Tiffany Droke, "Me, Myself & I." Age 17, Grade 12. 2010 American Visions Medal, Painting.

One student asked a writer how to respond to criticism they didn’t agree with.

Anonymous: When my English teacher edits my short stories, sometimes I don’t always like or agree with her comments about the way I write. Do I have to listen to them?

Ned Said: There is such a thing as being too responsive to criticism. Writing isn’t like math — it’s never objectively “right” — so it can always be critiqued, and if you don’t stand up to the critics at some point your work turns to mush. You should listen to the edits of your teacher that ring true to you — especially the ones that 1) match comments other people have given on your work and 2) resonate with secret worries you had yourself (“I knew I used too many adverbs!”). But if your teacher suggests things that are really outrageous, like “needs more adverbs,” you’re within your rights to say “thanks for your opinion” and keep writing the way that feels right to you. That’s how you develop a style.

Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini Vizzini is the author of three acclaimed young adult books: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (now a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, and libraries around the world about writing and mental health. E-mail your questions to

Kara Smith with 2010 Award Winner Ronnia Estes.

Missouri is the “Gateway to the West,” and the birthplace of iced tea and ice cream cones. But it’s also the birthplace or hometown of several notable American authors and poets, including Maya Angelou, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (better known as Mark Twain!), Laura Ingalls Wilder and Langston Hughes. Every year, Missouri teens follow in these literary footsteps by submitting their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Recently, our regional partner’s program director Dr. Jane Frick told us about her work with the Missouri Writing Region.

AYAW: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Missouri Writing Project? What’s a typical day on the job?

Jane Frick: The Missouri Writing Region of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is housed at Prairie Lands Writing Project (PLWP) at Missouri Western State University. Here at Prairie Lands, I have a graduate assistant (15 hours a week, August – May) who works as the contest submissions coordinator. Read More

High School Art Teacher Larry Taguba with his student, Kayleigh Waters, at Carnegie Hall in June 2010. Kayleigh won a 2010 National Silver Medal for a drawing, Right Between the Eyes. (Credit: Stuart Ransom).

Almost 5,000 miles away from our main headquarters in New York City, students in Larry Taguba’s art classes are submitting work to the Scholastic Art Awards (and winning!). In addition to teaching high school art at Leilehua High School in Oahu, Hawai’i, Larry is also the President of the Hawai’i Art Education Association. One of the toughest challenges he’s faced over the course of his 33-year career, however, was temporarily losing his passion for teaching. Here’s how he recovered it and established a nationally competitive high school art department.

About nineteen years ago I returned to the island of Oahu to teach at my alma mater, Leilehua High School. But it wasn’t long after I started my new position that I lost my passion for the job. Read More

Skye St. James. "The Girl's Picture Book." Grade 7. 2010 Gold Medal, Photography.

Brittany Murnahan, a high school English teacher, sent in a question about book publishing for the classroom.

Brittany asked:

Good morning!

I teach English at a private school. For my January Term (J-Term) course, I am planning a two-week workshop in which my students will work on writing and publishing a children’s book collectively. Do you have any advice for us that may be any different than advice for the normal author? Should we raise money to pay for the publishing? Read More

Trinity. Joan Dooley. 2009 National Geographic World in Focus Merit Award.

Joan Dooley is a teacher at Los Angeles High School No. 9, an inner-city public school that focuses on visual and performing arts. Before finding her way into teaching, she spent over 12 years as a professional curator with the Getty Museum. When she’s not teaching, she practices her own photography and has won recognition from National Geographic and Women in Photography International. According to Joan, her style is best described as “decisive moment meets Jan Vermeer.” Read More

Image: Artist and teacher Leslie Matz demonstrating technique in class.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are happening all over the country: from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Even in Anchorage, Alaska – the northern and western-most point in the United States – art students in Leslie Matz’s A.P. and Advanced Art classes are preparing artwork for the Awards. In addition to being an educator, Leslie Matz is a practicing artist who creates jewelry, pottery, paintings and “seriously functional bicycle components.” This year, two of Matz’s students won national Awards for their metalwork and jewelry. We recently asked Matz to tell us about his dual identity as a teacher and an artist. Read More