One of our proudest moments at the Nantucket Book Festival is when we recognize the winners of the Young Writer Award at our Opening Celebration on Friday night.
We are pleased to present the 2019 winner of the Young Writer Award, Haley Ray, and the four finalists.
Haley's essay appears below.
The other finalists' essays may be found at the following links:
Nantucket Book Foundation Young Writer Award 2019 Winner
"Carolyn Butler: 9th grade"
by 9th grader Haley Ray
Never let the fear of not being good enough get in the way of happiness. Carolyn Butler is a piano
teacher at the Nantucket Music Center and in her spare time is the music director for the Dreamland Theatre’s
theatre program. I met her in early 2016 while auditioning for Schoolhouse Rock Jr at the Dreamland. At first
glance, she seemed very tense and to the point but after only being around her for five minutes, I instantly fell in
love with her outgoing and charming personality. She is an exceptional person to be around and an even better
role model in the theatre. Her knowledge of music and passion for theatre is very admirable. Even though I was
only in her acquaintance for two productions at the Dreamland, I will never forget how much she helped me
improve in the theatre. Carolyn opened my eyes to the idea that I should be myself rather than comparing
myself to others.
Confidence is always something I've struggled with. Despite my fear of being noticed, I had the bright
idea to try out for a play at the Dreamland Theatre. In the first two plays I did, I was cast as small ensemble
roles. Even though they were small roles, I still loved the intense burst of energy that surged through my body
while up on the stage. Against all odds, in the third play I did at the Dreamland, Schoolhouse Rock Jr, I got cast
as a lead. I thought that I would have the time of my life until I met the other leads. They were all outstanding in
the theatre which made my confidence fall into a deep, dark hole. I had no idea what I was getting myself into
by becoming a lead in a performance. After about two weeks of learning blocking, songs, and choreography the
day finally came that we would learn the song Adjectives, which was a duet between another lead and me. This
particular lead, a portion of the ensemble, and I gathered around Carolyn's piano in the studio theatre. Carolyn
began pressing a combination of keys on her piano. My duet partner sang first and gave an angelic performance.
Fear ran through my veins and it dawned on me that I wouldn't sound as spectacular as she had once I started to
sing. After a couple of verses, it was time to embarrass myself in front of a bunch of children I barely knew. All
of my focus was aimed at the words in my script and away from the dozen faces staring at me. My throat
choked up and my hands became clammy. Once I began to sing, complete nonsense came out of my mouth. All
anyone in the room could hear was off-pitch screeching. I had no idea what the tune of the song was or how to
read music. I prayed in my head for a truck to crash through the walls and hit me in that exact moment. Carolyn
stopped playing the piano and I ended my glass-breaking performance. My cheeks turned a harsh red as I
picked my eyes up from my script to face Carolyn. Carolyn waited for an eternity then said, “Okay, how about
you try that again. This time, I will play your notes on the piano and you can sing along. Do it just like you did
at your audition. Be your confident self.” Carolyn's support helped me realize that with a little push, I was able
to do what I thought was unimaginable. I had gotten so wrapped up in the idea that the other leads were better
than me that I had forgotten the real reason I was doing the play in the first place. I loved how being on stage
made me feel and I shouldn't let my fear of not being good enough get in the way of that. The directors cast me
as this role because they thought I was a perfect fit. I felt a switch flip inside of me. As if the person I was
before this play started to break free again. I signed up for the play because I love becoming friends with quirky
theatre kids and having fun. I hopped back into reality once Carolyn’s hands met the piano again. My shoulders
became less tense and I sang along as she said to. Instead of worrying about what the others thought, I sang like
nobody was watching. My voice didn't magically sound perfect the second time through but I felt better about
myself. Even if Carolyn’s words of wisdom were unintentional and she was doing her job, her words have stuck
with me ever since that day.
Carolyn made me realize that to succeed in life, I have to be myself. I shouldn't have to worry about
what others think of me. The only thing that matters is that I'm having a blast while living my best life.
Although I have chosen to not continue with theatre, Carolyn's words still affect me in my everyday life. When
I find myself thinking that my peers are judging me or that I'm comparing myself to them, I remember what
Carolyn told me; be my confident self. I shouldn't be ashamed of who I am or how I act because this is the real
me. Carolyn taught me that I am the best version of me and I should be proud of who I am. Even though
sometimes it can be hard to find confidence inside of me, I know that I will always find a way back to being
who I am. The only person to thank for my change of view about confidence is Carolyn Butler.