​  Chagrin Falls High School AP English Literature Students Zoom With Best-Selling Local Author

On Thursday, September 28, Bobbie Serensky’s AP English Literature classes had a Zoom session with best-selling author Thrity Umrigar.  According to Umrigar’s online biography, her books have been translated into several languages and published in over 15 countries. She is a Distinguished University Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Serensky’s 12th-grade students read Umrigar’s Honor as part of their summer reading.  During that time, Serensky reached out to Umrigar, who excitedly offered to meet.  “I was absolutely thrilled when I received Umrigar’s response,” said Serensky.  “I knew my students would love the chance to interact with a famous author.”

While students did experience some nervousness before the Zoom meeting with Umrigar, they quickly relaxed and asked what Umrigar called, “some of the most brilliant and unique questions audience members have ever asked her.”

Upon reflection, students shared that they benefited in numerous ways from conversing with Umrigar. 

“I found it interesting to hear about Umrigar’s approach to writing; for example, how she does not start writing until she has a fully formed idea of a story in her head, ” said student Liam Butler.  “She does not write to appease an audience as Umrigar would consider it ‘selling her soul,’ and she treats reading and writing as something of a ‘religious experience.’”

“As a writer myself, listening to Umrigar speak about how she thinks through her stories certainly impacted how I will now go about my own writing process,” said student Sofia Clark.  “Hearing how she lets ideas formulate into stories in her mind and not allowing herself to stare at a blank screen really are amazing pieces of advice from an incredibly experienced author.”

Perhaps Shannon McElhinney sums it up best: “Umrigar’s intelligence and literary skills amazed us and helped us understand how Honor developed into the novel we all enjoyed so much.”

Last year, Serensky had the unique opportunity to have her students meet with poet Richard Blanco, President Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Poet.  Serensky’s students continue to enjoy this type of transformative experience.  “I value giving students opportunities to engage in live moments with authors,” said Serensky.  “Without the generosity of Ms. Rassi’s Principal’s Fund and the Student Board of the Chagrin Falls Education Foundation grant, we could not have hosted Umrigar.”