As the pandemic continues, organizers of New Trier LitFest thought it important to continue the uplifting tradition of New Trier's Literary Festival, an annual event which has inspired students and teachers alike since 2003. This year, LitFest happens in two parts: Part One took place on Monday, December 7, and Part Two is tentatively scheduled for April.
The day consisted of three 1-hour Zoom sessions, each hosted by a pair of artists. Each pair of artists created an inviting and energetic environment talking about writing, including their own work-its struggles and joys. They also used part of the time engaging students to write and share their own work.
"While New Trier's LitFest has hosted many significant artists over the years-Harold Ramis, Scott Turow, and Rebecca Makkai to name a few-this year's event aimed to reassure students of the important place of art even in the most turbulent of times and to encourage them to find and develop their creative voices," said Barbara Joyce, New Trier English Teacher and one of the LitFest organizers.
In Session 1, novelists Vu Tran and Rachel DeWoskin shared some of their work, answered questions about their writing practices, and ended the session by asking students to write their own birth stories from the perspective of anyone who would know it.
Vu Tran's first novel, Dragonfish , was a NY Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of the Year. Born in Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma, Vu is a criticism columnist for the Virginia Quarterly Review, and is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice in English & Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, where he is also director of undergraduate studies.
Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Two Menus: Poems (The University of Chicago Press, 2020); Banshee (Dottir Press, 2019); Someday We Will Fly (Penguin, 2019); Blind (Penguin, 2014); Big Girl Small (FSG, 2011); Repeat After Me (The Overlook Press, 2009); and Foreign Babes in Beijing (WW Norton, 2005). She is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Arts at the University of Chicago, and an affiliated faculty member of the Centers for East Asian Studies and Jewish Studies.
In Session 2, musicians Willy Porter and Peter Mulvey performed some of their own songs, and discussed their songwriting methods and musical journeys. Students were challenged to write their own verse to one of Mulvey's songs, and learned about how drawing from personal experience can make for great songwriting.
Willy Porter is a contemporary American rock musician and singer-songwriter from Mequon, Wisconsin.
Peter Mulvey is an American folk singer-songwriter based in Milwaukee, who, since the early 1990s, has developed a strong national following in the indie folk/rock scene through his relentless touring and critically acclaimed albums.
Each are praised for virtuoso guitar playing and incredibly thoughtful lyrics.
In session 3, poets Idris Goodwin and Juan Morales discussed poetry and what it means to them, asking students what they like to write and how they become inspired.
"Poetry to me is the opposite of feeling no emotion," Goodwin said.
Idris Goodwin is an American playwright, rapper, essayist, and poet. In May of 2020, Idris Goodwin became the Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. He is a hugely popular veteran of previous Lit Fests. Goodwin is committed to using the arts to spark meaningful conversation.
Juan J. Morales is a CantoMundo Fellow, a Macondista, the Editor/Publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and Department Chair of English & World Languages at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is the author of three poetry collections, including Friday and the Year That Followed (Fairweather Books, 2006), The Siren World (Lithic, 2016), and The Handyman's Guide to End Times (University of New Mexico Press, 2018), a finalist for the 2019 International Latino Book Awards.