Megha Majumdar Inspires Sage Hill Storytellers


Courtesy of Sage Hill School

Megha Majumdar speaking at the Sage Center Speaker Series on Jan. 31.

Grace Yan, Copy Editor, Photo Editor

On Jan. 31, award-winning author Megha Majumdar visited Sage Hill to share her experiences and lessons learned while writing her debut novel, “A Burning.”

Sophomores read the novel as a part of Sage Hill’s English curriculum earlier this school year. Her visit was scheduled for two parts. The afternoon session was both exclusive and mandatory for Sage Hill sophomores, and it mainly addressed activities or topics that English II classes covered throughout the quarter.

Throughout her evening session for the Sage Center Speaker Series, she led the audience through a series of writing exercises aimed at inspiring their own story.

“Everyone in the room who writes or engages in any art form knows that it is hard. Why is it hard? It’s an act of confronting failure each day,” Majumdar said.

During the first session, four sophomore representatives chosen by each English II teacher presented a summary of the activities they did in their respective English classes, from writing alternative endings to general discussion on the novel’s themes and plot. For the novel, “A Burning,” the English classes focused on the core competency, character, which is to act mindfully, morally, and with awareness of one’s impact on others. Then another four sophomore representatives stepped forward and asked Majumdar a question from their class. After the presentation was over, sophomores lined up for a book signing session and took individual photos with the bestselling author. 

Sophomore Melody Yu describes the experience as “broadening and engaging. It was interesting to see the contrasts between the discussions in [the classroom] and what [Majumdar] personally felt about the writing and the story. It’s almost as if we’re peering ‘backstage.’” 

Majumdar shed more light on her experiences and writing process in the evening session at the Black Box Theater. She was born in Kolkata, India, and attended Harvard University as an undergraduate before working in the publishing industry for several years and interacting with authors from diverse backgrounds and working on their stories together. Her work experience made her realize her own passion for writing, and helped her answer important questions she hoped to ask.

For Majumdar, writing is “an instrument for thinking about the real world. Stories are meant to ask deep, real-world questions.” Majumdar was partially inspired to write “A Burning” by reading newspapers about her home country and the rise of right-wing nationalism. She became interested in the story of the people beyond the news, who lived hidden lives, striving for their own goals. With her vision in mind, she wrote the novel, originally titled “A Train Burns in Bengali.” 

Megha Majumdar with sophomore students before a book signing. (Courtesy of Sage Hill School)