LitFest back in person after COVID-era virtual celebrations

New Trier had celebrated its 19th annual Literary Festival in-person this year



Faisal Mohyhuddin teaches his lesson called Accessing the Sensory Properties of Poetry.

The school held its 19th annual Literary Festival, its first year back in person after three years of being held virtually due to COVID. It was a great success with over 200 students participating.

The festival, which is sponsored by the English Department, included eight artists including the independent rock band Spirits Having Fun and indie filmmaker Michael Grover Smith.

The English department handpicked artists who specialize in different genres, whether that be in poetry, song writing, fiction, and nonfiction

— Sokolov

The four available sessions proved to be enjoyable and informative to those who attended. The English department handpicked artists who specialize in different genres, whether that be in poetry, song writing, fiction, and nonfiction. More importantly, all were selected for their ability to teach those attending their sessions. 

“Sometimes we’ve had renowned artists, but they don’t really interact with the students, and we want the kids to have opportunities during each session to practice their writing,” said Barbara Joyce, a teacher in the English department who helped organize the festival. 

Students were particularly fans of Jeffrey Brown, a comic artist and the author of childrens’ books Vader’s Little Princess and Dath Vader and Son. Brown detailed his path to his career through his love of art and storytelling since childhood. After a brief talk on his history of art, featuring lots of his childhood art, Brown led the students in creating their own creative comics. 

Another guest that stood out to those who participated was Rebecca Makkai, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the author of The Great Believers, which won the Stonewall Book Award. The author focused her session on originality– something she believed was a learned skill. After having the students create the most unoriginal short story they could, Makkai walked the participants through the process of creating something new. 

Spirits Having Fun, an indie rock band, consisting of four members, Katie McShane, Andrew Clinkman, who graduated New Trier in 2007, Jesse Heasly, and Phil Sudderberg, performed in the McGee theater. They presented a few of their songs, and ended the sessions with an opportunity for students to write in a few of their own lyrics for one of their unfinished songs. 

Also in the McGee theater, Michael Grover Smith presented his work in independent filmmaking. Starting from films with a crowd funded budget of a few thousand dollars and multiplying that budget with the next projects, Smith uses his films to explore the complexities of romantic relationships. His presentation included clips of his films and an explanation of the journey of an indie filmmaker. 

Though nothing is decided, for changes for next year, Joyce hinted at possibly changing the format to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of New Trier’s Literary Festival.