This award is named for Betty X. Davis, the oldest and most revered member of the Austin SBCWI community. Betty has judged many young people’s writing contests and believes these contests help them feel successful at writing, an important lifelong skill.
In 2013 Austin SCBWI created The Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award to honor Betty and one of her greatest passions: to support and develop a love for the written word within a child. Working in concert with the dynamic team of Creative Action’s professional teaching artists, Austin SCBWI established a program through which promising writers of various ages can be acknowledged for their talents.
Each year, three young writers from Austin area elementary, middle and high schools are honored for their writing abilities. All winners receive a journal and gift certificate to BookPeople. The high school winner receives $500 to be used as a means to further their creativity and fuel their dreams. They'll also receive a year's free SCBWI membership and buddy for a year when they turn 18 if they are interested in creating children's books. This award is presented annually at the Austin SCBWI conference. Special thanks to authors Lindsey Lane and Meredith Davis who have overseen this award from its inception.
The Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award is funded by Betty's generous family and outside donations. If you would like to donate, go to the Creative Action donate page here, click on the "I would like to dedicate this donation" and write in "Betty X Davis Award" so your donation will be allocated properly.
Betty X. Davis was born on Nov. 25, 1915, in Akron, Ohio. At age eleven, Betty decided she needed a middle name since her parents seemed satisfied with only a first and a last. One day, she announced she was Betty X. Test. Not too many years later, she wished for three things: to marry a lawyer, have eight children, become a movie star. While the first two came true, the last one did not. However, her marriage to Harvey Davis did give her nominal kinship to a movie star of the same name. As for the “X,” she liked it so much she kept it even after she got married.
Betty graduated from Rollins College intending to become a Religious Education Director in an Episcopal Church. That goal was delayed for forty years. In between, she raised eight children, received two Masters degrees from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and became a public school speech therapist in Richardson, Texas. In 1981, she and her husband retired to Austin, Texas, to be surrounded by their children and grandchildren.
Always along her crowded path of life she wrote: letters, contests entries (won a couple), plays (produced, never published), a curriculum book for speech therapists (published in 1987), and stories (many were published). For Davis, writing and reading are as vital to her as breathing and family. Encouraging young people to write and express themselves through writing is critical to making this world a more thoughtful place. Which is why Betty dedicated herself to writing for children and judging writing contests for young people. When Spider Magazine published one of her stories in 2012, when she was 96, she felt joy. She wants all young people to feel that sense of joy when they write. Read more about Betty in our interview.
What is the secret to Betty X. Davis’s long life?
According to her children, here a few insights: She was happily married for sixty-nine years; she plays tennis twice a week and walks on the non-tennis days; she lives frugally and cooks from scratch; she lives with a passion for social justice and loves to write letters to the editor with her insightful, progressive viewpoints; she eats grapefruit once a day during the season.
How many children and grandchildren and great grandchildren does Betty have?
At last count, Betty has eight children, twelve grand children; ten great grand children and she loves them all.
Why is this award important?
Not only do awards like The Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award add to the vitality of the community and the sponsoring organizations, they honor the values of its namesake and keep them alive. Read thoughts from the winners themselves below...
High School Winner: Marley Miller, freshman at Cedar International High School, is a phenomenal writer and slam poet who contributed greatly to the writing of Creative Action's changing lives youth theatre ensemble play. The play is written collectively by the ensemble through improvisation, individual creative writing prompts, and collaborative assignments. You can read her winning entry here.
Jasper Burns-Trahanovsky, a second grader at Campbell Elementary, you can read his winning entry here.
Natalia Sanchez, a fifth grader at Campbell elementary, you can read her winning entry here.
High School Winner: Ivy Moore won as a senior at Anne Richards for his work writing a monologue from a Changing Lives writing prompt which can be seen here. His professional coach at Creative Action says Ivy, "is a super talented and passionate young person that I think will be doing a lot of awesome writing work in the future."
Elementary School Winner: Xochitil Peralta, 10 years old and a fourth grader at Reilly Elementary for her book The Fruit Crew.
High School Winner: Latrice Holifield won as a sophomore at Manor High School for her work writing and producing a short film titled Scout. Her professional coach at Creative Action said Latrice has a, "rare combination of talent, work ethic, and humility that will allow her to excel in whatever she chooses." You can see the film here.
Middle School Winner: Our middle school winner chose to remain anonymous, he was a seventh grader from Lively Middle School. You can read his piece here: 2021 7th grade winner.
Elementary School Winner: Malik Huitt, fifth grader at Widen Elementary for his work on the screenplay The Rise of the Evil Chicken. You can read it here: RiseofEvilChicken(1)
High School Winner: Marlonique Johnson, senior at Travis High School
Elementary Winner: Magnolia Smith, fifth grader at Maplewood Elementary School
High School Winner update: The 2019 high school winner was Ke'Myra Jackson, a junior at Travis High School. She graduates this spring and next fall will be attending The University of North Texas with the help of her $500 Betty X Davis Young Writers of Merit Scholarship. Congratulations Ke'Myra!
Middle School Winner: Alicia Pope, eighth grader at Knox Wiley Middle School
Elementary School Winner: Sheila Nyamsi Djiekeu, fourth grader at Lee Lewis Campbell Media and Performing Arts Institute
High School Winner: Ke’Myra Jackson, junior at Travis High School
“My writing is my greatest friend, therapist, my best and worst critic. It's helped me reflect on everything I am, everything I've been and everything I want to be. Everything is always changing, my pencil is always moving in my head and in my heart and even though the words may seem still, their meaning, their impact, will never be the same as they are in this exact moment, they only get better. My writing to me means making a difference in all the little things to become the bigger change.” Read her winning piece, titled Sam
Middle School Winner: Nubia Fuente, eighth grader at Del Valle Middle School
Elementary School Winner: Sydney Moise, fourth grader at Bryker Woods Elementary
High School Winner: Anissa Clark, senior at Cedar Ridge High School
“Winning this award has made me so much more confident in my writing. It was such an amazing experience to have people so much older than me compliment my writing and my voice and encourage me to continue. It's really helped me get through some tough writer's block, knowing there are people out there rooting for me." Anissa will be attending Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas. Read her winning piece
Middle School Winner: Elisa Diaz, seventh grader at Dailey Middle School
Elementary School Winner: Lucy Sternberg, third grader at Gullet Elementary School
High School Winner: Gabrielle Lewis, junior at Meridian World School in Round Rock
“I have loved writing and expressing my thoughts creatively for as long as I can remember. However, I often fall into the habit of comparing my poetry with those whom I consider more talented. I over analyze my own work and determine that if my poetry isn't as 'good' as that of other writers, than maybe I shouldn't be writing at all. Being recognized with the Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award was not only a great honor-- it also helped me to realize my potential, that my writing does not have to be like everyone else's to be good. I have a voice that is distinctly my own, and because of this award, I feel confident enough to share that voice with the world.” --Gabrielle will be applying to colleges this year and is hoping to double major in theatre and creative writing. Read her winning piece
Middle School Winner: Keelin Bell, sixth grader at Dailey Middle School in Austin
Elementary School Winner: Maya McNeil Lopez, third grader at Ridgetop Elementary in Austin
2015 (partnered with BadgerDog this year)
Grand Prize: Matthew Hernandez, junior at Westlake High School
“To be honest, I merely went to creative writing camp to improve my writing. The other people I worked with were so good at writing, I am really surprised that I won.” --Mathew is pursuing his interest in engineering and is enrolled at University of Texas at San Antonio. Read his winning piece
Middle School Winner: Rafael Serrano, seventh grader at St. Theresa Catholic School
Elementary School Winner: Eric Haney, fourth grader at Lee Elementary
High School Winner: Vivienne Miller, senior at Garza High School
“I can't even begin to explain the overwhelming joy I felt when I heard about winning first place. The piece that I had written was specifically for the contest and I grew to really love the short story that I had written. I had never submitted anything into a contest before but I am very grateful that I did. I am so honored that out of all the pieces that were submitted, mine was chosen for first place. Writing is a great, great passion of mine and to actually have some credit as a writer is a truly amazing feeling.” --After taking a gap year, Vivienne is enrolled at Austin Community College and taking a full undergraduate course load that includes Cultural Anthropology and Writing. Read her winning piece.
Middle School Winner: Erika De Los Santos, senior at Bowie High School (due to few middle school entries, a second high school entry was awarded)
Elementary School Winner: Parker DeLaune, fifth grader at Maplewood Elementary
High School Winner: Anastaza Pack, senior at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Anastaza Pack is attending Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas.
Middle School Winner: Crystal Gong, sixth grader from Lamar Middle School
Elementary School Winner: Krishna "Brittina" Gautam, third grader at Del Valle Elementary
Image 1: 2015 Betty X. Davis with Matthew Hernandez
Image 2: Betty X. Davis with 2016 winners
Image 3: Ke'Myra Jackson, Nubia Fuente, Betty Davis, Meredith Davis, Sydney Moise, Lindsey Lane
Image 4: 2019 Sheila Nyamsi Djiekeu, Betty Davis and Alicia Pope
Image 5: A piece by Magnolia Smith, our elementary winner
Image 6: l. to r. Noah Martin from Creative Action, Jasper Burns, high school winner Marley Miller, Natalia Sanchez and award coordinator Meredith Davis
Image 7: Lindsey Lane and Meredith Davis, award coordinators, with Betty Davis
Image 8: Lindsey Lane, award coordinator, and Betty Davis
Image 9: Betty X. Davis (l.) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (r.)
Image 10: Betty X. Davis with former Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor Tim Crow