December 5, 2008

Kid Writers Take the Mic

Posted by at 4:49 pm in Reads | Permalink

Shortly before Thanksgiving, new blogger Robert and I got to go to a really cool reading here in New York. The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers: The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards teamed up with the Housing Works Bookstore Café and Writopia Lab to have an open mic reading of young people's work. And it was unbelievable.

"But wait!" I already hear some of you saying. "The who? They did what? And where?" Well, I'll break it down for you like this:

Artandwriting 007In 1923, Scholastic started the Art & Writing Awards to give young artists and writers the chance to get their voice out there and be published. In 1923, they got seven submissions. Last year, they received over 100,000 submissions from artists and writers in grades 7-12. (If you fall in that grade range and are interested in entering, you can find all the info you need found on their website: Artists and writers are recognized on a local and national level, winning recognition and scholarships. Plus they join the prestigious ranks of past winners, which includes Richard Avedon, Joyce Maynard, Tom Otterness, Philip Pearlstein, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Andy Warhol, and Zac Posen.

The Art & Writing Awards are managed by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and they just published The Best Teen Writing of 2008, a book with the winners from last year's awards (see above). And to celebrate they had an open mic night at the Housing Works Bookstore Café, which is a nonprofit used bookstore that puts all of its proceeds towards support and services for homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.

The open mic was co-hosted by Writopia Lab, which is a workshop program for young writers in New York. In 2008, Writopia Lab students won more national awards from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards than did any other group of students in the whole country.

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Now, despite the fact that it's right around the corner from Scholastic (and that Gossip Girls filmed there once), I had never checked out the Housing Works Bookstore Café before. So when Robert and I walked over, I was delighted to find a cute little bookshop. (They even had everyone's favorite wizard on the shelves of the children's section.) In the back, there was an area set up for the reading with rows of chairs (and cookies and brownies for snacks). And you could already tell it was going to be good.

The readers ranged in age from 11 to 17, guys and girls, former winners and first time entrants. And their work covered a range of categories — poetry, journalism, memoirs, and short stories — all of which blew me away, they were so good. I would tell you about it, but I don't have to. We took video so you can see for yourself:

Victoria, age 12, reading a short story:

Angelica, reading a poem:

Olivia, age 11, reading a short story:

Ena, age 13, reading a journalism piece:

Sarah, age 16, reading a poem:

There were eleven readers total, and each one was better than the last!

— Carly H., STACKS Staffer