As the founders of the Teen Writing Center (TWC) explored what resources exist in the area, we talked to local high school teachers across the county. Every teacher was excited to have some support for their young writers. Most high school English classes are workhorses, core curriculum driven by standardized testing, designed to expose students to Western Literature and further their use of the English language.
Creative writing classes are the closest thing to the study of writing as an art that a teen can hope for in most high schools. Without standardized testing to drive and fund them, creative writing classes are optional for schools and students. Think of what we provide in most schools for other art programs. Usually more than one teacher offering one class, one semester a year. Our local high schools have varying degrees of programs for writers as artists, depending on funding and staffing and student interest.
We are looking for current programs in order to make them more visible, more available, striving not to replicate existing structure. There are few opportunities in Charlottesville for a young writer to perform, to publish, to send their voice out into the world. One such opportunity is in publication. There is nothing like the feeling of holding in your hands a journal or book with your words published inside. Much like placing a painting in a gallery show, like playing in a concert, a play, publishing your words is a public expression of your talent, your chance to see what the world makes of your voice.
The anticipation of submitting your work to any organization is a writer’s reality, and one we want to encourage and support our youth to be comfortable with. Contests are a common way to award and publish new authors.
In our exploration of the local resources, I was asked by Charlotte Wood of Albemarle High School (AHS) to help her locate a place for her writing students to submit their senior portfolios for competition, in preparation for college applications. These are passionate, dedicated young writers in the only school we have found that has built a creative writing program over time. Most other schools have a creative writing class, but AHS is the furthest along.
The Scholastic Writing Award is the longest running, most prestigious competition and largest source of scholarships for creative teenag writers in the United States. The Awards program was created in 1923 by Maurice R. “Robbie” Robinson, founder of Scholastic Corporation, and has been administered by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers since 1994. It has an impressive legacy and a noteworthy roster of past winners including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, and Joyce Carol Oates and many others.
Students submitting to the national award are competing with the rest of the nation. There is, however, the potential for a Regional Affiliation. The TWC is in conversations with Scholastic and several area organizations to determine what it would take to establish a regional affiliation in Charlottesville for the Scholastic Writing Award.