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A Writers’ Town Finally Gets Its Own Story Festival By Elizabeth Titus

Westport has long been known as a writers’ town,” Alex Giannini, manager of experiential learning for the Westport Library, pointed out

introduced in 2017 thanks to a generous donor as part of the Library’s MakerSpace. Maker Faire Westport, described by Giannini as “a family-friendly explosion of creativity and a love letter to the Maker movement,” drew close to 10,000 people in 2017. In keeping with its tradition of breaking new ground, the Saugatuck StoryFest is a unique collaboration between a public library and a public school, probably the first of its kind, according to Cody Daigle-Orians, the

was fortuitous, as theWestport School District had just established an Innovation Fund. The proposal from the festival founding team was accepted, with a $25,000 grant. The festival will be managed by two boards, one made up of town officials, community members, teachers from Westport and Bridgeport schools, and a Fairfield University professor, the other comprised of students. “We’re excited to support the multiple- stage programming,” Herzog said. “The

as he discussed the Saugatuck StoryFest set for October 12-14, 2018. “One of the most famous American writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, rented a house on Compo Road South in 1920. We felt that it was time to launch our own story festival. We have many writing programs, but we’ve never had a full-blown festival.” The Westport Library is home to WestportWRITES, a year-long series designed to help writers take their work to the next level, with a support structure along the path to publication that includes monthly mini-conferences and workshop-based programming. As well, local writers often meet informally in the Library, and they can be seen there daily with their laptops in the Great Hall. But the Library isn’t just about books and writing. In the words of Barbara Durham, who works on the Library’s Development Team, “We think of ourselves as a community center, a destination.Weareblessedwithanintellectually curious community and programming that has always been innovative.” The Westport Library has had many “firsts,” including collaboration with Russian librarians sponsored by the U.S. State Department, an in-house pair of robots, a self-publishing device called the Espresso Book Machine, and Maker Faire Westport, produced by Remarkable STEAM, Inc. in partnership with the Library. The robots, named Nancy and Vincent, arrived in 2014 and are a huge hit with students of all ages as they learn computer programming in a fun way. The Espresso Book Machine was

ABOVE: NEW FORUM FROM STAGE EVERYDAY RENDERING BY HMA ARCHITECTS OPPOSITE TOP TO BOTTOM: WESTPORT LIBRARY RENDERING BY HMA2 ARCHITECTS; CODY DAIGLE-ORIANS (LEFT) AND ALEX GIANNINI (RIGHT)

Library’s programming and events specialist. “We reached out to Staples High School because we knew how much emphasis the school places on writing. There are at least 20 different writing classes there.” Following a meeting with Staples High School English teachers Kim Herzog and Rebecca Marsick, who had also been exploring ways to get students excited about reading, plans moved forward. The timing

Teen Board is helping to curate, and we’ll showcase an array of genres, with renowned authors who will be unveiled to the public in the coming months.” Marsick added, “One of the most gratifying aspects that makes the festival different from others is that we’re uniting communities through story. Our Teen Board exemplifies this by connecting students from diverse communities and giving them voice and

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