Students, staff reflect on another year of Lit Fest

Students explore a variety of genres in writing workshops

Jesse McCauley

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Last Friday, the 14th annual Literary Festival welcomed writers from several genres to engage with seniors enrolled in writing related English courses. The students chose four one-hour long sessions to attend. In total, there were sixteen sessions that focused on topics ranging from songwriting to constructing podcasts.

The festival was put together by English teachers John O’Connor, Sarah Gompers, Carlo Trovato, and Chris Oetter. These teachers all worked together to expose students to a variety of writing styles.

“What we have heard from students over the years is that this is the most valuable day of the year. They get to see what being a professional writer is all about,” said John Cadwell, Chair of the English Department.

Senior Kathryn Braeseke appreciated the inside look on professional writing. “I thought it was a unique experience and it was cool to hear from people who are professionals in so many areas of literature. It was a fun yet educating break in the semester,” said Braeseke.

Cadwell also pointed out the personal level of the sessions. Since the day is exclusively for seniors, some sessions were small and interactive.

“I think the sessions with smaller groups were more fun and effective because we got to get through more of the topic. I had a great time overall, and I definitely got to learn from a lot of different and cool people,” said senior Matt Stetter.

Stetter attended a session taught by Peter Ferry called Write and Read Your Short, Short Story in 60 Minutes. Ferry, a former English teacher at Lake Forest High School and author of two novels, had the students create their own short stories that he and the rest of the class would analyze.

Senior Michael Kolovos also had a positive experience. “My favorite seminar was Interviewing: Finding the Black Pearl because it was the most interactive and the professor was the most engaging.”

In this particular session, Peter Slevin, a writer for The Washington Post, discussed interviewing techniques and the best ways to get to the heart of a person’s story. The students got to interview each other and tried to find something extraordinary. Slevin has interviewed people such as Barack and Michelle Obama, mainly to publish his biography “Michelle Obama: A Life.”

However, not all students came out of the day feeling inspired. Many felt disappointed with their sessions. For example, senior Emma Schwartz loves the idea of Lit Fest, but she doesn’t think students take it very seriously.

“I believe all students, including myself, see it as a blow-off day, which lessens the legitimacy of the seminars and makes them that much worse,” said Schwartz.

Similarly, senior Alex Bernardo was not thrilled with his sessions. “The sessions felt too long and many of them were not like how they were advertised in the description,” said Bernardo.

Many students felt that the day really depended on the success of the sessions that they chose.

Despite the varying opinions on the sessions, the overarching goal of the day was to expose students to a variety of writing. O’Connor, who has worked on the Literary Festival for all fourteen years, believes this type of exposure is very relevant and that writing infiltrates every possible field of study.

“Our English classes sometimes focus on ancient people such as Shakespeare and Sophocles. We want people to know that writing is an art that is being practiced all around us. Writing is a present tense activity,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor has done his own outside writing including book reviews, education essays, poems, radio essays for NPR, and much more. His daughter, Alison O’Connor, was a guest this year. She is a slam poet in a duo called Mascara, who taught a session called Slam It Off: A Poetry Workshop.

“I can’t imagine a life without art. I don’t think that life without art is a full life,” said O’Connor.

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