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Geoff Edgers: on writing, passions, and using the tools in your toolbox

Geoff Edgers: on writing, passions, and using the tools in your toolbox

During the summer, people come to Maine in hopes of finding relaxing and quiet spaces. Geoff Edgers, American journalist and national arts reporter for the Washington Post, is one of those people – spending time down the road from Kents Hill School, in the peaceful lakes region of Maine. But when Edgers needed to record for Post Reports, a daily podcast put out by the Washington Post, he found himself in distracting locations – a noisy cafe and a library on a busy street. On one of his visits to the Apple Shed, likely for a slice of breakfast pizza, a lightbulb went off. A location that was a bustling campus for nine months out of the year, and quiet for three – Kents Hill School.

It was not the first time he had marveled at the campus, often driving by on his way home, admiring the buildings and the landscape. Curious if it could be the quiet escape he was looking for, he contacted a number of our faculty, finally coming in contact with Adam Chabot, our English Department Chair. Chabot set him up in the Bodman Performing Arts Center with a private recording studio. It was perfect. He was able to record for a few podcast episodes, and told Chabot that he would love to come back to campus sometime to talk with some students.

Little did Edgers know that meeting with some students would turn into a Community Hour talk with the entire student body. He starts the talk by introducing himself and talking about his background – how he came to be a writer. He had always been skilled at reading and writing, but it wasn’t until college that he took those skills seriously. He started reading obsessively, and paid more attention to learning. During his sophomore year of college, Edgers read a negative review of an album he loved. He was infuriated by the review, and wrote a very long – he would say too long – letter to the editor. He realized he liked being able to express how he felt in words, how writing gave his emotions a permanent place. 

When it came time to find a job, Edgers wondered how he could write and get paid for it. He started out at a weekly newspaper, moved to a slightly larger weekly newspaper, then to a daily paper, then the Boston Globe, and finally in 2014 – the Washington Post. At each job he found himself building up a specialty and focus. He chose arts and culture because everything he read about the arts seemed to be in passing, a brief glance in its direction simply to acknowledge its existence. He wanted the arts to be taken seriously. And so, he did. 

To this day, Edgers has done profiles on U2, Adam Sandler, Jim Gaffigan, and Sinéad O’Connor, to name a few. In preparation for his interviews, he watches movies, reads stories and listens to the music of whoever he is going to meet. He wants the interview to feel like a conversation between two friends. He tells the audience that “being able to communicate makes the difference”. Communication can come in many forms, including blogs, music, videos, writing and more. Edgers notes that “we have to use all of the tools in our toolbox to tell stories,” and that Kents Hill students are lucky because they are surrounded by tools. 

As his talk shifts to ideas and advice, Edgers shares with students that his favorite part about being a reporter is having the opportunity to travel to new places, meet new people and learn new things. “It’s [working] something we do with all of our waking hours, so you want to do something you love.” When it comes to writing, he tells students to just start typing, and eventually they’ll have a piece to be proud of. He urges students to look around and acknowledge that each of their classmates bring a different skillset to the table. “Everyone tells the story differently,” he says, “so we have to collaborate to make that story come together.” He leaves the Kents Hill community inspired by reminding everyone to work together, remember the tools that are around you, and to always accept criticism as a push to improve your work.

At Kents Hill School we are lucky to have students from all over the world, faculty and staff from different backgrounds and education, and facilities and tools that put big ideas and dreams within our reach. Thank you to Geoff Edgers for reminding us of this, and for sharing your story with our community.

You can listen to the podcasts that Edgers recorded on campus, here and here.