Writing up a storm at the seventh annual Writers Festival

Authors+Bryan+Crandall%2C+Jordan+Windholz%2C+and+Martha+Southgate+gather+with+students+from+Greenwich+Academy+and+the+Brunswick+School+after+the+Greenwich+Writers+Festival.+Courtesy+of+Upper+School+English+Teacher+Cristina+Baptista.

Authors Bryan Crandall, Jordan Windholz, and Martha Southgate gather with students from Greenwich Academy and the Brunswick School after the Greenwich Writers Festival. Courtesy of Upper School English Teacher Cristina Baptista.

Young writers gathered February 20 from 12 pm to 3 pm at the seventh annual Writers Festival to workshop their writing and create new pieces among professional authors. Participants were able to listen to published writers talk about their responsibilities and accomplishments. Greenwich Academy hosted the event, and writers from Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Brunswick School attended.

 Upper School English teacher Dr. Cristina Baptista and Upper School English Teacher and Chair of the English Department Dr. William Mottolese co-directed the festival, alongside Greenwich Academy Upper School English Teacher Mr. Jeff Schwartz.

Students heard novelist Ms. Martha Southgate, poet Dr. Jordan Windholz, and playwright Mr. Bryan Crandall speak about their experiences as writers.

Authors Bryan Crandall, Jordan Windholz, and Martha Southgate gather with students from Greenwich Academy and the Brunswick School after the Greenwich Writers Festival. Courtesy of Upper School English Teacher Cristina Baptista.
Authors Mr. Bryan Crandall, Dr. Jordan Windholz, and Ms. Martha Southgate gather with students from Greenwich Academy and the Brunswick School after the eighth annual Writers Festival. Courtesy of Upper School English teacher Cristina Baptista.

The first speaker, Mr. Crandall, shed insight on the theatrical side of writing. He began the tradition of The National Ten-Minute Play Contest, a program where student playwrights design their own theatrical performances, in Louisville, Kentucky at the J. Graham Brown School. The event has since taken off in Syracuse, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut as well, according to bryanripleycrandall.com
Mr. Crandall discussed his life-long relationship with writing and stressed the importance of creativity in the lives of students. Mr. Crandall believes that creative writing helps foster imagination in ways that more formal writing cannot replicate.
“We need words. We need to know what is going on in our world, and writing is one of the best ways to communicate this,” Mr. Crandall said. “It is amazing that kids are willing to give up their time to explore their writerly selves because pursuing these opportunities is the best way for writers to develop their skills.
Dr. Jordan Windholz, poet and English professor at Fordham University, spoke next. Dr. Windholz’s career started with his debut collection, Other Psalms, which balances faith, irony, and the contemporary human presence. He greeted his audience with a brief anecdote about his relationship with writing, then read several of his poems.
Ms. Martha Southgate followed Dr. Windholz with a reading of an excerpt from her novel, The Fall of Rome. Ms. Southgate is an essayist and novelist whose non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine. One of her novels, Third Girl from the Left, won the 2006 Best Fiction Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, according to ala.org
Through a brief lecture on her writing process, Ms. Southgate articulated her passion for writing and her encouragement for young writers to pursue their own creative aspirations.
Workshops and lectures ran throughout the day from 12 pm to 3 pm. Each author conducted a workshop, and students chose two out of the three sessions to attend.
For one hour increments, students took on the jobs of editors, authors, and screenwriters. Teachers grabbed pens and paper and took seats alongside their students to participate in the workshops. The Writers Festival enabled both students and teachers alike to detach from their to-do lists and the flood of extracurricular activities, and explore their inner creativity.
“I got to explore many different ways of writing and learned more about myself as a writer – what styles I gravitate towards and different techniques to improve my skills,” Sacred Heart Senior Olivia Thurman said.
The Festival provided snacks and drinks for writers to consume in between each workshop. During these breaks and after the Festival, students also had time to approach the authors to ask questions and get books signed.
“I love seeing young writers become enthusiastic about writing and interact with students from other schools because teachers don’t always get to see their students in this light,” Dr. Baptista said. 
The authors in attendance urged the audience to personalize their experience with writing. They collectively claimed that writing is a meaningful part of their lives and that frequent writing, whether practiced in a journal or on a laptop, is one of the best ways to improve.
Students exited the campus with folders full of poems, short stories, plays, and inspiration to further experiment with writing in the future.
– Christina Weiler, Staff Writer