Monday, November 15, 2010

ASK A WRITER: Is there a Secret Dating Handbook for Writers?

ArcaMIDI Synthesizer. Alex Hatch, Senior. 2010 Gold Medal, Design.

JOSH ASKED: First of all, I’m a pretty great writer. But girls like guys who can play basketball and lift weights. Is there a secret dating handbook for writers?

NED SAID: Josh, the whims of women are complicated and alas, there is no "secret dating handbook" for writers. If you're a great writer and you still find it difficult to meet women, join a rock band. It's very easy to learn (especially bass guitar). Girls love the gusto and immediacy of musicians; with the music/writing double-whammy you shouldn't have any problems. If the rock band thing doesn't work, I'm going to have to recommend that you form a hip-hop crew.
If you have questions about the writing world, just ask! E-mail us at

Thursday, November 11, 2010

REGIONAL STORY: Joan Dooley Uses Photography to Inspire Students in L.A.

Photo caption: Although my photographs sometimes seem to be posed, they hardly ever are. Whether I’m surreptitiously photographing on the street or I’ve established a rapport with my subject, it’s fundamental for me that images be authentic and true to life.

Joan Dooley is a teacher at Los Angeles High School No. 9, an inner-city public school that focuses on visual and performing arts. Before finding her way into teaching, she spent over 12 years as a professional curator with the Getty Museum. When she’s not teaching, she practices her own photography and has won recognition from National Geographic and Women in Photography International. According to Joan, her style is best described as "decisive moment meets Jan Vermeer."

I’ve been teaching full-time for 14 years. I teach Photography and more recently, Stop-motion Animation.

The most rewarding thing about teaching has to be the magic moment when I witness a “student breakthrough.” Those breakthroughs can be huge, like when a student discovers (sometimes for the first time in their lives) that they have a talent for expressing themselves in a unique way. Or it can be small, within the context of a particular lesson. These breakthroughs are what art teachers live for.

Personally, I love to enter contests, especially those with judges I admire and respect, and each win helps to validate my direction and encourage future work. So before my students submit work to the Scholastic Art Awards, we have several review lessons to determine the best work and portfolio development. We also study and analyze the work of previous Scholastic Award winners through group discussions and written responses. The work of Award-winning young artists is incredibly inspirational and raises the bar of achievement not only for my students but also for myself. The program has had a great impact on many levels: I’ve watched students’ artwork break through to new heights. Several of my students were awarded summer scholarships to attend renowned summer art schools through the Alliance’s Young Artist Awards program. These opportunities are transformational in the lives of my students and open up new pathways in the arts for them.

I attribute any success I’ve achieved to feeling passionate about what I do and to caring for the success of my students, both as young artists and citizens of the world. But teaching also has its challenges. Teaching a lab and equipment-based curriculum requires expensive materials, and it can be a struggle to fund and maintain that equipment in a large public high school. My classes are also very big – I typically teach about 240 students in six classes. It’s important to enlist the help of your students whenever possible when managing supplies and equipment. You definitely need to learn to manage behavior in the art room, but time spent in that area has great payoffs; you’ll be surprised when your worst behaved student becomes your best artist and even friend for life.

My best advice to other teachers is: Don’t lose your passion. Make sure you keep practicing your art. Don’t let all the relatively minor annoyances (paperwork, red tape, administrative snafus, order forms) dampen your spirits. Stay focused on the “prize” – your students – and on helping them find their voice in art.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Noted humor writer Barbara Holland died of lung cancer this past September. But we found Ms. Holland in our archives, protecting the hunted and reminiscing about her childhood in her poetry. As a junior and senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in 1949 and 1950, her poems won top honors from the Scholastic Writing Awards.

Barbara Holland had six half-brothers and sisters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but lived with relatives to attend high school in Washington, D.C. According to her high school bio, her chief interests were “convertibles,” and writing poems on the backs of envelopes – “usually with lipstick.” She confessed that passing P.E. might pose a challenge during her last year of school, but she hoped her future plans involved writing.

Shortly after graduation, Barbara Holland took a job at department store and eventually moved to Philadelphia to work as an advertising copywriter. She began to publish small articles and stories in magazines such as McCall’s, Seventeen, and Ladies’ Home Journal. She would go on to publish over a dozen books including her best-selling memoir When All the World Was Young (2005), several children’s books, a biography of Katharine Hepburn and a history of dueling.

But if Holland’s love of writing followed her into adulthood, so did her dislike of gym class, which may have even inspired works such as Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (2005) and The Joy of Drinking (2007). In a recent interview with The Washington Post, she confessed she hoped that people would buy Endangered Pleasures for their mothers as Mother’s Day gifts. She added: "Writing is the only thing I was ever able to do, actually. I wrote my first novel when I was 5. I had to dictate it because I couldn't print all those words.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet Monica Johnson, Manager, Exhibitions… and so much more!

Primary role: Monica Johnson oversees a massive art storage space adjoining our headquarters in New York City. She carefully receives, registers and catalogues every national award-winning work of art that comes through our doors. She’s also responsible for the design and installation of our New York City exhibitions and for shipping artwork to various destinations—an art unto itself!

Secret facts: Monica has her own power tools. She can also make kombucha and twirl a baton.

Monica: Before coming to the Alliance, I studied painting in San Francisco and enjoyed a short and moderately successful career as a gallery artist.
But I was always in search of a more robust career in the arts. For me, the gallery was just one outlet for visual communication, so I set out to develop a greater visual skill-set at Hunter College in New York City in the Integrated Media Arts program.

As a graduate student, I’m currently using various web-based languages and technologies to develop my visual skills. For me, the dynamic and instantaneous possibilities that web communication offers balances and enhances the otherwise static nature of the gallery exhibition.

As Manager of Exhibitions at the Alliance, I draw on my experience with installation and woodworking to design and create exhibitions. I learned solid woodworking skills and museum practices in undergrad, but developed considerably by working for many years as a museum preparator and fine arts framer. I take these skills outside the workplace and into my own art-making as well – I design and create large-scale installations and do contract work on really cool projects like David Byrne’s Playing the Building. Not to mention I can also make my own furniture!

My artistic roots rely on things created with my own two hands. Oftentimes, after working many long hours at the computer, I crave the immediacy of creating with my hands. When I get this urge, I usually reach for wool and fabric. I knit and sew hats, clothes, bags and other objects and sell them under the brand name Wool + Brick at local flea markets and on Photographing the items and writing their descriptions adds another dimension to this creative process.

Over time, my visual and technical abilities have developed into a multi-layered career in the arts. In the process, I’ve also created a diverse skill-set that ensures I’ll always find work doing something I enjoy. I remain connected to my gallery roots in that I still draw a lot, but now it’s something I do for myself without the strains of production and presentation.

Advice to Artists: Learn to write well, or at least clearly. Learn to manage your finances as early as you can. Although these skills will serve anyone in any career, they are particularly important in an arts career because they are typically overlooked in arts education. Oftentimes, working in the arts you are your own little company with your own PR and accounting departments and you have to know how to run those departments successfully all by yourself. Also, most importantly, always use the right tool for the job. And, if you don’t have the right tool, make it.


MEET OUR WINNERS: Joshua Krieble, Landscapes within Landscapes

If he could describe his art in a single word, he would say: "Grape." If he could have a superpower, he would want to be like a hydra so that he could have two heads and sing while simultaneously playing the melodica. Meet our guest blogger and Brooklyn native Joshua Krieble, a young filmmaker whose Landscapes within Landscapes won a 2010 National Gold Medal. In addition to film, Joshua also won a Gold Medal in video game design (The Walls) and a Silver Medal for Poetry (6.796 Billion Tiny Shapes).

I got the idea for Landscapes within Landscapes when my film teacher told me to film something in five minutes. I ended up finding a worm and following it around with the camera. The footage was pretty interesting so I started following other insects and filming rocks and plants from a bug's eye view. I do actually have a lot of really intelligent sounding things to say about the film, but I came up with most of them after the film was done.

A lot of different things inspire me. They might seem pointless or pretty; music, fun facts, things I don't understand, short stories or long walks. I don’t really base that much on feedback from other people. But if I don't have inspiration to do anything then I usually won't create.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ART.WRITE.NOW Begins its Journey Around the Country!

Did you miss this year’s National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Teen Exhibition in New York City? If so, you may have a chance to catch a segment of the works while they tour the country in the Alliance’s first-ever traveling exhibition, ART.WRITE.NOW. The roughly 100 works of art and writing on display in ART.WRITE.NOW. are merely a slice of the national exhibition which in 2010 showcased more than 600 visual and literary works from teens in grades 7 through 12 hailing from 45 states and 6 countries.

The exhibition opened on October 29 at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the first stop on its tour. A special exhibition reception with Fort Wayne Museum of Art Executive Director Charles A. Shepard III and Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is free and open to the public on Saturday, November 6 from 4PM – 5PM.

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is open Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm (until 8pm on Thursdays) and on Sundays 12pm – 5pm.

Through June 2011, ART.WRITE.NOW. will travel to the following venues and locations:

Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN
October 29 – December 5, 2010
Opening reception: November 6, 2010, 4-5pm

Half Price Books Headquarters, Dallas, TX
January 8 – February 12, 2011
Opening reception: January 12, 2011, 7-9pm

Seattle Museum of Art, Seattle, WA
March 8 – April 24, 2011
Opening reception: To be announced!

Kantor Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
May 21 – June 25, 2011
Opening reception: May 24, 2011, 7-9pm

Can’t make it to any of the locations above? Visit the exhibition webpage to see a list of participating teens and to view an online gallery of the show.

ART.WRITE.NOW. is generously supported by Scholastic Inc., Ovation and Dick Blick Co.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Anchorage, Alaska

Image: Artist and teacher Leslie Matz demonstrating technique in class.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are happening all over the country: from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Even in Anchorage, Alaska – the northern and western-most point in the United States – art students in Leslie Matz’s A.P. and Advanced Art classes are preparing artwork for the Awards. In addition to being an educator, Leslie Matz is a practicing artist who creates jewelry, pottery, paintings and “seriously functional bicycle components.” This year, two of Matz’s students won national Awards for their metalwork and jewelry. We recently asked Matz to tell us about his dual identity as a teacher and an artist.

AYAW: How do you use The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program in your classroom?
LM: We use the Scholastic Awards as inspiration. Seeing all the regional work in an exhibition is very instructive for both students and teachers - and the community.

AYAW: Do you create your own work outside of the classroom, and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
LM: I am a generalist, a designer, with broad media skills. I recently completed a mixed media sculpture titled, "Caduceus," with fish skin stretched across metal framework for wing skin. The Anchorage Museum bought it last spring. I have another piece, a small brass container titled, "de Bergerac's Dew Box." It's all about dew rising with the sun and causing flight. The museum bought that one a couple of years ago. I also make jewelry, pottery, paintings and seriously functional bicycle components.

AYAW: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about teaching?

Image: Caduceus. Leslie Matz. Halibut skin on metal. Collection: Anchorage Museum.

LM: Watching students improve is rewarding, but watching them come to a point when they begin to value their work and the value of their arts education is tops.

AYAW: What's the secret to your success?
LM: Hard work. Taking risks. Messing around with found objects. Constantly learning.

Image: DeBergerac's Dewbox. Leslie Matz. DeBergerac wrote the first science fiction account of flying around the world by strapping on the power of dew. Collection: Anchorage Museum.

AYAW: What advice would you offer a new teacher?
LM: Make connections with more experienced teachers. Don't isolate yourself. Be patient; confidence comes with experience. Don't be arrogant towards other teachers, students, administrators or parents.

How A Boring Summer Job Turned Into A Best-selling Fantasy Series

Image: Cover for Havemercy. Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett. (Spectra, 2008).

The books Havemercy, Shadow Magic and Dragon Soul are part of a fantasy trilogy written by 2004 Scholastic Writing Portfolio Gold Medalist Jaida Jones and her co-author Danielle Bennett. The books begin with a tale of two cities, Volstov and Ke-Han. Amidst warring magicians, macho dragon riders and their mysterious mechanical steeds, these rich characters must ultimately work together to find lasting peace.

How did Jaida and Danielle publish three books (with a fourth on the way!) and conceive a rich fictional world with original characters? Like many epic sagas, it started out with a Scholastic Award, a story about firefighters, and a sensitivity training class at a summer job.

What was the inspiration for Havemercy?
Jaida: Havemercy [our first book] was inspired by a three-hour sensitivity training course during a summer job I was working between college semesters. The woman leading the course told a story about the hazing of women by a predominantly male firefighting force—peeing in their boots and bullying them in the locker rooms. For some reason, that story wouldn’t leave my head, so when I finally headed back to my desk, I shot Danielle an email about it. We’ve both always been very into the fantasy genre and kept tossing ideas back and forth about how to make that experience into something inherently fantastical. We talked about elves, flying motorcycles, and then suddenly hit on dragons.

How was your manuscript “discovered” or picked up to be published? What do you think made it appealing to your publisher?
Actually, we were pretty lucky. After I was included in an article published in the Wall Street Journal featuring fan-fiction authors who also wrote original works, our soon-to-be agent ended up finding my email address and asking me if I had any finished manuscripts lying around. Danielle and I had just finished writing Havemercy, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect! I hand-delivered the manuscript and two weeks later, that agent called saying she really enjoyed the book and that she would love to represent us.

Danielle: We waited a long time—for us, but not in the publishing world!—to hear back after our agent sent it out to publishers. Six months later, we received an acceptance letter from Bantam Spectra’s Anne Groell at Random House. She worked hard to help us polish what we already had, and she loved our characters just as much as we loved them.

Do you feel your Scholastic Portfolio Award helped prepare you for this process?
Jaida: There was absolutely no sci-fi or fantasy in my portfolio when it won the national gold. It was poetry and a few short works of personal essays/memoirs. But the scholarship that was awarded to me helped me go to Barnard, and across the street from Barnard was Columbia, where I ended up taking a lot of East Asian history classes that influenced the fantasy worlds I was building. At the same time, the poetry that did win the Scholastic Award was published in a small collection that was featured in that Wall Street Journal article, which is how we ended up getting in touch with our agent. So things happened in an admittedly accidental, roundabout way, but everything really does tie back in with that first national recognition.

How did you brainstorm the fictional world in this book?
Jaida and I always start with the characters and character dynamics. Part-way through the book, I drew a map in MS Paint that would help us get a better feel for the lay of the land. We wanted to write about dragons, but we wanted to make them different. Jaida has always been obsessed with old clocks and clockwork, so we came up with this idea of dragons that are built and infused with personalities, with their own capriciousness and personal quirks.
Image: Map of Volstov and Ke-Han empires. From Dragon Soul (Spectra, 2010).

What was some of the feedback you got from your editor about your first draft?
I still remember how enormous our editorial letter was. Thirteen pages! That’s just our editor’s style, however. She broke down what needed to be changed page by page. One of the things I remember her coming back to again and again was the fact that she was looking for a lot more build-up in the beginning, so that we could lay the groundwork for the conclusion.

How did you respond to that feedback?
Danielle: It was really, really daunting at first. There were moments at the start when we had to ask ourselves, why did she even want this imperfect book at all? But in the end, after working hard to give her the manuscript she’d been hoping for, it became clear why she’d been so specific and meticulous. She was making sure we spent as much time as we possibly could world-building. Her method was incredibly helpful in terms of breaking down the different elements we had to improve on. We even ended up color-coding them, with green highlighter for world-building issues and pink for character relationships.

Is there anything you learned the “hard way” about writing fantasy and science fiction series that you think others could benefit from?
Jaida: We didn’t write our first book with an outline or even any plan of where we were going and what we were doing. While it was an amazing amount of fun figuring out where we were going while we were going there, it also made for a lot of revision work later. So planning things out in advance definitely helps in the long run.

What are some of the important elements of a series that help people come back?
Jaida: I wish I knew! What has always caused me to come back to a series has been the characters. What will happen to them? Where will they go after the so-called ‘end?’ That’s how I’ve always written—with characters first, everything else later—and that’s how I read, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Legendary Science Fiction Writer Madeleine L'Engle Judges 1970s Scholastic Writing Awards

Image: Madeleine L'Engle. Juror for The Scholastic Writing Awards, Short Story Division. Literary Calvacade, 1973.

Sci-fi author Madeleine L’Engle enjoyed careers as a librarian and an actress by the time she judged short stories for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in the early 1970s. But like the young writers whose work she evaluated, she was no stranger to criticism. L’Engle’s best known work, the sci-fi children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, was initially rejected by dozens of publishers in the early 1960s. Why? According to Madeleine L’Engle: “A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn’t done.”

L’Engle drew inspiration for the Newberry-winning book from several places: a camping trip in the American west, time travel, her family’s farmhouse in Connecticut and a book on quantum physics. But in addition to having a female protagonist (awkward, mousy-haired Meg Murry), the manuscript also drew criticism for its religious references, and because many publishers didn’t initially see it as a young adult book. By a stroke of luck the manuscript came into the hands of an editor who was supportive of the work, and the book was published in 1962. A Wrinkle in Time became the first book in a science fiction quartet that includes A Wind in the Door, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. A Wrinkle in Time has never been out of print and has been republished in numerous editions. A graphic novel adaptation will be released in Fall 2012.

Of the Award-winning student short stories submitted in 1973, L’Engle commended young writers for their embrace of fiction and fantasy. “I am pleased to note a wider enthusiasm for the world which is beyond the world of provable fact, an awareness of fantasy and fairy tale as vehicles of truth, rather than as escape from truth.”


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scholastic Award-Winning Teens Honored in Washington, D.C.

Photo, above: 2007 Alumna Ebony Robinson shares words of inspiration with 2010 Scholastic Award winners. (Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.)

On October 8, 30 Scholastic Award-winning teens convened in Washington, D.C. to participate in an exhibition reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony for ART D.C., the Alliance’s ongoing collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. For the next year, their works and others from the 2010 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards will be on display at the DoED and the PCAH and will represent to policy makers, officials and notables on Capitol Hill the value of arts education.

Scholastic Award-winning students who attended the festivities came from as far away as California, and woke up as early as 4AM to drive down from New York City. In addition to a ribbon cutting ceremony, students also took a tour of the capitol building and participated in a creative development workshop with performance artist and poet Regie Cabico. Also present to honor these young artists with some words of inspiration were Martha J. Kanter, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education; Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; and Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Photo: Teens help cut ribbon at the U.S. Department of Education Exhibition. (Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.)

Fifty-six works will be on display at the Department of Education (400 Maryland Avenue S.W.), and forty-three works will be on display at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 526) for the next year. To view the exhibit by appointment at the Department of Education, contact Marilyn Joyner at, and to view the exhibit at the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, contact Lindsey Clark at

Photo: From left: P
erformance artist and poet Regie Cabico; Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; and Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
Award-Winning Teens Featured at the U.S. Department of Education
Jose Arreola, 18, NC
Allie Ayers, 16, VA
Sara Barnes, 18, TN
Sarah Bradach, 13, MA
Caleb Brown, 18, FL
Alexandria Bryan, 14, NH
Tyler Bullock, 17, NC
OriƩ Cepeda-Willgerodt, 13, NY
Jaclyn Colello, 17, NY
Rachel Criswell, 18, PA
Kevin Dao, 17, WA
Linh Tran Do, 18, TX
Xavier Donnelly, 17, VT
Amy Donovan, 18, VA
Mazelle Etessami, 14, CA
Caroline Felner, 14, OH
Karla Flemming, 16, CO
Sean Frisoli, 18, CT
Justin Fung, 16, NC
Andrew George, 16, IN
Emma Glennon, 17, NH
Shawn Glover, 17, SC
Malliccaaii Green, 18, IN
Meredith Haake, 18, NC
Amanda Hanna-McLeer, 16, NY
Dominique Jenkins, 18, SC
Susan Kang, 17, GA
Sun Jung Kim, 17, VT
Sarah Kuipers, 18, MI
Stewart Lawrence, 17, TX
Grant Leung, 17, OH
Kimberly Lord, 17, IN
Allison McGrath, 18, PA
Max Mikulecky, 18, KS
James Niekamp, 18, KY
Victoria Nikolich, 18, GA
Kayla Parsh, 17, OH
Addison Pollard, 15, AL
Nicole Pratte, 18, CO
Isaiah Russell, 17, NY
Isabella Schubert-Jones, 14, PA
Sam Shapiro, 18, OH
Karen Shea, 17, OR
Sasha Smith, 16, NY
Esther So, 17, CO
Melisse Sporn, 18, FL
Anna Steele, 18, FL
Boya Sun, 18, KY
Azania Toure, 15, DC
Lachlan Turczan, 16, CA
Rachel Walker, 18, TX
Audrey Warren, 15, DC
Jahana Wazir, 18, WV
Amy Wilcox, 17, MN
Erica Young, 17, PA
Chloe Zimmerman, 18, MA

Award-Winning Teens Featured at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Josh Adams, 18, WV
Sally Baek, 17, NC
George Brooks, 18, CA
Megan Burton, 18, NC
Jaclyn Casavant, 17, NH
Jocelyn Contreras, 14, KS
Michaela Curtin, 15, MA
Aubry Daman, 17, IN
Emily Damone, 13, IN
Mary Defer, 17, OH
Xavier Donnelly, 17, VT
Tiffany Droke, 18, DE
Elanor Eberhardt, 12, OH
Rachel Finlaw, 15, CT
Becky Flannigan, 16, NY
Kate Fleming, 17, VA
Will Frazier, 18, VA
Tiffany Gordon, 17, TX
Emily Grayson, 16, CT
Soomin Kim, 13, NJ
Michelle Lee, 17, VA
Maddy Leeser, 16, CA
Caroline Lindley, 17, TX
Kate Mattingly, 18, KY
Max Mikulecky, 18, KS
Alec Nguyen, 14, FL
Tara Niami, 16, CA
June Park, 16, NY
Rachel Parrill, 16, KY
Paulene Phouybanhdyt, 17, WI
Addison Pollard, 15, AL
Nathalie Pouzar, 16, KY
Taylor Risser, 14, IN
Payne Rueter, 16, IL
Melisse Sporn, 18, FL
Ashley Standage, 16, KS
Julia Stauble, 17, NC
Lauren Taylor, 18, TN
Courtney Vassar, 17, KS
Melanie Waller, 14, NY
Travis Waller, 17, OH
Alyssa Watson, 17, NV
Margaret Zrabkowski, 14, LA



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