Rave Reviews for the Osborne Writing Center
Students, parents, alumnae, and well-known authors happily endorse HB’s Osborne Writing Center and the annual Young Writers and Artists Festival.
It wasn't until I came to HB that I realized a teacher's job is not so much to fill his or her students' minds with what they believe to be an education, but to allow the student the courage of her own convictions so that she may hunger for knowledge and wisdom and wit and thereby fill her own mind. In that way, HB provides not only an education for those years traditionally given over to learning, but also for a life. A whole, fully-realized, life.
Alexandra Fuller New York Times Bestselling Author
I’ve been privileged the past few years to interact with the young writers at Hathaway Brown during the annual writing festival. With each visit, I am impressed and inspired by how engaged the young women are with the craft of writing. Through the Writing Center, they are immersed in the writing process – the writing life, really – at a level most students wouldn’t experience until college. And again and again, I see them rise up to the high expectations of the center and its faculty and express themselves through the written word with style, grace and insight. The HB Writing Center is a true cultural treasure.
David Giffels Author, Journalist, and English Professor at The University of Akron
Writing helps you with school, obviously, but it can also serve as an outlet for anything you choose, or as a means of communicating your ideas and opinions to the rest of the world. Regardless of the reasons for writing, everyone has the ability to be a writer, something that I learned in the Writing Center. The Writing Center has proved to be a haven for any and all writers. A place where girls that wouldn't dare consider themselves writers and girls that have aspirations to be the next great American novelist can mingle, understand the same fundamental principles, and have loads of fun in a nonjudgemental environment. Along with the the center being a refreshing sanctuary, it also creates the opportunity to sign up for the Young Writers and Artists Festival at which I have some of the best memories of my life at. The chance to work with incredible human beings and writers is something I am extremely grateful for. I would definitely not be the person I am today without the festival or the Writing Center. Both change the way you see the world and yourself, as a writer and as a person.
By junior year, I felt I had learned pretty much all I could about being a good writer -- which is a testament to the quality of my primary, middle, and upper school education at Hathaway Brown as much as it is an indication of my teenage ego. Unsurprisingly, I had (and continue to have) a ways to go, and during that year as well as my senior year, the Writing Center transformed the way that I write and edit entirely for the better. As a college freshman, I entered the classrooms and lecture halls of my liberal arts school with typical first-year jitters, but I never once doubted my ability to express myself clearly and skillfully through writing. I'm hugely grateful to the Writing Center for that, but what I truly value most about my experience there is not the skill of choosing what to cut from an essay, of knowing how to re-arrange a sentence, or of forming a powerful conclusion. What makes me feel so lucky to have had a place like the Writing Center in my high school is the strong sense of self it gave me. From working through essays, speeches, and stories with Mr. Parsons to peer editing younger students’ writing to laughing and learning with visiting authors during the Young Writers and Artists Festival, time spent in the Writing Center was always time spent getting to know myself better. The kind of individual attention each and every one of us received from the Writing Center, that genuine care for and investment in our thoughts, questions, and aspirations, is what defined my experience at Hathaway Brown, and I am both a better writer and a stronger, more self-assured and capable person because of it.
Zoe Harvan HB '13, Williams College '17
Writing was never an interest of mine. Admittedly, I had never even tried it—the thought of finding my place in an art that people have been perfecting for thousands of years was just too daunting. I dismissed it as something I “just wasn’t into.” Learning to write didn’t seem like a mountain I wanted to climb—I didn’t know what was at the top, and I certainly didn’t know how to get there.
When Mr. Parsons came to me junior year and encouraged me to sign up for the writer’s festival, I had to agree. I knew that he was encouraging everyone, but not because he wanted a high attendance rate; he genuinely wanted to make sure we each had the opportunity to be a part of one of the workshops. I couldn’t ignore that kind of gesture, and I trusted that he would only put me in a position of benefit.
That first workshop introduced me to writing as an act of spontaneity and emotion, rather than one of tediousness and intellect. I learned about the movement of “spoken-word poetry” and the videos upon videos of poets performing their work, comparing them to candy—each one was short and sweet and I couldn’t get enough. All of a sudden writing was accessible.
Over the next two years I sat in the writing center and absorbed my peers’ words, continued watching hordes of YouTube videos, bought my first poetry anthology, and began reading more often. I had an uncontainable urge to mimic and modify the amazing things that I was discovering—and in the end the mountain didn’t feel like a mountain at all, because the writing center gave me the tools and the desire to climb it. That’s the thing about the writing center—it’s a community small enough that everyone is comfortable, but far-reaching enough that we have resources beyond anything we could ever ask for. Our trust and camaraderie help us push each other to take advantage of those resources, especially when we are unsure of our abilities. Through the writing center I found an outlet, a safe haven, a new talent, and unlikely but invaluable friends and mentors—all of which are mine to cherish and cultivate for life.
Emily Imka HB '15, Wesleyan University '19
Before Mr. Parsons took over the writing center during my Junior year, I thought I was an atrocious writer, even though my grades in English class suggested otherwise. But the revision process the writing center employs increased my awareness of the way my writing was communicating (or failing to communicate) my ideas, and thus increased my confidence in my ability to write effectively. When writing no longer carried the threat of failure and stopped being so scary, I found joy in both creative writing and writing papers for school. I was one of the two student heads of the peer writing program my senior year and was granted a Strnad fellowship in creativity to bring creative writing prompts into the fifth grade English classrooms once a month, two amazing opportunities I would have never even imagined myself being involved with less than a year before I started them. I am indebted to the writing center for curing my fear of essay prompts, English classrooms, and writing even to clear my mind.
Alden Cowap HB '13, Middlebury College '17
Four years ago, if you told me that I was going to fall in love with openly sharing my writing with other people, I would have laughed in your face. I never hated writing. I just hated the idea of exposing other people to a voice that I was still struggling to understand. So, when it came time to write my Ancient Cultures paper my Freshman year, I was absolutely mortified. I felt incredibly lost and flustered with the assignment, as most Freshmen are, and had no idea where to go. After mustering up enough courage, I finally decided to walk through the doors of the upperclassmen-infested Writing Center and stand at the mercy of the one and only, Mr. Scott Parsons. Little did I know that this room and the community that resides in it would become my lifeline for the rest of my high school career. Instead of telling me what was “wrong” about my paper, Mr. Parsons helped me discover the ideas that were tucked away in the back of my mind, hidden behind a wall of doubt and other insecurities. I learned how to not let my fear of letting others hear about what I have to say limit the ideas that were so desperately trying to release themselves into the loving arms of HB’s atmosphere. Once I experienced the undeniable freedoms that writing provides me with, I found myself signing up for every possible writing-based elective or class possible. I attended as many speakers as I had time for, became a member of Retrospect for all four years, wrote a play with my best friend, joined the Writing Community class, and even participated in the Writer’s Festival, one of the most life-changing events at HB, in my opinion. You will never find another place where you have such a significant outpouring of empathy and artistic genius gathered in one building. To say the least, I was addicted to the acceptance HB’s Writing Center provided me. This experience taught me the unteachable, and for that, I will forever be indebted to HB’s Writing center and can only hope I will do it and Mr. Parsons justice in the years to come.
Samantha Keum HB '15, University of Vermont '19
I used to hate writing, like really hated it. I never imagined that I would be talking to anyone about how much I love words and the way they’re organized on a page. The Writer’s Festival was that breaking point for me. The beginning of my junior year had been tough, I definitely wasn’t enjoying myself or making time to figure out what was off balance. But the weekend I spent with Alexandra Fuller at the Writer’s Festival changed that. It changed me. We spent a lot of time mediating and reflecting, being in the moment and being unafraid. Initially it was unnerving, confusing – none of these sound like good things! But in fact they were. We became more at home with the discomfort; the first twenty minutes of silent meditation was painful, but the next twenty were bearable, and the twenty after that seemed to fly by. The Writers Festival changed me for the better; it made me more aware of myself and in that, more aware of the people around me. It certainly strengthened my writing, but also my communication skills, my ability to actively listen and respond. My time at the Writing Center at HB helped me – and continues to help me – find myself and find true happiness and those are two things I’m never going to let go of.
Emily Amjad HB '15, Yale '19
When people ask me why I can be found in the Writing Center more often than Mr. Parsons, I tell them about my incredibly awkward, friendless (maybe one or two), and skittish freshman year, finding solace in the writing center alone. Other times I will mention the inviting baked goods that make their way to this space. Occasionally I discuss the worn, droopy blue couch that you can sink into for a good nap. But I have these responses lined up to shield me from having to come to terms with what really makes this place so special for me. Despite years of Retrospect, Writer’s Festivals, poetry readings, Writing Community classes, helping younger students with papers, and everything I can possibly squeeze myself into for writing at HB, I can’t put into words what this center means to me. But I can tell you when Mr. Parsons stopped me in the hallway as a timid freshman and told me to take a writing elective the next year, I decided to give writing another try. That when I went on a poetry fieldtrip to Kent State and a senior I idolized from the writing center held the door for me and joked with me, I knew I would be that senior when it was my time around. That I’ve comforted crying strangers on that blue couch that quickly became my best friends. That I’ve pretended to be an alien with Sarah Kay and meditated in powerful silence with Alexandra Fuller. That I’ve fallen to the floor and got stuck in chairs with uncontrollable laughter in this space. That I’ve heard life stories, philosophical debates, and discussions of variety of uses for leftover pizza (including croutons). That every college I visit, I look into their “writing center” and wonder if it could even compare to mine at HB. I rush to the writing center in the morning, free periods, and after school everyday because it is my absolute favorite place to be. It’s so much more than a space or a place to learn writing; it is a group of the best people on the planet that want nothing but happiness for you, especially Mr. Parsons. And though this response was prompted by a request for advertisement, I mean all I say with the utmost sincerity.
McKenna Ritter HB '16
Before Emily was even eligible to participate in the Writing Center, it influenced her appreciation of the art. Shortly after Emily began attending HB in 7th grade, she referred to the Writing Center with intrigue, to the extent that she took AP English, and participated in Power of the Pen, in order to develop her skills.The Writing Center provided a safe environment in which to explore and experiment as a new writer and push her limits as an emerging talent. The Writing Center offers freedom from the paralysis often experienced in the face of a writing project, by providing support and affirmation from peers, teachers, and accomplished career writers.I am convinced that her association with the Writing Center is a major contributing factor to the revelation of Emily's talent as a writer.
Confidence is something that nearly all adolescent girls lack, whether you’re a field hockey star or a talented musician. It’s unfortunate and hard to say from where I am now, but in retrospect I’ve realized that upon coming to Hathaway Brown, I was not willing - or ready - to share my thoughts and opinions.
Luckily, that all changed quickly.
I didn’t actually set foot in the Writing Center until the end of my freshman year. I was applying for a position as editor of Scripta, which merged with The Review to form Retrospect in my junior year. A creative essay was a required part of the application, and though my English class had taught me how to think critically and write analytically, it had not urged on my creative passions as much as I had hoped.
Once my foot was in the door, quite literally, I found myself at home. The Writing Center offered a beacon of open opinions, laughing, and writing that I hadn’t yet found at HB, and I found myself coming back more and more to not only get advice on essays and creative writing, and learn not only from Mr. Parsons, but also the older students who became my mentors and friends and encouraged me to partake in the Writers Festival my sophomore year.
Since then, I haven’t really looked back. The Writers Festival became an event that I looked forward to, like Christmas for my pen and paper. Working over the years with authors such as Jamaal May, Wendy MacLeod, and Alexandra Fuller made me appreciate myself and my classmates as writers and individual minds that were bursting with ideas to share. This process also changed me in my approach to writing and my willingness to share. Writing no longer was a private matter confined to diaries and unnamed Microsoft Word files, rather, it became a way of sharing and responding to current events, emotions, and other writing.
That shift urged me on in my junior year to join peer tutoring and Retrospect as an assistant editor. Editing was a new side to writing that I discovered that I loved, and allowed me insight into how other people write and develop their own confidence, while my own grew as my writing skills did. Towards the end of junior year, I applied for a position on the Retrospect board of editors and found myself editing, writing, and reading all throughout senior year. The process of editing, designing, and assembling Retrospect gave me possibly more confidence out of all of my experiences in the Writing Center. The idea of a final product had always escaped me; I found my motto being “a poem is never finished.” Even with a few misspellings and design errors hidden throughout Retrospect, I felt as if I had reached the pinnacle of my time in the Writing Center - as if all of the conversations, jokes, editing help had all furthered my writing education to this high point of confidence.
And now, in the fall of my freshman year of college, I can say with full confidence Hathaway Brown has prepared me for more than I thought it would, whether it be editing classmates’ papers, reading at an open mic, or helping out with more than one of my school’s literary magazines and newspapers, all through the Writing Center.
Brady Furlich HB '15, Kenyon College '19