Awarding young writers

Yesterday our local writers’ club held its 25th annual writing awards day. Each year we have a contest in both prose and poetry for youth and adults.

We’ve done this since the Anson County Writer’s Club was organized in 1989–and I’m proud to say I am one of the founding members. We got together to support each other in our own endeavors, but it wasn’t too many meetings later before someone said we needed a mission statement. We decided our mission was to foster the art of writing in Anson County and one of the ways we could do this was through a contest.

We concentrate on the schools because the urge to write too often is snuffed out before the child reaches high school.  By recognizing their efforts and frankly, making a huge fuss over them, we hope to encourage that spark of creativity.  We announce the winners on letterhead stationary and invite them to the Awards Day and Reception. We have them read their work, or excerpts if it is a longer piece. We give them a fancy certificate and cash. We used to give out checks, but too many of them never made it to the bank. We suspect they were framed.

Then, we provide refreshments. Randy makes his famous punch. The rest of us bring chips and cookies and other finger foods. One thing we learned quickly was to make the food kid-friendly and not too apt to leave crumbs behind.

I recall our first Awards Day. People came and left as soon as they read their own poem, not waiting to hear anyone else.  They headed for the refreshments before the program was over.  It was clear they had no idea what to expect or the correct behavior for such an event.

Yesterday, families came dressed up. They sat politely and warmly applauded each winner. Before proceeding to the reception, they paused to congratulate each other.  And, most awesome to me, several parents came over and said, “Thank you for doing this.”

Wow.

I don’t know that any of our winners over the past 25 years have gone on to become writers in a commercial sense. I do hope they remember that writing is an activity that can bring its own reward.  That their thoughts, poems and stories are worth capturing in print. That writing can make you dig deep inside yourself and express those emotions that are too difficult to say aloud.

I hope we do this for another 25 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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