I still have a grin on my face from our first ever award ceremony as the regional affiliate for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards where we were shown what a sincere and warm community we really are. Reid Castle at Manhattanville College was the perfect venue, and it was a thrill to see each writer come up to the mic and say their names. Our keynote speaker, Rachel Vail, spoke to us writer to writer and moved us so much that she received a standing ovation.
I had the privilege of making the closing remarks, and I thought I would share them with you . . .
I have a student who, after winning a silver key, keeps asking me what winning an award really means. I love this question. You've won an award, you've been recognized, and now what?
It would really mean more if I won a gold key, wouldn’t it? But then, If I won a gold, would I have reached my peak? If I didn’t win anything, does that mean I’m not a writer?
Is art about winning and losing?
No grasshopper, it isn’t.
Kurt Vonnegut said: “The arts are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
You are making your soul grow, you are daring to have a voice, to share and shine your light with the world. You are making your mark.
It’s not about winning or losing . . . but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of you for putting yourself out there, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate all of our successes along the way. After all, you may win a gold next year, or an honorable mention. Or nothing!
And that’s not only the life of a writer, that’s life.
So don’t let the award define you. Instead, use it as inspiration and affirmation to keep writing, to keep discovering, to keep developing your inner life.
Let it motivate you to solidify and expand your creative community, to find mentors and peers who both support and push you to the edges of what you think you can do.
You have found a nurturing writing community that cares about your writing. You all took a risk and made yourselves vulnerable by submitting, and now we have become this new Hudson-to-Housatonic Writing Community.
Let's close tonight with promising to continue this conversation about art and the artist and what it all means. An award is a bright light on the journey, to keep us going, but it doesn’t change our intrinsic value as artists and humans. It reminds us that we can achieve greatness, and that we can develop wings with which to fly.
Keep writing; see you all soon!