South Students Unlock the Door to Scholastic Awards

By Celina Sun
The nation’s longest-running arts awards program, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, has been recognizing creative teens and their works since 1923. Offering 28 different art and writing categories—ranging from Drawing and Poetry to Video Games and Journalism—the program gives seventh through twelfth graders the opportunity to submit their works for regional judging. Submissions are judged on their originality, technical skill, and presence of a vision or voice by a panel expert in the evaluated category. The various levels of the awards consist of Honorable Mention, Silver Key, and Gold Key. Those who receive a Regional Gold Key are considered for a National Medal.
Senior Zarak K. and sophomore Michelle Yang have gone on to receive national recognition. Their works will be featured in Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ online gallery and will be considered for national exhibition and publication.

Sophomore Michelle Yang writes her way to gold

“My inspiration just comes to me—in visions,” said sophomore Michelle Yang. “That’s how I write,” she laughs. “Every morning I sit in the corner, rock back and forth, have visions, and I record them—”
More laughter.
“—just kidding, I’m not insane.”
Yang began to write poetry outside of school in seventh grade, and now, Yang’s interest and talent earned her a gold medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her collection of poems, “Winter Girl,” “Not that’d You Even Notice Me,” and “So I Could Write Something Worth Reading.”
“No one person really motivated me,” Yang said, “but I did have one friend who wrote really well, and I wanted to write as well as her.”
Inspired in many ways, Yang sometimes just thinks of ideas: “I write down the words that come to my head and go back to revise after,” she said.
Other times, Yang bases her poetry on works done by other writers. For “Winter Girl” in particular, Yang was influenced by Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. “I liked the idea of embodying winter,” Yang said, “although I think my poem is more about shyness. ‘So I Could Write Something Worth Reading’ was also kind of a response to how female characters are portrayed in Young Adult novels.”
Yang found out about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in ninth grade, while walking through the art hall. “I saw a poster about it on the wall and thought ‘I should enter that,’” she said.
Along with her three poems, Yang also submitted a short story to the Awards, which received a Silver Key. “I actually like writing short stories better than poetry,” Yang said. “I would have preferred for my short story to win— although its ending could have been better— but nevertheless, I am happy to receive this award.”
Winter Girl
By Michelle Yang
Her wrists poke out– too skinny.
Hands like translucent spiders, she’s
awkward, cold, unused to
the warmth of the hearth and the
heat of heartbeats, sending her
fleeing to the frigid forests of
subdued colors that
sigh against her vision
comfort her with their anonymous familiarity
like a faceless acquaintance, forgotten.
She likes the snow; it’s her version of rain since
she can’t bring herself to
cry, like us; feeble, like us.
Glance at me, winter girl. Our gazes
bumping like drunk moths
across the room, your skin ashen.
You look so weak. Like a
wisp of smoke from a smothered candle
by a child’s stray breath.
Grasp my hand
when I offer. There’s a door for everyone,
even you. You don’t
have to stay cold forever.
she stays, smiling sadly—wistfully?
A blizzard is coming
clouds rolling, skies darkening, winds biting.
And she’s in the middle of it all, still there,
clinging like the tears she refuses to shed
even now. She
likes the cold.
She’s winter after all.