Oscar Merritt Essay Contest

It's a terrifying time to be a young person without a vote in this country. There's so much at stake for your future, and it's you, after all, who will have to live with the consequences if adults elect say, Donald Trump, to be our president.

"I don't want to have to live down a reputation of America as racist and hostile throughout my late teens and early twenties, and no young adult should have to either," 13-year-old Matthew Wieseltier wrote in his viral essay-turned-video, Why I Do Not Want to Grow Up In Donald Trump's America.

His essay got us thinking: Why not let other young people share their takes on The Donald and what he means for America? So we launched an essay contest, and #TeensAgainstTrump was born.

We suggested teens answer the question: What does Donald Trump misunderstand about America? It didn't take long before our inbox, TeensAgainstTrump@huffingtonpost.com, was flooded. (We assume that there must be some Trump-supporting kids out there, too. If so, feel free to let us know why. We're genuinely curious.)

The winner of the contest is Zia T., a 19-year-old English major at Howard University in Washington, D.C. You can read her essay, Making America Great, here. 

We also chose 13 fantastic runners up. You can watch a video of some of the winners reciting parts of their essays above.

Read their full essays below:

  • Brenna G., age 15, Donald Trump: The Leader America Will Never Need
  • Carter S., age 18, Trump Means The End Of American Ideals
  • Courtenay W., age 14, One Nation Under Trump
  • Daniel S., age 17, The Race To Intersectionality
  • David O., age 14, Donald Trump, America's Id
  • Deanna M., age 16, What We're Choosing If We Choose Donald Trump
  • Joelle J., age 14, I Don't Want To, I Can't, I Must Not Grow Up With Donald Trump As President
  • Julia T., age 17, Dear Donald Trump, I'm Proud That My Parents Are Immigrants
  • Natasha L., age 17, What Trump Doesn't Understand About America
  • Nia L. age 15, Make America Hate Again
  • Sam B., age 15, Why America Shouldn't Trust Trump With Our Country
  • Tessa B., age 19, Standing For The Dream
  • Yunkyo K., age 16, Donald Trump's Campaign Is Oppression


Saturday, May 20, 2017
10:00AM – 5:00PM

We are excited to present a full day of   programs and panel sessions for adults, teens and children!

For a full schedule of the times, locations and descriptions of each of the day’s events, please click here: 2017 Event Schedule

Festival kick-off event!

Dani Shapiro in Conversation with Elisha Cooper:
Memoir and More

Wednesday May 17, 7 p.m.
The Gallery at  Merritt Bookstore and Toystore
57 Front Street, Millbrook

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Still Writing (Grove Press), Devotion (Harper) and Slow Motion (Harper), plus five novels, including Black & White (Knopf) and Family History (Anchor). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and has been broadcast on “This American Life”.  Dani was recently Oprah Winfrey’s guest on”Super Soul Sunday.” She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School and Wesleyan University; she is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. A contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler, Dani lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her next book, Hourglass, will be published by Knopf in the spring of 2017. See her online at http://danishapiro.com.

Elisha Cooper is the author of Big Cat, Little Cat (Roaring Brook Press), and Farm (Orchard Books), Train (Orchard Books), 8: An Animal Alphabet(Orchard Books). Other children’s books include Beach (Orchard Books), a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Winner, and Dance! (HarperCollins), a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Books for adults include A Year in New York, and the memoirs Crawling: A Father’s First Year (Anchor) and Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and a Journey Back (Pantheon). Cooper lives with his family in New York City. His website is  www.elishacooper.com.

The following events will be held on Saturday, May 20.
F
or details, please click here: 2017 Event Schedule

10 a.m. to 11 a.m., A Perilous Career as a Photographer – Clark Worswick

Clark Worswick‘s books on Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Japanese 19th century photography were the first works to identify scores of non-European artists working in the medium. His books have been named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times, London’s The Times and The Sunday Times,The Washington Post, Newsweek and Time magazine.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m. , Debut Authors/Writing Friends: Finding Support on the Way to Publication – Roselee Blooston, Marina Antropow Cramer

Roselee Blooston is an award-winning Hudson Valley writer, whose plays have been produced internationally, and whose prose has been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies. Dying in Dubai, a memoir of marriage, mourning, and the Middle East (Apprentice House Press) is her first book and was named as a finalist for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year in the category of Grief/Grieving (Adult Nonfiction). Visit her website at http://roseleeblooston.com/.

Marina Antropow Cramer is a freelance writer who was born in postwar Germany into a family of Russian refugees. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, Istanbul Literary Review, and the Wilderness House Literary Review. In 2014, after nearly thirty years in bookselling, she left the profession to focus on writing full-time. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. Roads (Chicago Review Press) is her first novel. Visit her website at http://marinaantropowcramer.com/.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Taking a Stand – Jana Laiz,  8th grade students from Bulkeley  Middle School

Jana Laiz, the first Writer-In-Residence at Herman Melville’s beloved Arrowhead, is currently working on a juvenile biography of Herman Melville. She is the author of the triple award-winning novel, Weeping Under This Same Moon (Crow Flies Press), along with The Twelfth Stone (Crow Flies Press), Elephants of the Tsunami (EarthBound Books), and Thomas & Autumn (Crow Flies Press). She also is the co-author of both, A Free Woman On God’s Earth, The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman , The Slave Who Won Her Freedom (Crow Flies Press), and Simon Says, Tails Told By The Red Lion Inn Ambassador (Crow Flies Press). Laiz is passionate about making a difference in the world through her writing and working with others who feel the same. She lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. Her website is www.janalaiz.com.

10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Poets Corner – Janice Egry, Lucia Cherciu, Meg Kearney, Gail Carson Levine, Molly McGlennen, Evan Pritchard,  Jo Pitkin

Janice Egry taught music and special education in public schools before retiring to write full time. Her poems have been published in Capper’s, Writing the Natural Way (a textbook on writing by Gabriele Rico), Little Red Tree International Poetry PrizeAnthology,A Slant of Light Anthology, and four Hudson Valley Writers Workshop anthologies. Her work also has won a variety of contests, including grand prize of the 2008 Dancing Poetry Contest and Festival in San Francisco, sponsored by Artists Embassy International.  Her writings also include a lyric or two for his compositions, several short stories, children’s picture book stories, a novel, a novella, and published personal essays. Janice lives in Dutchess County, New York with her husband, Don, a jazz pianist and composer, and two cats, Piccolo and McKenna.

Lucia Cherciu is a Professor of English at SUNY/Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY, and she writes both in English and in Romanian. Her new book, Train Ride to Bucharest, will be published by Sheep Meadow Press in April 2017. Her other books include Edible Flowers (Main Street Rag, 2010), which was a finalist for the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize, Lepădarea de Limbă/The Abandonment of Language (Vinea, 2009), and Altoiul Râsului/Grafted Laughter (Brumar 2010). Her poetry was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her web page is http://luciacherciu.webs.com.

Meg Kearney is the author of two books of poems for adults, An Unkindness of Ravens and Home By Now, winner of the 2010 PEN New England L.L. Winship Award, as well as three connected novels in verse for teens: The Secret of Me, The Girl in the Mirror, and When You Never Said Goodbye. Meg’s award-winning picture book, Trouper, is illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Her poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac” and U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column. She lives in New Hampshire and directs the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. Her website is http://www.megkearney.com/.
Gail Carson Levine is the author of 22 children’s books and is best known for her novel, Ella Enchanted, which won a Newbery honor medal in 1998 and was made into a motion picture in 2004. Other books include the historical novel, Dave at Night, and the two nonfiction how-to’s, Writing Magic, Creating Stories that Fly, and Writer to Writer, From Think to Ink. Her latest is Stolen Magic, the second in the mystery series that began with A Tale of Two Castles, about detective dragon Meenore and its assistant Elodie. Gail, her husband David, and their Airedale Reggie live in a 1790 farmhouse in Brewster, New York. Read more about her at gailcarsonlevine.com.
Molly McGlennen was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is of Anishinaabe and European descent. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of English and Native American Studies at Vassar College. She earned a Ph.D. in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Her creative writing and scholarship have been published widely. She is the author of a collection of poetry Fried Fish and Flour Biscuits, published by Salt’s award-winning “Earthworks Series” of Indigenous writers, and a critical monograph, Creative Alliances: The Transnational Designs of Indigenous Women’s Poetry, from the University of Oklahoma Press, which earned the Beatrice Medicine Award for outstanding scholarship in American Indian Literature. Her poems will be included in the anthology, Tending the Fire (University of New Mexico Press, book and film April 2017).

Evan Pritchard (Mi’kmaq/Celtic descendant), an award winning historian, is the author of over 30 books, including Native American Stories of the Sacred (Turner Books),  No Word for Time (Millichap Books), Native New Yorkers (Council Oak), Henry Hudson and the Algonquins of New York (Council Oak), and Bird Medicine (Inner Traditions). Some of the poems from his book Greetings from Mawenawasic (Foothills Publications), will be included in the forthcoming anthology, Tending the Fire (University of New Mexico Press, book and film April 2017). He has taught Native Studies at Marist, Vassar and Pace University and is the director of the Center for Algonquin Culture in Rosendale, NY. His website is www.algonquinculture.org.

Jo Pitkin is the author of Cradle of the American Circus: Poems from Somers, New York; Commonplace Invasions; and Rendering. She is also the editor of Lost Orchard: Prose and Poetry from the Kirkland College Community. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including The New York Review of Books, Little Star, Quarterly West, Salamander, Southern Humanities Review, Terrain, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley, and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. She lives and works in the Hudson River Valley at the river’s narrowest and deepest point. Visit her on the web at http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=333&a=260.

11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Native Voices – Joe Bruchac, Evan Pritchard, Molly  McGlennen

Joseph Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Native American heritage and traditions for more than 30 years.  He is the author of more than 120 books for children and adults. The best-selling Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children, and others of his “Keepers” series, with its remarkable integration of science and folklore, continue to receive critical acclaim and to be used in classrooms throughout the country. Visit him on the web at http://josephbruchac.com.

Evan Pritchard (Mi’kmaq/Celtic descendant), an award winning historian, is the author of over 30 books, including Native American Stories of the Sacred (Turner Books),  No Word for Time (Millichap Books), Native New Yorkers (Council Oak), Henry Hudson and the Algonquins of New York (Council Oak), and Bird Medicine (Inner Traditions). Some of the poems from his book Greetings from Mawenawasic (Foothills Publications), will be included in the forthcoming anthology, Tending the Fire (University of New Mexico Press, book and film April 2017). He has taught Native Studies at Marist, Vassar and Pace University and is the director of the Center for Algonquin Culture in Rosendale, NY. His website is www.algonquinculture.org.

Molly McGlennen was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is of Anishinaabe and European descent. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of English and Native American Studies at Vassar College. She earned a Ph.D. in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Her creative writing and scholarship have been published widely. She is the author of a collection of poetry Fried Fish and Flour Biscuits, published by Salt’s award-winning “Earthworks Series” of Indigenous writers, and a critical monograph, Creative Alliances: The Transnational Designs of Indigenous Women’s Poetry, from the University of Oklahoma Press, which earned the Beatrice Medicine Award for outstanding scholarship in American Indian Literature. Her poems will be included in the anthology, Tending the Fire (University of New Mexico Press, book and film April 2017).

11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Alice in Central Park – G.A. “Moby” Mudge

G. A. Mudge (“Moby”) is an attorney, photographer, and writer — “I believe in the powers of the visual and the verbal. We must use these powers in good taste and for good purpose.” A serious photographer since elementary school, Moby has photographed, written, and published two books on the statues in Central Park in New York City. He uses his photographs to teach English as a second language to immigrants and developed teaching manuals for this purpose – Use the Visual to Stimulate the Verbal®. Moby lives in Wassaic, NY, with his wife and a very spirited and articulate German shepherd. Visit him on the web at http://fotobs.com.

12 p.m. to 1 p.m., Literary Brown Bag Luncheon with Min Jin Le

Min Jin Lee worked as a lawyer for several years in New York prior to writing full time. She has received the NYFA Fellowship for Fiction, the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review for Best Story, and the Narrative Prize for New and Emerging Writer. Her fiction has been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts and has appeared most recently in One Story. Her writings about books, travel and food have appeared in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, The Times of London, Vogue (US), Travel + Leisure (SEA), Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine. Her personal essays have been anthologized in To Be Real, Breeder, The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works, One Big Happy Family, Sugar in My Bowl, and Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time. From 2007 to 2011, Min Jin lived in Tokyo, Japan where she wrote Pachinko (February 2017). She lives in New York City with her family. Visit her website at https://www.minjinlee.com/.

12 p.m. to 1 p.m., Picture Book Menagerie – Jackie Reynolds, Susanna Leonard Hill, Nancy Furstinger, Barbara Ann Mojica, Victor Ramon Mojica, David Neilsen, Caron Levis, Iza Trapani, William Joel, David Cundy, Karen Orloff, Louisa Luisi-Vilardi, Aileen Stewart, Carol Ann Neville & Anne Pike-Tay, Isabelle Garbani

Jackie Reynolds is an award winning magician, ventriloquist and clown. She mixed a love of numbers and her engineering degree with twenty-five years entertaining children to create Bee Bee’s Circus at the Counting Fair. She brings entertaining and educational programs to family and community events, preschools and schools, and libraries through out the Hudson Valley as Jackie the Magician and Bee Bee the Clown. See her website at http://beebeetheclown.com.

Susanna Leonard Hill is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children including Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House), Not Yet, Rose (Walker & Company) and Can’t Sleep without Sheep (Walker & Company).  She teaches an online picture book writing class – Making Picture Book Magic – offers picture book critiques, and does frequent school and library visits. Three new titles are forthcoming this summer from Little Simon, including When Your Lion Needs a Bath, When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles and The Road that Trucks Built.  Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.  Visit her online at https://susannahill.com.

Nancy Furstinger has been speaking up for animals since she learned to talk, and she hasn’t shut up yet. She is the author of nearly 100 books, including many on her favorite topic: animals! She started her writing career in third grade, when her class performed a play she wrote while recovering from chickenpox. Since then, Nancy has been a feature writer for a daily newspaper, a managing editor of trade and consumer magazines, and an editor at two children’s book publishing houses. She shares her home with big dogs and house rabbits (all rescued), volunteers and fosters pets for several animal organizations. Visit her website at www.nancyfurstinger.com.

Award-winning author Barbara Ann Mojica, is a historian and retired educator living in New York State. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in History and New York State teacher certifications in Elementary, Special Education, and Administration. Marrying her love of history and teaching, Barbara hopes her Little Miss History character will inspire children to learn about historical people, and visit these landmarks. Visit her on the web at www.littlemisshistory.com.

Victor Ramon Mojica was born and raised in Manhattan, New York, but has lived in the Hudson Valley region since 1986 and now resides in Craryville, New York with his wife Barbara. He is an illustrator, cartoonist and writer with such works to his credit as the critically acclaimed, comic book series eugenus…The Next Step In Human Evolution!, which he created, wrote and illustrated. Victor has now written and illustrated his first children’s book titled Captain Crossbones in The Treasure Hunt, based on the comic strip appearing in The Columbia Insider, Pat Fisher and Ed Pollack, Publishers. See his website at www.eugenus.com.

David Neilsen

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