Free-form poetry, photography, personal narratives or painted scenes — any piece of art or creative writing inspired by a memoir is eligible for a contest at Colorado Mountain College.
As part of this year’s Common Reader program, CMC students and the public are invited to submit art and creative writing pieces to a contest sponsored by the college. The entries should be inspired by this year’s Common Reader book, Mishna Wolff’s memoir “I’m Down.” The contest theme will be “Beyond Cultural Identity: Overcoming Obstacles and Making Connections.”
Director Jane Szucs founded the program and said this was the third year in which artwork has been a part of the contest.
“First and foremost, the contest inspires participants to show the way in which the program impacted them,” she said. “At the same time, it lets us see the impact we have through the program on our students and community and helps us improve.”
Three creative writing and three art winners will be chosen, with a cash prize attached: $250 for first, $150 for second and $100 for third. The winning entries will be published on the Common Reader website and will also be submitted for inclusion in the 2014 issue of “Rocky Mountain Reflections,” CMC’s arts and literary journal. The advisory board will serve as the judges.
“One outcome for the program is to be able to document and provide data for illustrating how reading the book that we select for this program impacts our students’ ability to think critically,” Szucs said.
Joyce Mosher, English and literature professor at CMC Summit campuses, said because every campus participates, 10,000 to 11,000 people could read the book total.
“Different disciplines can look in different ways: Sociology can look at race and gender, writing courses look at identity and fitting in and psychology classes can look at family dysfunction,” she said. “It’s all about being inspired — how would you take a picture of not fitting in, for example.”
Judging criteria include: clarity of concept, depth and levels of meaning, impact and composition. The Common Reader program chooses a book for the community to read and culminates in local author visits to CMC campuses. In the past there have been 20 to 50 entries, Szucs said.
“For all participants in the program, this helps show how the book influences the way they think about certain things,” she said.
Wolff grew up in a poor African-American neighborhood where her whiteness marked her as privileged. To cope with a sense of constant displacement, she grew a thick hide and a searing wit to blaze a trail through middle school and beyond.
In a prepared statement, Wolff said she welcomed participating in the Common Reader program at CMC, because it provides an opportunity for diverse members of the community to come together, with the book as a catalyst, to share their own stories.
“I really like connecting with the students afterward,” she said. “If you want people to tell you their stories, the best way to draw that out is to tell them yours. And someone’s got to go first.”
Wolff’s public readings from “I’m Down” mark the college’s seventh-annual Common Reader program. She is currently sharing excerpts and answering questions at the upcoming CMC campuses: 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 in Breckenridge, Oct. 24 in Steamboat Springs and Oct. 25 in Rifle; 10 a.m. on Oct. 28 in Aspen; and 7 p.m. in Spring Valley.