I first reached out to JoAnn Balingit about having the Delaware Writing Region as our February Local Highlight because of their awesome Facebook posts. The program does such a great job of showcasing the talented young writers in the region and really engages with the community to bring their work to the public. In our February Highlight, we’ll learn more about how the local program began, who the passionate people are behind the scenes, and what the awesome opportunities for Delaware writers are!
During the 2011 Scholastic Awards season, Kristin Pleasanton, a juror for the Delaware Art Region, was surprised to find our state wasn’t hosting a Delaware Writing Region. As an arts administrator, she knew how valuable a state-level writing contest could be. “The Delaware Division of the Arts is dedicated to cultivating and supporting the arts across our state,” says Pleasanton, the agency’s deputy director. “Encouraging and recognizing the writing talents of middle and high school students is vital to the promotion of the literary arts, and to a lifelong involvement with them.” She contacted JoAnn Balingit, Delaware’s Poet Laureate.
An arts-in-education advocate, JoAnn agreed that reviving the state-level writing contest would directly impact Delaware’s students. Eager to give young authors more opportunities to share their work on a national stage, she recruited the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), a non-profit organization that promotes participation in the arts. With the support of a Project Partnership Grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, the local Diamond State Branch of the NLAPW became a Scholastic Awards affiliate in 2011.
“We are extremely pleased,” says Kristin Pleasanton. “The program is wildly successful, and the benefits to the participants are immeasurable. It rewards the hard work and dedication exhibited by the students and their teachers.”
The Diamond State Branch of the National League of American Pen Women is pleased to administer the Delaware Writing Region. All teens in grades 7-12 who attend school in Delaware (New Castle, Kent or Sussex counties) are eligible to enter work. The mission of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers aligns naturally with the Pen Women’s expanded mission to mentor and encourage students to explore their artistic gifts, in a time when arts in the classroom are being curtailed or even eliminated.
Over the past four seasons, the Delaware Writing Region has handled rapid growth. From 2012 to 2015, the number of works entered in our contest grew an average of 25% per year. We want that growth to continue, even as we scramble for recruits and resources.
We have gauged direct results from school visits, during which volunteer writers talk about craft and promote the contest. This year, students at newly participating public schools received Gold Keys. That’s exciting for us and for them!
We are extremely proud to have Delaware students published in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 installments of The Best Teen Writing. The Delaware Writing Region sends copies of BTW to new adjudicators we are courting. This season our adjudicators, accomplished writers and editors, hail from nine states and the District of Columbia. They’re looking forward to Notification Day and possibly seeing the students’ words honored in national publications.
We’re pleased that Delaware public libraries cataloged copies of The Best Teen Writing we mailed out. We partner with libraries to host workshops, and pay local authors modest stipends to lead teen writing workshops at libraries. YA librarians are valuable allies.
Ceremonies & Exhibitions
Next up in the Delaware Writing Region Local Highlight read all about their annual regional awards ceremony and exhibition! The ceremony is this Saturday, February 7 at Delaware State University with the exhibition, now on display, is up through the 7th. Find out more information about the public reception beginning at 9:00 am here and like them on Facebook to read student work, find updates and learn about great opportunities for writers!