‘What is Your Story?’ project seeks to publish book


Freshman Motoko Iwata puts up a poster for her “What is Your Story?” project in hopes of receiving more student stories to be compiled into a book. According to Iwata, the biggest challenge she faced was finding enough entrants. “I just want as many submissions as possible, so that’s really the main goal right now,” Iwata said. “From that, we’ll be able to make a book which is ultimately the goal.” (Photo: Kristine Lin)

Kristine Lin, Managing Editor

“How can stories remain more permanent, not temporary?” freshman Motoko Iwata wondered. “What are students’ stories, and how can we share them with each other?”

Inspired by her love for liberal arts and English, Iwata thought, “What is YOUR Story?” and her idea was born.

“What is Your Story?” is a community book project created in hopes of getting students to share their stories. Up until 11:59 p.m. last Sunday, Iwata invited all Palo Alto High School students to submit written and artistic works of a broad variety, from memoirs to comic art.

“This project originated because I thought every student has a story they need to share, whether it’s through artwork or writing,” Iwata said. “This is an opportunity to share that story.”

Iwata said receiving $600 from the Media Arts Boosters’ Innovation Grant was what put her plan into motion.

“I saw the post from the MAC Boosters saying there was an Innovation Grant that anyone could sign up for,” Iwata said. “I thought about how I wanted to someday have my work published and I thought maybe there were some other students who wanted to have their work published too. So, I thought, what if we compiled all of those submissions into something that would really be published and printed, so we could all enjoy that?”

According to Iwata, “What is Your Story?” launched in mid-April and garnered over 20 student submissions. The entrants will be put into a gift card raffle, funded by the Media Arts Boosters, as an incentive for participating. Freshman Amy Zhao said she submitted several works of art in hopes of winning a gift card.

“I submitted three different paintings with different meanings: there’s one of a girl standing under a grapevine, a painting of a flower that has a city as petals and one of a girl standing in the hallway inside her home,” Zhao said. “I’m excited to win the raffle to some Boba Guys gift cards.”

According to Iwata, the work was a culmination of the efforts of many different members of the Paly community.

“I’m asking some teachers to find graphic design students to help design the final product, and I’m also collaborating with other students in ASB to try to get submissions and logistical things [figured out],” Iwata said.

Iwata said her biggest challenge was finding enough entrants to create a substantial book.

“The planning of the project wasn’t so difficult, but it’s mostly just getting students to submit,” Iwata said. “I’ve been putting up posters around [campus] but I don’t think students are seeing them, and we definitely want more so that we can make a real book.”

Depending on the number of entrants she receives this year, Iwata may continue her project in the coming years, with a focus on improving the project’s marketing.

“There were a lot of things I learned from this year’s project,” Iwata said.  “If I am able to get a grant next year, I would like to do it and improve upon mistakes, like marketing. I would like to do it next year but it’s too soon to tell.”

Photography teacher Kenna Gallagher, who is assisting Iwata in the project, is hopeful that Iwata’s book will make a huge impact on both current and future Paly students.

“Long-term, this may be a really successful documentation of the underlying emotions of the Paly student body,” Gallagher said. “Through this project, students will find some catharsis and through this creativity, transform some of their anxiety and stress. It’s widely known that Paly is a highly pressurized academic environment. I think students need more outlets like this on a regular basis.”

Iwata said she looks forward to seeing the published book in hopes of strengthening the Paly community.

“Students will get to know each other better and understand what [stories] peers might have,” Iwata said. “They’ll understand more deeply about the community that they’re in.”