Winning the Outstanding Creative Writing Humanities Award and Thoughts on Sincerity

imageI’ve always been wary of braggadocios behavior or, even worse, the pretension of the humble brag. So, this post is going to be an earnest celebration of my recent successes that I want to share with my readers.

I was recently informed that I was chosen as the winner of the Penn State Department of Humanities’ Award for Outstanding Creative Writing. I submitted three nonfiction pieces, Emotional Insulation (which was published in The Rectangle), There is a Chance I Have Become the World’s Worst Quaker (published in the upcoming From the Fallout Shelter), and Cosmaniacs (which I have not sent out yet); my portfolio was chosen out of all of the undergraduate  students who submitted works.

I am beyond honored to have won this award, marking my second win in 2015, the first being a “Best Fiction” nod from our literary magazine, From the Fallout Shelter. So far, the year has been a great one for me and my successes. Not only have I been published and honored by the magazine, I’ve been on the nonfiction, poetry, and art reading boards and have worked as a copy editor for the final product. As I write this, I’m waiting for my turn to go though the final edits to make sure it’s perfect. This wasn’t the only reading board I’ve worked on.

I judged the Central PA Writing Contest that honors great work of high school and middle school work. I had the monumental and sometimes hilarious task of reading 6th and 7th grade Fantasy, Sci Fi, and Poetry. They shone with the lack of pretension that sometimes lead to unabashed silliness. One story featured a character whose name was “Puma Ze Potato” without a single drop of sarcasm. Others told very trite stories that were new and exciting to them, because they haven’t been exposed to the source material, yet. Other times, the sincerity in which they wrote of wizards, aliens, and ghosts was simply charming.

I envy that charming, unaffected attitude. So often, we are too cautious, too critical, and too cynical. To be able to seriously write a story just because you, the author, personally think it’s great no matter what anyone else says is an attractive idea. What’s so astonishing is that these are the same kids who wrote the saddest, most heavy-handed hormone-induced poetry I’ve ever read. This reminded me of just how hard it is to be an adolescnt. Yes, it is annoying to read the fanfiction, the fantasy-realizing prose with Mary Sue characters, and the too-serious poetry, but kids do not know they’re placing too much emotion into things more experienced humans identify as trite or superficial. I’ve decided to start sending out more stories for publication, to be more proud of my talent.

I’m still waiting to hear back from a magazine that I sent “Cosmaniacs” to and from another contest that I specifically wrote a story specifically catered to the tastes of the judges. I would love love love to win that contest, I worked amlost every day for two weeks create a “winning” type story that I’m actually proud of. The problem with catering my writing to one group is that if it doesn’t work, I’m left with a story that may not suit another. I have a good feeling about this one, though it may not have quite as memorable a character as Ms. Potato.

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