by Vivian DeRosa
Hi! I’m Vivian, and I’m co-teaching “Building A Portfolio” for teens ages 12 to 18 that begins Wednesday, November 4 (4:30 to 6 p.m.). In high school, I was honored to be nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the YoungArts awards. I was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and my work appeared in the Huffington Post, Lunch Ticket, and other publications.
I’d love for you to join me in this class at Project Write Now, where we help YOU build a writing portfolio with pieces you can submit to literary magazines and writing competitions, including the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (deadline is December 4!).
I’d like to share with you how getting recognition for my writing changed my life—and how after taking this class, it can change yours!
1. Your Grandma (Or Other Favorite Person) Gets to Brag About You
You might feel a bit awkward about submitting to (and winning!) contests and competitions. It’s weird to bring up in conversation that you’ve stood on the stage at Carnegie Hall to accept an award, or that you were invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. (I admit it: I am embarrassed just typing that.)
But you know who won’t feel awkward about this? Your grandparent. Or your parent, or your guardian, or your best friend, or your English teacher, or your Project Write Now instructor. The people who believe in you are going to be so proud!
2. Community & Connections
YoungArts boasts alumni such as Timothee Chalamet, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, and Billy Porter. Scholastic Arts & Writing has previously honored Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King. When you enter these competitions, you’re joining a community of creatives. There are workshops and events where you can meet other like-minded teens—you meet “your people!” I’m still friends with other writers and artists that I met through YoungArts and Scholastic events.
Putting work out into the world also helps lead to more exposure. After I had an article published in The Huffington Post, other opportunities were presented to me. Building a writing portfolio led to my building a college application, and then a resume.
3. Scholarships! $$$
Competitions such as YoungArts and The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards offer scholarships and financial awards up to $10,000. Smaller competitions and essay contests offer prizes ranging from $250 to $5,000, and many literary magazines will compensate you for your work. I can speak from personal experience: building a writing portfolio helped me help pay for college. It also made me more confident in the value of my own work! Know your own worth.
Here’s the truth: I’ve had FAR many more rejections than successes. The rejections just don’t make the author bio! 😉 But being rejected young means that I didn’t develop a huge fear of it later in my writing career. Rejection happens. Maybe it wasn’t the right reader, or maybe the piece needed another round of edits, or maybe luck just wasn’t on my side. Rejection is a normal step in publishing. Acceptance of rejection is an ongoing process for me, but I’m glad that I learned that rejection is not a world-ending event. Building a portfolio now helps you build your confidence and experience as a writer.
5. I Was In Tina Fey’s Presence & She Helped Me See The Future (Sort Of)
I! Was! In! The! Same! Room! As! Tina! Fey! I recognize that this is not the sole reason you should submit to writing competitions … but hey, it’s not exactly a bad reason, is it? Tina Fey addressed all the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Winners at Carnegie Hall. Scholastic usually recruits some celebrities to talk about the importance of the arts. It’s truly inspiring to see people who have turned their passions into their careers, and it helped me imagine my own creative future. When I took my writing seriously, other people recognized that, and I was able to envision a career in creative writing.
6. My writing was being read!
So much of writing is solitary. The research, the typing, the work. And then, after all that, the pieces sit unread in Google Drive. That breaks my heart. Because the truth is: I write to be read.
For me, there was never anything to lose. If I don’t submit my work, it sits in Google Drive. If I submit and I’m unsuccessful, it sits in Google Drive.
But when I write, and revise, and submit to a contest or magazine that fits the voice of my piece, and I triple-checked the guidelines, and it’s accepted … by golly, it’s all worth it. My writing is out in the world! I’m heard! My story is alive!
Building a writing portfolio helped me build stories and poems, community and connections. It built up my confidence and my worth. When I built a portfolio, I built a writer’s life.
And I’d like to give that opportunity to you!