The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards’ national office in New York City is dedicated to growing and supporting our Affiliate Partners across the country. Our Affiliate Partners are doing great work in their communities, and we love hearing about their outreach efforts, their students, and their programs. This month, we shine the spotlight on Writopia Lab in Washington, D.C., which manages the D.C. Metro Writing Region. Here’s what Writopia Lab D.C. had to say about Awards activity in their region:
The D.C. Metro Writing Region encompasses a rich, historical, and artistic landscape that extends both north and south of Washington D.C., reaching above the beltway into Western Maryland and below the Potomac River, to the northernmost regions of Virginia. Serving a particularly diverse community of public, private, and independent schools and pre-college academies, our region is defined by a wide-range of political, cultural, and socioeconomic perspectives that surface in the overwhelming number of submissions we receive annually.
Mission and Growth
Every day at Writopia Lab, we witness the transformative power of being heard. Because of this experience, we are dedicated to giving teen writers the opportunity to be read—and celebrated—as part of the broader literary community. To help make this possible, Writopia Lab has served as a regional affiliate of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Washington, D.C. since 2011, during which time we’ve seen an increase in submissions to almost 1,600 per year, growing by more than 30% in each of the past two submission seasons.
Currently experiencing some of the highest total numbers of regional submissions in the country, our writing region has also experienced record-levels of growth in submissions. Spurred on by the active literary and socially conscious communities that surround Capitol Hill, we are currently the fastest growing region of our size in the nation. Every year, Writopia Lab continues to visit dozens of new schools to teach writing workshops and introduce the Awards to hundreds of middle and high school writers who have not previously submitted, always aiming towards an expanded community of young writers. We anticipate receiving close to 2,000 writing submissions this 2017 season.
Community Efforts and Outreach
Home to a densely populated community of novelists, poets, journalists, and playwrights, the D.C. Metro Region has been fortunate to partner with many different artists, art organizations, and schools who have supported our community over the years by providing scholarship, workshop, and adjudication resources. Always looking for ways to achieve our mission of reaching writers from all backgrounds and communities, our region makes it a priority to find and fund scholarships that originate from our local literary community and to recruit those judges most familiar with the work of the D.C. literary scene. In selecting our region’s top pieces for consideration for the American Voices Award, we also select a panel of notable literary personalities to adjudicate. Last year’s supporting artists, judges, and donors included novelist Edward P. Jones, poets Kyle Dargan and Elizabeth Acevedo, and late-night comedy writer Steve Young.
As part of our core mission, we also make it a priority within our region to reach underserved writers and communities that have not, historically, submitted to the Scholastic Awards in large numbers. Beginning with the Edward P. Jones Award and the Edward P. Jones Scholarship Fund, writers attending schools in the southeast region of D.C. have been encouraged to compete for thousands of dollars in annual scholarships, available only to those writers submitting from that region. To bolster this effort in 2016, the D.C. Metro Region partnered with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the New York Life Foundation to offer the “Memories and Metaphors Creative Writing Workshop” to students at the SEED School in southeast D.C.
The first workshop of its kind, this 10-week program offers creative writing instruction to SEED School students as they work towards their first Scholastic Writing Awards submission. As we’ve seen the positive and lasting results that ongoing writing instruction can create in a community of students, it is our hope to offer more long-term, in-school programming to schools throughout southeast D.C. in annual preparation for the Scholastic Writing Awards competition. In the coming years, we’ll look to expand this effort to underserved communities throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District.
Our Regional Ceremony
Each year, we recognize Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mention recipients at our D.C. Metro Regional Recognition Ceremony, held at the GALA Hispanic Theatre in historic downtown D.C. The event is free for all recognized students and members of the public, and is made possible by the donations of local performers, vendors, and writers. Every year, notable authors who represent the vibrant vision, voice, and culture of our region offer words of encouragement and inspiration for recognized writers as part of a keynote address. The work of our five American Vision Awards nominees is also presented on behalf of our final round judges, with each writer’s recognition culminating in a live reading or performance.
With young writers submitting from over a dozen counties spread across three states, the Greater D.C. Writing Region has come to represent one of the most active and fastest growing writing communities in the country. Our writers come from diverse communities and backgrounds and find their voices among the vibrant culture and rich literary traditions that echo throughout the nation’s capitol. In the years of Writopia Lab’s Affiliate Partnership, numerous D.C. Metro Regional writers have received national recognition in the form of Best-in-Grade Awards, published work in the annual The Best Teen Writing anthology, and have been selected for Gold Medal Portfolio awards, the highest national award for any senior submitting their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
We hope to grow our support of underserved writing communities in the D.C. Metro Region, focusing not only on increasing submissions, but on empowering new writers to create, explore, and question through long-term workshop instruction. As we continue to adapt our region’s practices and hear from new communities of submitting writers, it is our hope that new, undiscovered, and under-represented youth voices join the ever-growing community of young writers in Washington, D.C. We strive to add these voices to the long list of nationally recognized writers submitting from this region.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are proud to work with organizations like Writopia Lab D.C. to help talented students receive recognition for their creative efforts. By partnering together, Writopia Lab D.C. and the Scholastic Awards give our youth the support they need to become lasting members of their art and writing communities.