On June 11, writers and an appreciative audience gathered for Words and Lines: a free reading amid 2014 National Medalist artwork at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery. It was an evening that paid tribute to the Awards’ three criteria: originality, technical skill, and clear evidence of personal voices and visions!
The program featured award-winning author and director of Pratt Institute’s Writing Program Thad Ziolkowski; Past Portfolio Gold Medalists Lashanda Anakwah, Haris Durrani, and Emma Goldberg. The editor of The Best Teen Writing of 2014 , 2004 Portfolio Gold Medalist and fantasy author Hannah Jones served as emcee and even shared some of her work with the crowd!
Poetry and prose echoed throughout the Pratt Manhattan Gallery’s exclusive exhibit of 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Award-winning photography, ceramics and glass…and we know that as you read this, you wish you were there. Two of the readers, Lashanda and Emma, graciously agreed to share excerpts of their work.
Empty Chairs by Emma Goldberg
The little dumpling shop on Elm Street had shut down years ago, the two old Chinese men had taken their sizzling pork and miniature painted Buddha figurines and moved out to another generic Connecticut town. But they’d left behind their wooden sign, most of the letters faded so it just read, “Dump” in a chipped rust red.
I liked to tell the cab driver to drop me just outside the dumpling shop so I could walk for a block or two before I reached home, pulling out my iPod earbuds and listening to the screech of cars and the jingling of store windows and the squelching of my suitcase in the snow. As I walked, I looked for the little landmarks I remembered — the canary lamp in Mrs. Feldstein’s front window, the mound of cement where Jake Emerson fell off his scooter and chipped his front tooth in 2005.
Several weeks ago, my mother had tried to convince me we should take a trip somewhere this Christmas, as a family. “We could go to Montauk,” she tried, “Or maybe Vermont. Just get away for a bit.” But I was only half listening, walking to class and thinking of schoolwork and school dances and a maybe-dinner-maybe-date deal I had later that night so I said no, told her I’d rather stay home and see friends over break. Now, walking toward my driveway, I was glad we were staying in Cheshire. I liked the comfort and predictability of it all, the quiet. I pictured mom in the laundry room sorting whites from colored, and dad in the kitchen making her the Earl Grey tea she likes.
But when I got inside the downstairs lights were off. In the kitchen there was a plate fixed up for me that had gone cold. My mother was upstairs reading in bed, but she tossed aside Malcolm Gladwell and sprung up as soon as I came up the steps.
“Jessie,” she cried, kissing me on the forehead.
Then there was this script we had, certain phrases we used out of habit, the kinds that jumble together easily and probably don’t even need to be said. “I missed you” and “I’m so glad you’re home.” They were carry-on words, not the real check-in kind of baggage, the type that don’t carry any real weight so you stow them away in close reach.
Read more from Empty Chairs.
The Hill by Lashanda Anakwah
Haide is throwing little pieces of paper at me. It’s lunchtime and I’m starved. My little Styrofoam plate is almost empty; the food, questionable lasagna, isn’t particularly good but I want more of it. The cafeteria is at a low rumble; it isn’t chaotic but it’s far from quite. The lunch aides are walking around, looking for something, I’m not sure what. Today is just like every other school day; it probably wouldn’t be memorable if Haide weren’t throwing pieces of paper on me. Everyday of seventh grade has started to blur together. I’m sitting with Bridgette, one of my only friends; she notices the tissue throwing. “Ummmm”, Bridgette likes to start every sentence with a long drawn out um, a habit I’m starting to pick up to the dismay of my parents. “Why is Haide throwing paper at you?” I shrug. I was hoping the little white particles that kept flying my way were a coincidence but Bridgette sees it too so there is no denying it.
Read more from The Hill.