GS Student Wins National Award in Scholastic Art and Writing Competition
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
George School senior Brynnah McFarland of Pennington, New Jersey, has earned a Silver Medal in the General Writing Portfolio category of The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of 2009, becoming one of 1,000 students granted national recognition in the competition. She is one of four students at Pennsylvania schools to win a national award in this category. Nationwide, students in grades seven through twelve submitted over 140,000 works of art and writing to the contest, which is known as the oldest, longest-running, and most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers in the United States. Brynnah was selected as one of 10,000 Gold Key winners in an earlier stage of the competition.
Founded in 1923, The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards has honored a number of artists and writers who later achieved renown. Authors Truman Capote, Bernard Malamud, Joyce Maynard, Sue Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sylvia Plath received awards in the contest as teenagers.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” said Brynnah. Her entry—a portfolio of five poems—includes a series of three pieces about narcolepsy, a sleep disorder from which Brynnah suffers. Entitled “The Narcolepsy Trilogy,” the series is made up of “Field Guide to the Narcoleptic World,” “Kissing on Fences,” and “Then I Fell Asleep.” Brynnah said, “‘The Narcolepsy Trilogy’ contains two pieces that are quite funny, and one that is a bit darker. Having narcolepsy has been tough, but at least it has given me some original material.”
Another element of Brynnah’s portfolio, “Stumble Hill,” is a poem without punctuation. It uses the action of running downhill and losing control to gravity as a metaphor for falling in love. “The metaphor is very nicely developed,” said Terry Culleton, who is Brynnah’s English teacher at George School and a former Bucks County poet laureate. “As the poem progresses, the line breaks become awkward, which creates the feeling of stumbling,” observed Terry. “She has a really nice sense of how form and content can combine and work off of each other in the poetic form.”
Brynnah’s portfolio also includes the autobiographical “My Father’s Morning,” written in a strictly structured form. Brynnah said, “I wanted to write about the seemingly mundane tasks we all perform daily, while capturing part of my dad’s actual routine.”
An editor of Argo, George School’s student literary magazine, Brynnah is currently enrolled in a George School English class that is designed specifically for creative writers. Entitled “World Literature—Writer’s Focus,” the class is a version of George School’s higher-level International Baccalaureate (IB) world literature course. It offers students the opportunity to study a variety of world authors while developing their own creative writing and submitting it to the class for workshop-style critique sessions.
Terry, who teaches the course, has also worked with Brynnah as the faculty sponsor of Argo, and as her freshman-year English teacher. “She’s always been an avid and prolific writer,” said Terry. He recalls that she regularly produced approximately thirty pages of creative journal writing per week in his freshman class, far exceeding the minimum length of the assignment. “She was really bitten by the bug,” he said. Her current writing, he says, has a very sure voice. “It lends a kind of definitiveness to her work that you often don’t see in high school writing. Brynnah’s work has a real sense of authority,” he said.
Although she received the Scholastic award for poetry, Brynnah has generally written more fiction than poetry. Currently working on a novel, she plans to study creative writing in college, and has attended summer creative writing programs at Simon’s Rock College of Bard and Duke University. She names Thomas Hood, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe, and Shakespeare as her favorite writers.
As a national winner, Brynnah will be honored at a celebration that will take place in New York City from June 3 to 5, 2009. The event includes an awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall; a reading of winning work at Bryant Park; and a series of workshops about creative careers, to be presented by a variety of New York City professionals, including literary agents and studio artists. Brynnah’s work will be considered for publication in The Best Teen Writing Anthology, The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards National Catalog, the website of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and Scholastic publications.