Welcome back to our OOM series dedicated to spotlighting those who have participated in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards over the past 100 years. Every week leading up to the national Awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in June, we will be sharing the stories of some of the program’s incredible alumni whose lives have been impacted by the Awards.
Today, we will be spotlighting alum Brittany Cavallaro, a NYT bestselling author, accomplished poet, and creative writing instructor at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.
Brittany always knew she wanted to be a writer, but her writing and overall Awards journey didn’t begin until she reached Interlochen Arts Academy. When she was just 16 years old, Brittany won a scholarship from the school to study creative writing. It was during her time at the school where she was first introduced and encouraged to apply to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
She won her first national awards in 2003 for flash fiction and poetry. The following year as a senior, Brittany won the Award’s highest honor—the Gold Medal Portfolio Award—for her writing collection, which consisted of a mix of poetry, flash fiction, and nonfiction pieces.
When asked about how it felt to be recognized by the Awards, specifically for her portfolio, Brittany mentioned that it “in a way this was really wonderful validation that I could do more than one thing.” This recognition provided her with the confidence she needed to continue developing her writing style into a variety of genres—a step that most writers fear taking.
After high school, Brittany went on to study at Middlebury College and received her B.A. in American Literature. While at Middlebury, she was a founding editor-in-chief of Devil’s Lake, her university’s literary journal, and received the David and Jean Milofsky Prize in Creative Writing. Post-grad, Brittany completed an MFA in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and even acquired a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
During her time in school, Brittany taught literature, creative writing, and composition to undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin and advanced high school students through Northwestern University’s CTD program. She eventually found herself coming back and working at her alma mater—Interlochen Arts Academy—where she still teaches today. At Interlochen, Brittany encourages her writing students to experiment in a variety of genres, like she has done herself, as well as submit to the Scholastic Awards.
In addition to teaching, Brittany continues to write professionally. She has published two collections of poetry and a variety of YA novels spread across multiple genres (e.g., historical fiction, fantasy, thriller, etc.)—including her Charlotte Holmes mystery book series. In addition to being published, Brittany has also received a National Endowment of the Arts and several writing fellowships.
Brittany tracks a lot of her career as a writer back to winning that Gold Medal Portfolio Award back in 2004, as it let her know that she could try everything she wanted to try, and “it would all be okay.” She also credits the Awards with helping her gain the confidence and motivation to live the life of a writer, as she now spends her professional life submitting writing—and bracing herself for potential rejection—over and over.
“I wouldn’t have had the nerve to submit [my work] had I not already taken the leap and applied to a thing like [the Awards] when I was younger.”
To learn more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, please visit artandwriting.org. And be sure to return to On Our Minds next week for our next alumni spotlight!
Images in the body: Courtesy of Brittany Cavallaro