Sunday, June 03, 2012

Homeschooler Sweep: State Champions Prose & Poetry


for the CT Young Writers Trust

[more photos to come, starting toward the bottom of this post]

FARMINGTON – Two homeschoolers were awarded $750 each and named state champions in prose and poetry during the CT Young Writers 15th annual celebration Saturday at the Hill-Stead Museum.

Emily Falkowski, 15, of Manchester, won for her story, “Emergency Baptism.” Madeleine Chill, 17, of Andover, won for her poem, “Antlers.” Their performance marked the first time homeschoolers had won both state championships. Their teachers, respectively, are Anne Falkowski and Brigid Donohue.

They were among 20 young poets and writers honored during day-long festivities including workshops, music and readings at the museum’s sprawling 152-acre grounds, home of the world-renowned Sunken Garden Poetry Festival.

“There were numerous talented and persuasive entries of both poetry and prose that didn’t make the finalist pool,” said said Ravi Shankar, the poet, professor and chairman of the CT Young Writers Trust. “We congratulate everyone who entered. We are honored to affirm your work.”

The CT Young Writers Trust has awarded more than $205,000 since 1998, affirming the work of more than 7,300 young poets and writers.

Keynote speaker Sheldon Gaskell, the 2010 state prose champion and sophomore at Cornell College of Iowa, told the group to imprison today’s literary moment in their minds.

“If we were to measure days by sand and life as a river,” Gaskell said, “then today is one of those rare gold flecks in the river bed.”

Other award winners in prose and poetry were as follows:



Erika Mayer,16, “Gazebo Ghosts and Lonely Oceans,” Robert E. Fitch High School, Groton; teacher, Jeri Desantis.


Amelia Maggio, 17, “How To Hold A Falcon,” Watkinson School; teacher, Chip Apfelbaum.


Matthew Erdos, 18, “The Brontosaurus,” St. Joseph High School, Trumbull; teacher, Tanya Lowell.


Matthew Cavagnero, 18, “Erin Anne,” Torrington High School; teacher, Patricia Kozlak.


Shannon Haaland, 16, “Going Viral,” E.O. Smith High School, Mansfield; teacher, Denise Abercrombie.

James Dobbyn, 16, “Homer,” Hopkins School, New Haven; teacher, Renee Harlow.

Gage Stone Baker, 16, Arts at the Capitol Theater, Willimantic; teacher, Barbara Greenbaum.

Michael Bloniarz, 17, “Grand Central Station, Rockville High School; teacher, Victoria Nordlund.

Nicholas Bayer, 17, “Winter,” South Windsor High School; teacher, David Olio. -



Bethany Simmonds, 18, “Daylight Fading,” Westover School, Middlebury; teacher, Bruce Coffin.


Peter LaBerge, 17, “Genealogy,” Greens Farms Academy, Westport; teacher, Elizabeth Cleary.


Sara Green, 18, “Being Born and Other Mothers,” E.O. Smith High School, Mansfield; teacher, Denise Abercrombie.


Danilo Machado, 18, “You Ask Me for a Pen (Study in Cull Theory),” Westhill High School, Stamford; teacher, Charley Vandergrift.


Ailsa Slater, 17, “Sea Wife’s Curtains,” Westover School, Middlebury; teacher, Bruce Coffin.

Alexandra Asal, 18, “Left Behind,” Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts; teacher, Pam Nomura.

Katie O’Neill, 16, “Things That Fall From The Sky,” Greenwich Academy; teacher, Jeff Schwartz.

Capri DeBiccari, 17, “Blast from the Plath,” The Williams School, New London; teacher, John Becker.

Leah Valletta, 18, Picking Flowers With Aldous Huxley, The Williams School, New London; teacher, John Becker.


RAVI SHANKAR, 860-938-2139

ANDY THIBAULT, 860-690-0211

Chairman Ravi Reflects On The Day And Looks Forward
Remarks, 6-2-12 at Sunken Garden,
home of the world's largest traffic jam for poetry

Today's 15th annual awards ceremony for the CT Young Writers marks a watershed moment in our long history.

Not only are we recognizing the first home school sweep of state championship laurels - demonstrating our expanding reach - we are also partnering with the Hill-Stead Museum and Sunken Garden Poetry Festival for an extraordinary weekend devoted to the literary arts.

Our finalists this year literally came from all over the state:

Hartford, New London, Middlebury, New Haven, Trumbull, Greenwich, Stamford, Clinton, Madison, Westport, Mansfield, East Berlin, Manchester, Andover, Milford, Trumbull, Torrington, Groton, Mystic, South Windsor … and more …

They had the pleasure of working with hip hop sensation B. Yung and hearing one of our greatest living poets, Richard Wilbur, perform his work at the ripe young age of 91 - this, all complete with a variety of music in the setting of Sunken Garden, home to birds and their naturalist friends.

We are thrilled to validate and affirm the creative work from another diverse bunch of talented teenagers and look forward to the future great poems and stories they will produce.

None of this could happen without the invaluable support of numerous philanthropic individuals and local businesses. Your trust and support of the work by young poets and writers infuses energy and life into the enterprise.

As the longest-running program devoted to young poets and writers in Connecticut, we will expand our services, bringing established authors into urban schools and running pedagogical workshops while continuing to administer the competition.

Help us continue these efforts to support youth literacy and the creative arts by making a tax-deductible contribution: Please visit
  • CT Young Writers website

  • State Poetry Champion Madeleine Chill With Co-MCs Rand Cooper, the Bon App├ętit travel writer and novelist (right); and CT Young Writers Trust Chairman Ravi Shankar, the poet and CCSU Prof.

    State Prose Champion Emily Falkowski (center)With Family

    Keynote Speaker Sheldon Gaskell Delivers

    Prose Champ Emily Falkowski Reads Her Story, "Emergency Baptism," To Crowd At The Sunken Garden's Makeshift Theater.

    Chairman Ravi Listens Intently To Prose Champ; Poetry Champ Madeleine Chill Read Her Prize-Winning Work, "Antlers," Earlier With Consortium Of Young Poets.

  • NHR Cites Local Young Writers As Finalists Converge At Sunken Garden
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