OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou know the drill: everyone goes around the circle and says their name, where they’re from, and some “interesting fact” about themselves. It’s standard first-day-of-school-or-camp-or-other-student-activity procedure. Meanwhile you sit there, the very last person in the circle, knowing that there’s really no way you could remember all these names anyway, but especially not now since all you can do is focus on coming up with that one “interesting fact.” It has to be something unique and memorable (because first impressions are important), but not something too weird (because first impressions are important), and it should by no means evoke any kind of follow-up question (because second impressions are even more important, and you’re just not ready for that yet). Then there’s the pressure of going last—these people are expecting some grand finale, and really how can you beat “I once went skydiving with my grandpa” kid? Flustered, you end up blurting out something (like: “I’m a fan of Netflix” or “my favorite color is aquamarine”) that, while important, doesn’t really define you (except that now it does—you will be “aqua girl” in the minds of all your peers for at least the next few hours).

That’s kind of how I feel right now.

Well, here goes: my name is Michaela, I’m from Pennsylvania (though now I’m attending Vassar College in New York), and I guess an interesting fact about me is that I’m going to be posting on this blog for the next few weeks. Yeah, let’s go with that. I’m an alum of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (Poetry, Personal Essay/Memoir, and Writing Portfolio) and a 2013 National Student Poet. This summer, I’m working at the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers office in NYC as the editor of The Best Teen Writing of 2015, a selection of some of the most outstanding poems, short stories, essays, and dramatic scripts that received National Medals in the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. I’ll be blogging about that, as well as some creativity prompts and my adventures around the city.

Right now, you’ve probably just started your summer. You’re either basking in the carefree laziness of it all, or heading to a go-around-the-circle-and-introduce-yourself kind of summer program. Don’t forget to take some time to create! The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers is here to offer free workshops, community, creative challenges, and more. Visit the Summer Series website for prompts and competitions as well as information on events near you. Share your voice with us on Tumblr, and check out updates on the blog for more. Whatever it is you’re doing this summer, make sure creating is a part of it. You have all these resources, plenty of free time, nice weather, and no school—take advantage of it! And pro tip: “I received an award for my art/writing” makes a pretty good “interesting fact.”

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