On Thursday, January 16, the Nalen Fund brought renowned author Rebecca Makkai to Hotchkiss. The Fund, established by the Nalen family to cultivate and encourage the appreciation of writing and reading, has sponsored awards and numerous speaker events in the past. Professor Jeff Nunokawa of Princeton University’s English department spoke last year.
Makkai is the Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago. She also serves on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University.
Mr. Charles Frankenbach, head of the English Department, was moved by Makkai’s award-winning book, The Great Believers. The event, which was compulsory for Lower Mids, was designed to inspire their daily themes. Mr. Frankenbach said, “Ms. Makkai is aware of the Lower Mids starting into daily themes, which is a long-time tradition at Hotchkiss, an intensive writing experience during the winter term.”
Daily themes, a staple of the Lower Mid English curriculum, requires students to respond to a different writing prompt every night. Mr. Frankenbach said, “There is an esprit de corps that emerges, as well as each Lower Mid writers discovering and sharpening their skills.” The event, which lasted around an hour, did just that.
Students also found the subsequent Q&A session extremely helpful. Duncan Griffin ’22 said, “She shed light on topics such as character development and shared valuable experience on the process of writing and publishing a book.”
Makkai also advised students on how to create depth in their writing. She said, “If it ends up in the place you think it is going, then there is no complexity and no real discovery in it, and that means there probably isn’t for the reader either.”
Lower Mids will continue writing Daily Themes throughout the winter term.