From Dublin to the Big Apple: Writing at Dublin

English teacher and Learning Specialist Jonathan Phinney will be leading this year's essay contest winners on the New Yorker Festival trip.

English teacher and Learning Specialist Jonathan Phinney will be leading this year's essay contest winners on the New Yorker Festival trip.

The teaching of writing is a priority at Dublin School and our teachers continually talk about the best ways for students to learn, practice and master the art of writing. Writing is difficult. Great writing, whether it be for a short story, a critical essay or an important email, involves learning how to think independently, read carefully, organize one's thoughts, and be vulnerable. Our hope is that the culture we work to create here lends itself to students feeling comfortable putting their thoughts onto paper. As part of that culture, we strive to nurture and develop our young and aspiring authors. The English Department started a new tradition in which they hold a writing contest to choose two writers to attend the annual New Yorker Festival in New York City each year. There the students attend workshops, meet some of the top authors in the world, and shop at the Strand Book Store.

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I thought people might like to see the writing prompt, which provides some insights into how we teach writing in our English Department. Last year’s winners, Owen Mortner and Caroline Robbins, helped create this prompt and will also serve as judges in this year’s anonymous competition. We will report on the stories from the Festival  from this year’s winners in a future eDubliner.

Writing Prompt:

Write a story that deals with distance from a beloved person, place, or object. The time and characters and all other details are up to you; make the readers feel your character’s longing.

In your story, please be mindful of a few of Vonnegut’s principles of writing:

  1. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  2. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  3. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  4. Start as close to the end as possible.
  5. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  6. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

 

Deadline:  Sunday, September 24, 2017, midnight.