English teachers unveil the ‘Starling Press,’ a student publishing house at THHS


Ms. Lipinski

A logo for the newly founded Starling Press.

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Faculty members in the Humanities Department have launched a new student publishing house that will seek to publish books by student authors from within Townsend Harris and from across the city. Advised by English teachers Sarah Levine and Katherine Lipinski, the publishing house held its first meeting with students earlier this week and is preparing to hire student leaders. 

“We thought our school would be a great place to start a publishing house run by students,” Ms. Lipinski told The Classic. She said that students will be able to “get their narratives out into the world” through the publishing house, which would specialize in publishing e-books and limited print books of student authors. Opportunities for leadership positions include editors to work with writers, artists to design books and create covers, and businesspeople to market them.

Only one thing has yet to be shared with the school community: the name of the new student publishing house. On February 3, English teacher and Classic advisor Brian Sweeney, who is working with Ms. Lipinski and Ms. Levine to develop the new publishing house, sent students an email announcing the publishing house and a contest to come up with a bird-themed name for the group. That contest has ended and Ms. Levine and Ms. Lipinski have revealed to The Classic that the winning name is: Starling Press. 

“THHS has the hawk, the literary magazine has the phoenix, the newspaper has its owl, and now we think we should have another ‘bird’ themed publication name,” Mr. Sweeney wrote in the email announcing the contest. He encouraged students to link their proposals to the ancient world/the classics, given the school’s focus on a classical education, and the students who proposed Starling Press did that well, the advisors said.

Juniors Carolina Corcuera and Angeline Wu both separately proposed starling-related names. With starling meaning “little star,” Angeline connected the bird to THHS’s Latin motto ad astra per aspera (“to the stars through difficulties”). In her contest entry, Angeline wrote, “the coincidence of the STARling and our school motto makes it easy to imagine the logo: A starling in the stars, wings spread wide open.” 

Carolina (a Science & Tech Editor for The Classic) focused on starling “murmurations” (the groups of starlings you see in the sky flying together in different patterns). 

“Starling murmurations were used [in Ancient Rome] to divine the will of the gods,” Carolina wrote. She went on to describe the murmurations as symbols of communication and unity.

“In the future, I hope that this organization will provide a positive opportunity for students here and experience many successes,” Carolina told The Classic. “As Townsend Harris is a humanities school with lots of ambitious and creative students, the new publication should allow students to express themselves and communicate their ideas with the school and the world.

“Townsend Harris teaches the fundamental value of not only reaching for the stars, but going beyond them. With the myriad of persons showing genuine care for this project, Starling Press will undoubtedly succeed,” said Angeline.

“I think it is the perfect bird to choose for this publication,” Ms. Lipinski said. “They chose a bird I had not expected, but I was so excited that they chose it and wrote beautiful explanations as to how it connects to our school and to the classics.”

“When we came across the suggestion to name the press ‘Starling Press’ it just clicked for me,” Ms. Levine said. “Not only does the name fit with our school’s bird theme, but it also pays tribute to our motto and what we hope this press will allow students to do: dream big and aim for the stars.”

Angeline’s entry referenced an urban legend that starlings only entered America because a nineteenth century Shakespeare enthusiast released them into Central Park to bring every bird mentioned in a Shakespeare play to NYC, providing a literary connection between starlings and New York City.

With a name ready to go, the next step for the publishing house is to begin hiring student leaders and growing the group.

A full classroom greeted Ms. Lipinski and Ms. Levine as they held their first meeting in room 404 yesterday. 

“I loved seeing so many students excited about writing and publishing,” Ms. Levine said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the amazing work our students create and getting to celebrate the creativity that our student body has.”

Additional reporting by Silga Chism and Bakhsish Kaur