Judging the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: Writing

Katy Thompson, Children’s Education Associate

This Sunday, February 17, emerging artists and writers from Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio will descend upon the University of St. Francis’ Robert Golds tine Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne for our Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Regional Ceremony. The Regional Ceremony, which honors students in grades 7-12, is the culmination of a month’s long process of creating, editing, submitting, judging, awarding, and notifying. While Award recipients are recognized in a multitude of ways, including through exhibition, publication, and scholarship; the preparation of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards often goes unnoticed.

Last week, we spotlighted the collaborative effort between students, parents, teachers, museum staff, interns, and volunteers to make the Scholastic Art & Writing Exhibition a reality. Before we have an exhibition, however, students have to submit their creative works to the competition to be judged by panels of artists and writers. Jurors consider three criteria when judging student works: emergence of a personal vision or voice, technical skill, and originality.

Artists descended upon the art museum on a Saturday in January to judge art works in person, spending their whole day looking, discussing, and voting. Writing judges, however, accessed their works online and, therefore, can live anywhere; spending a weekend judging works from the comfort of their home or favorite coffee shop. To learn more about our judges and how they found out about the opportunity to participate in the Awards, read on!

In this post, we are spotlighting writing judge Lilian Tauber, a PhD student in Government and International Affairs at Durham University in Durham, United Kingdom. She reads her assigned works from the comfort of her flat in the UK, using it as a break from writing her dissertation for her PhD.

How did you hear about judging? Were you familiar with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards before participating as a judge?

My friend Katy Thompson told me about it. I did not participate in the Awards, or even anything similar to it, as a teen, unfortunately.

What category do you judge and why did you choose to judge?

I judged Critical Essay this year and last year. I’m a PhD student, so I’m involved in learning and teaching in addition to my research. I truly believe that education is a great way to create positive change in the world, so when I heard about the opportunity to judge the Scholastic Awards, which promote student academics and creativity, I knew I wanted to be involved. I also believe that my academic skills should not be reserved only for the university environment, so this is one way for me to share my expertise in a voluntary way for a cause I believe in.

As a judge, what criteria do you hold to be most important?

For me, the ‘emergence of a personal voice’ is most important. Many people can write essays, but those with a personal touch stand out. They really ‘sing’ for me.

Writing Award recipients are published in paperback and hardcover books, whose cover art features work by awarded artists! Parker van Osdale, Brain Matter: The Art of Dissociation. Grade 12, Homestead High School. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

What is the easiest and most difficult part of judging young writers work?

The hardest part is wanting to give everyone a good score, because each submission is great in its own way, but knowing that I must judge some submissions as better than others. The easiest part is reading the submissions. I really enjoy reading the students’ opinions on a variety of subjects from literature to contemporary social issues. It is so interesting to find out how they view the world. I find it invigorating to get a small glimpse into the thoughts of today’s young adults.

How do you think the Scholastic Awards impact young creative teens?

It gives young adults a chance to be heard and/or seen, which could be a powerful way for them to realize their own potentials. It also provides them an opportunity, in a competitive environment, to really hone their skills and create something they are proud of.

What do you hope students take away from entering the Scholastic Awards (whether or not they receive an award)?

I hope they realize they are all winners in a way. I was never brave enough in high school to enter any kind of competition. These students have surely overcome various challenges in this process, whether that was writers’ block or anxiety or feeling a bit of impostor syndrome. I hope they know afterwards that they are brave and talented individuals with thoughts and ideas very much worth sharing!

An image showing the writing excerpts stickered and hung on a wall in the exhibition.
Writing Award recipients are recognized with printed excerpts of their work in the exhibition. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

What do you take away from judging the competition?

It always makes me wish I had participated in something similar as a young adult. I think that for students this could be an important part of their creative and intellectual growth process. I’m just glad to be involved now, albeit on the other – the judging – side.

Come see the awarded works in the Scholastic Art & Writing Exhibition on view through April 6th, 2019!

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