The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York


Where writers find inspiration

Author Kim Purcell, author of “Trafficked.” will be at Fox Lane High School’s 11th annual writing retreat.

When Diane Sarna first began teaching in Mexico, she went on a writing retreat with her school. She found it so beneficial to the students that when she later relocated to Fox Lane High School, she was determined to recreate the retreat there.

From Friday, Oct. 19 through Sunday, Oct. 21, roughly 25 Bedford Central students will participate in the 11th annual writing retreat. The retreat was initiated to give those who are passionate about writing the chance to hone their skills and collaborate with a working writer.

“I am proud that the kids can all come together and work together because they love to write,” said Ms. Sarna, a 13-year English teacher in the Bedford Central School District, who also runs the creative writing club.

The retreaters begin their adventure after school on Friday afternoon, traveling to the Major Bowes Retreat Center in Ossining. The center “feels like it is away from civilization, but is not too far,” Ms. Sarna said. Friday evening serves as a discussion period in which the students chat and get comfortable with each other.

Saturday is spent working intensely with a published author. After interviews with several artists, the group chose to bring in Canadian-born and New York-based young adult fiction novelist Kim Purcell. Her newest book, “Trafficked,” was released in February. Ms. Purcell will work with the students, reviewing their text and giving them feedback on their writing. Ms. Sarna will also work with the students. She noted, however, that during the retreat she acts more as a writer than as a teacher.

“I want the students to begin viewing themselves as writers,” she said. “I think that that is a mini epiphany for a lot of these kids. They view themselves as students, and they usually see themselves as readers, but they usually do not see themselves as writers. And to share that writing in a public way is a huge step for kids. It is one thing to write in a journal and keep it under your bed, but it is a very big step to share that writing and be open to critiques. That is a huge moment for anybody.”

The process was no different for Sarah Appedu, a 16-year-old Fox Lane High School junior residing in Mount Kisco who attended last year’s retreat. The retreat made her feel more comfortable about sharing her work, she said. Sarah began writing as a fourth grader when she penned a poem about deforestation. However, it was not until she was in seventh grade that she knew it was her calling. By the end of eighth grade, she was documenting her thoughts in a journal.

Sarah noted that she writes poetry, often, to “escape the world and enter a world on my own,” where she writes about her personal emotions and experiences. But the retreat provided her with a relaxed and nonthreatening environment in which she felt comfortable expressing herself and sharing her poetry.

“It also opened me up to new ideas” Sarah said. “The guest writer last year, Ralph Nazareth, showed me how to develop a point of view and have that reflect in my writing. It helped me grow both as a writer and a person.”

Saturday evening of the retreat is spent having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Ms. Sarna encourages the students to bring musical instruments so that they can play by candlelight while the group shares what they have learned.

Sunday morning is similar as they discuss the retreat’s pros and cons, and begin to plan for next year.

“It is an exhaustive weekend, we go home pretty tired, but it is a pretty special weekend,” Ms. Sarna said. “It is a very big deal to some of these kids. This is their time to really shine. For a weekend they are writers, and it is their special weekend.”

One of Sarah’s favorite parts of the three-day retreat was the intimacy that it provided the students, not only as writing colleagues but also as friends. When the students were not working, they were afforded time to hang out as pals. They spent time listening to music and playing multiple games of ping-pong. Sarah also noted that one of her close friends is someone who she met on last year’s writing retreat.

“It is very powerful to sit there together and share our writing,” she said. “It is a very comfortable environment that brings us all closer together. I learned a lot about people I had never even met before. It brought us together. It created a new family.”

According to Ms. Sarna, the best feedback from the students is that she does not have to advertise the retreat. Instead, the student writers spread their love of the retreat through word of mouth, telling friends and siblings about their experiences.

Students who wish to partake in next year’s writing retreat can contact Ms. Sarna at 241-6000.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


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October 19, 2012

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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