KATONAH, N.Y. - Words have the power to inspire, empower, influence and inform.
They can bring joy or cause anguish. They can unite people or divide them. They have inspired revolutions and movements all across the world.
Even in a progressively digital world, the written word is the engine that powers your favorite social media app, song or Netflix show.
Nobody understands this better than people who make a living putting pen to paper.
That’s why, on Thursday, May 30, Katonah Elementary School invited a dozen professional writers who live locally to teach fourth- and fifth-grade students about the importance of writing at its biennial “Do the Write Thing” event.
Do the Write Thing, which featured morning-long writing workshops led by journalists and authors, has been organized by Katonah Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization every other year since 1999. The organizers of this year’s event were Suzanne Yeager and Pauline Chiou, who is an assistant news director at News 12.
“The kids learn that words are powerful and can carry us into a moment,” said Chiou, who has also worked as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC “They can write about a baseball game or a sci-fi mystery and bring us on the journey. The idea is to get kids to see writing in different forms—novels, newspapers, sports journalism, advertising—and spark an interest.
“The professional authors that gave workshops were all amazing and so generous to share their passion with the kids,” Chiou continued.
One those writers was Elizabeth Harris, a contributor to The New York Times and Forbes.
Harris brought in a special guest for her workshop: Joe Russo, a former U. S. Secret Service special agent who protected vice presidents Dan Quayle and Al Gore and President Bill Clinton. After quickly deducing Russo’s profession, the students listened to the former agent and wrote stories about his career.
In other workshops, students practiced creative writing, sports writing and news writing under the tutelage of published authors, columnists and journalists who work for or have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe and more.
“It was exciting to see the students try their hands at a wide range of genres,” Harris said, “from a fictional piece about a kid’s reluctant encounters at summer camp to writing a retrospective sports story covering Derek Jeter’s final game—the enthusiasm and creativity they displayed was infectious. In my group, I loved watching each writer home in on finding telling details to add to their stories to really make their articles their own.”
The Katonah-Lewisboro Times was well-represented at Do the Write Thing, with workshops being led by this editor and columnist Kim Kovach.
Students learning about news writing from The Katonah-Lewisboro Times were taught about the importance of the Five Ws: Who, What, Why, Where and When). After a brief lesson, the students interviewed each other and wrote stories about what they did over their Memorial Day breaks.
“I thought it was very informative and it taught us a lot about the process going into newspapers and how it happens,” one student told The Katonah-Lewisboro Times. “I liked interviewing our partners. I thought it was fun.”
Another student said, “I thought this event would be good for kids to learn how to write and it would be good for their future because they can be writers.”
Kweon Stambaugh, assistant principal of Katonah Elementary School, echoed the students’ sentiments.
“Do the Write Thing was such a fantastic learning opportunity for our fourth- and fifth-graders,” Stambaugh said. “Not only was it inspiring for them, but it also provided our students with a glimpse of how writing can be leveraged as a profession. Having authentic writers from our community lead the workshops and interface with the children was invaluable. I hope the writers found just as much value in the experience as our students.”
The writers were:
- Lauren Acampora (author, “The Wonder Garden” and “Paper Wasp”)
- Elizabeth Yuan (publishing editor, The Wall Street Journal)
- Kim Kovach (columnist, The Katonah-Lewisboro Times; author, “Welcome to Appletown!” “Surviving Vertigo” and “Kitchawan Kenny”)
- Gia Miller (journalist/essayist/content writer, published in The Washington Post, SELF, Healthline, Headspace and Working Mother)
- Richard Finn (sports writer, published in USA Today, The New York Times, Associated Press, Tennis Magazine and Boston Globe)
- Wendi Corsi Staub (author, “Cat Got Your Tongue,” “Scream and Scream Again,” and “Dead of Winter”)
- Elizabeth Harris (contributor, The New York Times and Forbes)
- Léna Roy (author, “Edges”; regional manager, Writopia Lab in Westchester and Connecticut)
- Brian Marschhauser (editor, The Katonah-Lewisboro Times and Yorktown News)
- Chris Spain (Wallace Stegner Fellow, Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program)
- Jennifer Lyne (author, “Catch Rider”)