Crowd celebrates 20 years of Adirondack Center for Writing

Adirondack Center for Writing staff member Baylee Annis competes in the run on sentence competition in a timed circuit of the pillars of the Hotel Saranac’s Grand Ballroom, balancing books on her head. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — More than a hundred people, many with their heads covered in all kinds of fascinating floppy hats, turned out for the Adirondack Center for Writing’s 20th Anniversary Gala at the Hotel Saranac Saturday.

“We’re on a mission to bring education and programs all across the park,” said ACW assistant Baylee Annis. “These are the people that have supported us the whole time.”

The event was half celebration and half a fundraising opportunity, Annis said. It followed in the theme of the Kentucky Derby, which was also Saturday, with guests competing in games of chance, a best hat contest and a silent auction. Suggestions for a new name for the ACW were solicited as well.

The event was in honor of the eight founders of the Adirondack Center for Writing: Cali Brooks, Elizabeth Folwell, Jim Gould, Gary Lee, Kathleen Masterson, Sharon Reynolds, Ellen Rocco and Isabel Worthen.

“It’s like a physical manifestation of all the love,” said ACW Director Natalie Thill. “It feels good after 20 years to have everyone be like, ‘We really value what you do.'”

The Adirondack Center for Writing’s new Book Mobile will serve as a mobile store selling books by Adirondack authors. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

The night also featured the premier of the Book Mobile. The 4-by-4-foot trailer was designed by students in a sustainability class at Paul Smith’s College, stocked with shelves, filled with books and topped off with a solar charger for electronics. It will serve as a mobile bookstore for Adirondack authors’ work.

“We’re going to have it filled with books by local authors, and we’re going to drive it around in the summer to small communities to showcase local authors,” Thill said.

Two high school students involved with the ACW spoke during the event about the impact the organization has had on their lives.

Saranac Lake High School senior Joe Larabie focused on the group’s writing retreats for high school students at PSC. The organization brings in poets from across the country to mentor students for several days, culminating in an open mic at which students read their work.

“This workshop helped me explore the world of writing and even gave me a new identity for myself,” Larabie, or J.D., said. “Quite literally, because that’s where I got my pen name.”

Adirondack Center for Writing Director Natalie Thill, right, speaks at the organization’s 20th Anniversary Gala Saturday at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

Tupper Lake High School senior Emily Burns said the amount of trust that was built up among students at the retreat allowed them to use poetry to work through problems in their own lives.

“These kids were finally given a chance to speak on their experiences, which they might not have felt able to talk about before,” Burns said. “From school to family, to like Joe said, even their own identity. And they were cheered on for it.”

Many times, she said, after students finished performing their poems, one could almost see a weight behind lifted off their shoulders as the audience snapped their fingers for them.

“From this, I wholeheartedly believe that the Adirondack Center for Writing has brought something magical to the North Country. There is a kindness developed at their events like nowhere else I’ve experienced.”

Saranac Lake High School senior Joe Larabie speaks at the Adirondack Center for Writing’s 20th Anniversary Gala Saturday at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

Tupper Lake High School senior Emily Burns speaks at the Adirondack Center for Writing’s 20th Anniversary Gala Saturday at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

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