Student Spotlight: Aaron Huang

Aaron HuangIn this 2020 interview with River of Words, Aaron talks about singular moments becoming the biggest inspirations in his writing process and how a field trip left him wanting to express feelings, which led to his poem "Yosemite Falls." 

Scroll to the bottom of this page to watch a video of Aaron reading his poem, the 2020 River of Words Shasta Bioregion Prize Winner!

Meet Aaron:

Q: What is your current age?

I am fourteen.


Q: Tell me a little bit about how you got into writing.

I was really little when my dad started telling me stories. It began at bed time and then I started asking him for stories during car rides and free time. That’s when my passion for story telling began. I distinctly remember the moment I started to write. I was in my parent’s bedroom and we were writing in an old mac. It was my own version of little red riding hood and that’s how it all started.


Q: What’s your process like? How do you go about writing a poem?

I love to write about singular moments and that is why poetry appeals to me. I chose to write about seconds that mean a lot to me. Then I try to recall the senses, try to recall my emotions. From then, things flow. I usually edit when I finish the writing. I’ll keep writing and rewriting sentences until I feel it fits. Some of the best moments of my writing are when it flows out and I don’t edit until the very end.


Q: Do you do other types of writing besides poetry?

I do poetry, prose, and vignettes. This one is a Haibun. It has a Haiku at the end and prose at the beginning.


Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Stories and writing have been around for so long. I think the reason writing appeals to so many people is because you can escape, live in other worlds, and write your own heroes. But for me, I love writing because it gives me my own voice and a place for my ideas and my experiences. For that, I love writing.


Q: Your poem “Yosemite Falls” was selected as the Winner of the Shasta Bioregion Prize. This is the prize we award to poems that honor a Northern California watershed. What inspired your poem?

We visited Yosemite Falls in the 7th grade. The trip up was chaotic. It was snowing and hailing and people didn’t feel well. We ate our lunch covered in snow. Our backpacks were heavy. It didn’t feel like nature because of all that chaos. When I got to the top and sat at the edge, I could see Half Dome and the falls and it was so peaceful. I just wanted to express those feelings.


Yosemite Falls


Q: If Yosemite Falls was a person, what would you say?

I would first thank it for its beauty and for that small moment that meant so much to me. I probably wouldn’t say much except for a couple of questions. How do you feel about being one of the most visited cites in America? Do you like humans coming over? Do you think there could be a balance between human activity and nature? How have you changed? How have humans changed you?


Q: What is your favorite part of this poem?

I would say towards the end, when I say “never being the boy to enjoy quiet time, never being someone who closes his mouth, now standing where quiet was born.” As a kid I did not like for it to be quiet, but in that moment I really appreciated the quiet.


Q: How did you find out about River of Words?

I was doing some research about where I could submit this poem and River of Words came up. I found the Northern California Watershed prize and I said whoa, this is it.


Q: What role has River of Words played in your life?

River of Words means a lot to me because I love nature. I think River of Words is one of those organizations that combines art with nature, and that is something that I am trying to learn to do in my own work.


Q: Here at River of Words we talk a lot about Watersheds: about getting to know them, about observing them and conserving them. What does the word watershed mean to you?

Watersheds are an integral part of nature and civilization. In the US, they provide water to millions. They help ecosystems. It makes life thrive.


Q: We call someone who explores their watershed and the environment they live in a Watershed Explorer. Do you consider yourself a watershed explorer? Why?

I think anyone who loves and appreciates the environment, their ecosystems, their habitats is a watershed explorer. Anyone that devotes their time volunteering for the environment. Anyone that enjoys the outdoors.


Q: What is some advice you’d give another young person about writing?

Writing is extremely difficult. It is probably one of the most powerful, but also one of the most difficult things to learn how to do. A lot of things can make you feel unrecognized, put down. But writing is your voice. Other people can put you down, but don’t listen to them. Writing is about your voice and how you can tell your stories and your experiences. Everyone does it differently. Everyone has their own style.


Q: What is your advice for a young person who wants to be more involved in taking care of their environment or get to know their local watershed?

I think the best answer is to volunteer. I volunteer at a local redwood sanctuary. Any amount of time that you can put into volunteering will help the environment. Every minute, every second makes a difference.


"Yosemite Falls" by Aaron Huang

Three thousand feet doesn’t seem so high, but it is. It’s enough to
scare you, if you’re at the edge. The frigid metal rail loosely stands
between me and certain death. Ignoring that, I stare off into the open
valley below, my eyes having no focus. Heavier than the bag strung to
my back, my eyelids wide. It feels almost peaceful not to hear birds
chirping, but only the water shooting out in bursts like an upside-down
bottle. The rushing Yosemite Creek, fueled by the winter storms of
snow and sleet, now free-falling not ten feet away from me. We stand
in amazement at the turning point where Yosemite Creek is now
Yosemite Falls. The snow, almost hail-like, bounces off my jacket, my
gloves, my shoes, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to bother me
anymore. Maybe it’s the therapeutic sunrise overcoming the
mountains. Or maybe, just maybe, the silence that now falls upon my
group. I think it is the silence, a week of hectic craziness now halted.
Never being a boy who enjoyed quiet time, never being someone who
closes his mouth, now standing where quiet was born. The beanie I
wear muffles the rushing sound of Yosemite Falls, the only noise being
a silent roar. The night smell still lingering in the air, a smell I’ve never
been taught, yet still coddles me; as if I’m a baby once again, held ever
so closely to Mother Nature. I smile.

little drops falling
and I stare and I star gaze
and I am at peace.

Aaron Huang, age 13

Los Altos, CA. United States

2020 Shasta Bioregion Prize Winner