Scholastic Writing Awards Opportunities - Mrs. Serbicki´s 2016 Student Award Showcase
AP English Literature, Lilianna Meldrum Serbicki
Every year I encourage my students to take advantage of the opportunities the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards offers. The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization, identifies teens with artistic and literary talent and brings their work to a regional and national audience through The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Each year, the Alliance partners with more than 100 regional affiliates across the country to bring the program to local communities. Students in grades 7 through 12 can apply in 28 categories of art and writing for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published. These categories include memoir, nonfiction essay, short story, science fiction, poetry, humor, and more!
Achievement in Scholastic is not a “pie in the sky” goal – over the past few years, my students (including students in all courses) have won 12 Silver Keys and 10 Gold Keys.
While the primary group I encourage to submit to Scholastic is my Creative Writing course, my AP Literature and Language students have experienced great success as well. This past school year (2015-2016), two of my current AP Literature students shone brightly in Scholastic. I’d like to share their stories to encourage others to take advantage of this great opportunity!
David Heagy, who has taken both my AP Language and AP Literature courses (currently finishing AP Lit 2015-2016), shares about both AP classes’ role in his writing growth:
“Mrs Serbicki’s AP English Language and AP English Literature classes have been among the most valuable classes of my high school years. They helped me develop as a writer, exposed me to great works of literature, and steered the development of my rhetorical and analytical skills. Additionally, both courses helped me achieve good ACT and SAT II scores.
I used my midterm in AP English Language as a reference for my Scholastic Art and Writing awards entry and won a Gold Key for critical essay writing that year. The Gold Key award qualified me for scholarship eligibility in competitive summer writing programs. It was a great summer as I attended two prestigious writing programs on full scholarship (over $1000 worth) with intensives in poetry and fiction. The following fall, my AP Literature work inspired another critical essay which won a honorable mention, and the two essays formed the nucleus of my Scholastic Writing Portfolio Entry. I won a Gold Key in that category in the very competitive region of New York City. I believe those awards as well as my grades in these specific classes were critical assets in my college applications as a homeschooler. I was admitted to all three of my college choices: a full ride at a public Honors College and 2 tip top Ivy League Universities. Her encouragement and criticism was invaluable.”
Our AP Literature midterm project is developed over multiple drafts and planning stages; a close planning process allows students to create a truly inventive and polished final product. It's a great term paper experience, and I encourage students to take our suggested topics in a direction they feel passionate about. David’s midterm essay for AP Literature was a comparison and contrast piece analyzing Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Throne of Blood and the classic play which inspired it, Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Here’s a short excerpt from his paper discussing the tense human drama of these stories:
"In exploring the struggle between duty and selfish ambition both pieces have unique perspectives. Throne of Blood presents the Great Lord arriving at Lord Washizu’s abode giving him charge over his vanguard army and Miki control over forces in Spider’s Web Castle. Washizu is convinced that the Tsuzuki completely trusts him. Why else would he give him this authority over his noble vanguard forces? The ever-scheming Asaji deduces it is because it is the most vulnerable to enemy attacks. By giving him command of the vanguard forces and Miki command of the Spider’s Web Castle, the Great Lord is sending his true councilor, Miki, to safety while sending Washizu into harm’s way, hoping that he will be slain in battle.
Both scenes signify important differences and similarities between the film and play’s important main characters. Macbeth and Washizu differ in terms of motivations and coping with their growing ambitions. On the one hand, Shakespeare’s protagonist has, to some degree, accepted that he has a dark lust for power. By privately describing Duncan’s son, Malcolm, as a “step” standing between him and the throne, he indicates that his “black and deep” desire (Shakespeare, I, iv) has a powerful desensitizing effect. Also, in a self-discovering soliloquy, Macbeth eventually realizes he has no real motivation to kill King Duncan except his “vaulting ambition” (Shakespeare, I, vii) and has plenty of reasons not to kill him, including the fact that the king is righteous and loved by all. On the other hand, Kurasawa’s samurai general outwardly refuses to accept that he has any hunger for power, which is a lie. His self-deception is fueled by the requisite samarai honor and loyalty to his Great Lord, characteristic of the bushido code that thrived during Sengoku Period. “A true samurai would fight fearlessly for his master.” (Lester, 8) This element presents an intense inner struggle when pitted against the record of Tsuzuki’s previous treachery and the demon’s prophecy of his fate. Asaji’s cool persistence seals his dark descent as she hands him a spear. Despite their different feelings and inner thoughts, Macbeth and Washizu both struggle to honor their sworn allegiances but fall victim to their appetites for advancement and power."
David is not the only AP Literature student to find great success in Scholastic this year!
Amanda Chang, a 2014-2015 AP English Language and 2015-2016 AP English Literature student, has also achieved highly. This year she chose the fiction option for her midterm project. The midterm fiction option is an alternative to the standard midterm literary analysis paper; in this option, students are able to write a short story expanding on a theme, setting, or issue, or literary element found in a work we studied. This was Amanda’s goal:
"I plan to write a short story containing the same theme of social rank found in Persuasion and A Room with a View. In India today, society still remains divided into various classes. The Dalits are at the very bottom of the caste system and face discrimination and injustice because of their birth. Upper caste members refuse to associate themselves with Dalits or even touch the same dishes or serving utensils a Dalit has touched. Dalits are the outcasts of Indian society, and this discrimination based solely on social class has deprived them of food, water, and adequate shelter. Many are mistreated physically and emotionally and do not have the same access to justice through police or India’s court system as the rest of the population. Even today, social class is still a huge issue in various countries around the world and exists as a barrier today, not just hundreds of years ago in England."
Her final product, a short story titled “Turning Pottery Shards into Hope,” inspired a Scholastic entry which earned a regional gold key. It contains compelling imagery and a moving individual story; choosing to write a fictional story allowed her to incorporate the elements we’ve studied (plot structure, narrative perspective, figurative language, tone, characterization, and more) in a significant and meaningful way. Here’s an excerpt:
"A mug erupts into broken shards of pottery, and the room falls silent, tumbling through space and time without a sound. The world has closed its eyes, and all one can hear is the tick tock of its giant heartbeat. Tea dribbles down the torn wallpaper of the crowded shop, and within a six-foot radius, slivers of jagged ceramic adorn the wood floor. The tension in the room is full, ripe, pregnant, like a balloon swelling with air, stretched to near bursting. Then one man raises his cup, self-consciously taking a sip, and the silence snaps.
Dr. Vinod Sonkar abruptly stands, golden rays through the grimy window illuminating his heavy set brows and eyes almost as piercingly sharp as the pottery. Striding to the counter, he throws down a handful of rupees and brusquely leaves, the coins spinning and clinking, his boots thumping sharply upon the wooden floor, the room full of a thousand eyes. And for a split second, the men’s gaze lingers upon the broad back of Vinod Sonkar, pausing to wonder at the significance of the moment, one in 260 million rejecting oppression, demanding justice. But no, this simply is the cultural norm, a prevalent standard of normal, everyday living, and so the men turn back to their limpid tea, recommencing their gossipy chatter."
As you can see, Scholastic welcomes a wide variety of genres and styles! Want to find out more about the writing categories and submission details? Click here to view Scholastic’s main site.
When are the yearly Scholastic due dates? Due dates are typically between December 15 and January 15, depending on what region you are in (some regions run earlier or later). You can search for your region on the website.
How do I know if I am eligible? To be eligible, students must be in grades 7-12 in a public, private, parochial, home-school, or out of school program in the U.S. or Canada, or in an American school abroad. If you have any questions, you can email Scholastic directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to find out more about AP Literature? Check out my in-depth course description! In addition, feel free to email me at email@example.com at any time with questions.
Click here to see other class showcases