Novelist Madeline Miller Virtually Visits DHS

On a chilly Friday afternoon, hundreds of DHS students attended a conversation with the New York Times best-selling author


Will Dehmel, Writer

It’s not every day that Darien High School students get to meet with a New York Times Bestselling Author. That’s part of the reason why, when novelist Madeline Miller met with DHS students and staff to discuss the writing process and the power of myth last Friday on a Zoom call, the number of participants straddled 250.

Miller, author of Circe and The Song of Achilles, has long inspired English teacher Emily Bosson, whom I worked with on the student panel for the event. Bosson loves Miller’s work so much, in fact, that she added Circe to the curriculum for her very own class, “Dangerous Creatures: Women and Literature,” this year. 

When I spoke with Bosson after the event, she told me it warmed her heart to see so many DHS students interested in Miller’s writing. 

And Bosson was certainly not alone in those feelings. Preston Yao, a DHS junior and fellow member on the student panel, said he’d never seen so many people on a Zoom call. “When I had prepared my question for Ms. Miller,” he told me the following morning, a smile concealed behind his mask, “I hadn’t expected to ask it in front of hundreds.”

“I hadn’t expected to ask [my question] in front of hundreds.”

— Junior Preston Yao

As Yao pointed out and I can attest to, there was a stark contrast between the hushed, semi-filled room wherein student panel members carefully brainstormed questions the prior Tuesday and the brimming Zoom meeting which, at certain unfortunate points, overflowed with the banter of unmuted students.

For Bosson, however, things began much more quietly. The event first took shape back in the fall when she stumbled across Miller’s website late one Saturday night. Unwilling to pass up an excellent opportunity for students to engage with such an outstanding writer, Bosson contacted Miller and later learned of her availability for Zoom talks.

A few months later, after being approved by administration and funded by the Darien Parents’ Association, the event that Bosson had so eagerly awaited was upon us. Determined to include students as inspired by Miller as she is, Bosson reached out to student volunteers and then organized a before-school meeting to formulate questions, thereby introducing me to the equation.

The event was, according to Bosson, a “marvelous success.” Although Miller specializes in Greek myth, her advice on broad topics like publishing and brainstorming enticed readers and writers of all genres. Nonetheless, even students who attended the call for the sole purpose of amassing coveted extra credit points benefitted. As Bosson pointed out, “listening to someone and engaging with someone who loves what they do and brings passion and excitement to what they do is,” regardless of one’s interests, “an inspiring, rejuvenating experience.”

For many DHS students and faculty, Madeline Miller’s virtual visit marked their first experience hearing a distinguished author speak. Based on the sheer number of participants, it won’t, however—assuming administration continues to satisfy the interests of its students—be the last.