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Fourth and fifth graders at Katonah Elementary School received real-life writing tips and exposure to creative career possibilities on Friday, May 12. They participated in a morning-long writers workshop led by eleven professional writers from the local community. The workshop, called “Do the WRITE Thing,” has been hosted by Katonah Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization every other year for the past eighteen years.
Students chose one workshop from a diverse selection of topics that would appeal to aspiring writers of any age--from Gods, Goddesses, Heroines and Heroes: Greek Myths and the Power of Stories with Peter Meineck and What Happens Next: Creating Suspense, Mystery and Magic in Your Writing with Matt Costello to Journalism and The Practice of Finding Great Stories with Elizabeth Harris and Dan Bigman.
In two hours, each mentor gave a presentation to his or her small group, followed by a Q & A session over snack, then a writing exercise and feedback from peers and the presenter.
Kristin Condon, the KES parent who organized “Do the WRITE Thing” this year with co-chair Mary Pat Wachter, said, “I’m blown away by the generosity of these accomplished writers. Kim Kovach, Lena Roy, Lauren Acampora, Matt Costello, and Kelly Schwark all participated two years ago, too. This is a great opportunity for students to explore a genre of special interest with professional guidance.”
At the end of the morning, all workshop presenters, students, staff facilitators and teachers regrouped in the gymnasium for the closing assembly which included a reading from each workshop.
"What might happen . . . if I lived in a school? What if someone found out?” posed novelist Lauren Acampora in Inventing Stories. “The problem is the first part of a story’s outline. I like to have the resolution, or ending, in mind before I start writing, but there are all different kinds of writers.”
“What are the elements of a good story?” writer Lena Roy asked students in Short, Short Story (with a Twist!). “The secret is C.O.W. Character, obstacles, and want. Once you know these three parts you will always be able to write a great story.”
“What if your character is afraid of something that no one is afraid of, like lint or toasters,” suggested writer Kim Kovach in Creating Colorful Characters. “Characters have layers. That’s what makes them interesting."
“We’ll each create a character on paper,” said screenwriter and director Joanne Hudson in Write the Script. “Then we’ll do some improv—we’ll put the characters together and see what happens. When you sketch out your character, make sure to figure out what they want and what’s standing in their way of getting it. The key to drama is intention and obstacles.”
Léna Roy, a resident of Katonah, New York, is the author of the novel Edges (FSG) and coauthor of a middle grade biography of her grandmother Madeleine L 'Engle to be published by FSG in 2018. She is the Regional Manager for Writopia Lab in Westchester and Connecticut.
Lauren Acampora lives in Katonah, New York. Her book of linked stories, The Wonder Garden, published by Grove Atlantic in 2015, was highlighted as one of the best books of the year by Amazon and NPR. Her daughter, Amity Doyle, is a second grader at IMES.
Kim Kovach, a resident of South Salem, New York, is the author of six fiction books including Welcome to Appletown!, Surviving Vertigo and The Adventures of Kitchawan Kenny and Friends chapter books.
Peter Meineck, a resident of Katonah, New York, is Professor of Classics in the Modern World at New York University and a published translator of ancient drama. He has worked as a mythological consultant for film projects including Disney, Will Smith, and Frances Lawrence.
Joanne Hudson, a resident of Ridgefield, Connecticut, is a Fulbright scholar in Creative Writing and an NEA-funded playwright and theatre director. Her plays have been developed and produced by Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Playwrights Theatre, and others. She is also the founder and creator of the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival.
Matt Costello, a resident of Katonah, New York, has written and designed dozens of award-winning and best-selling games including The 7th Guest, G-Force. Pirates of the Caribbean and the upcoming War for Planet of the Apes. His children's books include the series The Kids of Einstein Elementary (Scholastic) and Magic Everywhere (Random House).
Kelly Schwark, a resident of Katonah, New York, is a KES mom, blogger, and artist. “I am passionate about connecting people with the beauty they are surrounded by at any given moment, and encouraging them to find common connections with those around them.”
Elizabeth Harris and Dan Bigman are residents of Katonah, New York. Harris is a regular contributor to Forbes online and her work has appeared in The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report. Bigman, a former managing editor at Forbes and editor or NYTimes.com, is currently publisher of Verse, a pioneer of interactive video storytelling. Their daughter Emily is a first grader at KES.
Gia Miller is a freelance writer living in Katonah, New York. She covers health and wellness, lifestyle and parenting topics and has worked at O, The Oprah Magazine, and ELLE Decor. Her work has been published in WebMD.com, USNews.com, HealthDay.com, Bedford Magazine and The Record-Review.
Jennifer Lyne is a resident of Katonah, New York, and a KES parent. She is the author of the novel Catch Rider, published by Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin.
Photo: left to right, back row: Joanne Hudson, Matthew Costello, Peter Meineck, Elizabeth Harris, Lena Roy, Jennifer Lyne
Front row: Kim Kovach, Kelly Schwark, Lauren Acampora, Gia Miller, Ellie Prusko
(not pictured: Dan Bigman)