Editor’s Note: Today marks the debut of a new voice here at the Writers in Schools blog. PEN/Faulkner Summer Intern Jack Nessman has joined us for the summer to help out in a number of program areas. As a D.C. native and graduate of Wilson High School, Nessman is used to the swampy mid-Atlantic heat, the crowded Metro, and he knows well the importance of strong, reliable air conditioning. He’s also a literary guy, a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate, and staffer at Penn’s incredible Kelly Writers’ House. Luckily for all of us, he’ll be helping with the implementation of our Summer Supper & Book Club, working with program authors and participants from now until the end of the program in August. We’re happy to have him, and we’ll be sharing his insights about the program as the summer pushes on. Here’s Jack’s first dispatch!
During the heavily-traveled first week of DCPS summer vacation, ten high schoolers from across the District made it down to the Hill Center to chat with us about their literary interests, their creative writing pursuits, and even the trials of their love lives. One trekked through the heat from dental surgery, her mouth still numb from Novocain, her aunt accompanying to act as her translator and a stand-in-reader.
The meeting turned into a reunion when two members realized that they’d been first–grade classmates nearly a decade ago. We began the session by introducing ourselves over Subway sandwiches and broke the ice with fun facts that covered everything from the unusual origins of our scars to the realization that one member was the fastest female runner in the District. We reviewed the curriculum before plunging into a group reading of the opening chapter of Susan Richards Shreve’s Plum and Jaggers. We were all drawn in by the account of the terrorist attack that orphaned its main characters even as we tripped over Italian words and names we couldn’t yet pronounce. When asked about their favorite characters from literature, Tatyana admitted that she didn’t have one but predicted that Charlotte, one of the young characters in Plum and Jaggers might become hers. We debated a point in the novel—a comment that home wasn’t a place but with the family—which touched home with Tatyana, who’d recently transferred schools, and Tiara who’d just moved from Memphis. Both acknowledged a sense of displacement from friends and loved ones but also the new opportunities that these tough transitions brought. As it was our first session, we broke left a little early, thrilled not only to walk away with free books and leftover sandwiches, but also to kick off the program and the first of six exciting author visits lined up for the Summer 2013 Supper and Book Club.
— Jack Nessman
PEN/Faulkner Summer Intern, 2013