600 Students Awarded Prizes In Creative-Writing
In the stream-of-consciousness, I pan for a nugget of precious thought.--Richard Haney
When the 600 junior- and senior-high-school students who are winners in this year's Scholastic Writing Awards were notified recently, they joined a list of competition winners that includes Sylvia Plath, Bernard Malamud, and Joyce Carol Oates.
This is the 56th year of the competition sponsored by Scholastic Inc., the 61-year-old publishing company that produces the familiar Junior Scholastic and Senior Scholastic magazines.
This year, 20,000 students in grades 7 through 12 entered the competition, the highest number ever, according to Scholastic officials. Their entries were first screened by a network of teachers of writing around the country. Top selections in the 11 categories of writing and age groupings were sent to panels of three judges assigned to each category.
Local teachers act as "co-signers" of the material and are asked to verify that entries are not plagiarized.
Students compete in junior and senior divisions, writing essays, poetry, short stories, short-short stories (600 to 1,300 words), criticial reviews, humor, dramatic scripts, and original songs.
Several awards are given in all categories in the form of scholarships. Other sponsors of the competition, such as Smith-Corona, the International Paper Company, the National Broadcasting Company, and Paper Mate, provide additional prizes.
Richard Maynard, the director of the Scholastic Writing Awards, said that "the writing today is much different from the writing in the past. Writing is much more tied to the media. It's not necessarily about the media, but is dependent on a faster perception."
"We are often asked if the quality has changed over the years, but I don't know whether the quality is up or down," he added.
The winners of the major scholarship awards in the competition were: Kenneth M. Gould Memorial Award for creative writing--Anne Larsen of Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Mich.; Paper Mate Poetry Scholarship--Richard Haney of Phillips-Exeter Academy of Exeter, N.H.; International Paper Company Critical Review Scholarship--Wayne Scott of Dulaney Senior High School in Timonium, Md., and Richard Reese of Mt. Prospect Senior High School in Mt. Prospect, Ill.; National Broadcasting Company, Inc. Dramatic Script Scholarship--Christopher Chiarella of River Dell Regional High School in Oradell, N.J.; National League of American Pen Women Scholarship Grants--Anne Morrow of East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Cara Rowbotham of Lenar Senior High School in Lenar, Ark.--A.H.
Now I know how Van Gogh
Felt when he drowned himself
In yellow. The color drives us insane.
The sun sweats on yellow crows all day,
And crows have yellow eyes!
I know how Van Gogh felt
When he woke one morning
Thinking and seeing yellow everywhere
And in the air
A pinch of saffron.
Goldenrod, black-eyed susans,
Daisies and dandelions--
To understand yellow
You must live it.
The air curls around me
In sulfurous currents.
Van Gogh died in ecstasy
Not depression. He had yellow
Nights the last few days
and the day he walked the field
The Yellow billowed from the wheat
And wrapped him up
Tight as a tortilla.
I want to die like Van Gogh
And the crows,
In a wash of yellow,
Fingers dipped in a bowl of petals
From Cathay, seething lemon juice and curry.
John Schulman, 18 Taylor Allderdice High School Pittsburgh, Pa. First Place Award
Gary scooped up two syringes and handed me a halter.
"Go get that sorrel gelding, the one I asked you to groom this morning," he said, sweeping the hair out of his eyes.
"Do you want him in surgery?" I asked.
"Take him back behind the corrals. There should be a truck out there." He started digging through one of the cabinets next to his desk, looking for a scalpel handle. Finally he found one, the heavy kind he used for jobs that required deep cuts through bone or ligaments. "I'll be out as soon as I find Jeff," he said, heading through the door toward the front of the clinic, twiddling one of the one hundred cc hypos between a thumb and forefinger. He slouched a little, humming as he shuffled along.
I walked out to the small corrals, thankful that I knew the way and didn't have to ask. The clinic was still too new to me, and I was intimidated by its sterility, and the veterinarians in their still white smocks and stethescopes.
The gelding was a lanky horse, with deep blue eyes and tracings of grey hair along his flanks. I had groomed the horse earlier in the day, admiring the quiet way he held himself when I flicked the dirt from his belly and rump. Most horses are not very tolerant of brushing in such sensitive areas. He had a small cowlick on his left shoulder, his neck and ears relaxed as I worked over it. Checking to see that no one was looking, I slid a finger into his mouth and glanced at his teeth as his tongue flopped over my knuckles. I didn't want one of the vets to see me testing my folklore. He was about fourteen, as I was, and it surprised me. Although his eyes were clear and his coat gleamed, he moved with a hesitant quality that usually marked horses twice his age. I didn't know why he was in the clinic. He was a nice animal, probably trained for light jumping or dressage.
As I led him into the field behind the barn, I started to wonder what was going to happen. I could see Gary and his technical assistant making light conversation with a thin man in darkly stained overalls. He had thick, greasy hair that stuck out from the back of a filthy baseball cap. As he spoke, he pushed the hat farther up his forehead, scratched the band of sweaty brown skin under the hatband, and yanked the brim back down over his eyes. A red, slat-sided stock truck was pulled up onto a level place behind him. As I got closer, I caught the smell of something foul and heavy, a kind of penetrating odor that oozed its way down my throat and huddled in my chest. Through the slats of the truck I saw matted pelts, and toward the front of the bed, a cloven hoof stuck out. A dog leg hung from under the tailgate. One of my hands started shaking against the gelding's neck. The rope went slack in my fingers. The horse turned and butted me gently with his muzzle. Absently, I reached back to scratch the swirl of hair on his shoulder.
"Any particular place you want him?" Gary asked the thin man.
"Drop 'im in th' open, he'll be easier to load," the man replied, drawling. "Whenever yer ready, holler," and he ambled over to his truck and leaned against it, picking at his nails with a penknife.
"Bring him over," Gary said, motioning to Jeff to take the lead rope from my numb hands. Jeff led the gelding to a dusty patch of ground littered with small rocks. The horse stood quietly while Gary stroked his sleek neck, Gary's fingers traced the carotid artery. He raised it with his thumb, and slipped one of the needles in. The drug was bright orange, and it did not mix well with the blood Gary drew into the syringe before he started the injection. I wanted to turn away, but I couldn't; my stomach felt hollow and heavy. I wondered if I was going to be sick. I knew what was happening, but I didn't understand it. The gelding swished a fly from his flanks.
After forty cc's the horse began to shift his weight, straining a little against Jeff's objective grip. At sixty cc's, he threw his head up, and stepped back suddenly, his eyes wide and rolling. Gary stopped at eighty cc's, and pulled out the needle. The horse swayed, his ears twitching randomly, and a tremor ran over his flanks. He teetered for a minute before Gary slid in the second hypo.
Ten cc's into the dosage, the gelding's hocks started to weave, then they gave way completely. He looked as though he had reared up, his head swung high with the speed of his fall, his mane was black against the sky. Horses are not clumsy; but when he hit the ground, a resigned, angular heap, he shuddered in the dust with all grace gone, and suddenly I was terrified. The weight of his ribs began to force the air from his lungs in a long, ponderous sigh.
While he was still breathing, Gary stepped forward and took the scalpel out of his pocket. He cut into the horse's left foreleg, slicing across the knee.
"Come here, Anne, I want to show you something," he said, driving the blade in between the cartilage and the ligaments. The bones gleamed filmy yellow, slightly pink from the blood that drained leisurely over them. Gary pulled the ligaments apart, stretched the knee back and open, and reached into the joint to cut out one of the carpel bones. I could see where the bones had tried to grow around a silver pin about two inches long.
"I put that in him about three years ago," he said, scraping over it with the scalpel to clean off the remnants of membrane. "Thought I'd keep it for my files. It was a nice piece of work, but the ol' arthritis got to him before too long. Nice horse, but in a lot of pain." He looked up at me for an acknowledgement.
I looked away from him; my gaze dropped down to the bright wound, then moved over his dusty shoulder, up his neck to his eye. I wondered if it would glaze suddenly when he died, I wondered if he was already dead. For a while the eye looked normal, or a bit emptier than normal. Then an opaque blue mist crept out of the deepest part of the brown. It grew until it filled the eyes, filled the hollowness of the brown. The sunlight stopped shining over the surface of the cornea as it faded into the blue, and began to dull. I was aware that Gary had stood up, I think he touched me on the arm before he walked away, heading for the scrub room. I know I heard him whistling.
Anne Larsen, 17 Interlochen Arts Academy Interlochen, Mich. First Place
An All American Girl? Not So ...
In this short essay, the author discusses racial prejudice and discrimination. The following excerpt begins with a reference to her Chinese parents who came to the U.S. from Taiwan.
They know what it's like to be discriminated against. From experience they know that it hurts. Time after time they have warned us, consoling my sister and me when we come home wounded and discouraged. Since the time we were small children they have told us to be brave, for time heals all wounds.
Strangely enough, within my own family we have a different kind of discrimination. It's between sons and daughters and begins at birth. My parents don't call it discrimination but accept it as a way of thinking that has been handed down from generation to generation in Chinese families. I suppose it is an altered form of sexual discrimination against the female because, as in Caucasian society, a male child is more welcome than a female.
It seems logical. A boy carries the family name and family traditions; a girl doesn't. Thus, when a boy is born there is a jubilant celebration to welcome the new baby. Relatives flock to the house to lavish gifts and good wishes on the new boy in the family. Needless to say, there are more gifts for a boy. They are different ones than those for a baby girl; gifts that symbolize his growth to adulthood, when he will marry and carry on the family name. Money, clothes, and toys pile up. That's what my brother's birth was like.
Naturally I was jealous. I was the oldest child. I couldn't understand why that little wrinkled-up creature in the crib was receiving so much attention. He certainly wasn't much fun. I dimly remembered a smaller party for my younger sister. Why was there a bigger one for this little thing that resembled a large prune? Why was his teddy bear bigger and fluffier than mine was? Why did he get his own room while I shared with my two sisters? These were questions I couldn't answer at nine years of age. Jealous and envious, I spent a large part of my time sulking.
Now that I am older I can understand it better and it doesn't bother me as much any more. My brother is no more loved than my sisters and I are. He is simply more important to the family as a whole because he does carry on the name. I've learned to accept it. After all, such things are hard to alter.
Lee Hwang, 13. Nether Providence High School Wallingford, Pa. First Place Award
At the Stop-Light in Liverpool, Pa.
In front of the Liverpool Glass
Collection Agency: two boys
Pitching bottles into boxes from big
Steel garbage cans, shirts off,
Boys with bad postures, but tanned
Each bottle deliberately shattered
against the next, still a red light--
I was never let to break glass:
Took dead vacuum tubes from the TVs
Set on the sidewalk for the garbage men
And stole away to pop them on brick walls
But they never smashed or chimed,
Just a dull pop. Boys with whittled arms
Sun scattered through their tow hair,
Both wearing green denim dungarees,
Smashing Coke bottles and getting paid.
Talor Allderdice High School Pittsburgh, Pa.
Butterflies have no monopoly on metamorphosis.
On a stagnant pond,
an aspiring mosquito, its legs shaky like a newborn colt's,
is skating on surface tension. The water is like a mirror.
Having momentarily escaped the tyranny of water,
the former larvae waits for the wing's gift--flight.
It will come back, it has to go home again.
In the water, it will lay the eggs of future skaters and flyers.
Richard Haney, 17 Phillips Exeter Academy Exeter, N.H.
The old man was dozing fitfully when he heard the car drive up. He jerked awake and realized with a guilty start that it was 4:00 P.M. That was probably James outside, then. With great effort, he rose from his chair and went to the door. He shaded his eyes against the dazzling brightness of the afternoon sun.
"Hallo, James." The old man clicked his false teeth and smiled.
"Hi, Dad." James sank wearily onto the step.
"How's Joey and Marge?" The old man smiled as he sat down by James. He had such a nice family.
"They're all right." James seemed so evasive--almost determined to avoid any type of conversation. The old man sighed and gave one last try.
"Where's yore bags? Ain'tcha gonna stay this time?"
James paused a moment before answering. "No." He seemed to be trying to avoid the old man's questioning gaze as he continued. "Listen, I got you a place fixed up near my house where you can stay so I can keep an eye on you. It's real nice. What do you think about that?" His eyes looked eagerly at the old man. "I just came up here today to get you. I want to leave in a couple of hours."
The old man stared in surprise; the suggestion came as a shock to him. Leave? How could he ever leave? This place was his home--his life--to live anywhere else was incomprehensible. He cleared his throat to speak. "Well, that's mightly nice of ya, James, but I reckon I'll stay here. Got to take care of the place, ya know. Farm that's not taken care of--it'll grow up. The scrub'll take over an' it won't be fit for nothin'." He smiled as his mind retreated back through the span of time that had passed since he had first set foot on his land. He remembered all the work he had done to clear the farm--just a tiny nook in the immense mountainside. He remembered how he had sweated--strained--to dig out the huge rocks that had littered his fields. All those trees he had cut ...
James' voice broke into the old man's reverie. The eagerness had been replaced by annoyance. "Listen, Dad. I know you love this farm. But, Dad, I can't be coming up here all the time to make sure you're all right. I've got a family of my own to take care of."
"I'm all right," the old man muttered. "I can take care of myself."
James snorted. "Take care of yourself? Not hardly! Why, just look at you! You've probably been wearing those clothes since last week and last time I came, there wasn't hardly any food left in the kitchen. You can't take care of yourself, much less the farm!"
The old man had to blink back the tears. James had no right to say that. His eyes wandered over the farm, taking in the shapes and colors--the soft fawn color covering the recently mowed field, the strong green of the pine stand ...
James' voice softened. "Look, I know you'll miss the farm, but I'll bring you back to visit and to make sure everything's OK." His eyes narrowed. "But you're coming with me. I can't leave you in this God-forsaken place to die!" James stopped. The old man's eyes were staring off in to space. James laid a hand on the old man's knee.
"Dad, remember that little old glass ornament Ma used to have? The little horse? You're just like that--old and fragile. You deserve to be taken care of." The old man still stared off into the distance. James sighed. "Look, I'm tired. I'm gonna take a nap before the trip back." He disappeared into the house.
The old man just sat for a long time. The sun slid across the porch, striking the curved railings, finding every crack and crevice. It embraced the house as an old friend, warming the weathered walls as it had for years. The old man stared at the warm light as it climbed farther and farther up the door. He finally got up and walked into the house.
The sun filtered through the open doorway, dimly lighting the stone hearth.
"I can't leave here," he thought. His fingers absently picked up an ornament from the mantle. A glass ornament. Old and fragile. James' words came back to him--"Remember that little glass ornament--the little horse--you're just like that--you deserve to be taken care of." The old man caught his breath. Here it was! James was wrong--no one had looked at it in years--it had been neglected but it was still intact! The old man rubbed the graceful curves of the tiny horse with his dirt-stained fingers. The screen door squeaked a warning as he walked out. No one would take him away--not ever!
The summer sun was still flaming, lighting the day with a last brilliant burst of orange when James awoke. There wasn't a sound in the house; the old man was probably asleep. James walked through the house calling, but only silence answered him. Then he saw the open door, and the empty space where the walking cane usually stood. He ran outside. "Dad! Where are you?" he yelled, and heard his words bounce back from the mountainside. He thought he saw a movement down by the creek--his face went white. He ran down the hill.
The old man heard James coming and tried to hurry. The stones were loose and uneven, but he didn't think of falling--just getting away. If he could just make it to the fishing boat ... one more step. ... He dropped the cane into the boat and started to step in. Just at that moment, James grabbed him, knocking him to the ground. He sat up, dazed, staring into James' relieved face. The relief changed swiftly to fury.
"What do you think you're doing? You could have been killed! You're not strong enough to steer that boat. It's probably rotted through, too, sitting out here all these years. ..." He was almost screaming as he dragged the old man to his feet. Still shaking with rage, he got the cane out of the boat and started up the hill.
The old man hobbled along behind James. He put his hand into his pocket. When he pulled his hand out, the glass horse lay in his palm, shattered into dozens of tiny pieces. He stopped, and as one last feeble shaft of sunlight split the twilight, he slowly let the sparkling bits of glass trickle through his fingers onto the warm earth.
Cara Rowbotham Lamar High School Lamar, Ark.
In this short short story, it is a hot summer day on the beach and Paul, having drunk too much beer, is painfully aware of his adolescence and the changes in his body. He is wakened from a nap to join friends playing frisbee, and he is dizzy and confused. The frisbee sails over his head, and he runs to the edge of a tidal pool to retrieve it.
The water in the pool was murky and sand colored. A dead minnow was floating on the surface, silver and limp and lifeless. Its glassy, vacant eye seemed to be staring at Paul. He picked up the fish and held it in the palm of his hand.
He thought of an August afternoon seven years ago, when his parents had taken him to Old Saybrook Beach on the Connecticut shore. Thousands of dead minnows had been washed up onto the beach--their torpedo-shaped bodies had formed a neat silver line running parallel to the water's edge. He remembered well the fishy smell of salt and carrion. He had fished through a trashcan on the beach and had found an empty peanut butter jar, which he had packed with dead minnows and stashed behind the spare tire in the trunk of his father's car. He had forgotten all about the fish until a hot, muggy day several weeks later, when his father asked him to clean out the trunk of the car. The minnows had been right where he had left them, but they had shed their silver scales, their tiny black eyes had fallen from their sockets, and the water Paul had packed them in had turned cloudy and brown. Paul remembered how he had dropped the glass jar, which had caused him to vomit into the trunk of the car. He couldn't remember cleaning up the mess--his mother had probably done that.
Paul throws the frisbee toward his friends with all his strength and it soars over their heads into the waves fifty yards from the shore.
He plunged into the icy surf and started swimming towards the frisbee. He could see it bobbing like a buoy on the crests of the waves ahead of him. At first, his strokes were rhythmic and measured, his body taut and powerful, his kicks even. Minnows swim like this, he thought.
But as he glanced at the frisbee, he saw that it was moving out to sea and away from him. He swam faster, but he quickly tired and his side began to ache with a sharp, twisting pain. He slowed, stopped, and floated on his back. The frisbee was being carried away with the tide. He did not care--it was beyond him now to try to retrieve it. He floated on his back, gazing up at the cloudless blue sky. He thought that he could hear Judy calling "Paul! Paul!" from the shore, but he didn't respond. He floated feeling the enveloping coolness of the sea around him and the warmth of the sun on his upturned face. His submerged ears were filled with the sea's watery murmurings. He closed his eyes.
Patrick Ward, 17 Stoneham High School Stoneham, Mass. First Place Award
The following is an excerpt from a short essay, in which the author describes his grandfather, a judge, who he once viewed as "an idol worthy of imitation," before coming to see age "deplete him to the semblance of a common mortal."
Clocks were his greatest passion. In the background of my oldest memories of his house I might hear the incessant ticking of clocks. He owned them in all shapes and sizes, and if any of them stopped ticking he was the first to notice it. In his younger years he might have corrected the malfunction personally, but as he grew older he had a marked tendency for asking others to do his clockwork. Knowing the correct time was simply another part of his love for organization; I have a theory that whenever one of his clocks failed, he began to feel the insecurities of having an outside force dominate his life, as if the vast workings of his self reliance were breaking down. He still had that conquering spirit of the frontiersman, and organizing all the disorganized elements of house and home was simply another conquest. To him complacency was having all variables held constant, all factors of resistance tamed, and hearing all of his clocks chime in unison at the hour's end.
At his grandfather's wake shortly afterward, the author ponders death.
I remember asking him once if he was afraid of dying. He told me no, and he never gave me any reason to disbelieve that answer--except for one instant. It was when I could not fully accept the fact that his heart had stopped. I looked into his eyes and called out to him. He never answered me, but I could swear that he looked at me for just a moment. He had that same amazed look in his eye that I had seen when I found him unable to rise out of his chair that evening. It was that same kind of fear that he felt when one of his clocks malfunctioned."
Alan Cullison, 18 Stamford High School Stamford, Conn. First Place Award
Hunting last winter,
you tripped a skunk set;
three days later you slipped free.
Now grace travels the world
on three legs. You cleanse yourself,
glowing from your purr
and the work of your tongue.
You eat close to the ground,
tail curled around the hollow
below your weightless hip.
Crossing wet grass
you step one by one by one,
tip your ears back.
You watch grasshoppers,
hold still until they land
within reach of one leap.
You rest with paws
tucked under, your face
round above your chest.
You sleep in sunlight.
Anne Larsen, 17 Interlochen Arts Academy Interlochen, Mich. First Place Award
... I could feel such anguish as must lie unuttered in the hearts of far-ranging birds, the weight of visions draped over their delicate bones. On the sandy rise behind the pond a magpie died.
He must have lain in state, his wings flat under the sky, perfect, until the ants picked him dry. I keep the three cleanest wing feathers, the sequence of whiteacross the primaries. The bones are hollow, with webbedchambers where a thin wraith of wind moves. I pickup both thigh bones, the left one is shattered halfwaydown. Flat ribs arch like ribbons from the spine tothe sky, shards of breast bone still cling to some ofthem. There is no grace like this ivory. In it I feelthe blur' of the bird's heart, the heat of it flying,the quick light in opalescent eyes. The sun is higher now, walking home with the feathersand bones a wash of burning cirrus captures my eyes. Itear away, afterimages sear across the backs of my eyelids.Yesterday they cut hay here, the paths of grass lead mefrom furrow to furrow and a rooster calls from the farmhouse.I look up, watching clouds swell into amber, tears begin,I look back to the fields. A flock of starlings rises fromthe cottonwoods by the road. It sweeps under the sky like ahand, shifting across the sun.My eyes are worth every color there.
Anne Larsen, 17 Interlochen Arts Academy Interlochen, Mich. First Place Award