Meet the YACs of 2019-20

Instead of traditional “about me” pieces or bios, the Young Authors Collective (YAC) takes an inventive approach to writing about themselves. This year’s assignment: pen an annotated playlist that tells us about yourself; it can include books, movies, music, tv shows, or other relevant items. Meet this year’s YACs:

Abi Horton
Al Kucera
Alison Child
Alma Ortiz-Sawaya
Elaina Weakliem
Kara Morrow
Macy Gardner
Rebecca Wallace
Ryan J. Mitchell
Salem Hansen
Thalia Medrano
Jonas Rosenthal*


*Due for a Spring re-emergence on the blog.

Thalia Medrano Annotated Playlist


ThaliaSilence of the Lambs because despite my friends insistence I don’t find Hannibal Lecter sexy, but have learned to enjoy the film regardless. I never found Hannibal Lecter scary, either. When I was younger my mom outright forbade me from ever watching that movie, and so when I did I expected not to sleep for weeks. I was proud of myself, then, when I continued to go about my business unbothered by fictional cannibals- and when I could still go about my business later, when I found out he was based on a real person. 

“Take Me To The River” by the Talking Heads because that was the song I was listening to the night I turned 18. I had planned to stay up until 3:07 in the morning, the moment I was born, but it was a week night and so I did the wise thing and went to bed at half past one. I woke up one dry Tuesday morning with the legal ability to buy a lotto ticket.  

The Monkees, both the band and the TV show, because Micky Dolenz was my first crush. I’m pretty much a lesbian these days but he’s still cute. My mom grew up watching The Monkees in syndication, and she fell in love with Micky, too, because he was a goofball. She took me to their reunion tour concert when I was eight and I had to contend with the fact that he hadn’t really aged well but that was alright because he could still sing and he was still a goofball. 

“Blue Monday” by New Order, because this was the song that was playing the night my friend asked me to accompany them to what turned out to be a single person bathrooms and then took a piss in front of me while I sat on a stool in the corner. This was about a month after their tearfully admitted their love for me in a poem read to an audience of forty people. Can’t make this shit up. 

“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People because this was the song I used to listen to in elementary school to cheer myself up before I googled the lyrics. I have a list of songs that I used to listen to to make myself happy, and of all of them this was by far the saddest. One year later my school went into lockdown for the Arapahoe High School shooting, and I didn’t have any music to listen to.  

We Are The Best because in the movie Bobo cut her own hair and so after I went to see it I cut my own hair. I was then briefly interested by the Swedish punk scene, except I only listened to Ebba Gron. I wanted to be like the little punkettes in the movie who yelled as loud as they wanted to, but I never had much faith in my screaming voice, or even my ability to play guitar badly. 

“Too Drunk To Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys because God, when it comes to some people we all wish that had been true. 

“New Radio” by Bikini Kill because the line “come here baby, let me kiss you like a boy does” resonates on so many levels it’s hard to keep track. I always liked the 90s girls who didn’t pretend to be anything other than what they were. What they were, for the most part, was pissed off to hell and very interested in their female friends. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being because Sabina’s refusal to stay with the man who loved her just because he thought she should hit me hard enough to put me on my back, and then: to look up at the ceiling I’ve known my whole life and decide I don’t owe anything to men who love me. I can leave, if that’s the best thing for me to do. Like Sabina, I find a special joy in leaving things behind and knowing I can move through the world carrying nothing but my own body. 

Starship Troopers the movie not the book because it’s one of those weird exceptions. Who knew a pulp flick based on a mediocre and eerily pro military novel would become the most ludicrously under appreciated piece of satirical social commentary in recent memory. Also Denise Richard’s can get it, and Denis Richards in a pilot’s uniform can definitely get it. 

The History of Love because I never thought anything could make me believe in God, and so the fact that a 12 year old boy in a novel I had to read for school spurred my spiritual awakening was an unexpected turn of events. The fact of the matter is that Bird was just dumb, but meant well, and loved his sister, and because he meant well and loved his sister he somehow brought about the most incredible of divine coincidences entirely by accident. It’s nice to think that if a higher power exists it listens to dumb kids who mean well. 

The Things They Carried because I can only ever seem to understand love and devotion when framed in the context of war. When Rat Kiley watched his best friend get blown to pieces as they were playing tag in the jungle, and killed a water buffalo out of grief, I got a glimpse at what people mean to each other.  And when the narrator talked about the girl he loved when he was nine, and how he wanted to sleep in her ribcage, I understood something that had been alien to me my whole life. 


Salem Hansen Annotated Playlist

(1) Rocks: Every single rock is thousands to millions of years old. Just think about that for a second. Every pebble stemmed from a mountain, every shard a boulder. I have a collection of these, and it serves as a reminder that (a) rocks are super cool and (b) the world is bigger than just us. (In case you were wondering, my favorites are rutilated quartz and jasper).

(2) Elton John: A god amongst men. Simple as that.

(3) Bidart: There’s a certain feeling you get when you read really good poetry – writing that succeeds in actually inciting a reaction. Bidart’s poetry is just that; I have a habit of flagging lines and phrases I like in books, and nearly every page has a worn sticky note to it in ‘Half-Light Collected Poems.’

(4) Dogs: AKA a blessing to this planet and too good for us. My dog, especially, who is a particular brand of sweetheart that can only be expressed with this image:

(5) Theatre: I like creating new worlds and watching as they play out from behind the scenes. Building a set piece or creating a backdrop and seeing it on stage is synonymous to watching your successes and aspirations play out, and this is one of the only places I’ve truly found a platonic family over the years.

(6) Dwelling on rooftops: The best time for this is sunrise and sunset, when the stillness of the world around you encompasses the entirety of your vision. Time becomes nonexistent. The world rests below, and you are above the stresses of life, for at least a moment.

(7) My jar with the label “collect beautiful moments:” There is a quote about appreciating the impossible. Each impossible beauty is worth admiration, and for that, I collect these moments – whether it be a particular color swatch, or a quote from a passing comment.

(8) Shane Koyczan: He bends tragedies into spoken word poetry, forges shields to the darkness of the world from his own bare hands. Although his voice echoes his internal discourse, there is still an impossible simplicity to how easily he loves. (And yes, that made it into the jar.)

(9) Poetry:
It is hard for me,
to articulate my thoughts.
With this format,
large thoughts are portrayed
with small words.

(10) Street art: The world is as much ours as an anonymous painter’s. Anonymity is one of the most surefire ways to draw attention, and art is the loudest shout a masked voice can make.

(11) Atlas (ⅠⅠ Story): This story, where the globe is placed on Atlas’ shoulders as a responsibility, whereas a punishment, leaves it to mean that this earth is important. The planet was not made for our destruction. Because of this, in our life, we have two choices: either sow new life for those to come, or weep over what will be lost, but whatever you do, do not stand idle.

(12) The colors crimson and dark royal blue: Sometimes, I associate colors with feelings (certain songs, like “Roslyn” express the feeling of light lavender, while something like “Gimme Shelter” is grey suede and dark, dark purple-blue). The colors crimson and dark royal blue are the colors of safety and contentedness and warmth.

(13) Miles Morales’ “falling up” scene: This, by far, is my favorite screencap. The leap of faith beyond himself, to grow in order to help his loved ones, is something I strive towards, and the idea of rising into change despite descent is an amazing thought. Also, the cinematography is on point.


My face:


Rebecca F. Wallace Annotated Playlist

Rebecca F Wallace1 Who Will Remain, What Will Remain?” poem by Abraham Sutzkever, (the version translated in the book, “The Life of the Skies” by Jonathan Rosen.)

 My mother is a teacher at a university, and after blindly walking into the library with her for my entire life, one day, I finally began to look around me. I had just learned how to read and for the first time the serious, dark, adult books with no pictures held some meaning. I wandered off to the reference section at one point and there I found my one true love, science. Massive tomes of tiny black lettering that I revered above all else. I would gather as many books in the natural science section as I could carry, pile them in my closet and keep them long past their due dates. The book, “The Life of the Skies” was one such find, I expected a book on birds and their behavior, but instead I got an exploration of the arts and an introduction to serious writing and thinking that was quite lacking in middle school. I cite this book as my transition from science nerd, to poetry and science nerd, as it was the first time I read poetry, truly read poetry. While there where poems throughout, the one that stands out is Abraham Sutzkever’s poem in the conclusion, and I think I remembered it for two main reasons. First, the book took me a couple months, as it was very long and complicated, so getting to the conclusion was a great achievement. And second, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever read. I was used to beautiful ideas and elegant theories, but to me, this poem is better than a thousand pictures.  As I have read more poetry, I have directly avoided harsh examination, or criticism of this poem, so as to preserve it in my memory as I first read it: an exquisite piece of life that I stumbled across in the natural science section. 

2 “In Between Dreams” album by Jack Johnson.   

This album is my childhood, pure and simple. “Banana Pancakes” is the comfort that comes from a humble yet elegant task, like making breakfast, yet it is also tinged by the excitement of a new beginning and a somewhat rebellious “lazy” day. For me, “Breakdown” exemplifies a frantic waiting and wanting something to change, I remember this was always my least favorite song on the album, probably because it was to accurate to my character.

3 “Their Eyes Were Watching God” book by Zora Neale Hurston.

 I read this book for history right after reading about the civil war and, for me, it was a personable bridge to that time.  After studying pages and pages of records from the war and its generals, hearing a postwar story about a character quite like myself was fascinating. I found something magical in the simple, elegant descriptions and rich characters. After reading it, I remember sitting at the dining room table, talking to my father when I should have been studying and he should have been focusing on dinner, talking about the culture addressed in the book, and that evening in itself is a reason to love this book.  

4 “The Hobbit” novel by JRR Tolkien. 

This novel is the entirety of my introduction to fantasy, my mother read this to me before I could read myself and the memory of those hours, days, curled up next to her on a coach getting a through introduction to orcs and elves and goblins are some of my favorite. The first monster I thought was under my bed was Gollum. The first time I cried for a fictitious character was Thorin’s death, and the first time I really invested in a Halloween costume was my woodland elf.   

5 “Girl on Fire” song by Alicia Keys (feat Nicki Minaj).

A few years ago, I went on a religious trip with my mom. We spent eleven days in the mountains, heading to a temple every morning at 8 and getting back to our rented house at 7, it was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have done. Between the long trip to get there from our home and the daily commute it was quite a bit of driving. After the first day of discussing everything under the sun we sank into a satisfied silence with lots of music. This was one song that showed up a lot in our playlists. We found it right at the beginning of our trip and it was perfect for early mornings or late nights when we were tired and fed up. Now whenever I hear this, all I can think about is her white Subaru, eating breakfast burritos and watching the sunrise, while driving up the side of a mountain.    

6 “Youth” song by Daughter.  

I don’t remember meeting Hazel, for a while she was just a quiet artist in the corner who impressed everyone with her organizational skills. Then we had a long discussion on politics and I think it changed us. That was three years ago. She is in Chicago and I Denver, and our record phone conversation is 5 hours and our record in person 8 hours. She introduced me to so much music and this is one of hers that I love and also, in some way, encompasses our friendship. I remember sitting next to her sweaty and tried from a hike, bumping along in the back of my father’s van, sharing a pair of earbuds, leaning on each other’s shoulders, in the middle of August, and I think that carefree summer day is pretty close to a perfect example of youth.    

7 “Feel it Still” song by Portugal. The man.

This was the song I had to improv to for a recent dance audition.  I remember walking into the dance studio and the world just blurring together, signing forms and shaking hands and talking to peers, and tying shoes and learning a choreograph and watching the judges. Only certain imagines stand out, the cluster of older women in the hall, the tiny pink elastic on my shoes, the cold floor when laying down to stretch.  The choreography was done quickly and we were informed we had to line up and improv. At that point, my stomach was in knots and I was sure I had failed. Then this song came on, do l love this song? No. Do I know it? Yes. I remember looking up at the judges for the first time, and I remember the strict modern teacher I am terrified of, holding my gaze. I have no idea what I did, for a long moment I was frozen trying to plan something as the girl in front of me went. As she crossed the floor, I remember glancing down and seeing my foot nervously tapping, it was somewhere in the range of on beat. And when the teacher started snapping for us to go, I just went with my foot.  I couldn’t tell you what I did, but I remember my friend smiling and the modern teacher giving me a little nod (good or bad I don’t know) and that felt like more than enough for that moment.

8 “Iron Man” 2008 movie.

I watched this movie for the first time with my dad, he loves anything sci-fi or action based and he had finally decided I was old enough for this. I remember thinking Tony was a cocky ass, (in the vocabulary of a 12-year-old) and wondering why I was watching it.  But at some point, maybe when he escaped in the beginning, or when he started building the real iron man suit, that changed. I liked him, now the right thing to say would be that he was cocky and a jerk but with a good heart, but honestly I didn’t care how good he was, because he was smart, actually smart, and as preliminary my knowledge was at that point, that spoke to the little baby geek inside of me. Also, and this must be acknowledged outside of personal journeys, he is kinda a badass, and it is kinda everything. 

9 “The Sound of Music” 1965 movie. 

There is a special place in my heart for this movie.  I remember the excitement of getting to stay up till 11 to finish it, which was a luxury for me at 7.  And I remember seeing my mother belt out the words to every single song except for that super long one the nun sings about hills being alive that I don’t even know the name of because I always skipped it for being too long.   This movie holds a sacred place in my heart, one I refuse to fill with any rom-com or musical of lesser tier. I have horrible bias in this way, as I am blind to all else beyond this movie, and yes, I may cling to it for the memories more than the cinematography, but I do not care, I adore this movie. 

10 Mom’s old cookbook. (The exact name is unimportant) 

This was a staple of adulthood to me growing up. My mom’s version is dog eared, stained, and ancient and for me the thought of being old enough to cook anything in it, felt like the most grown up thing. At 13, I got there with most baked goods. And standing in the kitchen, in mid-July, wearing a sundress, with the dog trying to sit on my feet, while I mix batter and whisk eggs, feels like a nod to baby me. 

11 “Eragon” book by Christopher Paolini. 

My brother read this to me a long time ago, I was just learning to read and this heavy, thick, book with dragons on the cover was like some ancient spell book to me. Mom worried it would be to violent or dark, but I remember between my insistence and my brothers promise to read it with me, her caving. He would read it to me chapter by chapter after school. He would sit at his desk in his neat room, with his perfect posture, tapping a finger, or fiddling with a puzzle and I would slouch on his bed with my feet on the wall staring out the window. I was an irritating listener I think, I would stop him to ask questions or discuss plot, but I think he liked someone to talk to about books because he patiently read the whole thing, and the next couple books in the series to me. After that, I was hooked on all things dragon, but this was the first, the original and I will admit, still my favorite.  

12 “Human” and “Silhouette” songs by Aquilo

These songs are my existential crisis songs.  When I was younger and not in high school, I underestimated the need for such songs. I thought life would be simple and happy and easy and everything would just fall into place. But I am realizing that doesn’t happen often and when it does you better believe it takes lots and lots of crises to get there. These songs are fantastic for such things, really just wonderful life falling to pieces soundtrack music. I don’t think I could tell you what the lyrics are or who is singing or anything about the group who writes them, but I know that they are great for their purpose. 


Macy Gardner Annotated Playlist

  • Fox in Socks Macy
    • This was the first book I remember reading with my dad. He would stumble over the words and make me laugh until tears trickled down my face. 
  • Tinkerbell
    • For a really long time I loved everything Tinkerbell/fairies. This represents me because it always made me really happy. 
  • Dance (Tap and Ballet)
    • This has been a huge part of me since I was four years old. It helps me express my emotions and release the things that need releasing.
  • Culture- 3rd Grade
    • This was when I realized that people didn’t always celebrate the same things and weren’t all the same. We did a Native American culture unit and I thought that other cultures were cool. 
  • 4th Grade Scorpion Short Story
    • 4th grade was when I discovered I had a talent and passion for writing. Now I look back and realize that no 4th grader ever used big words, like colossal, which I did. 
  • Charley (One of My Best Friends)
    • Charley is the friend I made and have known since 2nd grade. WE weren’t great friends in 2nd grade, hated each other in third, ignored each other in 4th, were friendly by fifth, and the best of friends in 6th. It has stayed that way since
  • Typing
    • While it may seem insignificant, I didn’t know how to type properly until 7th grade. It helped me become more proficient and learning has saved me hours of work.
  • Homework
    • At my middle school, we got a lot of homework and previous to this, I had really bad time management, but since I had soooo much homework, I manage my time a lot better now. 
  • Learning
    • This one also might seem a little cliche, but my middle school enhance my love for learning and my curiosity. I was always a curious kid, but now I’m even more inquisitive than I was before. 
  • Meeting New People
    • Since I started highschool, I’d been nervous about talking and meeting new people, but I’m much more comfortable now. 
  • Biology
    • I’ve always been an animal person, but now that I have the option to take many different science classes, I’ve realized I really love learning about the unique aspects of animals and plants. 
  • Determination
    • Though I’ve just started highschool, I have become very determined to do well, and I think that doing well now will set me up to do well later in life. 

Kara Morrow Annotated Playlist

Image for KaraWelcome viewer, for you I have complied a deep and frightening dive into my psyche. The very fundamentals of my being portrayed by none other than stout men with hairy feet and the sort of music that just fades into the background. Familiar and absurd, just like our very state of existence, everything in my playlist I feel connected to by their blunt fashion. It just is. However I could also reverse uno card my own words and say this; I am a spider web. I am a needlessly complex, delicate, paradoxical spider web continued in a spiral like fashion where it is turtles, all the way down. And although I praise these titles for not needing justification for life, for simply being because that is really all there is in the universe, I find that I am constantly perplexed and astounded by the art I see and cannot help but delve into the colors, all the way to the undertones, and truly think. I think about the weight they carry in the world, in me and find that like most things they are bitter, cold, hard intricacies that puzzle my very simple is.

1.) Better Off Dead 

An anthem to live by. 

I’m not sure whether saying more or less about this title is a good idea. But here’s what I get out of the movie itself: humor in the darkest corners, commentary about nothing, skiing is dangerous and I have a right to be afraid of trees, somehow he doesn’t die and mad respect to that. I suppose one could classify it is as dark humor, but this movie is just so bright [1].

2.) Spirited Away

Love is boundless and magical.

The screen flaunts vivid images of living shadows, a dragon swimming through the sky and a child who didn’t sign up for this shit. In the way that falling is flying I soar in a world that feels to be my own. The wind pushes up or down, it doesn’t matter because its pressing comfortably against me and I feel belonging in a blanket fabricated from fine fantasy strings woven together to make me sound. If a story could give me wings.

3.) Song of the Sea

Have you ever touched the stars?

Pastels battle over warm and cold, together they bring light and life to misty depictions of pain and never ending love. Fragile images, solid in design, paint these delicate pictures, mirroring ancient stories in a particular frame, a locket I hold close to my chest. The sun is gold, the sea is made of stars and rocks are not what you think. Familiar and aching, a forlorn smell of leaves decaying and rain ending, the sun soaked type of dreamy is where I live in the Song of the Sea. 

4.) The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Running a marathon on a laugh track.

Double meanings, hilarious mishaps, wit like a slick, sharp blade stabbing your gut with intense second hand embarrassment and laughter. There’s not much more to do with this book then smile, cringe and bounce your leg with impatience as you wait for the set up to all satisfyingly fall apart. It is so very important to be Earnest.

5.) We are the Ants by David Hutchinson

I’ll fuck you up if you’re mean to bugs.

Suicide, romance, parties, depression, the same old concepts that tie together any garbage novel, that’s right Perks of Being a Wallflower, you’re not special [2]. Maybe this book isn’t either. It could be just another novel about life, death and alien abductions. Perhaps it’s the feed of recycled ideas about teenagers and the universe and loss that gets shoved down our throats by each new young adult paperback, but out of the many others to sort through on lazy afternoons, this stuck to me. This book spoke of healing, of proving the dead wrong because life is worth living. In the time I read it, I became stronger.

6.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The world could use a little more gay.

One of the few gay novels I truly enjoyed because it wasn’t really a gay novel. Remove the romance and I would still be falling heartfirst for the story of two boys learning and accepting what’s bigger than them. That we are a drop in a pool of the ever reaching sky, a tally mark in all that ever is and was and how freaking amazing it is to be apart of this world. It’s amazing because there’s swimming and booze and stars and cute boys, art and laughter and mothers and pain. 10/10 did not feel queer baited [3].

7.) Over the Garden Wall

Things don’t have to make sense.

If only frogs playing the piano and sax had been apart of my childhood, I feel I would have been a much better person. Hopelessness personified in amber trees, sticky oil, and touchable shadows, two brothers wander deep into the woods. Oozing black turtles and copper leaves lay in their wake as the two are forsaken to heroism and fable. I found a reflected image in the autumn palate cradled in misty heartache, a formidable thin face and empty eyes. Am I insane and desperate or did I discover myself in a cartoon?  

8.) Talk to me by Cavetown

You don’t have to be a hero to save the world. 

I never really go into depth about what’s bothering me. I say I’m anxious, upset, pissed beyond all reason, but saying why is a lot harder. Which is why I’m quite certain every therapist I have ever been to had a very satisfying dream about strangling me. I write about my problems in abstract ways even though my feelings are quite concrete, I’m a trilogy of open books all telling completely different stories with the same characters. I am frustrating. But he sings it out for me with pleasant acoustics and bittersweet love, the kind that makes me smile when I’m alone. The “I’m here for you” love that makes me cry ten times harder because it so far and so fitting to feel cared for. I know people want me to talk about it, but I’d much rather listen to Cavetown.

9.) Green by Cavetown

A crutch for goodbyes.

I’m a melancholy soul. This does not mean I’m not rambunctious and loud-mouthed, that I don’t laugh and joke a lot, it certainly doesn’t guarantee the fact that I won’t ride the tower of doom with my cellphone or eat dirt if so dared. It does mean that I am deliberate and gentle with every step I take, it is natural for me to be reflective and thoughtful. With these thoughts I often think of what I’ve missed, there’s a list in my head filled on rice paper and ink of what I could’ve had. I reminisce far too often, I can be very self-indulgent. Green is the type of farewell I would like to embrace because I firmly believe everyone looks good in Green and I’m proud of leaving- it’s apart of growing.

10.) Oxenfree

What you do matters for the most part.

You find yourself on a boat with a camera, a powerful motor slicing through saltwater, an island made of fog in the distance. There’s a radio, tuned into cult-like spirits, caves of crystals and city broadcasting about the long left life of war. Frequencies make shapes, time lines and endless choices that spiral out in long arms, the fingertips are the goal but the nails can be curved and you’ll find yourself back to where you started. Fighting, losing, solving and guessing. Flash the camera, it’s where spirits live, don’t open the bomb shelter until it’s your last option, be careful when deciding to appease your friends and for the love of god don’t let Ren do so much weed. Forgive people, we usually try our best. You can’t change the past, but you can have a better future…so long as you foil the spirit’s plan to take over your body.

11.) The Hobbit By J. R. R. Tolkein

Started my DnD phase.

My father read me this book when I was young. He read to me many other chapter books too, Harry Potter and Wrinkle In Time, begrudgingly the Percy Jackson series [4]. I’m not sure if my under developed, fairly distractible young brain really grasped all of these stories, but he made it a lot easier. I remember his voice for Bilbo was soft and inquisitive, a little British I think. He always had light, airy tones for Ganandorf which was notably the same voice for Dumbledore but hey, the man can only do so much. His voice for the trolls and other such unsightly creatures were deep and rumbly, the sound of rocks colliding. I would grip my bed sheets in terror, the suspense was much heavier for me as a young reader because I didn’t know that most novels don’t kill the main character halfway into the plot. He would always stop too, at the most baited and tantalizing parts. Did or didn’t they get saved from the trolls? Does Bilbo escape the goblin tunnels? Who will slay Smaug, don’t you dare stop reading! Thus began a mind of fantasy and childlike wonder that still stays with me until this day, though perhaps now I can understand the story bit better now that my vocabulary wasn’t limited to the favorite words: “Hewmongous” and “cwazy.”

12.) Two by Sleeping at Last

This is a lot less gruesome than how I previously wrote it.

I don’t like writing about myself. I feel like I’m calling out for attention in a world that has been there done that. “Hey, I’m yet another mediocre writer with poor discipline, who has never learned creative writing in school and can’t spell for shit.” Predictibally; I’m shy, introverted, anxious and depressed. I’m the equivalent of the white, teenage girl in starbucks with ugg boots and pumpkin spiced lattes in the writer’s world. Writing about myself is so frustrating, I’m one big pity party with baise balloons and a couple of decayed bananas [5]. That’s not the kind of material I’m very keen to present under the scrutiny of my parents, peers, innocent viewer just scrolling through the LightHouse page. A lot of me is made up of things I hate: insomnia, depression, anxiety, snapping easily, little patience, starving myself, carving myself, pulling out hair, misophonia, the inability to ask for help, to speak up when it matters most. Maybe I hate writing about myself because I hate myself. But that’s a shitty thought. I don’t like shitty thoughts, because a lot of me is laughter and poor dancing, guitar and bass, dumb drawings and over the top singing. Most vitally I feel. I feel and I care and that doesn’t seem like much but a lot of people still haven’t grasped it. 

I would easily die for someone else, not because I don’t value my own life [6], but because loving feels so much better than being loved.

Now, an outro, dear reader. I apologize for babbling about trivial, angsty things in the midst of what was supposed to be a relaxing, fun, playlist. I truly recommend all these titles, I think they all have something to give [7]. Now like all great outros, there is a musical accompaniment, some lyrics I found very important in Two:

It’s okay if you can’t catch your breath
You can take the oxygen straight out of my own chest

I will love you without any strings attached

 And what a privilege it is to love

Like a force to be reckoned with
A mighty ocean or a gentle kiss
I will love you 



[1] Bright as in witty, I assure you this film is not indeed luminous, glittery or blazing in any way.
[2]  Apologizes to those who enjoyed that book, but not apologizes to anyone who did not accept the apology. Fuck you.
[3] For those who don’t know that word simply think of Dumbledore, BBC’s Sherlock and John Watson, and the occasional lesbian couple in Glee.
[4]  He put up with so much, all five books in the original series.
[5] Bananas are the weirdest fruit there is, plus you can’t eat them in public without fearing for unwanted sexual comments.
[6] For the most part, I’m trying more everyday.
[7] Plus most of the books you can tackle in an afternoon.


Elaina Weakliem Annotated Playlist


Catharsis is described as emotional relief of stress one feels after consuming media that forces you to release negative feelings. If you’ve ever felt better after crying during a movie, you know what I mean. The following movies and songs are all things that help me feel better when I’m having a bad day. Or, in some cases, a bad three months.


Moonrise Kingdom – I watched this movie a lot around the first time I recall falling in Elainalove, and so it invokes a lot of nostalgia for me. The first day Suzy and Sam spend together is always my favorite part, because they’re still getting to know each other and things are awkward and sweet in that uniquely twelve year-old way.

Coraline – I was deathly afraid of this movie for my whole childhood, until I ended us seeing it at a robotics team sleepover. The animation is beautiful, and there’s never a boring moment. It takes the wonder of a movie like the Polar Express and puts it into a movie that’s actually way too intense for kids. Maybe I was just easily scared, though.

Song of the Sea – I don’t remember when I found this movie- only that it was junior year, and I was stressed out of my mind. The style of the animation just has this intense calming effect on me every time, and the Welsh mythology is always fascinating.

My Neighbor Totoro – I only saw this for the first time last month, and I spent the whole two hours wondering who and what had kept me from this movie for my whole life. Seriously, I never thought to imagine myself into rural Japan as a child, but I think if I did, I would’ve become a much more well-adjusted human. There’s something so calming about the scene where they unpack their new house- I could watch it on loop forever and remain content.

Ponyo – On a related note, Studio Ghibli is awesome. My little sister watched this movie obsessively as a child, so I can probably still quote it word for word. It didn’t help my fear of swimming with fish, but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly nonetheless. I haven’t seen it in years, but maybe if I watch it again I’ll understand the plot better this time.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – This is definitely the pre-catharsis part of grief. This movie makes me sad. Like, Sylvia Plath at midnight sad. Like your teacher asking you to write love poems right after you’ve had a breakup sad. Like, rip-out-your-heart-and-stomp-on-it sad. Catch me laughing at all the jokes anyway.

Heathers – Somehow, I always end up watching this movie when I’m sick- because it’s a good reminder that no matter how awful I’m feeling, at least my “teen angst bulls**t” doesn’t have a body count. Plus, it’s just surreal enough that the plot line still makes sense when I’m floating in and out of fever-dream semiconsciousness.

Bonus: Big Hero Six – Another movie I can quote word-for-word, this is the best superhero movie since the Incredibles. My apologies to the people who say that neither of those are superhero movies- it must be hard to be so completely wrong. Last year when I received my first failing grade (of many) on an AP Chemistry test, my friend Thomas picked this for our movie night because he knows how much I love it, and to this day, that’s still one of my go-to examples for platonic acts of love.


Saudade/ Love and Rockets – These days, bike rides seem to be one of the few instant cures for bad days. Failing that, I take myself on walks. On one such day, on one such walk, I was just cresting the top of a hill right as this song started to play. Suddenly all the serotonin I’d been missing came flooding back, and that feeling is echoes whenever I play it, now.

Left for Denver/ The Lumineers – I’m a sucker for songs about places I know well, and this one is only enhanced by the fact that it could be a) a mournful song that questions love’s boundaries or b) an insult to Denver. At this point, Lumineers songs are just slam poetry with some scattered guitar in the background, and I’m okay with that.

Lovely Day/ Bill Withers – It is mid-May, junior year. Today, the seniors are collecting their things and leaving East High School forever, which means school starts at 11. You miss the memo, and arrive at 9:30. You didn’t get much breakfast, plus it would be a shame to spend an hour and a half on a bench in front of the Tattered Cover, so you’re walking down to Pete’s kitchen for breakfast when this song comes on. You’re in the middle of one the most stressful month of your life, but also you’re on your way to get the best pancakes in the city, and when you’re skipping down Colfax at 9:30 AM with Bill Withers playing, how can you be upset?

The Story/ Brandi Carlile – On the list of songs that make me wish I could sing, this is at the top. The way her voice cracks during the bridge never fails to melt my heart. A close runner up on said list is Turpentine (also by Brandi Carlile) which never fails to make me cry, but this is always the song that I listen to after I’m done crying, which better embodies the feeling of catharsis. Also, I saw her in concert recently, and I think I’m in love, now.

I Want To Break Free/ Queen – This is an excellent song, but when I heard it on the highway at midnight after a disastrous stargazing trip, it was nothing short of a deus ex machina for my night. Yes, we had just experienced a harrowing drive through the mountains, and yes, I had accidentally put us in a lot of danger by suggesting a location I’d never been to before, and yes, all I wanted to do was go home and cry, but all that fell away for the next four minutes as Freddie Mercury sang about breaking free. We had, quite literally, broken free from the mountains, and seeing the skyline of Denver in the distance felt like coming home for the first time in a long while.

All These Things That I’ve Done/ The Killers – This is my favorite song. I don’t say this lightly- I have 466 songs on my “Favorites” playlist, but all pale in comparison to this one. There’s really no other way to tie this to the concept of catharsis, except by saying that sometimes it takes a good rock song to drag you out of bed at 2 PM on days when it feels like you’ve got nothing to live for- nothing, that is, until the 37 second mark, when the drums kick in.


Alma Ortiz-Sawaya Annotated Playlist

The Swap: Megan Shull

My mom and I read this book together when I was in 4th or 5th grade. We would sit in the living room and take turns reading a chapter, I would be so excited every time we had the chance to read the book, it was definitely one of my favorite childhood memories.

Transmissions: Starset

Most of this album got me through my freshman year of high school. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would listen to listen to it: When I was walking to class, during lunch, free/independent work time in class. You could say I was a teeny bit obsessed with it =)

Law & Order:SVU

I would always find myself binge-watching this show. Whenever I had a break from school or free time in general, I would lean against the couch (I wouldn’t sit on the couch, I would sit in front of it, don’t ask why I did that) and watched back-to-back episodes for what seemed like the whole day, no joke. I feel like that show introduced me to the police/crime genre; most of the shows I watch now are in the police/crime genre. I really enjoy those types of shows and movies.

Viva la vida: Coldplay

Back in middle school, the string section of our orchestra would play this song and I enjoyed listening to it everytime. I was in the winds section so we didn’t get to learn the song; I was a bit sad about that but during performances I would sing along in my head whenever they played that song, that was really fun. Although, we did get to learn “Seven Nation Army”, that was awesome. 


One of the many things my mom and I have in common is that we both like Journey. (Well, my mom got me hooked, so it’s her fault) We always listen to their music whenever we’re cooking, cleaning, or just hanging out. Since they were from California, my mom enjoys listening to “Lights” while driving through the Golden Gate bridge; it’s very sentimental for the both of us. 

Pentatonix: Deluxe edition

When I went to Hawaii with my family, I was listening to this album the entire time; Specifically their song called “Water” which I really enjoyed. (Not because we were surrounded by the ocean, I just really liked it) So whenever I listen to the album, it always reminds me of that trip.

Don’t you cry: Mary Kubica

At my old school, every 8th grade class gets to go on a big trip before the school year ends. My class went to the Florida everglades for our trip. (It was a swamp land in the middle of nowhere, I got the worst sunburn on my shoulders) Anyway, on our way back home, we were waiting to board so we got permission to wander around the airport (Not to far). I went to a bookstore to look around and this book caught my eye, so I got it and practically read the whole thing on the plane ride back, it was a really extraordinary book and I highly recommend it; it’s one of my favorites.

Kelly Clarkson

I basically grew up listening to her songs, you could say I was an avid fan. Something about her music really connected with me, how she sung it and her music videos basically told a story. She’s someone I really look up to and find as an inspiration.

DC and Marvel

I love superheroes, I definitely find inspiration from them. One of my favorite cartoons back then was “Teen Titans”, I loved that show so much it became a part of my life source. That lead me to other DC characters, such as Batman and Wonder Woman. Then I got into Marvel, and I fell in love with their characters as well. I sometimes use them as an inspiration for my own characters and plots. I geek out when it comes to heroes. 

Fairy Tail

Back in 2013, I was browsing through Netflix (As one usually does) and stumbled across this anime. At that point in my life I wasn’t really into anime but Fairy Tail introduced me to the otaku universe (Otaku is someone who likes anime). From that day forward I spent my free time watching it and obsessing over it. I’m really into wizardry, fantasy and magic and this had all of it in the story plot. It’s funny, serious, and down to earth, and I fell in love with the characters. if your into anime or manga, I definitely recommend watching Fairy Tail.

Hawaii 5-0 (2010- )

As I mentioned a little while ago, I like watching crime/police shows. Hawaii 5-0 will undeniably be a part of my life for a long time (I watched it twice). I got my friend into it and he loves it as much as I do, especially Steve and Danny. In my sophomore year of high school; I watched it every day during lunch, you could say I was … attached to it. The show had plenty of funny moments to it, so it wasn’t entirely serious. 

Expelled: James Patterson

This book is another one of my favorites, it follows the story of how a small group of teens get wrongfully expelled from school and the main protagonist wants to prove their innocence. It’s the type of book you can relate to and it lets you connect with the characters and sympathize/empathize for them. I love this book, I would read it over and over again if I had to. 10/10 would recommend. 


Alison Child Natal Music, Annotated


Alison1I have a bad habit of talking about myself in strange ways. I weave my way around it, like a fish out of the proverbial prompt’s hands. I needed a way to set myself in a box, something as a distraction from the daunting task of describing myself in however many selections of media. So, I decided to do one of the most pretentious things I’ve ever done as a witch, which is to describe myself with a natal chart centered music list without actually mentioning my astrological signs for each. I won’t bore you with astrology (unless you want to be bothered… please talk to me if you do), but each planetary description reigns true. Most people only know their sun sign because it’s your birthday, and that’s it, so I thought it might be interesting.

Please enjoy.

Sun: ego, identity, role

“Piano Man” by Billy Joel

This song has lingered like cigarette smoke throughout my life, mostly alongside booming speakers and the warm aroma of beer. My dad’s last song nearly every gig night was Piano Man, leading the bar in song and a parting goodbye. This song revolves around a man observing people he’s known for his entire adult life as they call for him to whisk them away in story and song. I can’t help but relate as I sit in coffee shops writing tales for people I will likely never know as a writer. It is my honor to write for them and let them forget about life for a while.

Moon: emotions, mood

“Mercy Street” by Peter Gabriel

This sounds like a lullaby but reads like Emily Dickinson. Not only is this one of the only songs able to make me cry, but it’s about begging Life for mercy. It’s written about a real person (look it up, but it’s not for the faint of heart), but is largely an extended metaphor for depression, something I have tussled with for years now. It truly is a breath of cool air, a slow walk in the cold light of day.

Ascendant: mask, personal style

“Which Witch” by Florence + the Machine

History has not been kind to witches. We’ve been hung, burned, drowned… and the trials were never fair. This song is not only perfectly indicative of my belief system and overall aesthetic but my tendency to be terribly tenacious. I’m ready to fight for what I believe, with my whole heart weighed and measured inside.

Mercury: communication, how to process information, how to think

“The Mute” by Radical Face

I was quiet as a baby; I rarely cried or complained, and not much has changed. I still struggle to communicate, although American Sign Language has given me a beautiful platform for storytelling. Writing and sign language are my voices, though some don’t think to consider it. This song is a story of the narrator much the same way, and we both set out to find someone to hear the only words that we know.

Venus: affection, love

“Sunlight” by Hozier

It took me years to be comfortable in my own love. It wasn’t because I was in an abusive environment; thankfully, quite the opposite. I truly didn’t know who I was until a year ago when I felt my soul settle into lesbianism like a cat in an Amazon box. My love of nature extends far into my past and future, and this song is a perfect marriage (no pun intended) of the two. A beautiful song for a beautiful love, and at last I can grant a name to a buried and burning flame as love.

Mars: aggression, assertion, action

“Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons

There is no enemy quite like me at myself. I am both Atlas and the world atop his shoulders, and an unnamed observer demanding more. This song is in a terribly pointed tone, constantly switching pronouns from a narrator talking about a “little lion man” to becoming the man and blaming himself for everything. The little lion man and I are one and the same, for we were not as brave as we were at the start

Jupiter: ideals, optimism, expansion

“Calamity Song” by the Decemberists

The future is uncertain if the current state of affairs has taught us anything. In the small leagues of life, I attempt to be the advocate for optimism, but truthfully, I feel that it’s an ignorant move at this point. This song, set to be an uncertain time frame of outright global war and apocalypse, perfectly sums up my realism and pessimism. I can’t help but wonder if we will gather to conjure the rain down? Will we now build a civilization below ground? 

Saturn: responsibility, limits

“Vulture, Vulture” by Of Monsters and Men

My mind is a strange place; just ask any psychic. It’s dark and unobtrusive, and I never know whether it seeks to help or hinder me. In that same respect, this song aligns those shadows to being vultures either to aid the narrator in flight or to drive them to the ground. Who knows? Cause lately I feel like a desert island.

Uranus: innovation, progress

“Change on the Rise” by Avi Kaplun

Every day of my life is an open mockery to the patriarchy, the church, the government… any authority figure really. Have you seen me? Not to mention I actually care about the future of our planet (although I am still pessimist about the whole ordeal… see Jupiter). Every day I march for our future, for the future of my friends and family, for Mother Nature. This song is to the tune of a steady march, and for as long as I’m alive, I’ll be singing all day and you can’t tame it.

Neptune: dreams, imagination

“Soul Meets Body” by Death Cab for Cutie

My mind is one twisted metaphor I can’t pin words to. It’s constantly traveling to other places, other worlds, other people, without my control. The most comfortable place for me is my mind and my dreams, because that is something I can both control and let free to wander without worry. This song is about just that (though I do personify the second person as another version of me or my mind), and I know that while the world outside is collapsing and roaring, I can send my thoughts to far off destinations, so they may have a chance of finding a place where they’re far more suited than here.

Pluto: power, control, obsession

“Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters and Men

Without control, I am nothing. My story is my own to have, I can choose which characters stay and which ones go. My writing is a memoir and metaphor of my life, where I can fight and scream without people running. It’s my form of protest, and this song is a metaphor for battles, both internal and external, staining the hands of those who partake in it. If you look close, my story is written on my hands, my obsessions, my hands that control what is written here. And here I’ll sit, completely alone with my thoughts in the forest of talking trees.


Bonus: writing style

“Blinding” by Florence + the Machine

My writing, quite literally, is nothing more than a dream. If they didn’t begin as one, I shape the world around me within my slumber to experiment, to wander amongst my words as if they were a forest. It’s often why I wake up in the middle of the night to scribble down this incoherence and translate it later. This song, besides being one of my favorite songs nowadays, is full of extended metaphors weaving in and out of each other like an intricate fabric, glistening and dull all at the same time. Florence Welch and I have the same understanding of ourselves: we are tourist(s) in the waking world, never quite awake.


the mutual awkwardness of a human and her dog


Al Kucera Annotated Playlist

Bohemian Rhapsody ⠂Queen.  The car bumped lightly on the street as I watch lights blur together. My oldest sister, Abbie, and my mom talking softly in the front seats. Suddenly, my mom plugged in her phone into the car’s speaker and played a song. I recognize the song immediately as all of us began to sing along. As it got to my favorite part, I belt, “Mama, ooh, / I don’t wanna die, / I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!” Naturally, continuing on with the lyrics that followed. That part was always the one I sang with the most power. I can never figure out why.

I Want To Break Free ⠂Queen.  Anxiously, a leg bounces. Ears always twitching at the pronoun “she” or “her” whenever a voice talked of their owner. A bell rung. Hurriedly, a figure shoves earbuds into their ears and taps a particular song on a waiting playlist. “I want to break free from your lies / You’re so self-satisfied/ I don’t need you, I want to break free / God knows, God knows I want to break free.” Shoulders that were once tensed slowly relaxed. The figure sighed heavily while leaving the building. Soon, they would break free. Al 2019

Under Pressure ⠂Queen ft. David Bowie.  Whenever my throat feels closed off by dozens of pebbles and my eyes blur with burning tears, falling deep into darkness, a sliver of light was visible just out of my reach. A familiar bassline would bring it ever so slightly closer until… Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s delicate voices touched my ears, “Can’t we give ourselves one more chance? / Why can’t we give love that one more chance?” Soon, it was the darkness falling, and there was light once again.

Good Lover Old Fashioned ⠂Queen.   I couldn’t count the number of times I’d listen to Queen with my family. Each time never failed to lift my spirits. But, there was one song I never heard growing up or as I got older. Last December, I saw a list of Queen songs when scrolling through some kind of social media. Since my childhood, naming Queen songs has become second nature. None really slipped past me. Well, besides Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy that is. As soon as I heard that easy piano turn into ragtime, it’s like the song itself injected into my veins. I have yet to have a time where I don’t feel a sudden urge to move while listening to this song. Every time I hear, “Hey, boy, where do you get it from? / Hey, boy, where did you go? / I learned my passion / In the good old-fashioned / School of loverboys,” I really wish I didn’t drop those tap dance classes.

Friends Never Say Goodbye ⠂Elton John.  I’ll never forget the countless times I begged my mom put on The Road To El Dorado as a child. My two older sisters and I would all sit in the living room, abandoning the two couches and the old creaky rocking chair in favor of a nest of blankets lined with pillows in front of the boxy TV. I could recite all the songs by heart and would sing along to all of them except one: Friends Never Say Goodbye. I adored the song, don’t misunderstand. It just never felt right to sing along, as if it would be the very thing to break the script recorded before I was even born. Elton John’s silky voice filled my ears as I stare in awe at the screen. Three lines I’d carefully whisper, “Who’s to say who’s right or wrong / Whose course is braver run / Still we are, have always been, will ever be as one.”

I’m Still Standing ⠂Elton John.  I’m Still Standing, how I interpret it, plays into my relationship with gender. No matter what society tells me, I’ll never back down from my identity. Even if I’ve broken myself over my identity, I’ve picked up all those pieces and built my own little society. My life, my mind, my choices. What do they know? “And did you think this fool could never win / Well, look at me, I’m a-coming back again.”

Welcome to Night Vale ⠂Joseph Fink & Jefferey Cranor.  Before Welcome to Night Vale, I never considered podcasts as a form of media I’d enjoy. And I figured out the reason I was so happy to find it had LGBTQ representation. Yeah, this was before I found out I was queer. Besides, I love horror comedies as you’ll find Beetlejuice later on in this list.

The Magnus Archives ⠂Johnathan Sims.  I’ve never been a huge fan of horror. Like pure horror. But I saw someone I followed on social posting about The Magnus Archives and having nothing better to do, I listened. Despite being extremely squeamish, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe it even inspired me to try and write some horror.

Avatar: The Last Airbender ⠂Bryan Konietzko & Micheal Dante DiMartino.  I can never remember any exact plot points from when I watched it very young. However, the characters, world, and creatures are carved into those foggy memories. Fantasy became a part of me since then. My own characters, my own world, my own creatures soon will come to life

Fullmetal Alchemist ⠂Hiromu Arakawa.  The memories are a little hazy but still so clear. Seventh grade, about five years ago, I was sitting in a hotel room couch with my feet kicked up on one of the armrests. We had been in Lincoln, Nebraska to visit my grandma in the hospital and help my grandpa with his house. I remember it being the start of spring as the grass had begun to gain its color back and trees sprouted little leaves. My friend at the time kept pestering me to watch this anime Fullmetal Alchemist. I saw this break as a chance to check it out. Tiny iPhone 4 in hand, I was glued to the screen. Such a thing was meant to carry me away from reality, but in a way, it helped ground me in reality.

Good Omens ⠂Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.  Ah yes, the book and new TV series that took over my summer. By no means was that a bad thing, I just never expected to enjoy a story about an angel and demon trying to stop the end of the world. Actually, when you put it like that, it’s right up my alley. Though, in hindsight, I probably should’ve tried to fix my sleeping schedule than obsess over Good Omens well into four in the morning. Oh well, it’s fine. Probably.

The Book of Kells ⠂Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey.  One second of this film, I was already entranced. The animation and art style sucked me into the screen. Everything else fell away as I was taken back in time to where myths of my ancestors were still bright. To breath life into something lost is truly the best gift given to a writer.

Beetlejuice ⠂Tim Burton.  Memories I’ll never forget are the times I’d spend with my other older sister, Ana, and my mom watching Beetlejuice. It was my mom’s favorite movie and soon became my own seeing how many times we watched it together. Almost as many times as The Road To El Dorado in case you were wondering. I remember one day, my sister and I must’ve wanted to watch Beetlejuice so bad we crowded around the family computer to search it up on youtube, watching in multiple parts. I believe we lost the actual CD and only had the case, though that didn’t stop me from looking inside the deserted case every time. I have that picture engraved in my mind by now. Well then, if you’ll excuse, my mom recently bought a new CD of Beetlejuice.

Star Trek ⠂Gene Roddenberry.  Alright, I have a confession: I haven’t watched even one episode of the TV series or remember a single second from the movies. Hell, I didn’t even know it was a book until I had to search for the original writer. All my knowledge of Star Trek comes from the brief moments I’d catch walking past the living room TV whenever my Dad put it on and the wiki page. Oh, and that one YouTube video I watched. So, no, I don’t really have an emotional story to tell about how Star Trek had opened my eyes to the world of fiction as my Dad sat me on his lap when I was a wee lad, pointing to the screen while telling me I, too, could create a world of my own someday. Why is it on this list, then? Because it did have an important impact on my point of view on LGBTQ representation in media. 

This had to be roughly when I was in my freshman year. I was watching YouTube after I finished my homework, a typical Gen Z pastime, when I came across a video with a gay flag as the thumbnail and “GAY?” written in gray text next to two men. The video title also caught my attention: Are They Gay? – Kirk and Spock. I recognized them from Star Trek and was curious about what the video had to offer. That, and I’m a very simple person. Anything queer will capture my attention faster than a moth to a flame. As the video went on, I realized for years all the LGBTQ community had to go on was subtext. Of course, I knew how little our community had representation wise, but I was just starting to come into my identity so I was still new to LGBTQ history. Not to mention I was planning on making am extremely queer series of my own. But this added fuel to a raging fire. I had to make the gayest series straight people have ever seen so that even they can’t deny how gay it is.

So, are Kirk and Spock gay? Well, they certainly are now because the LGBTQ community deserves a hell of a lot more than plain subtext.