What is the judging process like?
I have at home about 85 poems, essays and stories by students from around the nation in seventh through 12th grades. I must read them and score them based on a rubric that I have been sent. Basically, I'm looking for excellence in creative writing, which means a mature knowledge of style and form and an emerging voice. Some of the past winners of this venerable award have gone on to be great artists, so I am hoping to find a real gem among the work I have to judge.
When and where will the awards be presented this year?
This summer in New York City. I believe the awards ceremony will be at Carnegie Hall, so in a way, I can tell my mom that I really made it and am going to the shrine of American arts.
What type of impact do you feel the awards have on youth?
This is the premier award for arts and writing in the country. I think the number of years (this is the 85th year) it has been in existence and the list of truly incredible past winners proves that. As such, it's a fantastic project for any school to get involved with and a way to push promising artists and writers toward a goal that will focus their energies.
The Alliance does a lot of work promoting arts-in-education. Artists and writers who care about secondary education are concerned that a (largely welcomed) focus on high education standards nevertheless will mean that the arts will be ignored in schools as being superfluous to a teach to the test mentality.
I'm sorry to say this is what happened in England in the years I was in school, and it is the reason Sir Ken came to prominence in his opposition to the lack of arts and creativity in English schools. Ultimately, the awards and the alliance are a way to keep the importance of arts-in-education in the public eye.
For more information about Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, visit artandwriting.org.