Student writers and faculty from Sacred Heart Greenwich, Greenwich Academy, and the Brunswick School gathered at the tenth annual Greenwich Writers Festival, March 30, to collaborate and engage with accomplished writers. To prepare for this event, students and faculty from all participating schools invited peers from their community to come together to learn from experienced guest writers.
Dr. Cristina Baptista, Upper School English Teacher, and Dr. William Mottolese, Upper School English Teacher and Chair of the English Department, worked to promote the festival within the Sacred Heart community. Sacred Heart student organizers, senior Laura Ferrucci and juniors Malika Amoruso and Eliza Stanley, encouraged their classmates to attend and participate in the festival.
“Certainly, what makes the annual Writers Festival unique is that it is planned and attended by local high school students and it is a rare collaboration of Sacred Heart, Greenwich Academy, and Brunswick schools. In this sense, we feel local yet diverse,” Dr. Baptista said. “There’s more joy here, more of a desire to simply explore and experiment with ideas rather than getting bogged down by the ‘publish-or-perish’ mentality of many writing professionals. In short, our Writers Festival supports and embraces all kinds and ages of writers, and there’s a warmth and earnestness in the works that come out of it.”
In 2008, Mr. Jeff Schwartz, Greenwich Academy Upper School English Teacher, started the Writers Festival in hopes of encouraging students to create pieces of writing from different genres, according to greenwichacademy.org. This year, Ms. Heather Klemann, Director of Expository Writing at Yale University, Ms. Sylvia Khoury ’08, Sacred Heart alumna and playwriter of Selling Kabul, Power Strip, and The Place Women Go, and Mr. Jack Powers, the author of the poetry book Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar, held workshops based on the genre of writing in which they specialize.
Ms. Khoury, who first attended the festival as a Sacred Heart student, led a workshop panel about playwriting. She highlighted her workshop’s overall focus and expressed what she hoped students would gain from the experience.
“I especially focused on the communal aspect of theater how when we read a novel or a poem, we are typically alone, whereas when we are watching a play we do it as a communal activity,” Ms. Khoury said. “I hope that students will try to write a play, or at least feel that doing so is possible. The resources to support young playwrights in high school are limited, but it’s definitely something to keep exploring in college.”
Malika benefitted from Ms. Khoury’s workshop and the variety of writing exercises available to the students.
“Ms. Khoury’s workshop stood out to me the most because she was very good at making something that seemed huge, like writing a play, come across as something anyone could do. We were told to choose three different prompts all around the same idea of two friends meeting up,” Malika said. “I had no idea I could write an entertaining scene before that exercise.”
Dr. Mottolese emphasized the experience enriched that student as writers by connecting with local writers and working collaboratively with them during the workshops.
“The Writers Festival taps into a wonderful community of writers. The students and I find it so inspiring,” Dr. Mottolese said. “The workshops given by the writers really inspire all of us to produce creative writing. The atmosphere is friendly and informal, and attendance gets better every year. The writers are really accomplished and engaging, and all of it is free.”
Sophomore Eliza Stanley discusses her experience at the Writers Festival. (Interview conducted by Lé-Anne Johnson, Staff Writer)
– Sofia Pye, Staff Writer
Featured Image by Sofia Pye ’21