English department creates writers week

Alex Ring
Business Manager

English teacher Steve Leftridge addresses a freshman class on Jan. 20. He selected the writers to showcase in the upcoming writers week. Photo by Alex Ring.

English teacher Steve Leftridge addresses a freshman class on Jan. 20. He selected the writers to showcase in the upcoming writers week. Photo by Alex Ring.

“Not all writing is essays,” explained Rita Chapman, the English teacher who helped create the first annual All Write program.

This is a concept that is illustrated in the choices of award-winning writers who have been invited to speak at this writing conference.

Beginning on Feb. 25 and lasting until Feb. 27, students should expect 22 consecutive assemblies. This was a thought that initially scared Chapman and other English teachers, but after realizing the potential to inspire and introduce writing in a new light, the teachers understood the sacrifice, Chapman said.

Writing concepts go much further than they’re expected to go in a school setting. Students will better understand the essential skills of writing and its diversity when cartoonists, novelists, children’s book authors, journalists and even songwriters are brought to Webster Groves, Chapman said,

The idea of a writing festival or writers week started in Chicago at William Fremd High School. The idea of dedicating a week to literature and writing in every sense then found its way to Hazelwood West, which was the last step before bringing it to Webster Groves. Chapman and her English teaching colleagues sat in on a day of the writers week at Hazelwood West and had instant inspiration, according to Chapman.

The selection process for writers was based off of two lists: writers who are local and writers who are prestigious.

“Lucky for us, those two lists overlap,” Chapman said.

English teacher Steve Leftridge is in charge of the selection process, and by just sending emails to local authors, he found himself having to organize schedules of over 20 professionals.

Guests like Ann Leckie, who has won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novel with her book “Ancillary Justice,” and Dwight Bitikofer, who is a poet who to be accompanied by saxophone, show different applications of writing that students will be exposed during the three and a half days.

Guest writers will present lecture-style workshops, question and answer sessions, interactive writing discussions and more in the Little Theater.

Like normal assemblies, teachers must sign up for their classes to attend.

Webster students have the opportunity at a cash prize if they submit a piece to the writing competition. The winners will read their writing as an opening act for a few of the guest writers. Submission forms are found in English teacher’s classrooms.

Categories: Features

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