Soundings seeks resounding memories
As a Staples senior, Jenna Pan is looking forward to continuing her studies as a creative writer at whatever college she ends up going to. There will be some things she'll miss about her high school when she graduates -- particularly the student-run Soundings literary magazine that's she's overseen for the last two years.
"I really want to stay with Soundings, but I'm looking forward to learning more at college," she said.
The literary magazine (http://shs.westport.k12.ct.us/soundings/) has been in around since sometime in the 1960s, and this year things are being changed up slightly. The staff of
Soundings always worked with the Westport Public Library in a limited fashion -- typically just by annually sending the library some finished issues. This year it's going to go to another level with the Resounding Memories literary contest that both groups will have a hand in.
"I volunteer at the library," said Pan, explaining the genesis of her idea, adding "I thought it'd be nice to work together."
In conjunction with the WestportREADS book selection, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, entries in fiction, nonfiction and poetry are being solicited from high school students as long one theme is addressed: memory.
The Housekeeper and the Professor is a novel about a mathematician who has only 80 minutes worth of memories at a time. In January, there will be a number of speakers discussing aspects of memories and a talk by Stephen Snyder, who translated the novel from Japanese into English.
While the WestportREADS books selection deals with memory loss in a specific way, how students address the theme is totally up to them. Writers will also have total freedom when it comes to the genre, whether it's fantasy, a personal essay or historical fiction.
"Write what you know. Write you want," said Pan. "Let the contest guide you but don't let it restrict you. Feel free to be creative."
Librarians will be on the panel to determine what submissions will be published, and the winners will be invited to attend a reception at the library on March 19.
For Jaina Lewis, teen services librarian, the partnership makes a lot of sense.
"It's perfect because we're always looking for ways to work with the high school," she said.
Lewis' position as teen services librarian has her splitting time with the reference desk, and she does everything from ordering young adult books to coordinated events with middle and high school students.
"We're more than a place to stop by just twice a year to study," said Lewis, referring to the heavy teen traffic that comes when mid-terms and finals are approaching. "With things like this, I ... hope the library is used year round."
Submissions started being accepted on Nov. 9 and will go until Jan. 8. Some entries have already been coming in, according to Lewis, including one New Jersey.
Staples English teacher Michael Turner is the faculty advisor of Soundings and he readily admits that his role isn't very demanding.
"I don't do anything," he said. "These kids are amazing. This year I have a great staff. Jenna really got this started on her own, and to tell you the truth, that's the joy of working here at Staples. They're just such sophisticated kids."
Turner has been the faculty advisor for eight years, and students from a variety of classes are always encouraged to participate. The partnership with the literary contest is just one of the changes that Soundings has experienced in his tenure.
"For a while it was just for the AP kids to show off the work they've been doing," said Turner. "But for the eight years I've been doing it, we've tried to make sure the magazine is a comprehensive cross section of the student work that's here: a celebration across the board of the great stuff kids do."