I am sitting here tonight feeling proud. I have all my Scholastic entries in for my students – a total of 25 – and the packet is on its way to New York City as I write. It will arrive by noon tomorrow at the Scholastic offices, a full day ahead of the deadline.
Wow. That is a first. In past years, I’ve literally been stuffing the big envelope with entries as Ray was wheeling through traffic to get me to a FedEx office. Then there was the year that I discovered that the FedEx office I had been counting on to get my entry there on time – I had called and asked exactly when their last pick-up was – forgot to mention that the last pick-up for New York was a full 2 hours earlier, and, so sorry, that was the last one for today. That was the year I had to call the New York office and beg forgiveness, which they granted, by the way, for my unfortunate timing.
The Scholastic Artists and Writers contest has been around since the 1920s and has winners that have long since become household names. Truman Capote and Joyce Carol Oates are both Scholastic winners, for example, along with Robert Redford, Alan Arkin, Ken Burns, and Richard Linklater, among others. The gold winners are honored at Carnegie Hall and I’ve had two gold winners over the years. That experience in that hall in that faraway city is about as close to a pinnacle as one can reach, whether as a writer or as a teacher. So, there’s a reason I’ve called the Scholastic office in the past and begged forgiveness for my bad planning.
The best part of the Scholastic contest for me and my students is the clear purpose it provides for writing. Knowing the contest comes once a year provides a clear goal for my students. They often submit every year they are with me as writers so they use that deadline as motivation. Even if a prize doesn’t come from Scholastic, excellent stories, poems, and essays have been written that can be submitted elsewhere.
For this round, it took me about 8 hours to get all the submissions formatted correctly and all the paperwork filled in. One wouldn’t think 25 entries would take that long, but there is still a lot more paperwork for Scholastic than perhaps needs to be there. Three signatures for each form may just be a little paperwork heavy…
Alas, all is well tonight. The stories are edited and uploaded and the forms are all filled out and the US post office is performing the overnight honors this time round. That is just fine.
It’s time to sit back, rest and to wait. Fingers are crossed, though my students don’t need a contest to declare their writing superlative. They have me for that. I realize I may be biased, but I am a fair judge. I can’t help it if they are all very strong writers. They have worked their tushies off to produce these pieces so they have earned the title.
A little talent never hurt either, of course.
Congratulations to all my fine writers. You deserve your time off for winter break. Rest, relax and recuperate. After all, after the New Year, we’ll need to get to writing again. There’s another deadline looming off in the future. We will have work to do again soon enough.