Harrisites win at Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

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Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the 2022 NYC Scholastic Art & Writing Awards gives students the opportunity to receive recognition, publication, and scholarships based on their literary merit. Recently, five students from Townsend Harris High School won regional awards in a range of categories, including poetry, science fiction, fantasy, personal essay, and memoir. The winners that received recognition this year are seniors Amelia Harrington, Victoria Siebor, Abby Mars, Cherry Leung, and junior Madeline Cannon. 

Amelia, who is also the Book & Media Reviewer for The Classic, won the Gold Key award for her poetry piece, Sugar Coated Resentment, and her science fiction and fantasy piece, A Heart So White. She also earned two Silver Key awards, both in the short story category with 2100 and Dear Ava. Lastly, Amelia won an honorable mention for her writing portfolio Voices We Cannot Hear, totaling five awards. 

Amelia has previously won numerous awards from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She said, “This competition is overall such a good experience for young writers, and I am happy I got to engage with it again this year.”

Amelia says her pieces reflect parts of her own identity she thinks don’t get published often in literature, such as queerness, mental health, and medical ethics. One of her pieces explored Lady Macbeth, a major character in the iconic Shakespeare play, giving her, “a more fleshed out narrative than she traditionally has had.” 

Victoria, who is a Managing Editor for The Classic, won a Silver Key in the personal essay and memoir category for her piece titled A House Sparrow’s Song.

Her win was a surprise to her as she felt she had more to improve on. Victoria said, “When I saw that I won, I genuinely couldn’t believe it… I knew there were still areas to improve so I wasn’t very hopeful that I would get any recognition.” 

Victoria’s piece was inspired by her love for dance and creative writing. She said that her main goal was “To create something that I was proud of, and winning a Silver Key affirmed that other people saw something compelling in my writing.” 

Abby won an honorable mention for her writing portfolio A Guide To Everything. Abby said, “I first entered the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards when I was twelve, when I first became really passionate about writing and I wanted to see what I could achieve…it was the boldest decision that I’ve made because I’m usually shy about sharing my writing. I continued to enter throughout middle school and high school because the creative process was so rewarding and it was just a great experience to be a part of something so big and empowering.”

Her portfolio consisted of six pieces representing her personal growth with pieces written from her middle school to high school years. She also won a Silver Key in the novel writing category with Honor of Thieves

Cherry won Silver Key in poetry for burden and honorable mention for her writing portfolio the angle of the sun against the ocean at early morning. 

Cherry’s submission was an unplanned one; “[I] wrote and submitted only 30 minutes before the deadline…this competition was equally spontaneous as me and my friend on the last day submitted right before twelve in the morning,” she said. She felt it was well deserved as “It is my last year [to be able to submit to the writing competition]…I just wanted to try it out and see if it could go anywhere with it.” 

Cherry describes her poem, burden, and writing portfolio, the angle of the sun against the ocean at early morning, as exploring themes of  nostalgia, complex relationships, and cruelty. 

She was inspired by Zami by Audre Lorde, since, “Reading [Zami] among other books taught me about writing style, and literature like this is what changes you.”

Madeline, who is a Sports Editor for The Classic, won an honorable mention in the poetry category for her poem Internal Harmony & Envisioning Individuality. 

Madeline said that entering the contest started out as just a hobby. She said, “These poems I submitted to the competition were ones that I had written for fun, and after deciding that I wanted to enter this competition, I decided to make some revisions and fully develop them.” 

She also expressed how Internal Harmony & Envisioning Individuality represented “the process of someone discovering and exploring their individuality in a variety of ways from personal reflection, learning what makes you feel at home, and what you can gain from your interactions and memories with others.” 

Each winner also reflected on the inspiration behind the success of their pieces.

Amelia attributed her piece to The Classic’s advisor and THHS English teacher Brian Sweeney as “his guidance and ruthlessly efficient editing were essential to me as I compiled my portfolio.” She also attributed her awards to English teacher Matthew Morello as he “was the one who actually brought the character of Lady Macbeth and her intrigue to my attention.” 

Victoria attributed A House Sparrow’s Song to her mentor Stephanie Golden from the Girls Write Now Writing 360 Program. She said that her mentor and the writing program “has helped me significantly develop my writing throughout this year, and working one-on-one with her has been an amazing experience.” Throughout her journey, Victoria has learned more about herself through writing works like her personal statement for college applications, and she hopes to continue pursuing creative writing. 

For Abby, the contest offered an opportunity for her to express her unique stories with writing as a medium. She said, “I knew that I had a story, or stories, that I wanted to tell and that this story was entirely from my own imagination, so I would be the only one able to tell it.”

Cherry attributed her pieces to growing as a person. She said, “There’s not one person I can give all credit to— not even myself. Just the people I have met along the way that have shaped my understanding…that is what the writing juices are and what drives you to write with passion and knowledge.” She also attributed her win to imagination as she said, “Try not to let go of your inner child, and seek back to it. That’s how people draw their inspiration and create. I’m still growing as a writer even though it was my last year to participate. This was just a step in the journey and I still have a lot to accomplish.”

Madeline expressed gratitude towards her mother and said she “has always been very supportive of my writing and encouraging me to enter this competition.” She also credits her win to the English teachers at THHS, who have “helped me to not only improve my writing skills over the last three years but encouraged and developed my love for poetry.” 

Abby concluded that writing is “about expressing yourself through your art in a way that is authentic and true to yourself. The most important thing is to love the process and what you make in the end.”