This is an article based upon an interview of Andre West of Dream Quest One by Gregory Huff at CreativeHelps.com. Andre West is a writer, a poet, a dreamer, creator and founder of Dream Quest One, a poetry and writing contest. The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is open to anyone who loves to arrange words into the beautiful art of poetry or to write a story that’s worth telling everyone. And to all who have the ability to dream. Write a poem, 30 lines or fewer on any subject or write a short story, 5 pages or fewer on any theme to win cash prizes in this unique competition. Visit http://www.dreamquestone.com for details and to enter.
1. What was your inspiration for starting Dream Quest One? My inspiration for starting Dream Quest One goes as far back as my early childhood education. Besides playing with Lincoln Logs and Army Men toys, I remember reading books and learning nursery rhymes. Particularly, I really loved the times when my mother would read bedtime stories to me. So about the age of five or six years old, I began reading books on my own. This is when my mother let me read bedtime stories to her. She told me that she enjoyed my reading so much that I would put her to sleep instead. Enthusiastically, with childlike confidence, I wanted to read stories and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes to my dear mother in order to show her that I can read. In doing so, it made me feel good to start and finish reading a complete book. As a child, my favorite book to read was The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I guess you could say that I was hooked on phonics at an early age.
I learned that a picture is worth a thousand words. Noticing that many children’s books contained illustrations, I saw that those pictures only reinforced what I had already read. Discovering my imagination took me to far off places in the universe where I could visit by reading words alone. Therefore, in my youthful mind pictures had become redundant. Not that there was anything wrong with a colorful illustration but pictures seem to replace words I could be reading. I then asked my mother to get me books without pictures. Since a picture is worth a thousand words then a word is worth a thousand and one pictures I could imagine, I thought. And she brought me all sorts of new and exciting tales to read.
My imagination began to grow and develop while opening my mind. During this time, I lived with my family at a government housing project building in “The Village” called the “Row Houses” in the A.B.L.A. Homes at Chicago, Illinois. Located on the West Side, I lived right across the street from Fosco Park. My big brother and I use to play in the dirty field, ride bikes, skateboard, roller-skate, flying kites, and even ice skate during the winter months. We always had what we needed so being poor didn’t bother us that much. We hardly even thought about it sometimes, but we knew. We use to eat maple syrup and bread sandwiches back then. Hey, it kept us alive. I’d still eat one until this day.
As years went by, I was considered a “gifted” child at Medill Elementary School. I really didn’t know what “gifted” meant since I didn’t receive too many gifts back then. All I remember is that a few other students and I had to take more advanced classes than our regular homeroom peers. I went to different instructors for reading, music and art classes. At this time my reading comprehension, vocabulary, and verbal skills were considered above average. I didn’t understand what that really meant because all I wanted to do was have fun with my friends and play. It was nice to take a break from the monotony of being in the same classroom setting all day.
So from first grade class through junior high school I remember attending Junior Great Books classes. We read stories such as The Velveteen Rabbit, The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes, discussing what happened in those stories as a group. It helped develop the essential skills of reading carefully, thinking critically, listening intently, and speaking and writing persuasively. I had fun participating in those group discussions and did very well in English Grammar subjects. I wrote essay compositions and poems for classroom exercises and homework. I never stopped reading books. My teachers would always praise my ability to produce very creative writing. It felt good to write, whether it was a short story or poem to transform thoughts and feelings into words, convey messages to readers, producing a desired outcome or effect. I love writing. It’s that simple.
I remember having my essays, stories and poems posted in my classroom and on the hallway walls at my schools. I continued writing but there was something else about me. I always wanted to fit in with the popular students. And being smart was not very popular in these circles. Also, there were some negative influences from family members and so-called friends that steered me to mischief at times. So I became shy and timid about showing my gifts and talents to those around me. I tried to please everyone as I grew up. In doing so, I was never fully able to express myself or “be myself” so to speak. I usually wrote a story or poem as required from my teachers. Once in 5th grade, I kept a composition book full of essays I wrote throughout the school year. There was a time when I went home with a note from my teacher to my mother. She told my mother that she didn’t believe I had written a certain composition and ‘please don’t do your child’s homework for him.’ Well, my mother didn’t help me. I wrote the story while sitting alone in my room. My mother couldn’t believe I had created such a great story when I showed her before turning in my homework the following day. Nonetheless, I wrote it, only to have my composition book thrown into the trash can on the last day of school. I really regret throwing those stories away. My mother said she really wanted to keep that book too. Usually I write a story or poem when I’m inspired or motivated by a profound person, a memorable place, a wonderful thing, or an outstanding occurrence in my life.
Mrs. Smiley, a strict and disciplined school librarian, at Gallistel Language Academy once pulled me aside to say, “Andre, you really have a talent for creative writing. Keep it up. I want you to remember that.” She even wrote her wonderful praise to me in my elementary school graduation autograph book. Writing a book became a somewhat of a dream that might be possible, like unicorns and fire breathing dragons. But I never went deeper into the thought of it back then.
During high school, I continued occasionally writing poems and stories about my life and the things that I have done. There was a local writers’ newsletter that sponsored a poetry contest. I entered a poem not knowing what would happen. To my surprise I won an honorable mention and received a big red dictionary. That contest really gave me a healthy dose of inspiration to continue writing. I always loved poetry and writing even through college. I wrote more stories while taking English courses. Receiving an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts Education it really didn’t dawn on me until I paused and reflected about the direction I have been going in life. To support myself I have been a landscaper and a front-end maintenance worker for a major supermarket chain in Chicago, Illinois. In whatever job I’ve done, I like to do it right or I won’t do it all.
There was always the fear of rejection that haunted me all of my life. I always sought approval form others for fear of being criticized. I was also afraid of failing and succeeding, thinking disaster would come to bring me down and out. I was scared to take a risk, to make mistakes, to let go and live life as I believed in my heart. Sometimes family members mean well, but they may also discourage one from pursuing their calling in life. They may sound like Glum from Gulliver’s Travels saying, “You never make it”. All the wasted time I spent trying to be whatever someone else wanted me to be has passed. I got tired of being afraid to venture off into the unknown. I always have been and always will be writer, a poet and a dreamer, not in that exact order though.
I know that there are others out there like me who have let negative thinking and criticism hold them back from becoming the writer that they truly are. There is someone right here and now who needs to know that dreams are not just for other people. Dreams are for you too. It’s okay to dream for dreams do come true . You can write until your heart is content.
On March 17, 2005 I decided to launch the Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest www.DreamQuestOne.com. This is my avenue to connect with poets and writers from all walks of life. All are welcome to share poems and short stories with the world today. I encourage anyone with a dream of writing to give him or herself a chance. This contest is a labor of love to me. I put my heart, spirit and soul to make it so. Somehow I try to reach out to everyone who enters this contest. This is my connection to humanity. My gateway to all writers, poets and dreamers is Dreamquestone.Com.
2. What works have you written? Up until now I have only written short stories and poems for myself. I am a work in progress. Recently, I have just started writing on a deeper level in my pursuit of being published. I hope to complete and publish my book in the near future. So stay tuned to Dream Quest One for updates.
3. How long have you been offering these contests? I created and established Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest on March 17, 2005. So far I have held four previous contests. Now the contests are being held semi-annually. The closing dates are usually July 31 and December 31.
4. Who judges the entries and by what criteria? I have a unique panel of randomly selected independent judges. Having a background in education, I choose students from colleges and universities to become members of the Dare to Dream Master Selection Committee. Judges may be picked from the University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University, Roosevelt University, Harold Washington College, Chicago State University, Florida A& M, Columbia College, and National Louis University to name a few.
5. How many entries do you typically receive? The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is still relatively new to the world of literature. It typically has received from 300 to 405 entries in this unique dual contest. I am working toward spreading the message out to anyone who writes and dreams of writing.
6. Describe the most unusual entry you’ve received. Although there have been many entries that made me “think,” sometimes well-known authors, poets and people most notable in all walks of life from around the world have entered this competition. However, I would say that Mr. Lester Colodny sent the most unusual entry I can think of right now. It is a story titled, “Monkey Business” It was a hilarious and unusual short story. Also, Lester Colodny happens to be a producer, director, writer actor and advertising maven, with several Clios (the academy award for advertising) and an Emmy to his credit, has written a memoir about his life and the people he helped while working with the William Morris Agency in New York (people such as Neil and Danny Simon, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen). He created, produced and wrote “The Munsters” and wrote episodes for the “Get Smart” and “Love American Style” television shows. Wow, the list of his credits goes on. He received an Emmy for Best Director, Writer, and Producer for The Baja Marimbas and Jack Benny Show. Now that is usual!
7. Can participants recycle their entries for other writing contest? Yes, the beauty of this contest is that all participants retain the rights to recycle their literary works of art as entries for other writing contests. See Official Rules at http://www.dreamquestone.com/rules.html for details.
8. How do you promote the winners of the contest? The winners of the contest are announced and their stories and poems are published online in the Dare to Dream pages at http://www.dreamquestone.com/daretodream.html. People from all over the world may visit the website to read winning poems and short stories. It’s kind of neat.
9. What is the largest prize you have ever given? Dream Quest One awards six prizes totaling $1275.00 in this poetry and short story competition. The largest prize given to contest winners in the Writing Contest is the First Prize in the amount of $500.00. Second Prize is $250.00 and Third Prize is $100.00. The Poetry First Prize is $250.00. Second Prize is $125.00 and Third Prize is $50.00.
10. Why is encouraging writers so important to you? Encouraging writers is very important to me because I believe there is a potential for greatness in everyone. There are people who are talented, gifted with the ability to write the most beautiful poetry and creative stories known to man. However, some people like me have felt oppressed, repressed or somehow not able to express themselves due to people, places, things and circumstances. Maybe someone keeps telling you that you will never make it as a writer. Well, I have news for you. Yes, you can. You can change your mind, change your world, dream and make it a reality.
11. What have you learned as a result of starting your contest? I have learned many things as a result of starting Dream Quest One. First, I have learned to get outside of myself and consider that the next person I meet just might be a potential present and future great writer or poet. I learned to keep an open mind about people and their cultural and geographical backgrounds. No matter what we think, we are all human beings and have a whole lot in common. It is the similarities, not the differences that help us to understand and relate to the human condition. And we can learn to live together and through our differences. I learned that people share the same hopes, dreams and aspirations in world of writing. Others dream and may need to be awakened to a new beginning in their lives. Writing, whether fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, journals, essays, screenplays, diaries or any of the over 50 types of poetry is therapeutic and good to expand the horizons of the mind. By quoting the words in Richard Bach’s story, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, when he discovers the technique of flying: “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”
12. What is the ultimate goal of your website? What do you wish to achieve? The ultimate goal of Dream Quest One is to inspire, motivate and encourage anyone who has the desire or love of poetry and writing to continue doing so without fear of failure or success, regardless of negative criticism from others or ourselves. I hope that all who enter will exercise their right and power to dream and work toward making them a reality. That goes for setting realistic and attainable realistic goals in writing. A dream is nothing but a goal with a deadline.
13. What happens to entries that do not win prizes? I honestly believe that all those who choose to enter the contest and put forth their best efforts to produce a great story or poem are actually winners themselves. Realistically, there are a total of 3 winners chosen from either poetry or writing contest. However, the entries that do not win may be randomly featured on a page at Dream Quest One from time to time. So be on the look out for more outstanding stories and poems.
14. How long are winning entries published online? All contest winners will be showcased on the Dare to Dream (D2D pages) http://www.dreamquestone.com/daretodream.html from the day of winner announcement until the end of the following competition. Thereafter, all winning poems and stories will be kept in Dream Quest One’s archives. In turn they may be brought out at random as featured literary works of art.
15. Can participants have more than one entry in the contest at a time? In this unique dual competition participants may enter both the poetry contest and writing contest at the same time.
Thank you very much for your time and attention to Dream Quest One. If you so choose to enter this contest we will be eagerly looking forward to seeing your literary work. And remember, in whatever you do, “its okay to dream”, for dreams do come true .
CONTACT INFORMATION: Contact: Andre L. West of Dream Quest One, Poetry & Writing Contest, P.O. Box 3141, Chicago, IL 60654 Email: alwest56.hotmail.com
Visit http://www.dreamquestone.com for details and to enter!
These interviews may not be reproduced without including the following credit: copyright Gregory Huff. Please visit www.CreativeHelps.com for more interviews like this and resources designed to energize your creativity.