Last year, the sophomores of Lake Forest Academy visited the Ragdale Foundation, a private institution on the grounds of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s summer home in Lake Forest, Illinois. Ragdale hosts over 150 writers, composers, and artists for short residencies throughout the year and offers them a quiet setting to work and interact with other creative individuals.
The students attended a Q&A with author Scott Onak, whose stories have been published in literary magazines such as Quick Fiction and Mid-American Review. Afterwards, they focused on writing emotive language and concrete imagery in a workshop. Mr. Onak recalls that the students “showed enthusiasm for the exercises and respect for everyone’s ideas.”
The trip was a prelude to the Sophomore Narrative Project, a personal essay of 6-8 pages about a meaningful time period in their lives. The project allows the students to explore their own literary voices. After rounds of edits and final submissions, the top six narrative writers were selected to participate in a master class with Ragdale fellow Molly Backes, writer of the fiction novel The Princesses of Iowa.
During the class, the students worked on describing emotional experiences and establishing a strong voice in their writing. Rye Marra describes the master class as a great experience. “We all wrote small paragraphs after she explained tips and I found it much easier to depict my characters.” The finalists were also encouraged to apply to Ragdale’s High School Intensive Writing Workshop, which took place in July.
The class is an extension of the partnership between LFA and the Ragdale Foundation. Ann Frkovich, the chair of the English department, is enthusiastic about the potential for the students. She explains, “We came up with master classes for our students last year and we have some great ideas for to have our kids work with other artists this upcoming semester.”