The Early Believers

14 Aug

Day 3 of The Experiment is putting up a fight.

I’ve been sitting here for an hour, unable to put words together in a way that makes sense.  I’ve started about ten different times, but nothing has really stuck, so I’ve just been staring out the window at the grey Santa Monica afternoon, waiting for inspiration to strike.

As I let my mind wander, I started remembering the very first thing I ever wrote that was recognized publicly–a charming little ditty called My Paper Route, a sweet poem about my daily commitment to delivering the news in our small town of Dixon, IL.  Ha–I can’t believe I forgot about that!

Every year in grade school, our teachers required us to write something for submission to the annual Young Authors Conference. I can’t remember all of the details now, but in either 5th or 6th grade, I won.  I don’t know if it was just on the school level or beyond that, but I do remember the announcement over the school PA.  And I remember going to some school gym somewhere to read my poem and hear other kids’ works and meet real-life adult authors!

So that led me to–where else–Google to start figuring out if there is a Young Authors archive, and if so, who holds the key and is my work of art in there? *Note to anyone born after 1985: back in those days, we hand wrote our entries, so it’s not like I have it saved anywhere–though that does remind me that among the perks of being named a Young Author was receiving a typed copy of our work!  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a scanned copy of a mimeograph of mine.

I haven’t found any answers yet, but I did find an email address of an unsuspecting soul who seems to have coordinated the volunteers for the 2011 conference.  I know she’s not the right person, but she probably knows who is.  I’m going on a hunt.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, it makes me grateful for efforts such as the Young Authors Conference that recognize and nurture early talent (even though it took me twenty-some years to get it).

What about you?  What early contests did you participate in or awards and encouragement did you receive that impact you today?

A tip o’ the quill to those teachers, coaches, and believers-in-the-future out there.

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19 Responses to “The Early Believers”

  1. leslie lighthouse August 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    i would not have remembered this it was in the first grade it was a drawing contest i won first place a blue ribbon it looked a lot vincent van gogh starry night this make s me happy to remember this…and here i sit 45 years later at my drawing table :]

    • sarahsypniewski August 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      aHA! There you have it. SO interesting how these early achievements had slipped from our consciousness, yet still found their own ways of manifesting themselves…xo

      • sarahsypniewski August 15, 2011 at 10:04 am #

        PS–for those who don’t know Leslie, about 6-7 months ago, she suddenly started doing these amazing hand-drawn pet portraits. Check her work out here: http://leslielighthouse.showitsite.com/. It seemed so out of the blue to us, but I guess not so much…:)

  2. lynn stalowy August 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Sarah, when Amy did it, they actually published a book of that year’s entries
    ….maybe you can track it down through your school….

    • sarahsypniewski August 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      Oh yeah? Good idea. I can try emailing the school. What did Amy write? I’d love to read it…

  3. deidre August 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    Funny, before you even asked about what contests or awards we have won, I immediately thought of the single writing award I won. In the 9th grade, my Honors English teacher that hated me made us all submit something to the school’s creative writing book they published every year (I just can’t recall the title). Being that I am chronically not creative, I chose to write a vignette about making chocolate milk. I got 2nd place, published in the book, and my teacher didn’t hate me quite as much anymore. Hooray. I wish I had it still.

    • sarahsypniewski August 15, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      LOL. Chocolate milk saved the day…I bet you could track it down. By then, weren’t you using computers? What I really want to know, though, is how your teacher would tell this same story….

      • deidre August 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

        Word processor maybe 🙂 I actually might have the published book somewhere at the parents’ houses…Ugh, she was evil. Ms. Gilbert was not the most feminine English teacher on the block, and she didn’t like the ‘girly’ and certainly not pom girls. It escapes me now, but she definitely insulted me to my face at one point. I probably wearing my hunter green flared corduroys with an oversized, borrowed button down of my dad’s at the time. I had the best style as a 14 y/o…I’ll do my best to have a nightmare about it tonight so my subconscious can remind me of how she ruined my life.

      • deidre August 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

        I probably *was* wearing…

  4. Joy DiPalma August 15, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I think you’ve accomplished your task 🙂 And for a long lasting memory of an award as a child – it’s the one I could never quite get that stands out in my mind as clearly today as the years it happened – the damn President’s Physical Fitness test. i wanted that lousy patch they would give the kids who passed it so badly but every year after I would sweat out the run and everything else required to pass, and pass those, the last thing – the dread chin up bar always did me in. I don’t think I will ever forget that, lol.

    • sarahsypniewski August 15, 2011 at 10:00 am #

      Oh man, if they could see you now! *For those who don’t know Joy, she is an amazing trainer now. She whipped me into shape a few years back and she continues to kick the butts of everyone in L.A.

      What a great story! Do you think that made you want to work harder or did it discourage you for awhile? Do you remember the first time you actually succeeded in doing the chin ups? I think you should get Sue or someone to make you patch…you’ve certainly earned it by now!

  5. sarahsypniewski August 15, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Well, that was fast. Here’s the response. Looks like Lynn might be onto something:

    “Hi Sarah,

    I am so sorry, but we do not keep copies of the manuscripts from the conferences. Unfortunately you have reached a dead end with me. Others have contacted me with a similar request, but you would probably be the best person to locate your poem. When you came to the conference you would have brought it with you and then taken it back home. We do not ever take possession of them. Maybe try your elementary school?

    I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.”

    Sincerely,

    • Proofreading Service August 18, 2011 at 9:58 am #

      Really interesting post. My mom took me to a couple creative writing classes when I was in elementary school… thanks for bringing back such good memories (pita pockets on the way over, then museum exploration and nature-inspired writing sessions… I just saw Huggies drinks in the store the other day… another awesome memory). Surprisingly, the instructor was quite critical of everyone’s work… I think we were too young at the time to truly appreciate constructive criticism, although not too young to appreciate the style of delivery. But now I’m an editor, and I’m always trying to deliver constructive criticism in the best, most respectful way possible. So I guess you could say I learned some things from that instructor… a couple good things, and some other things that I know to avoid!

      • sarahsypniewski August 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

        That’s an AWESOME story! I’m so happy you shared, because I really want to hear everyone’s experiences with those Early Believers. It’s amazing that we can forget some things that were so important while we were doing them…and then when we remember them, it’s even more crazy to see how they’ve obviously shaped us! You should track that teacher down…

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