“We can say for certain then that a program like [The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards] doesn’t just honor artists. It creates them. It nurtures them. It gives them permission to shine brighter, to think differently, to be bolder.” – Jennifer Garner
When Coe-Brown Northwood Academy junior Samara Kern sat down to tackle her Flash Fiction writing assignment for her ‘Creative Writing’ class, she was not feeling particularly inspired. Kern notes, “Out of all that I have written, that was not the one that I thought would win anything. That was a surprise.” Kern’s writing piece titled “His Forgetfulness” was one of three works that Kern submitted to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at the New Hampshire state level where it won a Gold Key. The same writing piece went on to win a Silver Medal in the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
In “His Forgetfulness,” Kern creates a snapshot into the lives of two old men living in the country, former farmers, who are coping with the passage of time. One of the two men struggles with the onset of what might be dementia, but together, the two of them work together to remember, and in doing so illustrate the power of friendship, companionship, and the power of memory, or in this case, the impact of the lack thereof.
Flash Fiction is characterized as much by its brevity, as the plot and character development required within its short framework. Although Kern excels at flash fiction, she doesn’t see herself as a fiction author, preferring other genres instead. “Personal narrative is easiest, but poetry is my favorite. Fiction, nope. I just don’t see myself as that creative.” The assignment that resulted in this award-winning work gave each student in the class 30 minutes to write only 5-1,500 words, using a teacher-provided photograph as a prompt.
Kern’s teacher for her Creative Writing course, Amy Usinger, a ten-year veteran of the Coe-Brown faculty, was impressed that a sixteen-year-old young woman could so accurately portray the voice of these elderly men. Usinger commented on Kern’s “economy of language and understanding of the breadth of human experience,” and says Kern’s, “mature insight captured the subtlety of gesture for these two men who were so nostalgic over a forty-year friendship that is fading fast.”
When the email from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards judges arrived in Kern’s inbox, she was very surprised and promptly texted her parents, “Guess what!” Kern plans to pursue her writing skills through workshops this summer, possibly at New York University or through The Knowledge Society’s Global Virtual Program.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards annually recognize student achievement in the visual and literary arts in twenty-eight categories, including drawing and illustration, photography, flash fiction, poetry, film and animation, journalism, and more. Since the program’s founding in 1923, the Awards have fostered the creativity and talent of millions of students, including renowned alumni who have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including Amanda Gorman, Tschabalala Self, Stephen King, Kay WalkingStick, Charles White, Joyce Carol Oates, and Andy Warhol. An Award signifies to parents, teachers, the community and colleges that a student is an accomplished artist or writer. The Awards offer opportunities for creative teens to earn recognition, exhibition, publication and scholarships.
In 2022, only twenty-four students from eight different New Hampshire high schools, both public and private, representing thirty-one written works, received National awards. Each work of art and writing is blindly adjudicated, first locally through the more than 100 affiliates of the Alliance, and then nationally by panels of judges comprised of renowned artists, authors, educators and industry experts. Works are judged on originality, technical skill, and emergence of personal vision or voice.