Young Authors festival celebrates writing, literacy

Geneseo hosted the Young Authors and Storytellers Festival—presented by Livingston Arts and New York State Council on the Arts––from 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. on Saturday April 18. This year’s festival was titled “Have a Poem and a Smile.” The festival consisted of a variety of workshops designed for kids from kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade. Each focused on a different facet of poetry, exposing children to everything from the basics of poetry writing to various strategies used to incorporate music into the craft.

The day began with a keynote presentation in Newton Hall by Director of Education and Programs at the Arkansas Arts Center Louise Palermo. The 45-minute presentation explored the process of playing with words and ideas to create poetry. Palermo asked attendees to associate works of art with relevant descriptive words and explained poetic styles such as the clerihew, cinquain and rondeau. The speaker covered ekphrastic poetry—poems inspired by art—and related the concept to artistic styles such as abstract expressionism.

The workshops focused on engaging participants in many different facets of poetry. “Craft a Poem” taught younger authors how to use stamps and craft supplies to inspire or decorate poetry. “Puppets, Poems and Play!” utilized poems, chants and rhymes with puppets. Participants learned about tabletop, shadow and hand puppetry at this workshop.

“Cartoons and Poems for Your Funny Bones” taught individuals how to use simple cartoon techniques to accompany humorous poetry. “Explore the Poetry in Comic Books” involved a 40-year-old comic book collection and exposed writers to the role that poetry plays in comics. In “Adding Music to Poems,” participants were allowed to be a part of a band and added improvisational music to any poems they wished.

Joe DeBell hosted the “Poems and Songs of the American Civil War” workshop. DeBell—a Civil War re-enactor who majored in theatre and history at Geneseo—brought a fascinating display of equipment and uniforms based on those from the 1860s and read poetry of the period. He explained that he enjoys being the first one to really explore the Civil War with younger writers who might not fully understand what it is.

Director of Student Success in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education Tracy Peterson helped coordinate the event and noted that she was extremely proud of the outcome. “It brings literacy activities to life and gets [the children] excited,” she said. “We really want to bring the arts into education as much as possible, and it’s a good opportunity for them to see how much fun writing can be.”