This year I’m honored to be a returning judge for the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Maine chapter. If you don’t know this organization, I hope you will look it up. It’s been helping celebrate and support our nation’s young writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers and so much more since 1923.
As an adult business owner for whom writing is a substantial part of my life, it felt like a natural fit to say yes a few years ago when I was asked to be a judge. “Sure! Why not?” Said before the hours of combing through and scrupulously grading and providing constructive feedback were contemplated.
Over the past week I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to read through the state of Maine’s submissions for Science Fiction and Fantasy in grades 7 through 12. This includes carting the whole category package on an impromptu business trip, sneaking quiet moments to read and then re-read each entry, trying to make sense of each entry within a strict grading structure and so on. In all, it reminds me why being a school teacher is a heroic and thankless job that I’m not cut out for.
So, having just finished the voting process and devoting so many hours during an already-packed week, it’s easy to ask, “Why? Why add one more thing?”
Yes, there’s the pragmatic (and Objectivist) argument that it helps me see and hear what’s going through the minds of future generations.
But there’s a far more important reason I’m so honored to be involved. It never fails that at least one entry per year truly teaches me something. It never fails that at least one story shows me a vision of the world I’d never thought about. And this isn’t something I could get from just reading the winning entries — it’s so much more about that one story (or in this year’s case, multiple) that stands out among the rest. The stories I will carry with me as I move myself, my business and my purpose forward.
For this, I win and am ever grateful.
Congratulations in advance to the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winners and thank you for the impact you are already having on this world.