Dear 2017 NYC Award Recipients,
Congratulations on your success and thank you for joining us at the Award Ceremonies at Parsons Sunday March 19 and the Opening Reception for the Gold Key Exhibition at the Met Friday March 24. Before viewing photos from the events, please enjoy the inspiring article below authored by Eugene Lang instructor Nina Boutsikaris.
Specificity Makes Us Human
To an outsider, New York City might seem a wash of sensory overload—it’s generally loud and dirty; it reeks.Visitors marvel at the eerily blinding lights of Times Square, the crowded subway, the immense skyscrapers, the expanse of Central Park, your own tiny, cramped apartment.
But for those who really pay attention, what’s revealed is individuality and specificity—the elements that make this city so precious and fascinating.
Sure, New York “reeks.” But what does it really smell like? Halal meat in the rain and burnt honey-roasted nuts, heat-baked garbage and stale urine, Newport cigarette smoke and expensive perfume. It’s the rose garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, horse poop on Park Avenue, the effluvium of history and diversity, of struggle, drive, and obscene wealth.
Like good writing, we are a city of originality and intention—our details make us who we are. Not some cheesy postcard of a place, but a real place, with real lives unfolding as they have for decades. And recording these details, paying attention to the world, is part our job as writers.
Natalie Goldberg writes, “Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency. Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist—the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase. We must…come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop those details from continuing.”
This summer my nonfiction writing intensive will ask students to look closely at the world so that we might look closely at ourselves. We will hit the pavement, and sit and stare. We will sketch details with words in order to think deeply about place and make meaning from the truth in the world around us. As you polish your Scholastic Writing Contest entry, consider how originality requires specificity—be true to your own voice, because no one else writes quite like you, and be true to details: at times difficult, at times beautiful, but always honest, precious, and fascinating.
Learn more and register for Nina’s High School Summer Writing Intensive course at Eugene Lang College: http://www.newschool.edu/lang/summer-intensives/.
Take a look at photos from the 2017 NYC Gold/Silver Key Award Ceremonies at The New School here.
See photos from the 2017 Opening Reception at the Met here.