“Writing Citizenship, Democratizing Writing: A Symposium for Young Writers” took place at Phillips Academy on February 18. It was a 3-hour-long event for avid writers at Phillips Academy to participate in workshops, to collaborate, and to socialize. The symposium was coordinated by the Andover Writers’ Alliance, a student-led extracurricular club, and funded through a grant from the Abbot Academy Association.
The Andover Writers’ Alliance, led by Jennifer Lee ‘18 and me, planned this writing symposium to further our mission on campus: “To provide aspiring young writers with an inclusive and productive community for artistic expression in all genres of writing.” We hoped that this event would provide for such a space and also catalyze the formation of a writing community on campus. Moreover, as a specific theme, we wanted to begin exploring the concept of “citizenship” and writing’s relationship to it.
|[Writing Symposium Poster (democracy picture from https://www.scienceabc.com/social-science/different-types-democracy-direct-representative-presidential-parliamentary.html)]|
The symposium started with an amazing performance by Solby Lim ‘18, who sang samples from her new album, “Yellow.” Solby taught us about her experience in writing songs. For instance, she talked about she was dealing with the loss of a friend while writing “Precious.” Such emotions directly translated into “raw” lyrics. I, along with the rest of the audience, was in awe while reflecting on the message of her song that everybody was loved. I was particularly struck by the way her emotions were conveyed so transparently through her lyrics. I began to see the writing process in a completely new light; I wondered whether emotions were what composed powerful writing.
|[Song Writing Process (https://www.cae.edu.au/course_category/performing-arts/song-writing/)]|
After Solby’s performance, Kate McQuade, an English instructor at Phillips Academy and published author of “Two Harbors” and “The Translator’s Daughter,” gave her keynote speech. She started off, bluntly revealing that she had no “keys” to give to us to writing and that, in fact, she hoped that we never found the “keys.” She described how part of the joy of writing is to not know what is going to happen or how to write until we actually write. She said that being told what good writing is can limit the creativity and joy of writing. Her speech forced participants to think about their own relationship to writing. For me, personally, I began to see barriers that had helped me but also limited me in the past, such as the infamous five paragraph essay.
Finally, all the participants split up into four separate workshops: “Blackout Poetry,” “Journalism,” Personal Essay,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Stories: Tension in Fiction.” These small workshops provided a space for the writers to reflect on writing, learn new topics, and collaborate. For instance, in the “Personal Essay” workshop, we read a personal essay about an author, who missed a full year of holidays, having been confined in a rehabilitation facility. In our discussion, we talked about how she masterfully used the motif of holidays in order to describe the change in her idea of what family was while going through the rehabilitation process. Then, we went through a brainstorming exercise to think about topics that related to citizenship and how we could write personal essays about the topic effectively.
Ultimately, the symposium transformed me as a writer. First, I saw how valuable the collaborative component of writing was. While sitting in that room with other writers at my school, I saw how much more fun and thought-provoking writing could be with others. Moreover, I began to see my relationship to writing in new ways. I began to question why I write and what I want to write about.
[Most importantly, I developed bonds with other writers that I could depend on whenever. Picture 4: The Collaborative Nature of Writing (https://www.theartofed.com/2016/01/20/how-student-directed-collaboration-can-benefit-your-students/)]
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