Telling it like it is

Critical reviews of Portland arts by Telling Room students
By TELLING ROOM STUDENTS  |  August 8, 2014

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ENGAGING WITH THE MATERIAL Students gather for an infosession at Review Camp.

One of the many reasons Portland is such a smart literary city is the Telling Room, the nonprofit writing center for youth aged 6 to 18. Every year, the organization hosts workshops, residencies, and camps where young writers can find their voice, working with dedicated staff and volunteer mentors from the community.

Two weeks ago, the organization hosted Review Camp, a week-long forum where greater Portland students (aged 10-14) learned to write critically about arts and cultural activities in the area, training their sights on a music video by indie-pop singer-songwriter Sara Hallie Richardson, the newish soda parlor Vena’s Fizz House in the Old Port, and art shows at SPACE Gallery and the Portland Museum of Art.

Writing critical reviews is a delicate art. Ours is a small, heavily interconnected city with a lot of passionate artists and aestheticians, and the task of writing truthful, unbiased opinions about someone’s work can be intimidating. Nobody wants to offend or dismiss somebody unfairly, yet most would agree that those assessments of local arts and culture which consistently lack any critical tone can often be a little suspect. It’s a fine line to walk, as these ten students found out. Phoenix contributors Deirdre Fulton and Christopher Gray and managing editor Nick Schroeder were invited to volunteer to help hone the critical voices of these young writers (as was the Press Herald’s Aimsel Ponti), and we think the results gave us insights about local art that were thoughtful, witty, unpredictable, and very honest.

VENA’S FIZZ HOUSE

The soda flavors will burst in your mouth and make you feel refreshed after one sip

By Sierra Aponte Clarke

As I walked into the Vena’s fizz house I immediately got the feeling of an old soda parlor. There was funky old music, a soda bar, and spinning parlor chairs.

I got to sample four drinks but I had one favorite, the Cherry Lime Rickey. This drink is full of fruity flavor and there is just the right amount of cherry and lime to make it amazing and refreshing. This soda is made from all-natural ingredients like fresh squeezed lime, sweetened cherry juice, seltzer, spiced cherry bitters, and cane sugar. This sweet drink was so good I had three cups.

Another drink I had was the Strawberry Mint Shrub. I did not like this one for many reasons, like how the mint overpowers the strawberries, and also that the mix of flavors made the drink taste a little like mouthwash. But that was just my taste buds. Other people liked it though—my counselor Lily said, “Yeah, I really liked that one.”

After that I had the Orange Tootsie Pop. This one I also did not like, probably because I am not a big fan of Tootsie Rolls. Then my palate got refreshed from the Little Lads herbal corn that the bartenders gave us.

I would recommend Vena’s Fizz House for creative and fun sodas that are all made from natural and organic ingredients. This place is a perfect place to hang out with your friends. Just make sure that you like the ingredients in your soda because some are pretty interesting and could be new to you.

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