Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hartford Club Mag Makes Pitch For CT Young Writers Trust

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A Young Writer's Worth

... the Young Writers Trust has awarded more than $182,000 to Connecticut teenagers. More than 5,000 young poets and writers have competed in the program ...

With Irwin's passing,
the program finds itself
desperately short of private support ...


Over the course of more than 35 years in the field of journalism, I've had an opportunity or two to talk to students about the art of writing, including rare moments here and there when my own children would listen to me as they were trying to compose essays for school. The most basic advice I give is this: good writing comes from good thinking. That is, the art of writing is not grounded exclusively in the creative arts; it is also wedded to the arts of reason, logic and science.

Stories have to have structure. Articles must follow a path to bring a reader to a conclusion. We have all reveled in a good story that is taut, compelling and enrapturing. And we've all labored to get through prose that meanders, that's disconnected, frustrates and enrages. The former happens when writers bring discipline in addition to creativity to their craft. The latter happens when they don't.

That's why I also tell English majors that the degrees they hold will serve them well not just in the liberal arts, but also in the business world. Critical thinking, creative problem solving, good communication skills and a willingness to explore the works of others are all traits that employers value highly in employees, and which most employers will tell you are scarce among most of the workforce.

In this issue, Connecticut's official demographer, Fred Carstensen, paints a bleak picture of the Nutmeg State's economic outlook. We are hemorrhaging jobs. Our political priorities are undercutting our business base. And our base of young talent is fleeing the state. It's a series of problems linked by the issue that we must do something to encourage talented and skilled youth to grow in this state, and to want to stay here.

Which is what brings me to the Connecticut Young Writers' Trust.

Since 1998, there has been a statewide literary competition for high school students. The program began as a mirror of a famed international writing competition, the Impac Literary Awards given out each year in Dublin, Ireland. The founder of that competition, James Irwin, lived in Litchfield, and he poured his personal fortune into a junior version just for his home state. Irwin believed that when a person was enriched by writing, lifted by literature, his horizons as a valuable member of society were greatly expanded.

[A few years ago, the Connecticut State University System became the umbrella sponsor of the program, which reaches out to high school students in every county.] To date, the Young Writers Trust has awarded more than $182,000 to Connecticut teenagers. More than 5,000 young poets and writers have competed in the program.

Irwin himself died last year. But his legacy lives on in the Trust, which continues to operate passionately under its chairman, Andy Thibault. Himself a writer and former writing coach for the Hartford Courant, Thibault is a resourceful, irreverent and inventive promoter of the program and its goals: get students to write, get them to think, encourage and reward them for being good at it, and not only will they prosper, we will, too.

With Irwin's passing, the program finds itself desperately short of private support. In January, the Young Writer's Trust held a full day of workshops for teachers and students in prose and poetry, gave prominence to several young musicians of talent, and even staged a boxing demonstration to show how words can often do battle better than brute force.

This state prides itself on its educational mastery. But as can be seen in Prof. Carstensen's provocative essay, more still needs to be done. Here's a start: give a donation to the Conn. Young Writer's Project. It's easy. Just contact Andy Thibault by email at He'll tell you what to do. You can also find more information at the Connecticut State University website,

Good writing, after all, is the result of good thinking. And if there's one thing our state could use more of, it's good thinkers. Getting them isn't just the job of our governmental leaders. It's also up to us.

Vincent Michael Valvo
Editor & Publisher

The Connecticut Young Writers Trust is a non-profit foundation classified by the IRS as a 501 C (3) Public Charity.

Sponsorships listed in 2010 program:
County finalist, $250;
County champion, $500;
State champion, $1,000
All donations noted publicly & appreciated.

Make checks out to CT Young Writers Trust and send to:
Connecticut Young Writers Trust
231 Beach St. Litchfield, CT 06759

Federal TIN: 31-1635811

  • Bob Thiesfield Boxing Photos, Irish Ravi Shankar Narrative, Hartford Club Young Writers Event, 1-15-10

  • EDITOR'S NOTE: Entries for the 2010 competition are being tabulated and entered into databases at the four CSU System campuses. Early returns indicate this year's total number of entries could be the largest in the competition's 13-year history. Last year, there were more than 580 entries, the third-highest total; in 2000, there were 647 entries, the highest total.

  • ECSU Academic VP Rhona Free To Young Writers: Get Those Entries Postmarked Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

  • Young Writers Trust Website

  • Hartford Club Website
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