A Record-Breaking LitFest 2013

LItFest in the black box theater

LItFest in the black box theater

I’m still coming down from the excitement of last week’s Literary Festival, and wanted to share some of highlights.

This year’s festival was one of the most popular of the last 21 years. Sessions were almost overflowing with student participants—and we even had to move two sessions to the theater to accommodate the interest. As an English teacher and lover of the written word, nothing is more satisfying than seeing students cramming in our lecture halls for writing.

Students leading a session on the literature of the fantastic in France and Mexico

Students leading a session on the literature of the fantastic in France and Mexico

Five of our nineteen sessions were student-led, an all-time high for LitFest. Continuing their tradition, the student leaders of Echoes, MA’s literary journal, held a creative writing workshop for students. Stephen Baldwin and Carinne Lemaire’s language students lead a close reading analysis on Fantastique/Fantástico: Literature of the fantastic in France and Mexico. David Sinaiko’s theater students read from Hamlet, and Chris Alexander’s “Short Story” students showcased soundtrack stories.

In addition, Annie Elias’s theater students read from Joyce Carol Oates’s one-act play Dr. Magic before she led a workshop for students, and it was fantastic. But don’t take it from me—take it from Oates:


One of my highlights was meeting Joyce Carol Oates. This was LitFest’s 21st year, and I’ll tell you, Joyce Carol Oates has been on our dream list of presenters for probably that entire time. We are so lucky that she is teaching at Berkeley this semester and could join us on the other side of the bay.

Joyce Carol Oates listening to our students read "Dr. Magic"

Joyce Carol Oates listening to our students read “Dr. Magic”

To have one of the most respected and admired and accomplished authors work with our students was a real triumph. But even more than that, we were excited to have Joyce Carol Oates at Marin Academy is because she, in many ways, embodies what our LitFest is all about.

LitFest is a week-long celebration of the written word. We want students to learn the importance of writing beyond what is required in school—whether that is writing plays, spoken word, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, etc.—and to love writing. And in Joyce Carol Oates, we had a living, breathing example of someone who has been prolific across so many genres and disciplines and loves writing.

There is nothing that Joyce Carol Oates can’t write. My favorite example is her Twitter feed. Oates has more than 30,000 followers and writes about everything, from movies to restaurants to the Pope, and, of course writing and literature. She has mastered the 140 characters and elevated the medium—and she even wrote about us a few times:




We love bringing writers who are also educators to work with our students. Oates, Eugenie Chan, Luis Rodriguez, and Nina LaCour all work with young people. Our other guests—Laura Cogan ’99, Peter Bratt, Angie Chau, and Avery Monsen ‘02—are also very familiar and comfortable with sharing and teaching. Finally, our MA presenters, Annie Elias, Nicole Klaymoon, David Sinaiko, Stephen Baldwin, Carinne Lemaire, Derek Anderson, Trevor Calvert, and Chris Alexander, represented just how wonderful our faculty really is.

Liz Gottlieb and her sister, Mary

Liz Gottlieb and her sister, Mary

In addition, I wanted to give a special thank you to the faculty and staff who shared their personal stories as part of Derek’s storytelling session: Liz Gottlieb (and her sister, Mary), Tony Mekisich, Jenny Rosenberg, Dave Marshall, Michael Morris, and James Shipman. Your stories were captivating—and your telling of them superb.

I know from conversations with students that LitFest has already impacted them, and I look forward to seeing the festival’s influence on their future work.

Thank you to Trixie Sabundayo and Chris Alexander for organizing this year’s wonderful festival. As Trixie says, it takes a village of so many invested people—students, teachers, staff, and presenters—to make LitFest the amazing program it is. I am already looking forward to 2014!

If you missed LitFest or just want to get to know some of our presenters better, check out my interviews:

David Sinaiko leading a session in the Black Box

David Sinaiko leading a session in the Black Box

Avery Monsen '02 wowing our students with his incredible twin coughing snakes

Avery Monsen ’02 wowing our students with his incredible twin coughing snakes

See more photos from LitFest on the Marin Academy Facebook page.


About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
This entry was posted in books, LitFest and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Record-Breaking LitFest 2013

  1. Looks like a great time. Thanks for the read.

  2. Travis says:

    Glad you liked it, JW!

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