West Roxbury, Mass.-- “If I have one piece of advice for these young writers, it would be to keep writing. Writing is a skill you will use for the rest of your lives and much like a muscle it gets stronger with exercise,” said Mr. Michael Connelly ’82 as he addressed 13 Catholic Memorial School students at the 20th annual Picturing America writing contest awards ceremony held on campus last month.
Mr. Connelly, author of 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon and The President’s Team, served as one of three judges for this year’s contest. Fellow alumnus and New York Times best-selling author Mr. William Martin ’68 and Mr. John Pappas, author of Modern Haiku and Bottlerockets, joined Mr. Connelly on the panel of judges.
Connelly evaluated the non-fiction category while Martin and Pappas judged the fiction and poetry categories, respectively. At the ceremony, each judge praised all the students for their lofty goals and the impressive technical aspects in their essays before announcing the prize-winners. The judges selected freshman Colin Bligh (non-fiction) and sophomores Aidan Healy (poetry) and Liam Bonney (fiction) for first-place awards.
“I wasn’t expecting it. After they announced the second-place winner and I realized I’d won, I was very excited,” said Bonney.
After receiving his prize, each student had the opportunity to read an excerpt of his award-winning piece for the students, faculty, and family in attendance.
Sponsored by CM’s English Department, the Picturing America contest blends writing and art by bringing some of America’s most significant paintings and photographs into English classrooms. Students draw inspiration from an artwork to craft their own fiction, non-fiction, or poetry pieces.
“Picturing America continues to provide students with an authentic opportunity to explore the possibilities of writing in a creative way that connects what they see in an image to the emotions and memories they see within their minds and hearts,” said Ms. Ellen Eberly, who teaches middle school English.
Students set ambitious goals and displayed creativity as they explored concepts such as motherhood, urban life, or the migrant experience. Other students explored time periods like the Great Depression.
More than 300 students from grades seven through twelve submitted entries to this year’s contest. Students had three artwork options to inspire their writing. Two works offered different depictions of the same subject – the Brooklyn Bridge. One was a photograph by Walker Evans and the other was an abstract painting by Joseph Stella. The third option was “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange.
"Last year, several repeat contest-winners graduated. This left room for our younger writers to grow and step up to the challenge. I'm impressed to see a freshman and sophomores win, and I look forward to seeing their work in the future," said Ms. Caitlin Corsano, a member of the English Department, who has organized the contest for the last four years.
For Colin Bligh, first-place winner in non-fiction, he’ll take Mr. Connelly’s advice to heart.
“I appreciate that a person who has reached the pinnacle of his field found my writing exemplary, and hearing his feedback motivates me to keep writing.”
2020 Picturing America Award Winners
Honorable Mention: TJ Elrod and Isaac Sydnor
1st: Colin Bligh
Honorable Mention: Ethan Bartucca and Alexander Kryukov