TRIPLE KO EVENT
@ THE HARTFORD CLUB
[Scully's] riveting stories were perfect examples of the point that Paul Doyle made in the morning -- the best writers have such intimate knowledge about their subject that they effortlessly bring it to life.
By DR. RHONA FREE
Academic Vice President
Eastern CT State University /
Friend Of Young Writers
Editor's Note: Rhona Free, economics prof in a former life, was named United States Professor of the Year in 2004 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement in Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. In photo above, she presents an Eastern t-shirt to Dean Pinkert, a U.S. International Trade Commissioner.
Paul Doyle, sportswriter for the Hartford Courant, is one good sport.
Doyle agreed to run a workshop for English and writing teachers, students and business people at Andy Thibault’s surprising boxing-writing-musical event for the Connecticut Young Writers’ Competition on January 15.
The event program quoted Paul: “We'll talk about how the imagery and emotions of the games -- the games we watch and play and debate -- provide such an ideal vehicle to teach writing to kids.” But instead of teachers, 7th and 8th grade football players from the Jumoke Academy dominated the imposing conference table Paul sat at in one of the fancy meeting rooms at the Hartford Club. I’m sure Paul intended to spend most of the session talking about how teachers can encourage youngsters to use imagery to bring writing to life. About 10 minutes in, though, he asked a question of his audience and the response was not the usual silence in which one reluctant but sympathetic soul offers up a polite response. No, every one of those football players had something to say. They were polite but practically jumping off their seats to be the next to talk. Their eagerness proved that Andy was right when he decided that the way to get more young males interested in writing (and in the Young Writers Competition) was to focus on sports writing. And good for Paul -- he went off-script and instead of running a workshop for teachers he spent a quick hour nurturing and inspiring some very enthusiastic young writers.
All of the Jumoke Academy students played football but had also worked on the school newspaper. They talked as writers about the challenges of deadlines and capturing in words the feel of an exciting competition, and as athletes about how writers sometimes brilliantly but other times poorly reflect the emotions of players and coaches. They told stories about playing and with equal excitement talked about writing about playing. I wasn’t the only older person at the workshop -- there were several teachers or retired teachers -- but we all did the same thing, we watched, intrigued by the interaction between a well-known sportswriter and some well-spoken and talented 14 years olds.
Eastern is one of the universities that support the Connecticut Young Writers competition which is why Andy invited me to attend his combination fund-raiser, p.r. event, and educational forum. The morning workshops (Paul Doyle’s was only one of a few) were the educational part.
When the workshops were over, lunch was on. Although the Hartford Club has been around for a long time (established 1873, in the current building since 1904), I doubt that lunch there has ever been served at tables surrounding a full-size boxing ring. It wasn’t until I saw the podium set up inside the ring that I understood what Andy’s plan was for the rest of the day. All afternoon some of Connecticut’s best writers would read their work from the podium, then in the evening -- live boxing matches / sparring.
Not only was a boxing ring new to the Hartford Club, the cocktail hour music of “guitar phenom” Desiree Bassett was probably a bit out of the ordinary, too. She is an inspiration to any young writer wondering if art can be a way of life. She was fabulous, playing Jimi Hendrix for an audience of teachers and club members balancing wine glasses and hors d’oeuvres while standing in a ring around the ring, peering through the ropes to get a clear view.
When Desiree packed up her guitar, Gaby Calvocoressi set the stage for the rest of the evening by reading some of her boxing poems; poems that make you cringe but keep you listening.
Then, John Scully, ex-fighter, current trainer and aspiring writer shared some of his new work from “The Iceman Diaries.” His riveting stories were perfect examples of the point that Paul Doyle made in the morning -- the best writers have such intimate knowledge about their subject that they effortlessly bring it to life.
After reading for about 15 minutes, Scully shifted gears and put on his trainer’s hat. Ringside his style was the same as at the podium -- quiet, focused, and intent. The short boxing matches were gentlemanly and good-natured. It’s too bad that the Jumoke Academy students weren’t there for the evening -- they would have liked the music, the readings, and the boxing. They would have had added inspiration from Calvocoressi and Scully to continue writing and maybe to submit something for the Young Writers Competition. They would also have had a chance to thank Andy Thibault for organizing this fabulous, quirky event.
It was a knockout.
Connecticut Young Writers DEADLINE FEB. 1
The Connecticut Young Writers Competition for high school students is designed to encourage young writers and poets in Connecticut. Now in its 13th year, the competition provides young poets and writers in each of Connecticut's eight counties an opportunity to win cash prizes, and proceed to represent their county in a statewide competition.
Teenage writers of prose and poetry from across Connecticut, ages 13-18, are being encouraged to submit original entries to an annual literary competition which awards winning entrants with cash prizes and an opportunity to have their work published in the literary journal of the Connecticut State University System, CT Review.
During this academic year, two young writers from each of Connecticut's eight counties will win cash awards for either prose or poetry writing. Entries must be nominated by a teacher in a public or private school, and postmarked on or before February 1, 2010. Home school entries are also accepted. (In 2009, there were more than 580 entries.)
Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury will receive the initial entries and host county award ceremonies in April 2010. Entries are sent directly to one of the universities, depending upon the county in which the student lives (see list on entry form).
From the select group of county winners, a distinguished panel of judges will select the state's top poet and writer at a dinner and awards ceremony held in late May or early June 2010. The two winners will each have an opportunity to be published in CT Review. Winners are also interviewed by local media, and have their work highlighted on the website of the Connecticut State University System.