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Josh Desetta is a senior at Hawthorne Valley High School in Ghent, Columbia County, and an aspiring writer. His passions are creative writing, literature, and philosophy.


Writing and reading are essential to our humanity

By Josh Desetta

On September 29, 2018, I attended the first Albany Book Festival held at the University at Albany. I was amazed at how many authors were there, many of them very well regarded.


Many attendees were hurrying to the outdoor tent to see bestselling author Doris Kearns Goodwin’s talk on her latest book, but I decided that before I went to any events I wanted talk with some of the authors. After talking to various authors for a bit, I asked them why they thought writing and reading are important.


They were all very enthusiastic and forthcoming, and I received many diverse insightful answers. One author, who discovered his passion for writing from writing greeting cards, said that something he finds amazing about writing is that it is immortal. Another author said that writing is important so that we do not forget the lives and works of great people, and that we can learn much from reading about other’s journeys and experiences. I wanted to continue talking with the authors, but there was still much to see.


It was hard to choose from the array of interesting talks and workshops, but I settled on Jonathan Santlofer and Jeffrey Berman’s talk on “How We Grieve.” They shared the tragic stories of the deaths of their wives, and how writing helped them heal and find closure.


Their books helped many readers get through the death of a loved one as well. While reading allows us to study others’ lives, writing allows us to share our story when we think it could help others. I next attended author Eugene Garber’s writing workshop on short fiction and novels. He talked about connecting with the subconscious through writing, and how writing can be used to explore the deeper self beyond the conscious mind. He told us about his first unsuccessful attempts at novels, which lay somewhere forgotten in a box collecting dust, and about his journey to find a writing style that channels his subconscious onto the page.


The final event I attended was Walter Mosley’s talk on his latest novel John Woman. He first came up with a vague idea for the novel 20 years ago, which reminded me that writing down ideas gives them potential. In every sentence there is a story, even if it takes 20 years to be realized. Mosley also talked about his writing process and how he starts working on a new novel every time he sends one to the publisher, and often works on multiple novels at once.


Being surrounded by people who are passionate about the literary arts made me realize how important writing and reading are to the identity of humanity. Reading gives us a glimpse into another time, another place, another mind, or another soul. It helps us understand and empathize with others, and in doing so, better understand ourselves.


Reading allows us to see things from another perspective, whether it be that of another time period, another person, or a completely different world. Writing is important for the preservation of knowledge and expression of ideas. The writings of an ancient Greek

philosopher could influence a student reading them now in a completely different part of the world. Writing is an act of creation by which the writer brings something into the world that surpasses and outlives them. By sharing our passion for the literary arts, we can seek to better understand ourselves, the world, and our place in it.

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