July Artist Spotlight: Award-Winning Writer, Joyce Sidman

Hey Joyce, what’s your art form? 

Poetry, Children’s books

Will you share a piece of advice for poets or writers in general?

Think of writing as a process rather than a product. Try to take joy in that process, working toward expressing what is most important to you.

How does teaching your craft to youth affect your own art?

Teaching gets me out of my own head and keeps me in touch with the thrill of creating. Every time I see my students share their work with shining eyes, I am reminded of why I write.

By the end of a week with you, what are three things you hope most students have learned?

I hope they have learned that their own thoughts and feelings are important; that others want to hear what they have to say. Also, that using the right words to express themselves can give them a sense of power and self-worth. And finally, that writing about their world helps them understand it.

What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you? 

It means looking into each student’s eyes and seeing the artist inside. It means fostering a spark that might never have been fostered before. It means connecting with whatever is vital or magical or quirky in a student and allowing it free rein for a while, without rules or standards or tests.

Why do you think arts education is needed in our community? 

Not all knowledge is measured by testing. I meet many students who are wise and creative, but don’t know it yet—because they’ve never been asked to express that part of themselves. The world needs their wisdom and creativity, their vision and innovation. Arts education taps into this unexplored terrain, encouraging students to see themselves and their environment in new ways. Plus, it’s fun! It gives them joy and strength!

Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?

I was always interested! I gravitated toward writing, drawing, theater and music from an early age.

What effect, if any, have the awards you’ve received had on you (NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, etc.)?

These awards have helped me feel like a professional in my field. They give me a bit of added confidence going into the classroom. But what I love about teaching is that, as a COMPAS artist, I am not going in as a “famous author”. I am going in as a seasoned writer who is helping other, slightly less seasoned writers write. The focus is on them, not on me.

Do you think being recognized for your work is an essential part of sustaining a career in the arts?

Being recognized is wonderful, and is emotionally (and monetarily) sustaining in many ways. But an award does not make you a better artist, or make it any easier to create. The next day, at your desk, it’s still just you and the words. No one’s helping you out with that. Which is why I try to focus on the process, and the joy it gives me. That’s what I try to show students, too, when I teach: how deeply satisfying writing itself can be.