12th annual ‘Literature & …’ Conference brings high school students together, broadens perspectives

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Students from 14 schools around Los Angeles came together to analyze and share literature and other creative pieces during Archer’s annual Literature & … Conference on Mar. 15.

For the past 12 years, Archer has invited high schoolers to submit their work to be reviewed and selected for the conference. Thirty-one students, including six Archer girls, presented about essays, poems, films or other forms of creative writing.

The conference, held in the Tia Palmero Library, was coordinated by Gemma Brand-Wolf ‘18 and Uma Halsted ‘18. According to the students, the conference is a learning experience for those viewing the presentation and also way for students to listen to diverse “narratives.” 

“Having different students from different schools, backgrounds and lifestyles is just exactly what narrative is,” Brand-Wolf said. “It’s telling the story of the world, and that’s broad and expansive. But it’s really what we are trying to get at, sharing and analyzing and experiencing all of these different stories at one time, in the same room.”

Halsted and Brand-Wolf worked alongside English Department Chair and teacher Brian Wogensen to plan the conference.

“The goal was to really reach out and try to create an event where students from around L.A. come here to share their work and interact with each other,” Wogensen said. “For me too, it’s been a great way to connect with English teachers at a lot of different schools, learn about what they’re doing and share ideas and thoughts with them too.”

The conference included seven panels, each with an individual theme: Bending Gender, Lenses on Lit I, Questions, Comments, and Concerns, Voicing the Self, Lenses on Lit II, Let’s Talk About Sex and Human | Nature.

“We wanted to make sure that the panels weren’t just cut and dry,” Brand-Wolf said.“We wanted to make it creative, interesting and engaging and think ahead to what it would be like listening in the audience and seeing how they connect — but also how they challenge each other and play off of each other in a fun way.”

According to Halsted, the Lit & … Conference is a unique Archer experience. 

No other high school really offers the experience to really discuss essays and discuss literature in this way with people who are equally passionate about it.

— Uma Halsted

“[The conference is] so unique to a high school student,” Halsted said. “No other high school really offers the experience to really discuss essays and discuss literature in this way with people who are equally passionate about it.”

Brand-Wolf, Halsted and Wogensen emphasized the large amount of hard work, emails and hours spent on reading essays leading up the conference, but they also emphasized how inspired they were by the final product.

“By the end of the day I’m so energized by the equality and diversity of the work and the enthusiasm and interest that these students from different schools have for each other’s ideas,” Wogensen said. 

In the future, the student coordinators hope to further continue the discussion.

“While we did have panel time during the conference, I didn’t think there was enough time for discussion, ” Halsted  said. “I think it would be awesome to have a time to just sit down and really discuss and just talk to one another.”