Celebrating Maryland’s Young Writers

May 4, 2016

On April 23, Maryland Humanities celebrated Maryland’s 91 Letters About Literature (LAL) state finalists at the 2016 LAL Awards Ceremony. More than 300 people gathered at the University of Baltimore School of Law to celebrate the finalists. With nearly 2,000 entries from Maryland, these 91 young writers represent less than 5% of Maryland’s entrants. What an accomplishment!

After a special welcome from University of Baltimore president Kurt Schmoke, Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman John Sarbanes, and Phoebe Stein, executive director of Maryland Humanities, began the ceremony with the announcement of the Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award. The 2016 recipient is Diane Curry, who has opened a world of creative reading and writing opportunities for her students at Howard County’s River Hill High School. Read more about Ms. Curry and the Sarbanes Award.

Keynote speaker and local author Laura Shovan entertained the audience with an interactive presentation on the lasting influence of stories based on a poem by William Shakespeare, whose 400th birthday coincided with the ceremony.  After the ceremony, Ms. Shovan chatted with aspiring authors and signed copies of her new book, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.

Emcee and LAL judge Joanna Guy introduced each finalist to be recognized individually with a special certificate, followed by the announcement of the winners and runner-ups. Then the standing-room-only crowd got the ultimate treat: hearing the winning letters read aloud. State winners Margaret Kato, Noor Saleem, and Lauralee An captivated the audience with their personal stories of how literature changed their lives.

Congratulations to all of Maryland’s 91 state finalists! We couldn’t be prouder of these young readers and writers. We wish Margaret, Noor, and Lauralee the best of luck as they enter the national judging phase of the Letters About Literature contest.

Can’t get enough LAL? Check out the full list of finalists, read the winning letters, and learn more about on our brand new Letters About Literature webpage.