Craft or Commodity? The 'Paradox' of High School Creative Writing Competitions

credit: From: Wikipedia

Whenaden Heiser-Cerrato was in high school, he loved writing, so he founded a creative writing club, hosted flash fiction contests, and wrote pages upon pages of stories and poems.

Heiser-Cerrato went on to win multiple national awards for his prose and poetry, submitted creative writing portfolios to Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania, and he's sure his creative writing is what propelled him to Harvard.

"It was my main hook," the 26-year-old tells Fast Company.

But Heiser-Cerrato isn't alone.

According to Scholastic, more than 315,000 students entered its YoungArts and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards last year, up from 200,000 entries in 2005.

But the pressure to win can stunt young writers' growth and complicate their relationship with their craft and themselves.

Several former high school creative writers say that specific styles and topic areas disproportionately win national writing competitions.

By propelling winners to elite colleges and empowering them to pursue writing, these competitions can change the course of students' lives.

But does turning creative writing into a competition for admissions erode its artistic purpose? Heiser-Cerrato went to a "sports high school" where it was difficult for him to receive the mentorship he needed

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