By Erin Sherry, Editor In Chief
“What you guys probably don’t realize is that you were born in the middle of a golden age of Young Adult literature,” award-winning author and guest lecturer Jordan Sonnenblick said to a packed room of high school students in Youngstown, Ohio on April 9. “You’ve grown up with Harry Potter, The Giver, John Green…you’re excited about books from a young age, and that’s amazing.”
Each spring, over 3,000 students “excited about reading” gather at Youngstown State University for the annual English Festival; a three day event that promotes reading and writing among middle and high school students throughout Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Students are asked to complete a reading list of seven Young Adult novels prior to attending the festival, where they participate in various panels, workshops, and activities all based around the selected books. This year’s guest speaker, Jordan Sonnenblick’s, novels “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie,” “After Ever After,” and “Notes From the Midnight Driver” were featured on the festival reading lists, and festival goers had the opportunity to hear Sonnenblick speak about his unexpected career as a writer and inspiration for his novels, as well as line up for autographs and pictures.
“Loved the YSU English Festival so much!” Sonnenblick stated on his Twitter page after the final day of festivities wrapped up. “I wish I’d had more time to talk with each teen. Everyone was super nice and smart!”
Prior to the festival, students can enter various art, music, and writing contests, such as the Jeremy Salvner Memorial Music Contest, the Festival Art Contest, and the Candace Gay Memorial Essay Contest. The competitions are open not only to all 3,000 some attendees, but to any student in Pennsylvania or Ohio who wishes to participate. This year, two high school students, juniors Lexie Erdos and Erin Sherry, entered the Candace Gay Memorial Essay Contest, where they were prompted to write about their favorite book on the festival reading list. Erdos claimed one of ten honorable mention awards for her essay, and Sherry was awarded first place, with an introductory speech by Librarian Mrs. Betty Litke, and a prize of $250 and a signed book by Sonnenblick.
On April 10, junior high students attended Day 2 of the festival, accompanied by Mrs. Norwood and Mrs. De Frances. Melanie McClearn, Sydney Kightlinger, Lindsey Armold, and Melanie Twifford received honorable mention awards in various festival contests, including the Impromptu essay contest and the Not So Trivial Pursuit competition.
“The English Festival is awesome!” said senior Jenna Williams, whose favorite part of the day was participating in a “zombie hunt” on the YSU campus and hearing Sonnenblick’s light hearted and inspiring lecture. “I think more kids should definitely come! If you love to read, it’s a day you’ll never forget.”