Creative Writing Award Winners

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Creative Writing Award Winners

Jeslyn Chou, Staff Writer

Sophomore Onassa Sun received a silver key from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of 2019 and The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for excellence in writing science fiction and fantasy. In addition, junior Sarah Wang received a gold key for her collection of poems, a silver key for her personal essay/memoir, and an honorable mention for journalism.

Before we talk about the AHS students’ accomplishments, let’s take a look at what the awards and organizations are. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are the “the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12.” The organization holds these awards every year, and this year 340,000 students sent in their drawings, paintings, poems, and writing for a chance to be recognized and celebrated. Of the 340,000 applicants, 90,000 were recognized at the regional level and celebrated in local exhibitions and ceremonies while 2,700 were rewarded with National Medals. Students who won these National Medals were given the chance to be honored at Carnegie Hall in New York City, accompanied by their educators.

Along with the great honor of students’ visual art and writing being recognized, The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers also awards direct scholarships to top Awards recipients. Nearly $300,000 is given to writers and artists in scholarships every year. In addition to college admission, the organization also “partners with art institutes, colleges, and universities who earmark scholarships for college-bound Scholastic Awards recipients.” They also offer a summer scholarship program that provides talented students with the opportunity to experience pre-college programs that can further habilitate their creativity and love of writing and creating. These programs are available across the country and the organization specifically invites students with financial needs.

Onassa came out victorious, earning a silver key in her writing in science fiction and fantasy. She first heard about the awards when “several of [her] friends in Unity Through Poetry were entering the contest and encouraged [her] to enter as well. She added that the club officers of Unity Through Poetry always let members know about any contests or competitions that may interest the students so it’s a great way to advance emerging writers’ skills. Onassa also recalls that her writing titled Hiraeth! It took an entire month to complete, as “writing the story itself only took around two weeks, but developing and fine-tuning the storyline took just as long.” She is also extremely appreciative of Ms. Nicole Zaidi who helped in the editing and revising portion of the writing process.

In finding the inspiration for her writing, she turned to a social media platform we all know and (possibly) love. Onassa found inspiration through an article titled, “Buzzfeed’s 32 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The English Language”. Onassa replied that “rare and unusual words have always appealed to [her] aesthetic, and one of [her[ favorite tricks is to grow a story off of a single word.” Because of her love for these unusual words, she chose the word hiraeth, referencing a homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or that never was. Although her love of literature pushes her to constantly write and improve, she feels that sometimes the fear of losing or writing a failed piece can get to her. Although she can be intimidated by the fear of failure at times, her love of writing motivates her, and her favorite part is wondering what’s next. After being asked what her favorite part of writing is, she replied, “Winning is always a great feeling, but getting a silver key just makes me wonder how much further I can go. Gold key, silver medal, gold medal. The future is where the money is, so that’s where I’ll be heading.”

As mentioned before, Sarah entered these awards and came out victorious. As a junior, she’s been planning ahead for college and in doing so, she found this contest after researching writing programs that could lead her to scholarship opportunities. By the time Sarah found the contest, it was the week applications were due. Because she had a limited time frame, she chose to submit works she had already completed as well as her memoir, which she had been working on but had yet to finish.

While looking for inspiration for her writing, she remarked that “when synthesizing what [she] wanted to include, [she] knew [she] wanted to send in pieces of poetry [she] wrote over the years.” After noticing that the program offered a category for memoirs, she realized that she should complete her own and submit it for the application. As a whole, she draws inspiration from a whole spectrum of different events. From mundane details to issues impacting her community and herself, she finds joy in finding the perfect topic that inspires great writing. According to Sarah, she found it hard to reflect on her life and how she wanted to present it. Although it was one of the most difficult aspects of her work on this award, she also found it as one of the best. She remarked, “Not only did I grow immensely from the experience, I learned where my motivations blossomed from and the life experiences that shaped who I am today.”

Both these students spent a tremendous amount of time on their writing and have genuinely found a love for literature. Congratulations on the win, Sarah and Onassa!

Graphic courtesy of THREADMAGAZINE.COM