Student writers gathered via Zoom on Saturday for the Andover Writers Alliance’s annual Young Writer’s Symposium, titled “Reclaiming Our Narratives.” The symposium featured writer-in-residence R. Zamora Linmark as keynote speaker, a “Life After Teen Writing” panel, and four afternoon workshops on a variety of writing subjects.
Opening the event with a keynote speech, R. Zamora Linmark performed a meta-essay on writing, the creative process, and his dedication toward putting language to ideas and inspiration. In both his keynote and workshop, Linmark stressed the importance of encouraging writers to be more adventurous and write without the aim of perfection in mind.
“One of the goals is to move them away from the idea that writing is perfect and make more room for experimentation, for risk-taking, for creating with imagination, playing around with languages, playing around with rules… What I wish to accomplish is to guide [students,] or help them guide themselves, to write towards the end,” said Linmark.
Similarly, Miriam Villanueva, Instructor in History and Social Science, commented on the importance of holding writing opportunities for students outside of class to allow them to express themselves without the pressure of a grade. Villanueva held a workshop titled “Historical Fiction and Reimaging the Andover Archive,” which focused on using Andover’s archives to write historical fiction.
“Historical fiction allows people to understand historical events while also envisioning new characters interacting with those events in their own personal homes and [settings],” said Villaneuva. “I think it is really important for our students to be able to gain these research skills and this is just another way to be able to use all of the great resources we have on campus.”
Novelist Kate McQuade, Instructor in English, also noted the significance of drawing inspiration from different outlets. In her workshop, “Ode to Odes: Finding Inspiration and Building Tension in Unlikely Places,” McQuade examined tension-building techniques in three odes, as well as encouraged students to seek inspiration through writing prompts.
“My hope was to give students more specific, practical writing techniques that they might try out immediately, as well as a prompt that could jumpstart a new piece of writing. I’m a big believer in using prompts and group brainstorming to generate writing ideas that we wouldn’t otherwise find on our own. At its best, writing is a collaborative process,” said McQuade.
Attendee Shreya Bajaj ’23 commented how she found a community through creative writing. She also expressed that new perspectives, particularly the “Teen Writing” panel, allowed her to consider the pressures surrounding writing in a new light.
“Going to the symposium, I saw that other people are passionate about writing too, so it was a really good way to feel a sense of community… [From the panel], I learned that writing doesn’t have to be for these contests or even to publish. It can be just for yourself as a way to express yourself. I learned a lot about a lot of the problems that writers have that I didn’t know about,” said Bajaj.
Returning to Andover virtually to conduct the workshop “Writing Into the Mainstream: Positive Appropriation,” D.K. Nnuro ’05 focused on the blend between modern and classic when writing fiction. As a way of building the creative writing community, he also commented on the importance of holding the annual symposium.
“Our work is supposed to be timeless but I think our work should also be timely. One of the ways that our work can be timely is to pick up previous work… [Good writers] advance [their work] by reflecting the times [and] reflecting on certain advances that we have made as a people in terms of culture [and] in terms of cultural sensitivity,” said Nnuro. “It doesn’t matter if you just put your first sentence on the page or if you have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Writers need community in order to keep going because it is a lonely, lonely endeavor.”