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Ben Montgomery Introduces “Wish Songs”

Author and journalist explains how student writers can learn from Disney.
Graphic Courtesy of LitFest Committee

I expected an average LitFest workshop, but I ended up at a mini Disney concert.

Journalist Ben Montgomery spent the hour discussing how to apply Disney tropes and themes to all kinds of writing.

Montgomery wrote the New York Times best-selling book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,” as well as the winner of many publishing awards. In his presentation, he discussed how Disney movies use consistent tools, including wish songs, to make them appealing to young children.

In every iconic Disney movie, there has been a “wish song”, a song that portrays the main protagonist’s wants and dreams. This song also starts the rising action and drives the movie’s plot.

For example, in “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle sings about her boring town and how she wants to learn more about the world, in her wish song “This Provincial Life”. In “The Princess and the Frog,” Tiana sings “Almost There,” describing how she wants to open her own restaurant.

His presentation was lively and enthralling. The workshop began with a discussion of “wish songs” and he made sure to engage the audience by asking them to provide examples. My favorite part was when Montgomery played and sang along to the songs that students suggested.

The entire audience would hum along to Montgomery’s singing, which helped make his presentation fun as well as memorable.

After we ran out of wish songs to play and discuss, Montgomery began to speak more about his career in journalism. He has worked for numerous publications, including The Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York’s Hudson River Valley, and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Tampa Bay Times.

He then gave advice on how to get good interviews and writing, like to “steer into pain” and learn the “brand of the beer and breed of the dog”. This means that in order to write a good lead or add dimension to writing, specificity is important. Getting to know the interviewee can add a lot to a story. I really enjoyed this part of the presentation because those tips were helpful to me as a reporter.

He ended his presentation by tying the conversation back to wish songs, and how they can be used in many different ways, including in writing. They are not just used as a Disney trope, but also as a stepping stone students and writers can utilize to make their stories better.

Montgomery’s advice emphasized that anyone can become a better writer with just a few tips, and the introduction of “wish wongs” was an extremely useful tip for beginner writers.

About the Contributor
Augusta McKenzie
Augusta McKenzie, Reporter
What are you looking forward to on the staff this year? Hanging out with the Newspaper staff. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?  A tree house on a small island or in the rainforest with tons of colorful birds. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pasta