On March 1, we gathered at Baltimore Center Stage to celebrate the award recipients of the Maryland Region Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Hundreds of talented teens from across Maryland attended with their friends and families to be honored for their work. This year’s ceremony included readings by professional actors, an artwork exhibition, plus keynote addresses from Donna Drew Sawyer, BOPA CEO, and Kirk Shannon-Butts, Curator for City Hall, City of Baltimore.
Last week, we shared a virtual tour of the Maryland Region Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition.
Today we share with you some of the extraordinary literary work of our Maryland youth, also recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The five writing samples featured below include poetry, fiction and memoir, and were each recognized with Gold Keys, Silver Keys or Honorable Mentions. The writing samples below share the voices of talented young writers and offer a glimpse at promising creative futures.
ants sprint down the slope
of my moss-entombed back, shimmering
like obsidian beads
we are trees, for climbing, for shade, for autumn leaves,
for carving love into our bodies
white fungus grows up my
legs, ragged as oyster shell
we are an ecosystem
nurtured rot; the coiled soft hair of my thighs and underarms
the rain’s permeating stain forms
dull green rorschach tests on my skin
if only i had fingers i would take a saw to my torso
wood shavings would snap like fortune cookie shells
what happens to boys when they have no respite from the sun?
Gold Key – Poetry
Age: 17 Grade: 12
To the Forgotten Books of the World
You sit in the corner,
Dark and quiet, like a mourner.
You are all alone,
Remembering your life, and the places you’ve flown.
Your spine’s been cracked, your pages ripped,
But that just means that they have been flipped.
You were once loved,
Because you were full of stories, about pigs and women who were gloved.
You still stay strong
Hoping that it will not be long
Before you are read again,
By a teacher, a farmer, or even a hen.
You know it is not fair
That not many people care
About books or reading,
Since most think screens are much more appealing.
Just keep waiting, your time will come,
For some know that you are much more exciting than swiping a thumb.
Gold Key – Poetry
Age: 13 Grade: 8
Eat All the Fruit ( excerpt)
Later that night, my host mom, Ming Zhen, gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me ever since. Huddled around a bowl brimming with fresh dragon fruit, durian, yellow watermelon, loquats, and longan, she proclaimed, “zài Táiwān de shíhòu, chángshì suǒyǒu de shuǐguǒ,” or “when in Taiwan, try all of the fruit.” While indulging in the colorful bounty, I reflected upon the happenings of the day and found myself enjoying the fruits for various reasons— the dragon fruit, for instance, had the perfect balance of sweetness and crunchiness. However, none captivated me quite like the longan, a succulent, sour fruit. While the longans were my favorite, I would not have discovered them without trying all of the fruits in the first place. Wherever I may end up, I have faith that there will be plenty of fruit to experience on my path to finding my longan.
Silver Key – Short Story
Age: 17 Grade: 12
Queen of Earth (excerpt)
“My my my,” a voice hummed.
Katrina’s head shot up to see something across the creek. It was a tall monstrous-looking thing made of rocks tied together with vines. Limbs jerked into place with sickening crumbles and the thing started to speak again.
“The earth one has returned to play with her powers.”
Its voice was hoarse and Katrina couldn’t tell how it was speaking. It had no mouth, just an asymmetrical boulder that violently moved on what slightly resembled shoulders. Katrina fumbled with the knife on her leg. She pulled it out of its sheath and held it in front of her, trying to keep it from falling out of her trembling hands. The thing rolled forward toward the creek. Pieces of crumbling stone fell into the moving water, turning the crystal clear water ashen.
“Katrina Golding, our Queen of the earth, it is time to claim your throne.”
It laughed madly. Katrina’s eyes grew wide as she held in a scream and she sprinted back to the path. She didn’t stop running until she got to her house, slammed the door, and bolted it shut.
Honorable Mention – Short Story
Age: 15 Grade: 10
On the Mightiest River (Excerpt)
The mightiest rivers have banks that can seem miles apart, leaving a great stretch in the middle exposed and unshaded, like the back of a snake. It’s hard to think of thirst, surrounded by water on every side, but only the deepest parts of the river remain truly cool during the hot days, and, riding my canoe along the surface, I slowly felt the unforgiving gaze of the sky parch my mouth and squeeze me out like a washcloth. Sailors, cling to driftwood from sunken ships, dying of thirst as their legs dangle in the ocean, their lips stinging with saltiness and bile. But the river is not the ocean. On the river, I carry my water in flasks and bottles and jugs, and the land is always a seefar to the left and the right. I remind myself on the hour that I am seventy percent water, and that it would be unwise for me to let that percentage wane too low, and I let clear water drizzle down my open throat. It is on the river, not the ocean, that I have matured, and I have come to see my return to the river as inevitable as the march of time or the flow of the river itself. Surely, one day, when my body is old and withered, the river will carry me past the forests and cities to the sea, where she will kiss me on the forehead and push me into the great beyond.
Honorable Mention – Personal Essay/Memoir
Age: 17 Grade: 12
Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA), the regional affiliate for Maryland, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the country’s longest-running and most prestigious creative teen recognition program for students in grades 7–12. In the competition’s almost 100 year history, this is the first time that Maryland has had a regional affiliate. BOPA is proud to take on this effort of supporting the next generation of artists. We received nearly 4000 visual art and writing submissions from teens throughout the state in seventeen counties and Baltimore City. Information about next year’s competition should be available in September 2020.