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Meet Awards Alum Cece Meserve

Photo courtesy of Cece Meserve

We had a blast kickin’ it with Keiji in June and learning about his artistic journey after he won his Scholastic Award in 2017. Now that it’s July, we’re excited to introduce our next alum, Cece Meserve!

Cece won a Gold Medal for Novel Writing in 2010, during her senior year in high school. She had been working on her novel, The Toolshed Burning, since she was fifteen and had submitted the first 50 pages to the Awards on a whim. When she learned that her work had won a Gold Medal, she happened to be at a midnight showing of a movie… and missed dozens of phone calls from her parents excited to share the good news! Needless to say, Cece was overjoyed. Since then, she’s gone on to publish work for her college’s literary magazine, tutor middle and high schoolers, become a freelance editor, and land an agent with the goal of becoming a published author. Read on to learn more about Cece’s experience with the Awards and beyond, and how she fuses creativity into every aspect of her life. Be sure to check out Cece’s prompt at the bottom of the post, and read through to find out how to share your art or writing inspired by the prompt for the chance to win a gift card!

Q & A with Cece Meserve

Q: What impact did receiving your Award have on you and your path?

Excerpt from Cece’s 2010 Scholastic Award winning piece, The Toolshed Burning.

I knew I wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade, but really had no idea if it was practical or if I was good enough. The most important thing this Award gave me was validation and self-confidence. Being able to add this Award on a transcript or resume has been really helpful (perhaps key!) to getting into colleges, to getting me an agent, and even years later as I searched for jobs.

Q: How did you pursue your creativity after high school?

College was really good for me creatively. I majored in English at Hope College and had the privilege to learn from some amazing professors. I still think some of my best writing came from this time in my life.

When I graduated college, I had a romantic dream of waiting tables or serving coffee, living in some cheap loft apartment in a big city, working on my novel by night. I think a lot of it was influenced by Rent and Moulin Rogue. After my starving artist phase (which should take approximately two to five years), I’d get my masters, move to New York City and be a fabulous and well-respected writer. However, the starving artist phase lasted much longer than I had expected, and it wasn’t quite the bohemian dream I had pictured. I was a receptionist, a diner waitress, a florist, and I was a barista for almost ten years. I got some writing done but I underestimated the work, the energy (socially and physically) and the dedication that the service industry requires. I don’t regret it though! I gained so much experience from this kind of work. I developed so many wonderful relationships and life-long skills and learned to truly appreciate and value my community. I learned if you value creativity, it seeps into your life wherever you are, but if you want to make money as basically any kind of artist, you need to be deliberate with the time you carve out for yourself and your passions. I’ve gotten so much better at balancing my regular life with my creative life in the last few years. During this time, I still was able to get an agent and work through many new drafts of my book, and meet with potential publishers, while also working on several other books on the side.

Q: What are you up to now?

Excerpt from Cece’s 2010 Scholastic Award winning piece, The Toolshed Burning.

This interview caught me in the middle of the COVID-19 quarantine… When I was asked if I’d be interested in sharing my experience, I have to be honest, I was watching Britney Spears music videos and eating popcorn for dinner. This last year, I’ve transitioned from the service industry into education, working as a tutor for middle and high schoolers. I love it. I’ve also been working some freelance editing jobs and still occasionally arranging flowers. While the quarantine is so scary and strange and, at times, really difficult, it had given me so much time to pursue my own writing without distraction and has really reinvigorated my love and need to create! I never feel more myself than when I’m caught up in a story I’m working on.

Q: Where can people find your work?

My personal blog is cheapinkwell.com which features some crafts, writing and professional updates. I also have some work published in Opus: Hope College’s Literary Magazine.

Q: Anything else you want to share with young artist and writers, and the people supporting them?

I’ve gotten a lot of good advice over the years: don’t give up, find mentors and critics you trust, make time to write everyday, find a balance between your passion and everything else… but I think the most important thing is to love what you do. Becoming an artist of any kind takes dedication, and you have to really love the work (even when you hate the work) to make it happen.

Start.Write.Now Prompt from Cece Meserve

A note from Cece on finding her inspiration: Most often, it’s the art of other people; other books, movies, songs, paintings, that make me feel profoundly something. I think to myself, how can I recreate this feeling I’m feeling in my own way? Can I make other people feel like this too?

The Prompt: Create something inspired by blackout poetry.

A note from Cece: I’ve always been a fan of the blackout poem. You take anything with words; a newspaper article, song lyrics, a cook-book recipe, and blackout all the words with a dark marker, except for a carefully chosen few to make a poem. If I get really stuck, it can be a way to jumpstart an original poem or story, and I think it could inspire all kinds of visual art as well!

Start.Write.Now Reminders!

As a reminder, all responses to the Start.Write.Now. post are due August 3. Email your responses to us at ral@artandwriting.org with the subject line “Start.Write.Now.” Make sure to review our guidelines for participating before emailing in your work. Everyone is invited to use this prompt as inspiration for your work this summer, even if you choose not to or are ineligible to participate in the Start.Write.Now. challenge. 

Check back on August 20 to see to see the works that this prompt inspired and who will be our lucky gift card winners!  

All participants must be 13 years of age or older, and follow the Scholastic Awards eligibility criteria. For more information on participating, please see our full guidelines.

Have something thoughtful to share?

Email us at ral@artandwriting.org to share your inspiration. We want to hear from you!

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