The 2022 Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards winners have spoken! These five exceptional high school seniors are preparing for college in the fall, but took a few moments to share with us what winning this scholarship award means to them, and how they envision their hopes and voices in the future.
Sagar Gupta (Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry), Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, Herndon, VA
Winning this award helped transform creative writing from a fun hobby into a more serious professional opportunity. When I was younger, I used to envision seeing a published poetry collection with my name on the cover perched on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, but always put it off as a mere fantasy. Now, however, I’m excited that the prospect of publishing in the future has suddenly become more tangible and I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing.
Ife Martin (Maya Angelou Award for the Spoken Word), West Bloomfield High School, West Bloomfield, MI
I am extremely thankful for this award. I am especially honored to have received the Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word. Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise was the poem that piqued my interest for performance poetry. I read and performed that piece in the fifth grade. It feels like a full circle moment to be honored by that piece as I end my high school career.
Eva Martinez (Personal Essay), Valley Stream North High School, Franklin Square, NY
Diversity in publishing allows me to see a future for myself in the writing industry. As a gay Latina, authors from diverse backgrounds provide hope that other kids like me will grow up feeling less alone. The first book I ever read with an openly gay character opened my eyes and made me feel safer to know there was someone out there like me. My writing is a way to turn my isolation and pain into something that can help people. It is a great privilege to pull people in with my stories and open their minds. Writing can transform. By reading a personal piece, the reader is transported to my experience, whether they agree or not. Writing helps me take up space, make my mark on the world and advocate for myself. As someone interested in history, I appreciate that writing helps to document the experience of a gay teenager in America in 2022. It is my way of saying I am here and I matter.
Arianna Steadman (NYC Entrant), Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Representation in publishing is like a promise from the future. Last summer, I found a book in the library: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience. Not only was this the first book I’d ever seen that focused on multiracial characters, but also it was the first time I’d seen so many multiracial authors. … Reading stories about people like me, written by people like me, written for people like me, was incredibly touching and inspiring. I could see myself in these authors — one day, I, too, might write pieces of short fiction on the multiracial experience.
Kayla Xu (Fiction / Drama), Scripps Ranch High School, San Diego, CA
Winning this award means the world to me. It has encouraged me greatly as a writer, and will make an important contribution to my future education (especially with regards to my college tuition). I’m extremely excited for the professional development week and the meeting with an editor, since I’m hoping to someday publish my own book, inspired by my grandma’s past experiences and struggles facing poverty, famine, and single parenthood.
Congratulations to all of the winners! Read more about the PRH Creative Writing Awards here.