Bailey-King Author Series: Penn lauds value of storytelling

Bailey-King Author Series: Penn lauds value of storytelling

There are no guarantees in the worlds of writing or publishing, said Farrah Penn, this spring’s guest author for the eighth annual Bailey-King Author Series. 

But what is guaranteed, Penn said, is the importance of storytelling. 


“Your words are powerful and your story is important,” Penn told a March 28 audience in Southworth Library as well as members of the Thayer community watching via Zoom. “Don’t be afraid to share your story with the world.” 

Despite the lack of guarantees, the Los Angeles-based author and screenwriter has found both success and creative fulfillment writing in the young adult genre. Her debut novel, Twelve Steps to Normal, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection. Her most recent novel, Cancelled, hit bookshelves March 19 and has already received a starred review from Booklist. 

Upper School English teacher Denise King P ’08, ’10, director of the Bailey-King Author Series, introduced Penn that night and praised the author for tackling important topics like addiction, social media, and the roller coaster that is the high school experience with “quick wit and keen insight.” It’s that honesty, she said, that resonates with young readers. 

“She lets our teens know that they’re not alone,” said King. 

Originally from Grapevine, Texas, Penn said her books are not autobiographical but do focus on themes and questions important to her. She pointed out that during times in her life when getting published (or getting published again) seemed doubtful, she still worked at the craft. 

“I kept writing because I had something to say,” she said. 

That night Penn read an excerpt from Cancelled before engaging in a lively Q&A session with the audience. During the week she met with Upper School classes before addressing an Upper School assembly March 29. 

Head of School Chris Fortunato P ’26, ’28 welcomed guests to the March 28 reading and hailed the author series as a great example of engaging students and “bringing the world to Thayer.” 

Established in 2016 through the generous support of Todd Slawsby ’88 and his wife Amelia, the Bailey-King Author Series honors longtime English faculty members Betty Bailey ’63 and Jim King P ’01, ’04, ’06 — who were both in attendance March 28 and offered remarks — as it aims to inspire future writers. The series hosts highly regarded authors on campus to educate budding student writers about careers in writing and inspire them to seek new depths in their own voices.

Past Bailey-King authors include: Derek Green (2017), Dominic Tierney (2018), Kirsten Greenidge (2019), Mira T. Lee (2020), Brit Bennett (2021), Joshua Bennett (2022), and Kirsten King ’10 (2023). 


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