Gelman’s writing takes New York, wins National Scholastic Gold Medal

Gelman stands proudly by other medal winners in New York. Gelmans poem, Women, won her the gold medal.

Erica Gelman

Gelman stands proudly by other medal winners in New York. Gelman’s poem, Women, won her the gold medal.

Megan Sheqiladze, staff writer

          Senior Erica Gelman followed in the footsteps of her role model when she stood on stage at Carnegie Hall this past summer to receive a National Scholastic Gold Medal for a poem she wrote titled Women. Her favorite writer and poet, Sylvia Plath, as well as Andy Warhol, received the same award during the beginning of their careers.

          “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Gelman said. “I was surrounded by art and absolutely creative and brilliant kids for two days. In going to New York, I found a sense of validation and further motivation. The whole experience really inspired me.”

          This was Gelman’s second time entering the competition. She has been participating in it ever since she was introduced to the program. Other awards she has won include six regional gold keys and one regional silver key.

         According to the Scholastic Art and Writing web-site, judges for the competition are published writers, displayed artists, fashion designers with their own companies and more. For the writing portion, the judges main criteria is originality, technical skill and emergence of a personal vision or voice.

          “What I am most happy to see is energy on the page,” Writer and Judge Adele Griffin said. “I value risks, style choices and a sense that the writer was completely fascinated by the process of getting this story down.”

          During Gelman’s sophomore year, The Scholastic Art & Writing Competition was introduced to her by Cheryl Hope, Creative Writing Teacher.

          “From the first poem she wrote, it was clear her writing was exceptional,” Hope said. “She has a natural sense for lining – where to divide a line of poetry. She has something to say and a unique way of saying it. I encouraged her to submit her poetry, and I was not at all surprised when she won competitions.”

          The Creative Writing class and competitions like the Scholastic Art And Writing Competition drive Gelman to work hard.

          “I write a lot, but competitions and places to submit my work motivate me to keep on going. Before I ever submitted my [writing], I didn’t want to work.”

          According to Gelman, writing has become a part of her daily life. She finds inspiration from her surroundings as well as in assignments. Stashed away in a backpack, Gelman will often have journals. Because of her constant writing habits, Gelman finds herself with many unfinished pieces, so she uses deadlines to encourage her to finish her writing.

          “I feel like if I’m not writing down what’s going on, my feelings or an event, then it [feels] like it never really happened,” Gelman said.

          In school, Gelman has an idea on whether or not she will pass an assignment. Preparing for the competition is harder because there is no room for error, and there is never a guarantee that a piece will be well received.

          “In my opinion, writing for the Scholastic competition is a much better preparation for ‘real world’ writing than taking standardized tests,” Sarah Darer Littman, writer and judge, said. “As a Scholastic judge, I won’t [give] you extra credit for using big vocabulary words just for the sake of it. It’s important to have a good vocabulary, but that doesn’t mean you’re obliged to use it at every opportunity.”

          Littman believes that a writer’s words can be more powerful without being complex.

          “The joy and skill of a writer is to play with language to find the right words to describe the world in a way that resonates with the reader,” Littman said.

          According to Gelman, she aspires to be a writer. Gelman and her family have always planned on writing being Gelman’s side career, but are now finding writing to be a realistic career choice. By participating in the Scholastic Art And Writing Competition, that goal is more achievable than ever, according to Gelman.