Has Writer's Week become a stage for emotional Venting?

As a freshman at Fremd, Writer's Week came to be one of the greatest weeks during my first year at high school. Every subsequent year since, I have looked forward eagerly to Writer's Week. I loved being able to go see a multitude of talented performers sharing their writing and music with our school, who is fortunate enough to have the resources and teachers to put on such an amazing event. However, I have noticed increasingly since my Freshman year, that every year there seems to be an increase of students who seemingly get up on stage with no apparent writing of any merit. They simply talk about problems in their life or vent about something that has been really bothering them. I understand that many students are going through painful experiences and personal struggles and feel the need to share these feelings with someone else.

But is the Writer's Week stage really the place to do so? I personally, do not enjoy listening to depressing stories about deaths, bullying, divorce, or any other unfortunate and sad event that has happened in someone's life unless it is actually a piece of writing with some merit and thought. Simply getting up on stage and narrating how sad of a life you have had does not seem appropriate to me. There are counselors at our school who you can talk about stuff like that with. Perhaps a support group or a close friend would be a better outlet. I do not feel it is fair that I have to be subjected to the emotional venting of many students that leave me with a sad feeling after their performance when I should be listening to students who have written poetry, songs, or clever writing. Sometimes after a period of Writer's Week, I leave more upset than after watching an abused puppies commerical. Readers should be more considerate in my opinion of the audience and should read something that others can learn from or relate to. I just want Writer's Week to stay about good writing and not turn into a cry fest every year.  Emotional writing is fine if there is a point. I don't want to sound insensitive because I understand that many students have a lot more problems that they are dealing with than I have ever had. I am merely suggesting that Writer's Week is not the place to share all these feelings. I would prefer to hear more writing at Writer's Week instead of story telling.

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Comment by Alisaur Maniscalco on March 20, 2012 at 6:02pm

I think that Writer's Week is amazing becuase not only is it a time to finally speak about what is inside you but is a time to be heard. There are some people who are there because they want to listen, but let's be honest... this is a high school and there are a lot of people who don't want to listen to a sad story and won't take you seriously. But I think that shouldn't stop someone from presenting something they feel from the heart.

And did I vent last year? Heck yes I did. I spoke about what was important to me. I said what I wanted to be heard.

Comment by Melissa Chyan on March 20, 2012 at 7:35pm

I agree with this blog. I think the biggest issue is balancing the genre in each period. Ten works of sadness is a bit too much and it actually detracts from each other. A variety of themes in one period will allow each of the pieces to be unique. I heard some pretty good dark pieces and I also heard some pieces that I would label as rants. All the themes and morals I heard were great, but I think they could have been presented in a better way to grab the audience's attention. Maybe I'm being too cold; several of the dark works gripped my throat and mind, but didn't quite reach my soul and heart.

Comment by Jasmine Alexander on March 20, 2012 at 8:52pm

This year was my first Writers Week, with me being new and all, So I don't know how previous ones have went, but I do understand what you're saying. Alot of the things I heard from the students was really depressing, which then made me depressed. So, like you said, I too would prefer more writing then story telling(:

Comment by Connor Pozzi on March 20, 2012 at 9:50pm

I definitely agree with this post, however at least some of the stories that were read contained some element of emotion in there- it made you feel something. Although you feel quite depressed at the end of the period, I would rather to a saddening, yet intriguing story rather than someone sharing mediocre poetry while reading in a monotone voice. 

Comment by Claire Herdegen on March 20, 2012 at 10:53pm

You actually have brought up a really great point. I am one who actually really enjoys hearing people's feelings and attempting to help my friends through their difficult times, but I think Writer's Week should be a place where people let out their feelings creatively, not just a story; or if the student does chose to write a story, they should incorporate language that catches the audience 's attention. Using interesting phrasing or pictures would draw the attention more towards the sentiment than the depressing quality of the writing. This is actually quite a well thought out argument because now that I think about it, Writer's Week did sound a lot like a vent session rather than a writing performance. This is something I really think the English department should take into consideration when they are choosing the performers for this special week.

Comment by Gary Anderson on March 21, 2012 at 7:48am

This blog post was somehow uploaded twice.  Here are the comments from the other version, which is being removed.

 

Comment by John Charlesworth MorrisonyesterdayDelete Comment

I completely agree with you on this one.  While all the writers choose to write about stories that are in fact sad, I don't think writer's week is appropriate for them.  Everyone has problems but is it right to subject everyone else to them?  Writer's week should be a high spirited week filled with brilliant stories that are expertly written.  I always leave it feeling bad or depressed.  I understand its a spotlight to send messages out, but whose to say they can't be more positive ones?

Comment by Christiana Kim yesterday
Comment by Gary Anderson on March 21, 2012 at 7:48am

This blog post was somehow uploaded twice.  Here are the comments from the other version, which is being removed.

 

Comment by John Charlesworth MorrisonyesterdayDelete Comment

I completely agree with you on this one.  While all the writers choose to write about stories that are in fact sad, I don't think writer's week is appropriate for them.  Everyone has problems but is it right to subject everyone else to them?  Writer's week should be a high spirited week filled with brilliant stories that are expertly written.  I always leave it feeling bad or depressed.  I understand its a spotlight to send messages out, but whose to say they can't be more positive ones?

Comment by Christiana Kim yesterday
Comment by Gary Anderson on March 21, 2012 at 7:52am

More comments from the duplicate version:

Comment by Michelle Baum12 hours agoDelete Comment

I agree that there were many gloomy pieces at Writer's Week this year. However, I don't think that we should get rid of all of them. It is interesting to hear a story of what someone has gone through every now and then. A balance between sad and happy would be nice. 

Comment by Allison Tomal 11 hours ago
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Comment by Gary Anderson on March 21, 2012 at 7:53am

A couple of quick thoughts here.  I respect the thoughts offered by all on this thread. 

I'm seeing the writing of student presenters being categorized in two ways:  as either happy or sad, and as either good or bad.  Many of the comments here seem to imply that the happy writing was good, and the sad writing was bad.  That is, of course, an oversimplification both on my part, and--in my opinion--on the part of some of the commenters here. 

I've looked at the thank-you letters that have flooded in for many of the students writers, and I can tell you that audience members who heard student writers were touched and changed by what they heard in student writing that is being characterized in this thread as "sad."

The fact that the students writers made those in the audience feel anything at all is a testament, not only to their courage but to their talent.  If the writing was boring, that's one thing, but I'm not seeing many comments in that vein.  If the writing made an audience member feel bad (or good), that's something else entirely.

When we talked about this in my classes, I made the point that maybe the increase in troubling material is analogous to the canary in the coal mine.  Should we be paying more attention to these issues and the students who are living with them?  Should we be glad that our school offers a venue for students to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even when those are pretty rough for others to listen to?  Or should we just skim the surface of human experience and put a spotlight only on those things that make us laugh or feel happy?  My answer is Yes to the first two questions, and No to the last one.

Having said all that, I'll take responsibility for how some periods became unbalanced in terms of the tone of the pieces.  And we have an idea for how to get a better balance next year while still providing the opportunity for students to say what they want and need to say.  

It's not the student writers' fault that they wrote well about their life experiences and chose to share them with a large audience.  That's worthy of applause and respect, in my opinion, not denegration.

Thank you to everyone who has posted in this thread, and to any future contributers here.  After eighteen years, Writers Week continues to evolve, and the organizers need to hear all of these perspectives in order to make our event the best educational, inspirational, entertaining, and meaningful experience we can provide.  Everyone who has contributed here has helped in that goal.  Thanks again.  GA

Comment by Meg Ramsland on March 21, 2012 at 6:27pm

I think reading what you wrote is a large part of Writers Week, and some things are better written than others. I am completely okay with listening to venting or sad stories if they are well written. For a week devoted to writing, "quality over content" should apply. Obviously content takes some importance, but lately I have noticed it seems to be taking center stage. For example, Mary Fons wrote a poem about a world made of paper. This sounds kind of lame, but the way she presented it and how it was written was beautiful. If we can find a balance between how good the writing is and the message we are trying to convey, I think Writers Week can be a truly amazing week. Deeper messages are important, but not if it just sounds like the person's normal speaking style. It should be a written piece of art. 

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