by Sue Ann Rybak
What do Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Richard Avedon, Zac Posen, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath, John Lithgown, Ned Vizzini, Abdi Farah (winner of the Bravo reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist) and two Springside Chestnut Hill Academy students have in common?
They were all winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the country’s oldest and most prestigious awards and recognition program for creative teenagers.
Madison LaSorda and Kelsea Brewer, both juniors at SCH, were selected from an estimated 450 submissions. Students could submit entries in 30 categories including poetry, humor, journalism, novel writing and science fiction, as well as painting, sculpture, photography, fashion design, film and animation, and video game design. Works were judged on originality, technical skill and the emergence of personal vision or voice.
The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which administers the awards, identifies teenagers with exceptional artistic and literary talent and brings their remarkable work to a national audience through Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The awards, which have recognized more than 13 million students, continue to be the longest-running, most prestigious program for creative teens and the largest source of scholarships for young artists and writers.
“The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards provide unprecedented opportunities for the nation’s most creative teens through recognition, exhibition, publication and scholarships,” said Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance.
The students’ submissions were selected by a panel of Philadelphia teachers, writers, and literary professionals.
Kelsea Brewer, a junior at SCH received a Silver Key Award in the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers for her collection of three poems: “Mothers,” “Night” and “Small World.”
Brewer, who began writing in eighth or ninth grade, said Sylvia Plath’s poem “I am vertical” sparked her interest in poetry and inspired one of her poems. She added that she loved Plath’s vivid images of nature.
Brewer’s poem “Mothering” was inspired by her Italian great grandmother.
“I have always been surrounded by strong women,” Brewer said. “I am Italian. Their influence has really been a prominent part of my life.”
In her poem “Mothering,” which was submitted to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Brewer writes:
One lacking daring beauty
The other empathetic
Cloaked in shadowed silence.”
Brewer hopes to take a summer writing course at Bard College.
Suzi Morrison, chair of the English Department, encouraged SCH students to submit their work in the beginning of the year. Morrison remembers telling students, “What do you have to lose?”
“Why you do have things you can lose,” Morrison said. “The worst thing that can happen is that this piece of you, is sent out into the world and comes back to you, to have and to hold again, to revise and send out again. That being said, it’s a very serious business.
“Kelsea took that leap, which I think is a really wonderful indication of growing as a writer and thinking about writing for a large audience. Kelsey has always expressed such attention to detail in her writing, and she has a good ear for how words fit together and sound together. It was not a surprise to hear that her poetry had won an award.”
Another award winner was Madison LaSorda, who received a Golden Key Award for her short story “Marjorie” and Honorable Mention for her work “The Millworker.”
This year the Alliance for Young Artists received about 450 submissions from Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Only five percent of regional submissions receive a Golden Key Award.
Works earning Golden Keys are forwarded to the national judging of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in New York City. All Golden Key works from across the country will be reviewed by nationally and internationally renowned writers. The Philadelphia Arts and Education Partnership will host the regional award ceremony at the University of the Arts on Saturday, April 14. National winners will be announced at a special ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City on May 31.
LaSorda, who hopes to study musical theater, described her character summary of Marjorie Jones in the short story “Marjorie.”
“Marjorie Jones, a teenager in the 1960s, finds herself seeking out the company of the hippies at her school after her brother is drafted into the war.” LaSorda said. “With the help of these hippies, particularly one named Rebecca, Marjorie is able to find comfort and bloom into the innocent, peace-loving, flower child that she’s always been at heart.
“Although she ends up losing the girl she loves, and is kicked out of her house because she loves a girl, she still manages to stay optimistic, and these events lead her to finding her tribe, or as she would refer to them, her family.”
Below is an excerpt from LaSorda’s awarding winning selection “Marjorie”:
“I am an optimist. I believe in the best of people, and I believe in love. I know someday soon my brother will get back and he will come looking for me. And we will be happy. Maybe while he looks for me he will find Rebecca, and then the three of us, and the rest of the tribe, will show the world that love and acceptance is all you need. Love and acceptance will make this world a better place.”
LaSorda said that her Dad was involved in theatre in high school and college and that both shared a passion for theatre.
Michael Ferrier, Madison’s English teacher, called her “a writer of commanding gifts.”
“When most opportunities for creative writing are greeted with a collective groan, Madison grins from ear to ear,” he said. “Every word in Madison’s writing evinces joy in the process of writing.”