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Literary festival inspires next generation of creators

Published on October 20, 2023

Literary festival inspires next generation of creators

English Professor Daniel Donaghy (left) and keynote speaker Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

Keynote speaker Aaron Caycedo-Kimura addresses students.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Department of English recently hosted 200 students from Connecticut high schools for a poetry and creative writing workshop known as the Eastern Literary Festival for High School Students.

The event’s keynote speaker was Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, a published author of two poetry collections, who educated students on the importance of knowing that one’s career path may change several times and that this is okay.

As a child, Caycedo-Kimura had certainly not seen himself becoming a poet. “When I was growing up, I thought poetry was something too lofty for me to understand,” he said.

Caycedo-Kimura wanted students to know that they do not have to stick with a career path that they are unsure of. “Education and experience, no matter what they are, are never wasted,” he said.

Keynote speaker Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

This keynote speech struck a chord with attendees. “His speech to the high school students was pitch-perfect and so inspiring,” said English Professor Daniel Donaghy, who played a key role in coordinating the festival.

Following the keynote speech was an award ceremony in which 13 finalists were recognized for their poetry submissions to the festival. To enter the running, students submitted their work to an Eastern email address dedicated to the contest. Each entry was numbered by English Department Secretary Miranda Lau and her student workers.

“Hands down, the greatest success of the festival was the students’ excitement,” said English Professor Christopher Torockio, who also helped coordinate the event. “For many, it was the first opportunity they’ve ever had to interact with so many other students who share their love of writing and to showcase their own work.”

Donaghy conceived the idea for the festival while teaching at DeSales University. He credits DeSales English Professor Steve Myers, who developed a similar event at DeSales, as a role model for the event and as a workshop leader at Eastern’s Literary Festival last year.

The workshops, which took place after the keynote speech and award ceremony, took groups of students into several breakout rooms where they created works of poetry and writing under the guidance of several published authors and Eastern alumni.

One of these alumni was Prentice Tracy, an English teacher who brought his 10th-grade students from Parish Hill Middle/High School to the festival. Tracy took inspiration from the workshop to his own classroom.

“Back at school this week, we have been using the activities as springboards for further writing,” he said. “We are wrapping up Tim O’Brien’s novel ‘The Things They Carried’ and focusing on the novel as an exemplar text for approaching the craft of writing and storytelling.”

As evidenced by Tracy and his students, the impact of the literary festival extended beyond Eastern’s campus. As for Donaghy, he is already excited about next year’s festival. In fact, he is counting down: “(I'm counting down) the days until we do it again!”

Written by Noel Teter