Class Act: HSPVA creative writing students host Festival authors

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10806307_655055324620476_2650419930658165456_nAt the Texas Book Festival, we love introducing young minds to new ideas and authors. It’s so rewarding for us when introductions made at our Festival inspire classroom curriculum and give birth to lasting, flourishing literary relationships.

Students in the creative writing program at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston take an annual field trip to the Texas Book Festival every fall. Judith Switek, the program chair, says it’s their favorite activity all year. Judith brought back oodles of books and ideas from the Festival that she is incorporating into upper-level electives such as having her students create artifacts for a piece of writing to further delve into storyline and character development, this based on an interactive storytelling panel she attended called “The New Era of Interactive Fiction” with Doug Dorst, Michael McGriff, and J.M. Tyree.

“The kids start talking about it in August. They love the Festival and really bond over the course of the weekend. Each session they attend is like a master class. We had another wonderful experience this year. We brought 52 students with nine chaperones—parents love to come along on this field trip. The students talked with many writers and even invited some to our school,” says Judith.

“I had never been in a place where reading and writing were so celebrated before the Texas Book Festival,” says Rose Dopkin, HSPVA student.

2014 Festival author Jericho Brown visited the HSPVA students after he met them at the 2013 Festival and most recently, past Festival author and famed poet Roger Reeves came to their school for not only a day, but an entire week— the creative writing program’s first-ever week-long residency!

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As creative writing student Cyrus Pacht reported for The Buzz Magazines website, where he works as a school correspondent: Roger Reeves, New Jersey-born poet, professor at the University of Illinois, author of the poetry collection King Me, and most recently a finalist for the Kate and Kingsley Tufts Poetry award, had made a visit to HSPVA’s creative writing department once before, but this one was a longer and more in-depth visit, with Tuesday through Friday reserved for lectures and group activities. Reeves had time to teach the students, having them analyze U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Jericho Brown’s Please, and Terrance Hayes’ Wind in a Box.

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According to Pacht, they discussed the poetic effects of parataxis versus hypotaxis (independent versus dependent clauses), the use of heteroglossia (how a set of poems can be a collection of voices), how “signifying” a word can subvert and thus re-inhabit its meaning in a group or individual’s favor, and the idea that life is a rhetorical structure—among other topics. But more importantly, he gave the students insights into the everyday life of an American poet, one that perhaps awaits many of the students there at HSPVA.

1507208_655055311287144_6978745056337484972_nStories like this are what the Texas Book Festival is all about: celebrating authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination. We look forward to seeing the HSPVA students again at the 2015 Festival, and we hope their story inspires more teachers, librarians, and students to explore new literary horizons at the Festival.