Wylde Q. Chicken Award Winner Arch Robison,
with nominators Frances Harris and Elizabeth Majerus
I would like to nominate Arch Robison for his SCAT standardized test, a parody test that he wrote for my Creative Writing class. Arch is worthy of the Wylde Q for any number of exceptionally creative and genre-bending assignments he’s created in my class, but this is the cleverest, the funniest, and the most surreal. He created a parody of standardized college entrance tests which pokes wide-ranging fun a number of current cultural obsessions and recent trends, but also plays with the logic of math, reading comprehension, and other standard SAT favorites.
Arch did this for an "open genre" assignment. The basic idea of open genre is that the kids can pick whatever genre they like best (since I ask them to write poems, stories, or short plays for the majority of the assignments). But I also always note that students are welcome to combine genres or even invent a new one. Arch clearly took me up on that challenge! The "SCAT" is like nothing I’ve ever gotten from a student in my fourteen years of teaching Creative Writing. It’s a great piece of work - funny, erudite, wide-ranging in its references and allusions, and just clever as hell.
I am nominating "Someone U. Know" (Arch Robison) for the Wylde Q. Chicken award for his creation of an anonymously authored serialized tome entitled "Wally Wombat, Private Eye." The library staff has been his silent co-conspirator. We leave the innocuous looking notebook lying in various places around the library and when new installments appear on one of our desks, we add them. I was thrilled by the verisimilitudeof the "Cataloging-in-publication" data that appears right after the title page of most books, and blogged about it. (See the blog post for pictures of what mysteriously turned up in the library.)
Recently, Arch upped the ante by announcing a contest to figure out the identity of the true author. For the highly observant, here are some of the hints (provided to me by "Someone") hidden within the text:
"A few facts about the book that should be kept secret until it is time to reveal who the author is:
--The dashed line underneath the number for each chapter is a Morse code sequence of two letters, with - = dot and --- = dash, plus faded-out dashes to indicate spaces within and between letters. When put together, it spells "Wally Wombat, Private Eye by Arch Robison"
--All characters have alliterative names, except for the koalas. The first initials of all the koalas, when unscrambled, spells "Arch Robison" (there are currently only a few koalas, but more are showing up in later chapters)
--The ISBN number starting with 10-22 is a red herring; my birthday is on 11-9. However, 10-22 is unofficially "Wombat Day" in Australia.
--On the other hand, an incredibly obscure clue is in the second half of the ISBN number: 26302 is equal to 24601 (Jean Valjean's prison number) and 1701, the registry number of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek. If anyone notices this handy sum, they will know the author likes musicals and science fiction...
--I’ll probably add even more hints/clues/hidden references in future chapters."
And if the Wally Wombat project weren’t enough to win Arch the Wylde Q. Chicken award, allow me to share one of his periodic messages to students and staff on the subject of birding. The guy is serious about this. I mean SERIOUS. And there’s more. Besides birding and creative writing, Arch is one of our track stars, appears in most Uni High play productions, and is a stellar student in math and science and, well, everything.