What stories come to mind when you look at a picture of three Rockwood baseball players? What poem is inspired by a candid of a gathering at Myers Park? Or maybe your muse arises from something else entirely.
Regardless of whether you want to use the included photo prompts, Fulton County residents of all ages are invited to submit to The Fulton County Historical Society’s 2nd-annual Creative Writing Contest, which is meant to showcase the artistic culture that’s alive and well in the region.
You don’t have to be Robert W. Chambers, Margaret Widdemer, Grace Sarka, Harriet Mabel Spalding or Richard Russo to enter.
Kevin S. Vosburgh, a 49-year-old Johnstown resident, won last year’s adult poetry category for his poem “All Good Things,” inspired by a muffler shop. Vosburgh, a director at Frontier Communications, told his daughters that the shop used to be a Dairy Queen, and when they looked at him like he was crazy he used the moment as a jumping off point to write about personal history.
“I’m a father of four daughters [ages 14, 12, 7 and 7], so I had made a kind of one-off comment pointing toward a building and saying I think that used to be a Dairy Queen, and they looked at me like I was the oldest man who ever walked the face of the Earth because it’s a muffler shop now,” Vosburgh said. “Then, those memories just started to come back.”
Samantha Hall-Saladino, the Fulton County Historical Society & Museum’s executive director, said she started the contest last year precisely to help people see that history is part of everyone in Fulton County.
“We have an arts community here that I think needs to be brought into the spotlight. We have a lot of really creative people in Fulton County, and I thought this would just be another outlet for those people to share their creativity,” she said. “People think history is old stuff and has no relation to them today but, especially if you’re from this area, this is the story of your family, your community. It’s a story of you.”
Dayna Peck, a runner up last year, echoed those words.
“I think this contest is great way to remind people of the creativity that is present in our own community,” said the 26-year-old from Gloversville. “Adirondack folk art is a world renown art form, and this writing contest shines a giant spotlight on the presence of that community.”
Peck, who writes fiction and has ambitions of a novel, said the contest gave her confidence to continue with the craft she’s been developing ever since she was little.
“I have been writing ever since I was a kid. I would bring composition notebooks with me everywhere I went and find a corner somewhere to sit and scribble away,” she said. “Writing is a wonderful way for me to escape into my own imagination.”
The deadline for entries is March 25 at midnight. Submissions should be no longer than four double-spaced, typed pages. Prose and poetry submissions will be divided into four age groups: grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and ages 18+. Winners will be announced April 8, and a reception and reading is scheduled for April 23 at the Fulton County Museum. Local businesses Mysteries on Main Street in Johnstown and Gloversville’s North Star Cafe, Books, Art and Stump City Brewing, also in Gloversville, are donating gift cards to the winners – only the adults get the brewery gift cards, of course.
The submissions will be judged by Marcia Gillis, a Gloversville resident, teacher and president of the Fulton County Historical Society & Museum; Jennifer Jurica Sweeney of Johnstown, who teaches at Knox Jr. High School; Robert Tomlinson, who owns North Star Cafe, Books, Art, and has an extensive art background that includes serving as executive director and curator for The San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art, Gallery One Visual Arts Center and the Oregon Arts Alliance; and Robert Weatherby, staff librarian at the Johnstown Public Library.
Vosburgh, winner of last year’s poetry contest, said he was honored to be recognized and happy to participate.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a prolific writer, but when the opportunity presents itself, especially with a contest or something that I find intriguing, those opportunities give me the chance to participate creatively and then support something local like the historical society,” he said. “So it’s kind of a win-win.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.