This year, I'm focusing LikeWise posts on opportunities for teen artists, writers and readers to showcase their talents. I'm starting with The Scholastic Art and Writing Scholarships. Established in 1923, it gives senior high students access to over $3.5 million in scholarships from local institutions and $10,000 individual scholarships at the national level. Silver medal awardees can earn $1000, and selected works will be featured in the National Catalog and The Best Teen Writing anthology.
Students from grade 7 through 12 can apply for awards in twenty-two diverse categories, from comic art and sculpture to flash fiction and novel writing. Anyone enrolled in a North American educational system can apply, including home schoolers and those attending American or Canadian schools abroad. Students are encouraged to explore topics freely. No work will be excluded because of content.
Contest deadlines vary by region and there's a handy form to determine your deadline on the website. When I typed in my zip code, it said the deadline in my area for the 2016 awards was December of last year. But the contest for 2017 opens for everyone in September. That gives you plenty of time to dream up a new project or polish one you've already created. In the meantime, check out previous winners on their website and get inspired on their blog. And if that's not enough to stoke your artistic fire, check out this video of the 2015 award ceremony. Wow, oh, wow. They really know how to honor.
I love learning. School learning, book learning, workshops, hand-me-down knowledge, if you're teaching something I'm passionate about, the loading dock in my brain is eager to receive it. Studying craft is vitally important to developing my art and no matter how accomplished I get, I never want to stop growing.
But all that learning can interfere with the creative process, especially if you're a perfectionist like me. When the voices in your head won't let you write a sentence without nagging . . .
Do you really need that adjective?
Shouldn't there be a comma there?
You're using the word just again?
When you doubt the book before the first draft of the first chapter is written . . .
Hasn't this story already been penned by someone who did it brilliantly?
My version will never live up to theirs.
When messages about syntax, character arcs and pacing interfere with the creative stream, it's time to pack all that learning in a box and shove it behind a locked door in your brain.
I've been reading books on writing by James Scott Bell (yes, yes, more learning). He talks about the single most powerful element in good fiction being the joy the writer brings to telling the story. That jolted my artistic heart. I thought about all the books I love, about how from the first word, I feel I'm sitting with a powerful storyteller. Their joy in writing that tale sings from the pages.
After reading Bell's words, memories rose of getting so lost while drawing or painting, the world around me disappeared and I'd lose track of time. The first couple years of writing, my stories came like that. Creativity erupted whenever a quiet moment occurred and was stoppered only long enough to take care of life. Then I learned HOW TO WRITE and HOW MUCH I DIDN'T KNOW. All that learning slowly smothered my creativity.
So my one and only new year's resolution is to rediscover the joy in my art. It's not easy shutting out lessons once you've learned them. But I'm hoping to do that and if you're feeling stifled, I encourage you to do the same. You can invite those critical voices back when you finish the first draft. They'll be more than happy to help you polish and shine. That's the best part about learning, it's there when you need it.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist, and I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti at Open Book Literary.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor