Poetry and Inspiration with 8th Grader Estella Zhou

April 23, 2018

Some of you may recall that around this time last year we highlighted the achievements of then 7th grader, Estella Zhou, after she won two medals in a national competition for her short story, China Bird, and her flash fiction piece, The Sunbirds. Both were selected by creative professionals as the most accomplished in the nation as part of the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

This year’s news is even better! We’re proud to announce that Estella won a National Gold Medal again as part of the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. This year’s gold medal award is for her poem “Your Hands,” and in addition to winning gold, her poem was also awarded “Best in Grade,” one of just two awards given to all 8th graders in the nation. Next month she’ll take the stage at Carnegie Hall to receive her Best in Grade award!

We recently spent some time with Estella who was kind enough to answer our questions about how she came to write poetry and what inspires her to keep writing.

Can you tell us a little bit about this particular award?
The Scholastic Art and Writing Award is a national art and writing completion for teens across the country. Many call it the most prestigious writing award in the country. I get to go to New York City and accept my award at Carnegie Hall with the other medalists. I am just one of two people awarded this honor for my grade in the country!

What type of work did you submit to the competition?
This year I submitted a total of six pieces and one of them was selected to move onto national judging; that was my poem titled “Your Hands.”

You dedicated this poem to the millions of immigrants living in America right now; what was your inspiration for that?

Immigration is a very personal and important topic to me because both of my parents are first generation immigrants; they came from China. I use that as the basis for the inspiration of my poem, as I wanted to give a voice to immigrants who don’t usually have one.

When did you start writing poetry?
I think I started in 1st grade. I started writing little kid stories and in third grade I started writing more personal poems. When I was at Avis I really got into poetry.

Do you read poetry also? If so who are some of your favorite poets to read?
I love Pablo Neruda and Rabindranath Tagore.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
There are a lot of people who inspire me – the authors I read, activists, and even scientists too. I think creativity is linked in a lot of ways.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the future as far as writing?
I’ve started a few novels but I’ve never been able to get past 20 pages (haha) so I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to crank one out. As far as high school, I’m really excited because I feel like there will be a lot more people and classes to take so I think they’ll provide a lot of inspiration and a wider view of the world.

Any wise words for writers younger than you?
Don’t over criticize yourself. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. Even if you don’t like what you’ve written, there’s always someone for whom your work will definitely speak to.

Thank you Estella for sharing more of your writing process and inspiration with us! And congratulations on your incredible achievement, two years in a row. We’ll be rooting for you on the stage at Carnegie Hall!

To read Estella’s award winning poem, “Your Hands,” click here.