By Alicia McCauley
Young writers and artists contest
I smoothed out my dress—the only dress I owned—sat on my sweaty hands and waited for my name to be called. The category was Third Grade Poetry, Fourteen Lines and Over. My poem, “The Earth,” was 11 pairs of rhyming lines.
I untied and retied the blue satin bow at the neckline of my dress as the list of Honorable Mention winners was announced. I tried to wipe the perpetual pencil smudge off the first two fingers of my right hand, graphite that was ground into my skin from hours of writing in the blank notebooks my mother always bought for my birthday and Christmas. She knew my first language was writing.
I held my breath, hoping my name wouldn’t be part of the Honorable Mention list. It’s not that I thought I was too good for Honorable Mention. In fact, part of me hoped that I’d get an Honorable Mention because those kids didn’t have to go on stage to accept their award. God knows I didn’t want to go up on the stage.
It was all about The Book—the Shasta County Literary Festival anthology containing all of the first-, second- and third-place pieces. To have my words in print, to see them bound in a book—that was the prize. That was what had me holding my breath and wiping my sweaty palms on the seat.
When my name was called for a third-place award, I rose from my chair and prayed that I wouldn’t trip up the stairs. A man in a suit and tie shook my damp hand and placed a certificate in my other hand. I stood on the stage as the second and first place winners were called, but the only thing I could think of was The Book. There were stacks of them at the end of the stage and as we filed back to our seats, a woman in a floral dress handed me mine.
It was the biggest book I’d ever seen outside of the giant Bible that sat on a shelf in our living room. Unlike the Bible that was hard bound in black with winding gold script on the front, the anthology was a Pepto Bismol-pink, soft-bound book. I carried it pressed against my chest feeling the heft of all those words. I smiled, knowing my 22 lines had added a page of weight.
Back in my seat, I flipped the book open to my poem and ran my fingers over my name. That night in bed, I read the other entries, marveling that I was chosen to be among these bold, unflinching young writers. For nights, I fell asleep under the weight of that book, my dreams filled with its stories.
I went on to win many Literary Festival awards throughout my school career. I read each anthology until I practically knew every piece by heart and then I lovingly placed it on the shelf next to the pink anthology.
Seeing my name and my words in print never lost its thrill for me. To be recognized as a writer, to run my fingers over my name on the page of a book—to this day, it makes my heart pound and, admittedly, still makes my palms sweat.
Now I have the distinct pleasure of sitting on the board of directors for the Writers Forum. It’s with sheer joy that I will be presenting to you this September the first of what we hope will be many winners of the Young Writers and Artists contest.
Young writers, I know you by the pencil smudges on your fingers. I know the thrill of running your finger over your name in print and the divine pleasure of seeing your words published. I speak your first language. On behalf of Writers Forum and Enjoy magazine, I honor you and am proud to call you fellow writers.
Writers Forum and Enjoy Magazine announce a call for submissions for students in grades K-12. The theme is “The Gift.” Students are encouraged to submit an essay (150-300 words) or one piece of artwork based on this theme. One essay and one piece of artwork will be featured in the December issue of Enjoy Magazine. The winner and runners-up will be featured on the Writers Forum website/newsletter, and the Enjoy Magazine website. One high school student with an interest in graphic design will be chosen to work with the editor of Enjoy Magazine to design the layout of the page. Winners and runners-up will be notified via email.