The voice of Beatrice Gaines, 10, zipped through multiple gadgets — two telephones, one microphone and speakers — until finally reaching listeners on Aug. 16, 2018, on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Gaines’ poem, “The Green House,” had been selected as one of the winning works of the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends’ annual writing contests.
Gaines was out of town; not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to share her work with a live audience, a system of electrical gizmos saved the day.
“She got great applause,” said Bethanne Snodgrass, Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends contests coordinator. “Nothing encourages an aspiring writer like an early success, even a small one.”
The awards ceremony for the 2019 Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends writing contests will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy. The event, which serves to recognize this year’s winners, will also feature readings from select submissions.
Week Eight writers-in-residence, Kristin Kovacic and Jim Daniels, judged the contests, continuing a longstanding tradition of literary awards on the grounds. Snodgrass traces the event’s history as far back as 1931, the year of the Chautauqua Women’s Club’s first poetry contest.
But even 88-year-old, tried-and-true traditions deserve spiff-ups every now and then. In the spirit of adaptation, this year’s contests will feature some changes.
Due to “popular demand,” the 13 award-winning works will be available for Chautauquans to read in the Smith Memorial Library and Poetry Makerspace, Snodgrass said.
Additionally, first-place winners of a category will now be required to sit out from that category for the following year.
“The rule was needed because (a) small number of writers were winning the cash prizes regularly,” Snodgrass said.
But everyone else, regardless of their past authorial successes, is encouraged to apply.
Snodgrass also offered a pro-tip for writers seeking to submit their work next year.
“The chances of winning a cash prize are particularly high in the Young Adult categories (ages 13 to 17),” Snodgrass said, “because typically there have not been as many submissions in those categories.”
The contests are an important part of the larger landscape of literary arts at Chautauqua, Snodgrass said, because they celebrate words crafted by writers of all ages and experiences.