The prestigious Scholastic Writing Awards are a great opportunity for young writers to submit their best pieces and get recognized by highly acclaimed writers. In the Northeast Region-at-Large Competition, five Jamesville-DeWitt High School students won various awards. Evan Jaglal (‘22) received a Gold Key for his poem “Gate D, You May Begin Boarding” and will advance to the national competition. Silver Key winners included David Scibilia (‘22) for his humor piece titled “iShirt” and Connie Zhang (‘23) for her poems “Ode To R-guh: I’m Always There” and “English Growing Up.” Students that received Honorable Mentions were Madie Phillips (‘23) for her poem “Broken Perfection” and Sasha Fagelman (‘24) for her poem “Trying To Write a Poem.” Each of these students had different motives and inspirations for submitting and writing their pieces and gave advice to aspiring writers.
When asked what made each writer want to submit their work to Scholastic, they all agreed it was a great opportunity to display their writing skills for people to read and enjoy. Zhang explained that it also felt good as a writer to earn recognition for something you have worked so hard on. Phillips also said that even if you don’t get any awards, it is still a good experience if you want to advance in writing.
All writers draw inspiration from different sources, and when asking the writers about their greatest motives for writing and how they came up with their ideas, it was really interesting to see how a simple idea turns into an amazing piece. In Zhang’s piece “English Growing Up,” she observed the difference between the language in Romeo and Juliet and the abbreviations and slang we use when talking today. She wrote her piece “Ode To R-Guh” as an ode to her other brothers who she doesn’t get to see all the time and based it off pictures of them when they were younger. She didn’t initially think that it would win any awards because of the little things in the story that only her and her brothers would understand. Phillips said that her inspiration came from looking through life in a less literal and more creative lens. Jaglal wrote his poem about an event in his life that occurred while he was waiting for a plane to Tanzania for a family trip. His piece shows that anything can spark inspiration to write an amazing story. Scibilia took a more satirical approach and focused on what he considers the immoral practices of the Apple company.
In all the writing pieces, there were parts that each writer was particularly proud of, whether it was the use of characterization in Scibilia’s piece or the figurative language used by Phillips. Zhang also expressed how she loved incorporating different slang terms in her poem. But with many favorite lines, there also were hard parts in the writing process. Overall, the writers explained that the hardest part of writing an award-winning piece is simply getting started. “Once I find a topic I want to explore, the words come out a little more fluidly and I can get in a groove,” said Phillips. Making words flow together is definitely not an easy task for writers, but it pays off in great ways. Jaglal said that the biggest challenge when writing his piece was remembering each event correctly and giving the poem structure since it was free verse.
Being recognized among such a large group of students across the northeastern United States made the writers feel proud of their work after working so hard. “It’s quite an honor, considering how I’ve wanted a Gold Key since 9th grade,” said Jaglal when reminiscing about what this award meant to him.
Reading these pieces as an aspiring writer may make one question, how do I get to this level? Well here is some advice from the writers themselves to students who want to advance in writing. Zhang said that “if you ever get any inspiration at all, even the slightest bit, I suggest writing it down somewhere…Sometimes it’s just that small action of have a list of ideas somewhere that can trigger everything you need in your mind to write a truly beautiful writing piece.” Phillips’ biggest piece of advice was to “search for the things in life you’re passionate about and express all those emotions through words…when a spark comes, go with it and I’m sure you’ll write something great that you’ll be proud of.” Scibilia wanted to tell young writers to “continue writing their crazy stories, nothing great has been a copy of something else already out there.” This piece of advice goes a long way for creative minds who have original ideas waiting to be shared. And finally, Gold Key winner Jaglal’s advice for aspiring writers is to make sure you know your audience. If you are submitting into a writing contest, read through the judging criteria and ask other people to look over your work.
Read the award winning pieces here: