Mary Harvey. Are You Kitten Me? Grade 12, Age 17. 2012 Silver Medal with Distinction, Art Portfolio.

On his deathbed, actor Edmund Gwenn was said to utter the now-famous phrase: “Dying is easy…comedy is difficult.” What makes a great humor piece—and why is it funny? Often, the best examples, like this one from 2012 Scholastic Awards Gold Medalist Abigail Hartley, hold a mirror up to readers. In that mirror we may see flickers of ourselves, but also can smile at the foibles of others. Humor also has roots in pain: the wallflower, the outcast, the misunderstood voice makes itself heard and it’s one with which most readers can also identify. National Scholastic Awards juror DC Pierson said of this essay: “Great combination of voice and subject matter and perfect length. Great work!!!” See what you think, and learn more about this category at the bottom of this post!

How to Be a Seductive Goddess

If you’re ever going to entice a man into your web of seduction, looking the part is essential.  Beauty may be only skin deep, but when Mr. Right bumps into you in the checkout line at Harris Teeter, the first thing he’ll notice will not be your ability to quote extensively from David Sedaris.  Cut your hair into sexy inch-long hanks using nail scissors and your dad’s electric razor, with liberal application of the beard trimmer attachment for texture.  Draw attention to your powerful Scots-Irish shoulders and outsized ribcage by refusing to grow breasts.  Some say androgyny, you say mystique.

Now, head shorn and 34A bra strapped firmly in place, you are ready to take the male world by storm.  You have the feminine wiles of a wicked vixen now and by God, you’re going to charm and tempt someone with them.  When you walk, let your hips swing wilder than the pirate ship ride at Carowinds.  If you’re knocking things off desks and upsetting potted plants, you’re doing it right.  Wiggle your shoulders ever so slightly for maximum irresistibility.  Strut, strut, wiggle, wiggle, spin turn, dismount.  Your friends will do impressions of you, shuffling their feet across the floor; part salsa dance, part drunken swagger.  Walk away, chest out and hips swaying, with your dignity intact.  Ignore them when they trail behind you, a single-file line of Mick Jagger impersonators.

Leave the nest of friends you’ve built at your small, eccentric private school in search of fresh prey, preferably boys that didn’t know you in seventh grade, the Year of the Orthodontia.  Begin tutoring your peers for the SAT.  When one of your “students,” a tall, blonde swimmer from the public high school, asks you to go see the musical Young Frankenstein with him, prepare as though he had asked you to be his date to the Cannes Film Festival.  Try everything you’ve ever read in a magazine.  Rinse your lackluster brown hair with cold coffee to “bring out the warm undertones;” mix sugar and honey into a saccharine paste and smear your face with it to glow like a Brazilian supermodel; choke down half a gallon of warm water with apple cider vinegar to shed any fluids you might be retaining.  If it’s one thing guys hate, it’s edema.  Finally, a heady perfume of coffee, hummingbird nectar, and ammonia wafting around you, answer the door for him.  He’ll compliment you on your alluring scent—as will his parents, who accompany the two of you to dinner and sit next to you at the show.

When, on the way back from the theater, he asks you about your taste in music, reply that you love Florence + the Machine because of their dark, spiritual sound and constant allusions to animal sacrifice.  He’ll smile nervously and change the subject to the pending results of his SAT’s.  Hear from him only once after that, when he texts you a few days later to say that he went down ten points on his Critical Reading section.  Call it a learning experience for both of you and return to the hunt.

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FUNNY YOU ASKED: The Humor Category

Whether it’s poetry, a play or an essay, writing appropriate for the humor category may also fit another genre—but its most salient feature is that it’s funny! If your work uses satire, parody or its key element is humor, it’s right for this category. Entries must be 600 to 3,000 words, and as with other writing categories, there are no limitations on subject matter, theme or language in submitted work. Jurors look for originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice. Students can submit their work to the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards beginning September 17, 2012. To learn how to submit, visit:

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