A quiet room is filled with aspiring writers who have their eyes closed while searching through their vast memories. The silence once present in the room is quickly overpowered by the squeak of pens scribbling sentence after sentence describing a childhood memory. The sound becomes even greater as the memory becomes clearer and they can feel a gut feeling of emotions.
On April 10th, East students gathered with local high schools to attend the Literary Festival 2019. In the months leading up to the event, students had the option to submit written pieces and were to be judged by published writers. The categories included poetry, descriptive sketch, short fiction, dramatic scene, personal essay, personal narrative and critical essay. The judge’s panel included notable writers such as J. Leigh Bailey, Carmela Martino, George Miller, Allie Pleiter, Sarah Watts, and Bill Yarrow.
The day began with fellow students from participating schools gathering in the cafeteria and enjoying Panera breakfast. Orientation soon began after in the auditorium which included welcome remarks and freelance writer Sarah Watts as the keynote speaker.
Watts spoke about the trials and tribulations she experienced while working towards her career as a freelance writer, such as doubting pursuing a career in writing and being routinely rejected from editors of notable publications. Watts noted how the obstacles she experienced motivated her to continue her writing career.
Senior Lucie Kupres said that her writing comes with many strengths as well as weaknesses. Her experience at the literary festival helped her work through them. She also worked through some emotional turmoil when she wrote her submitted piece.
“My mind is always racing with thoughts. I was able to write out a little taste of how my mind works with thinking of every possibility of something before finding out what it actually is,” Kupres said.
Students had the option to pick two classes out the six offered at the literary festival. Classes ranged from “creating dynamic dialogue” to “poetry mashups.” These workshops taught by the judges offered to guide and help mold their own voices in their writing.
An seemly unconventional workshop that was offered was “yoga and meditation” instructed by George Miller. By doing yoga and meditation, students heightened their senses that will improve their writing. Another workshop was “show and tell” instructed by J. Leigh Bailey. In this workshop, students learned how to ensure readers will experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses and feelings.
English teacher Timothy Ochoa said that attending lit fest was a good opportunity for students because they got to attend workshops with published authors.
“Anytime you can get advice from a professional, it is going to be beneficial. I was happy to see a diverse group of writers at the event. Students enhanced their skills in poetry, description, and narrative writing,” Ochoa said.
Oswego High School senior Allison Sass, who won critics’ choice in poetry, talked about the writing has become influential for her.
“Writing is a nice way to express myself in a way that takes time. Instead of people taking one or two seconds to make a judgement about me in person, I can spend hours writing something that’s carefully though about to present to the public,” Sass said.
Sass’ written piece was a slam poem she wrote about different points in her life. It was written and performed in first person. The repeated phrase was ‘life’s unfair’ and the end touches on a traumatic event that happened a year ago in which her father was killed in a car crash.
“Writing has helped me by forcing me to be creative, and it also gave an outlet just to get thoughts that were in my head on paper,” Sass said.
Oswego High School senior Mark Melton won two awards at lit fest. He said that he uses writing as a form of self expression.
“I’m a pretty logical guy when it comes to more serious things, but writing has kind of helped me realize that I can feel things and let them out there,” Melton said.
According to these students, writing has become an outlet for them to confront their everyday problems as well as learning more about themselves. Writing stories or poems has become a primary way for them to communicate or clarify thoughts and feelings.
“Writing has definitely helped me personally. Sometimes when I don’t know quite how to say something to someone or even what I’m thinking or feeling, I can just write or type it and it starts to make more sense. Writing helps me feel like I have a purpose like there’s something I can do that might mean something to somebody. I think, at its best, writing has an impact, whether that be on the reader or the writer,” Melton said.
Kupres noted the significance writing has had in expressing herself. Writing is a coping mechanism she uses when expressing her feelings to someone else may be too much.
“It can be really hard to express your thoughts to other people. Writing is a way to still express your thoughts in a healthy way without the fears that talking to someone else might give you,” Kupres said.
Kupres submitted two written pieces to be judged. She was awarded second place for her descriptive sketch titled “Possibilities of the Imagination,” which she originally wrote for her creative writing class. It’s about a person at a carnival who notices a doors and when he walks through it, it disappears. This causes the main character’s mind to wander about all the different things that could be behind the door.
The awards ceremony took place following the workshops. Senior Skylar Korzen had submitted a written piece called “Macchiato Hair” and received an honorable mention in the descriptive sketch category.
“The [piece shows] the main character seeing a stranger and immediately romanticizing her and falling in love with her at first sight. But those [unrealistic expectations] soon are destroyed by reality,” Korzen said.
Awards included placing in first, second and third along with honorable mentions and critics’ choice. East students ended up earning the most awards with a total of 18 and Oswego students received 12 awards.
Diana Morales is a pop culture critic for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl