Student writers unite at the thirteenth annual Writers Festival


Avery Kim '24

Student writers gather for the Writers Festival February 12.

Students and faculty from Sacred Heart Greenwich, Greenwich Academy (GA), and Brunswick School with a shared passion for writing assembled for the thirteenth annual Writers Festival February 12.  Novelist and playwright Ms. Jean Hanff Korelitz, poet Mr. Jason Koo, and fiction author Ms. Wendy Walker led interactive workshops in which students crafted, shared, and interpreted works of writing.  Sophomore Samantha Sawhney and Ms. Lauren Delapenha, GA Upper School English Teacher and Daedalus Co-Faculty Adviser, reflected upon the value of community, especially for young writers. 

Ms. Delapenha helped orchestrate the event in collaboration with Dr. Cristina Baptista, Sacred Heart Upper School English Teacher, Dr. William Mottolese, Sacred Heart Upper School English Teacher and Chair of the English Department, Mr. Matthew Blake, Sacred Heart Upper School Theology and English Teacher, and Mr. John Martin, Brunswick Upper School English Teacher.  Student volunteers from all three institutions joined the team of educators in the planning process.  Leading up to the event, Ms. Delapenha outlined her goals for the 2022 Writers Festival.

“I hope that students use this opportunity to stretch themselves in genres they may not typically write,” Ms. Delapenha said.  “I also hope the festival inspires students to get plugged in to local literary communities, especially by submitting to our schools’ respective literary magazines, and fosters more communication and collaboration between our three excellent schools around our shared passion for literature.” 

In Mr. Jason Koo’s workshop, student writers discuss poetry and write about their identities.  Courtesy of Ms. Lauren Delapenha

While the 2021 Writers Festival occurred virtually, this year’s event marked the return to an in-person assembly.  Attendees gathered on the GA campus at 12 p.m. before breaking into small groups to engage in a rotation of author-led workshops.  Students had the opportunity to purchase books including Ms. Korelitz’s new novel, The Plot, and Mr. Koo’s poetry collection, America’s Favorite Poem.

Ms. Delapenha elaborated on her personal love of writing.  She shared that, just as the Writers Festival brings together students with a common interest, rhetoric has the power to unite diverse groups of people. 

“Writing is a way of discovering what I think, and of challenging and refining that thought,” Ms. Delapenha said.  “It is a way of seeing the world, and then of seeing it again, more deeply, and differently, than how I had seen it the first time.  It is a way of seeing people, and of speaking with them, stretching across otherwise insurmountable boundaries of culture and geography.”

Samantha, Co-Writing Editor of Perspectives, the Sacred Heart literary magazine, attended and helped organize the Writers Festival.  Samantha appreciates the annual partnership between Sacred Heart, GA, and Brunswick.

Authors Ms. Wendy Walker, Mr. Jason Koo, and Ms. Jean Hanff Korelitz instruct students in poetry, short story, and plot workshops.  Courtesy of Ms. Lauren Delapenha

It is always such a privilege and delight to collaborate and get to know people at other schools,” Samantha said.  “Despite our friendly rivalry with GA, it has been great working with everybody.  We should attempt more interscholastic engagements.” 

In addition to developing teamwork skills and new friendships, students from different schools offered alternative perspectives and feedback on writing.  Similar to Samantha, Ms. Delapenha spoke to the importance of writing communities.  She described the difficulties of the craft, and the encouragement that events such as the Writers Festival provide.

“A good reader almost always spots things that the writer does not: things ranging from simple typos and plot holes to larger structural issues, characters that warrant more development, and ideas that need more clarity,” Ms. Delapenha said.  “Apart from constructive criticism, though, a good reader can also be a good friend who does the important job of praising the achievements of a work in progress.  Writing is such a solitary exercise that it’s important to bring others in, even just to listen and smile and nod.” 

Featured Image by Avery Kim ’24