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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

Kipling awards celebrate creativity, imagination, self-expression

Tristam Johnson, the interim executive director of the Landmark Trust, is the creator of the Rudyard Kipling Young Writers Award.

You are welcome to read the 2017 winning entries at the blog, .

Originally published in The Commons issue #416 (Wednesday, July 12, 2017).

RE: “Award named for Kipling is a disservice to the education of student participants” [Letters, Jun. 21]:

The core mission of the Landmark Trust USA is to rescue and restore significant historic properties so people can rent them, sleep and live in them, and experience the cultural and artistic legacy embodied in each of them.

I am responsible for the five properties we own and offer to the public as short-term vacation rentals. The life and life style in each varies from two farmhouses from 1799 and the 1840s; Rudyard Kipling’s home, Naulakha; his carriage house from the 1890s; and a sugarhouse from 1915.

The craftsmanship in each is impressive, and all of our guests are thankful that these buildings have been saved, that they have had the chance to savor special moments in history.

In my view, Naulakha is more than a monument to the memory of an internationally famous writer. Instead, it should be an inspiration to creativity and imagination.

The library shelves are loaded with the full breadth of Kipling’s talent, created at a time when sharing your thoughts required a typewriter, pen, or pencil. The house is really all about literature, writing, expressing, and offering thoughts and ideas to readers.

Every spring, since Winnie Vogt first launched the program 17 years ago, we have sponsored in Naulakha dramatic presentations of Kipling’s Just So Stories to groups of elementary school students. Teachers reserve slots as soon as the dates are published, then prep their students by not only describing Kipling but by focusing primarily on creativity, imagination, dreaming, and writing. For some, there has also been pride in the finished product.

In our current context, electronic distractions and texting are poor substitutes. Reading, being absorbed by the world of the story, is — sadly — less common.

The Rudyard Kipling Young Writers Award has been an effort to encourage creativity, imagination, and the challenge of committing thoughts to paper. The quality we have seen over the last two years has been outstanding, the dedication and joy witnessed by teachers and parents overwhelming, and the pride these kids have exuded when coming to the podium for recognition has made all the effort worthwhile.

You are welcome to read the 2017 winning entries at

This writing challenge will remain an annual event. I believe with the help of teachers and parents that this has served to stimulate creative imaginative minds — a Kipling legacy we should all be able to support.

Tristam Johnson


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