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Writers' Fortnight 2019: When Journalism Transcends Text

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Writers' Fortnight 2019: When Journalism Transcends Text

An introduction to Writers' Fortnight 2019

Our UWCSEA East Grade 9 and 10 FIB students penned powerful feature articles and op-eds produced during the annual Writers' Fortnight.  Now, they're ready to unleash their experiences and ideas to the world.

Organised by the East High School English Department, this activity encourages students to tell the story of someone they met during Writers' Fortnight. These stories describe people who embody critical social issues they are passionate about, engage with shared human experiences, and explore diverse, colourful lives of individuals, and the many challenges and triumphs that come with them. Our student-writers rose to the challenge, producing authentic, responsible and powerful pieces that you'll enjoy over the coming weeks.

We'd like to thank everyone who was involved from within and outside our community: writer and artist-in-residence Graham Rawle, wildlife conservationist Tammie Matson, professional footballer Daniel Bennett, wildlife photographer Al Hornsby, criminal psychologist Christian Perrin, author Sergey Grichishkin and Angela Noronha of Cialfo college guidance platform, and the many members of staff and students who shared their personal stories and talents. Thank you for inspiring our students!

A special thank you to the journalists in our community (and some of their colleagues too!) who gave much-appreciated guidance to our students.

Keep a look out for student work on Community News as we publish highlights from the student writing. The lead article that follows, written by Shiv Sahai, Grade 9, will give you a glimpse of the Writers’ Fortnight 2019 experience. Enjoy!

Flipboard - UWCSEA East Writers Fortnight student writingThe first of the selected writings follows. To explore more of the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writing, please view our Flipboard.


Writers' Fortnight 2019: When Journalism Transcends Text

By Shiv Sahai, Grade 9, East Campus

Writers’ fortnight. On the surface, simply a couple of weeks of students listening to speakers and writing articles. However, as I learned more about what it entails, I realised it’s more than just that. It is a big privilege, and responsibility, to meet world renowned wildlife conservationists, criminal psychologists, and authors.  While I approached each session with the sole purpose of finding angles for an article, I walked away from the sessions with the realisation that Writers’ Fortnight is much bigger than a journalism unit - it’s also a celebration of experiences. A programme outline can be found here.

‘Human library’ was the term used to refer to the special guest speakers as well as the members of our community who had stories to share, and very rightly so. The speakers were like books with fascinating experiences, but they weren’t books being opened solely for our education. They were books being opened for the purpose of being opened. They weren’t just a medium, they were an end in themselves, and shedding light on these hidden stories that are begging to be shared with others, is what I feel is the true beauty of Writers’ Fortnight.

Arunav Maheshwari, a Grade 9 student, particularly enjoyed the session with Christian Perrin, the criminal psychologist who interacts with people convicted of rape and murder. He felt that we are so often hidden from criminals, and seeing that exposed, “the criminal psychologist opened up a completely new dimension for us”.

But it isn’t only the guest speakers from around the world who gave us insight into the complexity of the world, it’s also the people with whom we brush shoulders every day. Grade 9 student Anthony Shen said that the most important takeaway for him was “realising just how diverse the school community is, in all  aspects, not just culturally, but in terms of experiences. … These are just a few stories out of the hundreds in our community, just waiting to be discovered. This really opened up my perspective to how there may be someone with some story to tell, just sitting next to you, but you don’t know.”

The stories we heard were personally significant to the speakers themselves, and not just material for us to write about. Opening up about experiences with different people, and being asked questions, exploring perspectives and insights they themselves considered. Joy Haugen, who’s a boarding house parent, was a Sudanese refugee who migrated to an American suburb. She admits to having been reserved as a teenager, sensing that her peers did not acknowledge or accept her due to her status as an immigrant. Opening up about such experiences and feelings with students and teachers in a school that is diverse in both culture and opinions, is a great experience in itself. She said, “It helped me focus on specific thoughts and events about my experience as a refugee.”

And then of course, is the simple pleasure of listening to the fascinating talks from people with an array of experiences. “I liked to hear different people’s experiences … listening to Mr Sharry’s experience as a foster parent, it made me feel very emotional. I felt lucky to be able to hear people share their stories,” said Sasha. Mr Sharry’s talk was one of the most popular ones, and also one which I attended, in which he shared with us his emotional and life-changing experiences as a foster parent.

Fauzan, who is who is writing an article about how media shapes our biases of criminals, said that he “really enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories, and interacting with them, getting to hear about things which we never otherwise get a chance to know about.”

Me? Well, like many other students, I thoroughly enjoyed bombarding my friends with the stories I heard that day. Gleefully telling them that the Head of Outdoor Activities in our school didn’t need to complete a college degree to be where he is now. Aryan Kurungode said that he discussed with his parents about each of the talks he attended, gaining further insight by getting to know about their opinions. In particular, he “found it quite insightful to learn about Ms Haugen’s refugee story, and liked discussing it with parents”.

One of the most popular speakers was Tammie Matson. Tammie is a wildlife conservationist who works in South Africa. She’s spent two decades working to save endangered wildlife species, specialising in elephants. She also runs her ethical safari business, which aids in supporting the aim of wildlife conservation. I thoroughly enjoyed the session with her, and was quite surprised to find out that she had found her passion in wildlife conservation at the tender age of 14. It was also fascinating listening to her experiences and encounters with wild elephants, poachers, and hunters.

And of course, we can’t forget one of the highlights of the event, the ‘Writing with Scissors’ event with Graham Rawle, author of ‘Woman’s World’. Graham’s unique approach to his novel involved cut and paste - revitalising magazine and newspaper clippings from the mid 20th century by using them as the content of a story. Using pictures, word art, headlines, and even plain text from old publications, Graham’s novel is not only page-turning, but eye-popping too. Graham Rawle is also making his novel into a movie, drawing parallels between book and film in the unique collaging technique by using cutouts from films belonging to the 1950s I remember the excitement in my voice when I told my parents that Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch also vied for a role in the film! For one of our students, Aneesh, the workshop with Graham was the highlight. “For me, it was something unique and something I had never really considered before,” he explained.

It wasn’t just the students who enjoyed the experience. In an interview with Graham, he told me that “ the experience of watching students collage text was fun, and I hope the students recognised how it generates unexpected outcomes because you’re forced to be more inventive within the limitations of the exercise. It’s just one way to get you thinking creatively without relying on familiar styles, patterns and clichés.”

Ms Levy, Head of High School English, said, “As an experiential type of education, it’s that real readership, that writing and publication process, that gives the most authentic understanding of journalism.”

So yes, the Writers’ Fortnight programme is primarily focused on learning the art of journalism through transforming people’s stories into feature and opinion articles. But its significance transcends the three blocks of English we have every week. For some of us, it was gaining inspiration to struggle against adversity. For some, it might have been gaining insight into something that we never considered. For a few people, it was sharing their own experiences, their struggles and successes.

In the end, this experience convinced me that a pen and a piece of paper are much heavier than what a weighing scale will tell you.     

18 Mar 2019
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