Learning from the Pros
Local writers lead workshops at Katonah Elementary
In room 210, students are peppering a mystery guest with questions, flexing their interviewing muscles in a real-life scenario set up by New York Times journalist Elizabeth Harris. Down the hall, in room 200, another group is being coached by veteran sportswriter Richard Finn to describe a game between the Mets and the Phillies in power-packed language. The sounds of singing and laughter come from room 207, where students are turning what they love into lyrics with songwriter Christine Chanel.
This is Do the Write Thing, a writers’ workshop at Katonah Elementary School led, this year, by ten local, professional writers. Fourth and fifth graders each chose one of the sessions ahead of time and spent the morning learning from a pro, applying new skills in first draft pieces and gaining confidence as they shared their work with one other.
Songwriting with Christine Chanel
Do the Write Thing 2022
The much-loved, parent-run event is a KES tradition. It’s been held every other year since 1999, only skipping last year due to COVID-19 precautions. “We’re so excited to see what you’ll create and write and present,” co-organizer Anastasia Guadron, also one of the workshop leaders, said to the students gathered in the school gym before they broke into workshops.
Sportswriting with Richard Finn
Students choose the genre that appeals to them most
Co-organizer Kate Parker highlighted the variety of sessions this year--all taught by writing professionals from nearby villages including Golden's Bridge, Katonah and Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Not only could students learn to write television news with CNN journalist Pauline Chiou, use a poet’s mindset to craft marketing copy with Guadron, step into the press box with Finn, find the story with Harris or write profiles with Katonah Connect journalist Gia Miller and designer Justin Negard, they could also focus on fiction with Pushcart Prize winner Chris Spain or map out the sections of a picture book with children’s author Suzanne Nelson. New for this year: writing sketch comedy with Jack Dunn, a member of a comedy troupe at NYU, as well as songwriting with Chanel.
a pep rally for writing!
The program ended back in the gym at what felt like a pep rally for writing! As a student from each workshop took the mic to share poetry, a song, a comedy sketch, a piece of fantastical fiction, or a sports story, news story or profile, cheering filled the space, with high-fives between the group members.
“The longevity of this program speaks for itself; it’s a favorite at KES and something our 4th and 5th graders look forward to as upper-classman," said Cristy Harris, principal of KES. "The visiting writers offer such a variety of workshops that there’s something for every student to get excited about. It was particularly thrilling to be able to hold this event (with safety and health protocols) at school and return to the KES traditions that make our school special. I want to thank Mr. Stambaugh for working with the PTO Chairpersons of this event to organize the day- it went off without a hitch!”