Here at the PEN/Faulkner office, we’re knee-deep in our busy season. We’re sending out our first shipments of books to the judges of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, we’re kicking off our annual Reading Series at the Folger, and our free, community-based series at Hill Center @ Old Naval Hospital, and, of course, Writers in Schools has started for the 2013-2014 school year.
This past Monday, we celebrated the start of this year’s WinS programming with a day chock-full of visits. As part of our annual Gala, a fundraising event that supports both the administration of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Writers in Schools program, we bring about ten writers to D.C. each fall. Included in their trip is a visit to a high school classroom as part of the WinS experience. But, because each writer is only coming through town for a short period of time, all of those visits must happen on the day of the gala. It makes for one of the busiest, craziest, and most exciting days of the entire school year.
Monday saw eight writers visit eight classrooms at seven D.C. high schools. The conversations covered the incredibly diverse range of topics that each writer covers in his or her work. At Bell Multicultural High School, students chatted with Chris Castellani about his debut novel A Kiss from Maddalena and its portrayal of World War II-era Italy. Meanwhile, Roy Scranton, co-editor and contributor to the collection Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War discussed his experience serving in Iraq with a book club at McKinley Technology High School. And National Book Award long-lister and DC native son Anthony Marra talked to students at Phelps ACE about his acclaimed novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Meg Wolitzer visited Banneker High School to discuss The Interestings, and Tiphanie Yanique headed to Duke Ellington to answer questions about her collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony.
It may seem a little crazy to add an intricately choreographed day of programming— involving so many schools, teachers, writers, and PEN/Faulkner staff and board members, and, in the case of Monday, flash downpours—on top of what is already a pretty busy event. But Writers in Schools is an enormous part of our programming, and we’re committed to offering writers a panoramic view of what we do here at PEN/Faulkner. And part of that is meeting the district’s young readers where they are—in classrooms across the city.
—Ariel Martino, Programs Coordinator