the artwork and design skills used in her creation are incredible, there are qualities of a person that are hard to replicate with computers. Shudu’s facial expressions seem soft and her eyes don’t seem as lively as a real model’s would. As for Miquela, the second of two digital models, her features are even farther from realistic than Shudu’s, their faces looking more like American Girl dolls than living people.

Combine their unsettling appearances with the fact that their Instagram accounts (Miquela with 1.4 million followers and Shudu with 139 thousand) are active and are made to look like the two were living people with daily habits and lives is eery. Because their characteristics already have an unusual feeling, the way their social media is used to portray normal life–like Miquela’s Spotify updates and tourist photos.

From a journalist’s perspective, I have reservations about the use of completely fictionalized “people” to represent brands and ideals to readers. It comes down to the question of credibility and ethics. If publications start using these digital models, the ethical promise journalists give to present the truth every time could be jeopardized.

Will readers be notified that the models used were digitized, or will they be led to believe that Shudu and Miquela actually walked into the studio? Without more than a glance it would be easy to mistake the girls as real. Rumor has it that a photo of Shudu representing a makeup brand was reposted without the company knowing she was digitized.

If designers begin to rely on computers to create the “perfect” image, it creates an expectation that the readers must receive perfection in every single shot. The line gets blurred as more and more photos are edited to be “better” or “cleaner” than the original image, to the point where it is acceptable to use a completely fabricated image. Personally, I would find my trust lacking in a publication that uses images completely crafted on a computer software.

In my opinion, using digital models is impractical and reverts to the system where every model seen in a magazine or on Instagram is stick thin, incredibly tall and flawless. A future that contains digital models in the fashion world is one where the progress made to celebrate differences and embrace variation in shape and size is gone, covered up by perfect models that don’t even actually exist, but are still seen as “ideal,” “perfect” and attainable.

Must-have fall 2018 top that’s already in your closet

By Sophie Stephens

Fast fashion has made it economically impossible for fashionistas like myself to keep up with the ever-changing styles that are on trend just during the span of one season. Thrift shopping has had a huge increase in pop culture because of the cheap, reusable finds. But here’s one outfit you can put together using something everyone already owns: button up shirts.

I have recently become absolutely obsessed with styling a deemed “professional” collared, button up shirt with high waisted shorts or jeans and wearing it out to school, family dinner, work or just to the mall. It is such an effortless, clean look that can be styled using items you already own, and can be dressed up or down with shoes, jewelry and makeup.

By folding up the back of the shirt to hit the edge of the bottoms you are pairing it with, keep the shirt unbuttoned and pull the two sides to your belly button. From here you can tie the shirt however you like. Depending on the size and or length of the shirt, I like to either tie the shirt loosely and leave the excess fabric hanging down or tie the shirt into a tight knot and tuck in the ends to hide them.

Then, button up the top, leaving the top 1-2 buttons undone to give the shirt more room to move. Now, cuff the sleeves to the desired length, leaving the sleeves a little tussled or uneven so as not to make the shirt look too perfect.

This styling is definitely going to be one of my go-to’s this fall for an easy, put-together look. You can mix the look up with layers including sweaters over the shirt or bralettes and tank tops underneath the top.

So, instead of going out multiple times this season to keep up with the top brand’s fast fashion, take a page out of the thrifting book and reuse some items you already own.

 

*Recommended colors for fall button up shirts: white, maroon, beige/tan/taupe, blue, gold*

Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

Excerpt from Nanowrimo novel

By Sophie Stephens

Page 36-37

I go to look for my keys, keeping the phone pressed firmly against my ear. I grip onto my phone as if it were really Rosie I am holding on to.

She finally speaks. “What have you heard so far, about Cooper?”

“Nothing, his parents just said to come. I don’t think they know much either. I’m on my way to the hospital now. I’ll keep you updated, I promise.”

“You better. I won’t hardly sleep tonight anyways. Stay strong, okay? Don’t hurt yourself or Cooper by getting into your own head. And Addie, please drive safe. Only one accident tonight, alright?”

“Of course.”

Now, at 2:15 a.m. on December 16th, one of the surgeons that was operating on Cooper calls over his parents, and with longing eyes I watch them walk over, trying to judge how good or bad the news is based on their reactions. Jackson watches them too, waiting just like I am. Jason dozed off nearly a half hour ago, pushing his glasses half off of his face. He doesn’t normally wear his glasses, especially not on game days; he must have put them on since it was so late, and didn’t bother to change out of them before he got here. Just goes to show how long tonight has been.

All I want is to see him. I was advised that I probably would not. Would not see him, and quite frankly would not want to see him, according to a conversation between two of the first responders I overheard on my way in the doors. He was in bad shape when they pulled him out of the car.

Cooper was driving his car, alone, down the winding road that leads right past all of the streets I–along with Cooper, Rosie, Elliot, Jason, and half of our school–live on. The street is poorly lit, especially in the winter months when the sky gets dark by 5:00 p.m., and since it’s a less traveled road by anyone other than the residents near it, the street is usually left as one of the last roads in the city to be plowed after a fresh snowfall, as tonight had given us for the first time this season. Despite this, almost everyone continues to drive that road from school to home and back again because it shaves about five minutes off of our travel time.

It had not been snowing for long, but since it had gotten so cold, what would have been soft tufts that could have melted in seconds turned into slush that froze almost instantly, causing Cooper to hit a large patch of ice that blended in to the road, where he lost control. They say he was probably speeding. Or texting. Others speculate he was drinking after the basketball team’s victory. Some other students say he was rushing to a party at a friend’s house to begin drinking. Most of the stories that surfaced this morning when everyone heard the news involved Cooper being stupid and reckless, “like teenagers are.” His star-athlete position did not help his case.

I would like to believe that none of it is true. That he was using his head and making smart, safe decisions. I do not want to have to blame him, although people will no matter what the real story is. That’s the thing about high school: news travels fast, and is changed by every person spreading the story.
Maybe he was just driving. Maybe it was inexorable. I just can’t be sure. I know the real Cooper, but I also know the Cooper he is when he is just the star athlete. I cannot be too sure which Cooper he was tonight.

Mr. and Mrs. Salsmith return to their seats. I sit up to go over to them, but Mr. Cooper just shakes his head. It has been a long night, and it seems as if there is still no news worth hearing.

 

Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

By Sophie Stephens

Page 61-62

“What do you write, when you come to the park?” Cooper asked me.

“Anything. Anything that comes to mind. Sometimes I just write about what I hear or see or smell. Other times I add to my ongoing story.”

“Write something for me.”

“What?”

“I know you keep your leather notebook with you at all times,” he said, looking at my bag. “Write something for me.”

“I don’t know if I can just write something on command like that.” I replied, but I pulled out the leather notebook with the flowers on the front and the multiple half sheets of only partially thought-out plot or dialogue sticking out. I untied the ribbon on the side and opened to the first clean page, pulling my writing pen out of the front pocket of my bag.

“I’ll write something when you write something. I mean, mine will be absolute trash and yours will be a masterpiece, but then it’s not like I’m staring at you waiting for you to write something.”

“But why?” I asked. “Why do you want me to write something?”

“Because it’s important to you and you’ve never shared any of your work with me.”

“Oh, don’t take it personally. Hardly anyone has read my work. Not even Rosie, actually.”

“Then let me be the first.”

I ripped out a piece of paper and gave it to him, and he started writing instantly. It might have been gibberish, from what I could see when I peek around the food at him.

I sat, thinking, for a long while before I started writing.

I have lived in this town for my whole life, and most of the time I don’t bat an eye at the fact. I’ve never been bothered by the walls surrounding me, growing taller. But in the late fall when the blue sky is swarmed with black birds migrating south for the wintertime, traveling thousands of miles somewhere new and warm, I get homesick for places I have never been. Places like Paris and London and Rome and Toronto. Places like Oslo and Dublin and Copenhagen. Berlin. Moscow.

I envy those birds.

More and more, as the years go by, I just feel suffocated by the confines of this stupid little town in the middle of nowhere. I relish in the memories I have made here with my friends. But the sights were getting plain; the activities, boring; the air, stale. A town like this, I can see what the appeal is. Safe, small. A good place to raise a family. Except when I close my eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose, my heart races and I feel stuck, panicked. I can see my opportunities dwindling. This ache inside of me, it hurts when I think about living in this little town. I feel scared, thinking about growing old here. These birds, flying over head on instinct, don’t understand how lucky they are to have those wings by their sides, giving them the power to leave. To experience.

I long to see what they get to see during their fall adventures.

I want to follow them. I want to have adventures,too.

You know I have never seen the oceans? Never stuck my foot in salt water and seen the waves up close? I’ve never seen the snow-capped mountains in Colorado or along the East coast.

I can see myself in a train car one day, eventually, sometime down the road. I’m riding through the mountains, fresh snow falling against the window I press my nose against. I carry only a small case with me. A quick trip, just a few days, a retreat. Maybe I’m by myself, or maybe I’m with a best friend, but I’m relaxed. Happy. Truly happy for what feels like the first time in forever.

I don’t need much. I just need to see it, experience it. Just once. Just to breathe in the thinning air and smell the snow and the pine trees and the clean air. To taste the snow falling onto my tongue.

Just to live a little.

I don’t know anyone who truly understands what this feels like. Only a handful of people in the world suffer from such strong wanderlust without a cure in sight, just like I do. But I can’t help it. I try to ignore it and it grows stronger, try to suppress it and it bubbles out, taking over my thoughts. Nobody I know understands the value of an experience in a new place, but I long to go see the world. 

must go see the world.

I put the cap back on my pen and placed it inside my notebook before shutting the cover. Cooper was done writing and had begun spacing off into the woods as I finish. Closing my notebook alerted him that I was done.

“Can I read it?” he asked me, reaching for the notebook.

I nodded my head, silent. I felt nervous about this, but I let him read anyways. I wanted him to read it.

I watched him as he read, but his face had little expression. When he was done he shut the notebook and handed it back to me. I cocked an eyebrow as to ask “Well?”

He smiled. “Is it true you’ve never seen the mountains?”

 

Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

By Sophie Stephens

Page 4

.  .  .

A seemingly inconspicuous Friday night with the family, in my mind. There wasn’t much to do in my small town of Stronghurst, but with the holiday season coming around within the month and the newfound chill in the air–smelling of the anticipation of the first snow we were all both waiting for and hoping against–the city was coming alive with boutique shops and community decorations, and I was feeling excited with all of the holiday spirit in the air.

Holiday anticipation was coursing through me, with winter break being only a week away and the holidays not long after. My parents, sister, and I were beginning our Christmas traditions in preparation of the weeks to come. We had gone into the downtown shopping district to pick out some new Christmas decorations and get dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, spending quality family time together.

We braved the weather to go downtown and walk around through the lit-up stores and bustling cafes. It was cold enough for me to be wearing a knit beanie and a sweater, but still bearable enough to walk down the streets without shivering uncontrollably. The perfect weather for a peppermint hot chocolate and knit socks. The holiday jolly brought most of the city out that night with their families to shop and get dinner, so all of the shops were packed.

We had just finished dinner and shopping–we had bought new stockings, candles, and ornaments for our tree this year at an antique-looking store–and were walking towards the center of town to see the big Christmas tree that was put up every year, our bags hitting at the back of our legs as we walked.

My phone started to ring, and I slipped it out of my back pocket to look at the caller ID. “Cooper.” I clicked the power button on the side of my phone and slid it back into my pocket. It wasn’t everyday that I could do this with my family, and if it was important Cooper would leave a message. I wasn’t too worried.

“Who was that?” my mom asked.

“Just Cooper. I’ll call him back later.”

We kept walking a little more when my phone rang again.

“Must be really important for two calls in a night,” my father had prodded at me.

I rolled my eyes at my father and pulled my phone out again. My brows furrowed a little. Cooper again. My parents kept walking, but I stayed a few steps back and answered the call.

“Hey! What’s up?”

It was not Cooper on the other line, but Mrs. Salsmith, Cooper’s mother.

“You should come right now,” she said.

“What’s wrong hunny?” Mom had asked. I must have made a certain face, one that seemed to worry my mom.

I hung up, and turned to them. “It’s Cooper. I have to go.”

 

Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

Excerpt from NaNoWriMo 2017

Page 11

By Sophie Stephens

Looking back now, I realize how much I enjoyed those days. Rosie and Elliot by my side, floating through the halls, unnoticed enough to be in our own little world, planning out our futures together. I even miss the jocks, always a constant source of entertainment and gossip, after our groups began to mix and I started actually paying attention to their silly little conversations. I miss listening to my friends complain about school like everyone does. I miss our weekly coffee dates. I miss our adventures, our senior year bucket list that took us to places all over the city. I miss the days I didn’t take the time to revel in. I miss the days I’ll never get back.

Back then, I always felt like I was living in the future, instead of the present. Like carpe diem meant absolutely nothing to me. I never relished high school, or just acted like a teenager, partying or dating or just having fun like they do in the movies. I hardly acknowledged the fact that I was about to graduate; I didn’t care about high school or teenage years, I just wanted to start over. I never felt pressured to stay super connected with old friends from middle school or elementary school, or even old teachers for that matter. I was never really upset by not having a boyfriend or a date to the homecoming every year; if I am being completely honest, boyfriends and the commitment and the stress of planning homecoming with dates always kind of scared me. I was afraid of being tied down to high school, to this town. I never felt the need to savor those moments. I was always thinking about the future; about college, and what job I wanted to get. Where I wanted to move to. I never paid attention to the moments before meeting Cooper. He pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and make memories.

Now if only I could live in the past, with Rosie and Elliot.

With Cooper.

Just like before.

Just like normal.

 

Met Gala 2018: top 15 best dressed

By Sophie Stephens

The annual Met Gala is a gathering of celebrities to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and is easily the single biggest night for fashion. Essentially mixing prom and haute couture fashion, the Met Gala is an extravagant night to celebrate fashion and art. With this year’s theme being related to Catholicism and fashion’s “Patron Saints,” there were plenty of red, gold, silver and white ball gowns, crowns, headpieces and cross designs on the red carpet.

1. Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra tops my list of best-dressed at this year’s Met Gala in a dark red velvet Ralph Lauren dress with a cape and train. Her outfit was complete with a golden headpiece that covers her hair and extends to her shoulders. The headdress took nearly 250 hours of hand-sewing to attach the Indian-inspired embroidery and Swarovski crystals.

2. Blake Lively
Blake Lively’s Versace gown had a beaded fitted top and red skirt with silver-jeweled filigree patterns down the side panels, mixing red and silver panels with sheer ones down the sides. The dress took over 600 hours to make, and is rumored to have such a long train that Lively had to use a party bus just to have enough room to fit her dress in.

3. Rihanna
It is impossible to be talking about the 2018 Met Gala and not include Rihanna’s outfit. It’s extravagant interpretation of the theme made headlines in all of the biggest fashion magazines. The artistic interpretation of the theme “Heavenly Bodies” led to a silver bejeweled custom dress by John Galliano that stops just above the knee, paired with a matching trench coat. Her papal-inspired headpiece by Stephen Jones puts Rihanna in third place. Talk about dedication to the theme!

4. Jasmine Sanders
Jasmine Sanders, better known as Golden Barbie, a famous Instagram model, rocked a golden off-the-shoulder H&M dress, making her look like a real-life Barbie at her first Met Gala red carpet. The daring structure of the bust and the beautiful draping of the skirt make this dress look like liquid gold, but what really made the outfit one-of-a-kind was Sanders’ blond braid adorned with red roses, which made it look straight out of “Beauty and the Beast.”

5. Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke’s Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda gown made her look just like royalty. Her black and gold strapless A-line dress had beautiful detailing, including paintings of cherubim across the skirt. Her outfit was topped off with a golden jeweled crown adorned with flowers.

6. Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande’s Vera Wang ball gown got plenty of attention on the red carpet. With tan tulle and fabric printed with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings and finished with a large tan bow, this outfit was definitely a work of art.

7. Gigi Hadid
Supermodel Gigi Hadid wore a Versace gown that mixed stained-glass paneling techniques and pastel colors to create a one-of-a-kind dress. The pale blue and light tan fabric on the bodice and dark, shimmery blue, purple and green tones in the skirt made this mermaid-style dress look like a mixture of butterfly wings and stained glass windows. The artistry and design of the dress in addition to the structure and stain glass inspiration puts Hadid in seventh place for the 2018 Met Gala.

8. Chadwick Boseman
Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman wore an all white Versace suit with gold and red accents. While most of the men on the red carpet chose to stick with dark suits like black, navy or maroon, Boseman stood out with his all white outfit clad with multiple golden crosses on the chest and arms and gold patterns across his legs.

9. Zendaya
This Covergirl rocked a Versace outfit inspired by armor. Channeling Joan of Arc, the silver-plated gown with structured shoulders, a high neck and chain mail made her look like a medieval knight. Her new red crimped bob also added to the artistry, proving Zendaya is the only person who can rock a new hairstyle every day and make chain mail look fashion forward and comfortable.

10. Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway’s gorgeous, bright red ball gown by Pierpaolo Piccioli Valentino Couture made her number ten on my best dressed list because of its simple design and extravagant structure. The light fabric allows the large princess skirt to flow behind her with an open back adding balance to the added volume in the front and shoulders of the bust. Hathaway’s look was complete with an Asian-inspired chopstick headpiece.

11. Shawn Mendes
The musician’s Tommy Hilfiger wine colored suit stood out for its simplicity and elegance on the 2018 Met Gala red carpet. With buttons similar to those of a more casual coat and a black-lined collar, Mendes’ outfit went beyond the average black tuxedo without going too extreme into this year’s theme. Although his suit stood out among others, it is safe to say that Hailey Baldwin’s shimmery pastel blue dress with loose off the shoulder straps and pink hair really helped the duo stand out.

12. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s pale gold fitted dress and cape that goes from her shoulders to the floor by Ralph Lauren puts her at number 12 on my best-dressed list. The gold dress adorned with shimmering jewels was elegant and effortless, but what really stood out was the Byzantine era-inspired halo headpiece she paired with the gold dress.

13. Sasha Lane
Actress Sasha Lane wore a Tory Burch white dress that was simplistic, paired with a high messy bun wrapped in silver-jeweled string. The gauzy fabric made the dress look light, soft and angelic, and the sheer long-sleeves and ruffled neckline stood out from the sea of off-the-shoulder and strapless dresses.

14. Evan Rachel Wood
This incredible kimono-inspired gold-feathered outfit paired with black pants was eye catching. Taking nearly a month to hand sew the thousands of gold feathers onto the cape, this Altuzarra look was a fresh sight in a sea of mermaid dresses and large princess dresses with full skirts. The pants and coat looked artistic and structural on the red carpet, and the trained cape fit in with the new red carpet trend.

15. Bella Hadid
Supermodel Bella Hadid finishes my list of best dressed celebrities at the Met Gala in her Chrome Hearts Official black dress with stiff latex corset and neck that one Teen Vogue reporter called “Maleficent inspired.” The dress was decorated with crosses and a ten pound head veil.