Poly is thrilled to announce the winners of the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. These are the winners for the writing category as we also have students who competed and won in the arts category.
Ashley Kate J.-K. | Gold Key Critical Essay: “ADUS: A Way Home for California”
Milla C. | Honorable Mention Poetry: “A Cookie’s Lament”
Sharon C. | Honorable Mention Poetry: “To Be Wednesday's Child” and Gold Key Personal Essay & Memoir: “Second Star to the Right”
Janie D. | Honorable Mention Poetry: “The Ache” and Honorable Mention Poetry: “Classroom” and Silver Key Short Story: “The Girl and the River”
Alexandra K. | Honorable Mention Short Story: “Two Paths to Nirvana”
Audrey T. | Gold Key Personal Essay & Memoir: “This is a Story of Beauty”
Lucia C. | Honorable Mention Poetry: “Carnivore” and Silver Key Personal Essay & Memoir: “Confession: I Am a Mermaid” and Gold Key Personal Essay & Memoir: “Sea-Star-Fish”
Luke N. | Honorable Mention Personal Essay & Memoir: “A Real Man” and Honorable Mention Short Story: “In a Sentimental Mood”
Sabrina Z. | Honorable Mention Poetry: “Shattered Porcelain” and Honorable Mention Poetry: “Porcelain Figurine”
Audrey C. | Honorable Mention Novel Writing: A Story of “Her”
Trevor S. | Honorable Mention Critical Essay: “Our Dream Crumbles”
Margaret S. | Honorable Mention Personal Essay & Memoir: “On Bananas”
Alicia Z. | Honorable Mention Critical Essay: “Equality in Randomness: A Case for Sortition in High Schools”
To learn more about the awards, PolyNews interviewed winner Sharon C. ’24. Read on for our Q&A with her.
What motivated you to apply for the award?
I’ve actually had my eye on the Scholastic writing competition for a few years now. In eighth grade, I read about it when I googled competitions for young writers. I bookmarked their website and promptly forgot about it until Ms. Pringle put it in the bulletin last November. Since I had written my essay and poems already, I saw no harm in submitting them.
Tell us a little about your submission.
My submission “Second Star to the Right” is a personal essay about how reading has impacted me as I’ve grown up. When I followed the thread of reading throughout my childhood, I ended up writing about wildly different topics: the reasons behind my love for reading, a school shooting at my elementary school, and my desire to belong as a child of immigrants.
The title of “Second Star to the Right” is a reference to the directions to reach Neverland and a reflection of my wistful desire to remain a child, enamored by the possibilities of fiction and unrestrained by time or other's opinions, forever.
I wrote this piece for my creative nonfiction elective’s memoir assignment. Ms. Leroy, my nonfiction teacher, kickstarted my essay when she challenged us to write a hook with seven words or less. As we all sat there counting on our fingers and struggling to follow the limit, my first sentence popped into my head: “I was raised by a library.”
Each student workshops one piece during the semester-long class, and I was lucky to receive my classmates’ feedback on this one!
Finally, there's some context to the rather bleak ending that didn't make it into the essay. Because of how busy high school is, I now mostly read short stories, which have given me an appreciation for brevity and compelling plot and character arcs executed in a few short pages. Beginning in high school, when I did read books, I tried to read classics. Though, as I discussed in my memoir, I haven’t found what I like in that area yet, and restricting myself to “proper literature” only leads me to reading slumps. Recently, I’ve just been reading what makes me happy. As the policy debate season draws to a close and I settle into the school year, I’ve found more time to relearn what books I enjoy.
What are your future plans for writing?
I've wanted to become an author for many years now. My passion for writing stems from my lifelong love for reading. An excerpt from my writing camp application sums it up pretty well.
"I dream of writing one of those mysterious books lining a library shelf, one whose spine intrigues someone enough to give it a chance. I dream of gifting other people what reading gifted me. Escape. Company. Catharsis. Comfort. Understanding. Inspiration. And most of all, the ability to dream in the first place."
Only in the past year, though, have I started more actively signing up for creative writing classes. I'm taking a GOA course on Fiction writing this semester, and I've applied to a writing camp for the summer. I'm also really thankful that the English II curriculum allowed us to experiment with different poetry forms (sonnets, sestinas, etc). However, the decision to actually pursue writing/English in college is less certain. I'm considering a double major or perhaps taking English as a path to law school. Some people say I can write as a hobby when I'm an adult, but I doubt another job leaves much free time. Yet fully pursuing a writing career would be risky. Since so many factors must be taken into consideration, my plans for the future will inevitably change in the next few years.
What does the award mean to you?
This award has really validated me as a writer. I didn't start submitting to contests until this school year, and this Gold Key is my first ever big award. Often, doubt will start to creep in about my writing ability despite my best efforts. When you have a hobby in the arts, the unfortunate (and untrue) but common opinion is that it's not worth your time/you won't make it unless you're "good enough." This award has given me a much-appreciated boost as I keep improving my writing.
I would also like to thank everyone who helped me write/improve these pieces and everyone who has shown their support. It truly means a lot!