CHS Literary Festival Will Get Lit This May


Word Play: A Festival of Writing is a community-wide literary celebration organized by CHS English teacher Tamara Nicoll that will be held at CHS on Saturday, May 19 from 12 to 4 p.m. With a delegation of students and fellow English teachers, Nicoll is hopeful that Word Play will end up being a great success. The festival will be a celebration of all things literature, hosting activities, student performances of original works, local authors, and booths. Word Play aspires to become an annual event and tradition for the whole CHS community to enjoy.
Nicoll’s goal in creating this festival was to shift students’ focus from solely writing for a grade to writing for leisure. She emphasized that high schoolers often do not have the freedom to express their creativity in written form as they are so bogged down by writing for class assignments. Student performances are completely voluntary, so willing students can contact Nicoll if interested.
“I started to dream up what could we do that might shift our focus so that students felt they could celebrate being creative, and not just be work robots,” Nicoll said. “And when the Claremont Educational Foundation (CEF) advertised their innovator grants this year, I thought to myself — I wonder if I could put this down in writing, and start with the vision of making something that’s life-giving.”
After writing a lengthy proposal to CEF, Nicoll received a grant of $1,500 to make her vision of a reality. However, this was a slight downgrade from her original proposal of $3,000, so the festival is functioning on a tighter budget and is hoping to rely on outside sponsors. The planning committee of students and teachers also hopes to provide food trucks for the event or even hold a silent auction of various books and writing instruments. Needless to say, they will spend their budget wisely to ensure the finest festival possible.
While the event is still in the planning stages, CHS English teachers are working with a group of over 30 students. From event management to publicity to organizing performances, the students are practically facilitating the entire event.
“Ultimately, I want the festival to be student-run,” Nicoll said. “I want it to be something where students feel empowered and emboldened to do things that they love in regards to words. That first meeting with students, I went back to the English department afterward and said it was like a utopian moment for an English teacher. Once I explained the vision of the festival, just the ideas, they were multitudinous. It was like the floodgates had opened this complete deluge of ideas.”
With the help of Nicoll, her fellow faculty, and the students, the event is sure to be a success. Word Play aims to have a similar feel to the LA Festival of Books, but only on a more local and smaller scale. As the committee continues to work, more pieces of the festival will fall into place. Although Word Play is only in its planning states as of now, hopefully, it can become a new annual tradition held at CHS for all ages to enjoy.