Students and featured performers present at Writers Week

For the final day of Writers Week, a Chicago-based blues musician by the name of Fruteland Jackson shared his knowledge about the history and making of blues music. The day also included acts from LHS student band Fun Monkey and Sneezy, a band made up of former LHS students.

Every year, Libertyville High School dedicates a week to allow students and professional writers, poets and musicians to perform their work in the auditorium during Writers Week.

This year’s event was held from March 19-22. Not only does it give writers a platform to voice their pieces of work, but it can inspire other students to explore a potential passion for writing.

Students and teachers are encouraged to listen to the performances during their free periods, and most English classes spend their week in the auditorium supporting those who are speaking.

Each period typically starts out with a couple students who take the stage and perform while others wait on a sofa centered in the middle of the stage. After much applause, the students exit, and the featured performer or performers take the stage for the rest of the period.  

This year, professional writers, poets, and musicians such as Terrence Carey from Second City (a comedian who teaches writing and improv), Jennifer Yale (a TV writer and producer for “Dexter” and “Legion”), Fruteland Jackson (a blues singer), Faisal Mohyuddin (a poet), student band Fun Monkey and many more participated in Writers Week.

According to senior Sophie Richardson, who has been a participant of Writers Week since her sophomore year, “getting to perform alongside some really cool people and knowing you’re sharing the stage with famous authors or musicians is really empowering.”

Many students decide to speak because there are few opportunities to perform their work in a setting with support and encouragement, and they want to be able to share their hard work.

“My poems don’t get out there a lot, and I kinda wanted them to get out there more. I like sharing my poems because I feel like it shares feelings really well,” expressed freshman Andrew Benoit.

Additionally, senior Dylan Boyle decided to introduce some humor by performing a Write Club bout (where two individuals choose opposing topics and argue why their topic is better) against principal Dr. Thomas Koulentes. For their topic, teaching versus learning, Boyle advocated for teaching and Dr. Koulentes for learning.

Each presented their six-minute argument to the crowd, who eventually chose the winner based on applause. “When you have serious, depressing piece after serious, depressing piece, people stop listening, and so I wanted to interject some humor because if you intersperse the seriousness and sadness with humor, people are more likely to pay attention to the serious and sad things and give [those students] the attention they deserve,” explained Boyle.

Boyle’s inspiration stems from “tiny observations” which he defines as “these little moments that most people miss.”

Other students use Writers Week as an opportunity to get outside their comfort zone. “I had always been scared about standing up in front of people, and I’ve always been kind of shy about public speaking,” explained first-time Writers Week performer and senior Amy Steeno.

Once students have submitted their piece to the Writers Week committee, they are required to practice with a teacher, who helps them edit their piece, get them comfortable with performing it out loud, and gives students encouragement. “The whole process [of practicing with a teacher] made it easier for me to be able to talk to a crowd,” Steeno added.

Students can perform whatever they would like and are most proud of, including on topics such as personal opinions, dreams and aspirations, appreciation of life and personal struggles.

“I think people can take it as an opportunity to write something that means a lot to them and share it. Whether you view yourself as a writer or not, you can write something meaningful and [express yourself],” senior Claire Mills stated.

Mills performed a piece on environmentalism. It was originally written for her creative writing class, but Mills tweaked it to be more entertaining for an audience by having three people read it together.

Even if students aren’t so sure about performing, Writers Week participants encourage writing for the pleasure of it and a release of feelings.

“I write two poems a week. I do really enjoy writing. I think it helps. A lot of the time, it’s just me processing my thoughts. A lot of the time when I’m trying to understand something, I talk in my head and spelling it out helps, and writing it out helps even more,” Boyle explained.

Boyle also encouraged others to participate in Writers Week: “It’s a lot of fun. And afterwards, a ton of people [told] me I did a good job [which felt really nice.] [Also], all the student presenters are nervous, so if you’re nervous, nobody cares because everybody is nervous.”

Benoit agreed and he gave some advice to some potential performers: “Be confident. You may not feel like your poems [are] any good or you may not believe that you are on par with some of the other people who are sharing, but you definitely are, and everyone is writing something that is important and it should be shared.”