Stories and updates from around campus

Writers’ Workshop Presents Jennifer duBois

Jen duBoisTwo years ago she spoke intimately about crafting a story about Soviet-era Russia; on Friday, October 17, author Jennifer duBois ’02 returns to the Williston Northampton School to reveal the secrets behind her latest award-winning novel, Cartwheel.

Ms. duBois, who’s debut novel was the critically acclaimed A Partial History of Lost Causes, returns to the Writers’ Workshop Series to talk about her newest work, which recounts the story of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together.

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Stanford University Stegner Fellow, Ms. duBois is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award. Her debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, won the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University.

“We all look to our lives for inspiration in our fiction writing,” Ms. duBois told the Williston audience during her last visit. “But I think we can get in trouble sometimes when we see our lives as parameters instead of possibilities.”

Writers’ Workshop Series lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Dodge Room, Reed Campus Center and are free and open to the public. The final installment of this year’s Writers’ Workshop will be on November 3 with essayist and reporter Anne Fadiman and will be held in the Phillips Stevens Chapel. The series, now in its 17th year, was founded by Madeleine Blais P’00, ’04 and Elinor Lipman P’00 and, in addition to four lectures by prominent authors each fall, includes master classes for Williston students.

That Moment When the Project Comes Alive

Author Joan Wickersham Presents FIrst in Writers' Workshop Series
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh

In her talk at the Grubbs Gallery on September 23, author Joan Wickersham offered to break down the minutiae of two of her books, about suicide and love, respectively.

“If you’re a writer, that’s what you want to know: How did a book get written?” she said, adding that, “both were messy subjects and very structured books.”

The first of the two, The Suicide Index, took Ms. Wickersham 11 years to write in part, she said, because the initial finished version was a novel, a “very polite, dead book.” So when she began to edit the material, Ms. Wickersham found herself throwing out every chapter.

“I was trying to treat suicide as a conventional story,” she said, shaking her head.

What emerged instead—once she had disposed of the idea that she could take her father’s suicide and turn it into a novel—was a series of fragments that the author then arranged alphabetically, imposing a form of order on a chaotic experience.

Continue reading

Catching the Nuances with Regina Carter

Williston music students improvise with a jazz great

2014 Hanley Regina Carter 2One student ran to grab her saxophone while others picked up their violins and violas and two sat down at the piano.

When jazz musician Regina Carter stopped by the Reed Campus Center, she sidestepped the typical lecture format in favor of a workshop that was more like jazz music itself: collaborative, improvisational, and enthralling.

In front of a small audience of students and faculty, she invited the Upper School String and Wind Ensembles to stand up and play with. The group was joined by special guest Chris Brashear, on guitar, and by Fine and Performing Arts Department Head Ben Demerath, on bass.

Continue reading

Writers’ Workshop Presents George Howe Colt

George Howe Colt by Ellen M. Augarten
George Howe Colt by Ellen M. Augarten

George Howe Colt, who has written intimate tales of boyhood, sibling relationships, and family history, will speak about his work on Oct. 7 as part of Williston Northampton School’s annual speaker series.

Mr. Colt, the bestselling author of The Big House, will present the next lecture in the Writers’ Workshop Series—all of which are free and open to the public—at 7:00 p.m. in the Dodge Room, Reed Campus Center.

Along with The Big House (2004), which was a National Book Award finalist for nonfiction and a New York Times notable book of the year, Mr. Colt has written November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide (2006) and Brothers (Scribner 2012). He worked for Life magazine as a staff reporter and has also published pieces in The New York Times, Civilization, and Mother Jones.

In its “briefly noted” section, The New Yorker summed up The Big House this way: “Colt’s account, like the house that lies at its center, is full of surprises and contains more than seems humanly possible: a family memoir, a brief history of the Cape, an investigation of nostalgia, a catalogue of local fauna, a study of class, and a meditation on the privileges and burdens of the past.”

Following Mr. Colt, this year’s Writers’ Workshop Series will feature talks by novelist Jennifer DuBois ’02 on October 17 and Mr. Colt’s wife, essayist and reporter Anne Fadiman, on November 3. The series, now in its 17th year, was founded by Madeleine Blais P’00, ’04 and Elinor Lipman P’00 and, in addition to four lectures by prominent authors each fall, includes master classes for Williston students.

“I Am Not a Turtle”

Translate the Brain's Andrew Watson Presents Strategies for Learning

2014 Eric Yates Andrew Watson Translate the BrainThere was just one phrase that Andrew Watson wanted students to remember after Upper School assembly on Friday morning. He had the students write it down:

“I am not a turtle,” they wrote.

Mr. Watson, of Translate the Brain, had returned to the Williston Northampton School for his second year to talk about neurological studies and how those translated into studying more effectively.

While a baby turtle is born with all the neural pathways it will ever used, or ever need, human brains are constantly evolving, Mr. Watson explained.

“During the time we’ve been alive, the way we’ve studied the brain has very dramatically changed,” he said, adding that scientists now understood that memory was not static, but growing and changing.

Continue reading

Stories and updates from around campus