Trixie Sabundayo is chair of the MA English Department and, with English teacher Chris Alexander, organizes the annual Literary Festival, known as LitFest. She has also served as Sophomore Class Dean and as a faculty trustee. Trixie has also led or worked with a number of MA affinity groups including Women in Support and Empowerment (WISE), Folks, and Mixed Ethnicity.
This year’s LitFest is February 12 through 15; review the full lineup and join us for our community events with Joyce Carol Oates on February 13 and Luis Rodriguez on February 14. I will be posting interviews with some of our special guests over the next two weeks.
1. What are some of things you’re looking forward to during this year’s LitFest?
We’re really excited. We’re lucky to have so many diverse voices coming together at Marin Academy. Joyce Carol Oates, who is taking a semester off from Princeton to teach at UC Berkeley, will speak with students and the larger community. Luis Rodriquez, who will be coming up from LA, will host a workshop and speak at assembly. Our agent, Eliza Fisher, is amazing; she has been instrumental in shaping our LitFest lineups for several years now.
We also have two MA alums: Laura Cogan ’99, editor at ZYZZYVA magazine, will talk with students about the publishing industry, and Avery Monsen ’02, author of the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead, will talk about making something now. We also have some great local artists including Peter Bratt, Angie Chau, and Nina Lacour. We’ll have so many talented artists from the MA community as well!
2. How do you see LitFest as a way to enrich our community?
For me, in a way, LitFest is all about the art of storytelling. Each of our speakers at LitFest has her/his own individual way of teaching the art of storytelling, yet each values the narrative as a craft, as an art. This diversity in perspective is crucial in our lineup. By hearing a variety of perspectives—all emphasizing the craft of writing as an art, a skill— students will see that there isn’t one fixed way or reason or inspiration to write. We all have different processes. Hopefully this event allows our students to see writing as an accessible art. The more we can expose our students to a diversity of voices, the richer their experiences will be. In addition, as an English teacher and educator, exposing our students to various perspectives helps them develop the skill of empathy.
3. How has technology enhanced the experience of writing and creating—and perhaps also created shortcomings?
I love pen and paper, the process of drafting, and face-to-face interaction. Part of me was skeptical of putting technology smack in the middle of these relationships. However, I think about how there are still plenty of ways to preserve the emphasis on the humanities, on relationships, on the value of connecting with each other, and still incorporate technology to enhance our teaching. Certainly there are ways to create harmony between technology and the “old fashioned” way of teaching.
4. Do you think that LitFest is an example experiential education? Do you consider these workshops literary outings?
LitFest’s workshops are truly hands-on education. The sessions are intentionally kept small. It’s really about these intimate workshops, each of which has an average of 30 students. Sticking to the small size is sometimes difficult because you want the entire school to participate, but you also want to also keep the sessions intimate and safe. When our students have Joyce Carol Oates or Luis Rodriguez as a facilitator or teacher, they are engaging with literary outings leaders; the very structure of LitFest is experiential.
I love the way that the community comes together and participates in the actual planning of the festival. So many people come up to me with suggestions and ideas and recommendations of people they know. This is really a community process—I simply manage the details of it. In the end, LitFest is not exclusive to the English department. Teachers from all departments help and engage. The level of collegiality is amazing.
5. What do you hope for LitFest’s future?
I hope we can preserve the intimacy of the experience we were just chatting about. In future LitFests, I would love to rotate different departments through each year, so it is not just an English department hosted event, but an all-school event. This year, the world language department is hosting an event for the first time in a long while, and I am so excited. I’d love to see more of this in the future with other departments.
I want to keep offering workshops with well-known authors and continue to showcase MA students and teachers. It’s this level of engagement that makes LitFest so special and so successful—if nothing else, keeping this level of engagement is what I hope for the future.