The Vinnie Ream Award

Author Sarah Byrn Rickman won the prestigious Vinnie Ream Award in Letters from the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), presented in April 2016, at the Pen Arts Building in Washington D.C., for her essay: Artist’s statement: “The Divine call to art …”

The essay incorporated her inspiration to write Dorothy Scott’s captivating story — Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot.

The words “Divine call to art” were penned by Vinnie Ream, an early member of NLAPW, and an artist whose talent and output embraced all three fields — Letters, Music and Art. As a very young woman, she sculpted a bust of Abraham Lincoln that was his favorite.


The Divine call to art …

The Vinnie Ream Award winning essay by Sarah Byrn Rickman

To the writer it is about story and voice.

A young woman earns her wings and flies — this is what she loves. Her country is at war. She joins the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and flies military aircraft for her country. She dies in a fiery crash. She is 23.

By the time the war is over, few will remember her. Lives go on. Years pass. Memories fade. Her story is lost.

Her twin brother, always devoted but who must go on without her, lives his life — a wife, two sons, grandchildren. His wish — to have her story told. He has saved her letters home, written to family during her year of patriotic service. As he approaches his final days, he donates her letters to the WASP Archives.

A writer has contacted the Archives about this WASP. They have so little information. But the director remembers the writer and emails her. “Are you still interested?”


The letters lie in archival folders, most still in their envelopes. Experiencing the letters is like taking literary communion. They beckon: “take, read.” Paper so very fragile, but intact. The first page bears the wing insignia of the Air Transport Command. The date: Thanksgiving, 1942.

“Dear Mom, To attempt to set down in writing all the events of the past two weeks seems a Herculean task, but here goes.”

A voice, silent for 65 years, speaks across the years to the writer, who listens.


Note: To be reprinted only with the author’s permission.

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