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The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Writers present work at ninth annual Literary Festival

Last Friday, students and teachers took part in the ninth annual Literary Festival, a day devoted to students in senior writing classes taking workshops. The style of writing varied from songwriting to graphic novel writing. The tradition of Lit Fest was started by John Cadwell, Chris Oetter, and Julie Johnson.

“We thought about how we could have a day devoted to all different kinds of writers coming in and offering workshops for the senior writing classes,” said Oetter.

In the past, Lit Fest has been funded by a grant throught the New Trier Educational Foundation. However, in recent years, the grant has not covered the cost.

“The foundation has dramatically lowered the grant, and as a result the school supplements the funding of the festival,” said Oetter. “We have also been funded by ticket sales from the Mix Tape night and private donations,” he added.

This year, a standout workshop was Bill Ayers. Going in to Lit Fest, Oetter was looking forward to seeing him.

“I wanted to see if he was going to talk about his infamous past,” he said. Sarah Palin had previously referred to Ayers as “Obama’s terrorist pal.” In the end, Oetter was impressed with him. “I was really impressed with his honesty and willingness to talk about his past,” he said.

A well-liked workshop by students was fiction writer Rachel DeWoskin. “She really explained how to write a creative essay and explained details about writing,” said senior Danielle Fraser. “It was just different from any other workshops I’ve taken.”

DeWoskin was very impressed with the work of her workshop attendees. “The students did a staggeringly brilliant job with the in class assignment. Their writing was coherent and it had clarity and the conversation was fantastic,” she said. “What a community you guys have,” she added.

A new member of the Lit Fest community was Ted Sanders. “I liked Ted Sanders. We got to write little short stories,” said senior Sean Ryan. “We had a chance to be really creative. He was also really down to earth,” she added.

According to Oetter, most of the writers enjoy having a high school audience, although it is an intimidating experience.

“Most writers have never had a high school audience and as a result some of them are terrified,” he said. “Some also have awful memories of their own high school experience,” he added.

Playwriter Zayd Dohrn enjoyed working with the New Trier students. “This is my third year coming and each year has been really interesting. The students at New Trier are great,” he said. “It’s always really interesting to see how creative the people here are,” he added.

Year after year, Lit Fest is an incredible opportunity for both the students and the teachers involved. “I love that it’s an opportunity for students to see writing as a present tense activity,” said English teacher John O’Connor. “In school, because we’re trying to show great literature we show historical literature. These are living breathing writers,” he added.

Oetter said that his favorite part of Lit Fest is seeing the interaction between the writers and the students. He recounted that graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown would have his workshop attendees send him their work. “The festival doesn’t end at the end of the day. It continues with dialogue and feedback,” he said.

Next year is the tenth anniversary of Lit Fest, and the planning has already started. “We want to have the opportunity to look back on some of the awesome acts who have appeared here,” O’Connor said. He said they plan to invite people from many local Universities such as DePaul, Loyola, University of Illinois, and Columbia College. “Chicago is one of the most educationally rich areas,” he added.

A goal for next year is to have more involvement from the school and the community.

“We want to make it a more school wide event and invite other departments to participate; we want the community to participate too,” he concluded

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