2016 Literary and Theater Award Winners
For the Lit Award, four high school-lever authors share the top prizes. The Theater Award goes to a single high school senior who has done the most in the dramatic sector throughout his or her school career. Both awards are open to home, private and public schoolers in Sullivan County.
The three judges for the Lit Award - Cat Badger, Connie Hatch and Amy Brian-McGee, herself a two-time winner of the top award - struggled mightily to choose from among several strong, polished entries, all presented anonymously.
The judges selected for first prize Kyler Burke's mesmerizing short story, "Secret," which blends fantasy elements into the daily life of an offbeat, artistic girl finding love, disaster and enduring unquiet in the early days of her first year in high school. This long tale completely blew the Arts Council's length limits, but you don't turn away material like this on a technicality. The flow of language is highly personal yet clear as a stream. Congratulations, Kyler.
Bridget Reed took a close second for her two short stories and a poem. One of the tales, "Blood Bond," leads us slowly into fantasy and horror. The other, "No Hands, No Feet, and a Severe Lack of Intelligence," expands an everyday subject of childhood tribulation - learning to ride a bicycle - into a life-changing experience that makes you both cheer and cringe for the heroine. Her poem "Things" catalogs the aches and memories surrounding a father.
Third prize went to Jodie Stockage for her poem "Sand," a form of what's often called "concrete poetry," where the physical shape of the poem both echoes and reinforces the subject. In this case, the hourglass form confines the sands of time that slip away over the years until the days are gone.
Samantha Skoranski took fourth prize for a collection of three poems. "Spark" celebrates that internal something that animates each of us in a unique way. "Love on a Musical Level" takes an endearing look not just at music but at the instrument that the musician uses to produce it. And "The Mirror Images" studies the positives and negatives of personality as they appear in - and through - the mirror of the soul.
All these talented authors appear in the Arts Council's annual magazine, Hill and Valleys, along with the work of runners-up Emily Geist, Leona Hatch, Colby Heaton and Ayianna Petty. The magazine will also feature the work of the high school-level winners of the Youth Art Awards, named earlier in the Sullivan Review.
But none this marvelous work should take away from the announcement of the Theater Award winner: Nicholas Miller. Nick was chosen based on the recommendation of the teachers involved in the high school drama club, and also for his contributions to the SCCA's own Roving Historical Theater.
You may not have seen Nick often on stage, except perhaps scurrying from one wing to another in search of the lost cord. For Nick is the Arts Council's first winner chosen almost entirely on the basis of his work as stage hand and, later, stage manager: the guy who makes all that stuff you take for granted move like clockwork.
It's easy to think that Sullivan County is particularly lucky in the quality of work produced by its students. But luck has little to do with it. It's a matter of hard work, talent and personal ambition. They deserve the laurel wreath, one and all.