GC held its annual Margaret Harvin Wilson Award ceremony on March 14 in the Pat Peterson Museum Education Room, where seven finalists were selected for their work in poetry, short story and drama.
The award is designed to promote young writers’ passion for writing and to provide students with the encouragement and recognition that creative writing requires.
The finalists were recognized from a pool of 76 entries in the three literary categories. One winner from the first-year and sophomore classes was selected along with one winner from the junior and senior classes.
Sophomore Mallory Wheeler was awarded first place for her script “The Disengagement Party,” a drama that focuses on the lives of a couple who are struggling with an ongoing divorce.
Encouraged by her creative writing professor to submit her work, Wheeler utilized different templates to develop her script’s characters and plot progression.
“I tried four different documents where I could first make the characters and then decide what I was going to do with them,” Wheeler said. “And then I revised it at the end four times.”
Wheeler was previously a theatre major and said she prefers writing scripts to other types of works.
“With plays, I feel like I have to streamline the plot progression,” Wheeler said. “With short stories, you have a little bit of wiggle room, but with a play, everything has to matter,” Wheeler said.
Winning the Margaret Wilson award has encouraged Wheeler in her writing overall, Wheeler said, and she plans to continue using her theatre background to optimize her script writing skills.
Junior Madeline Ender, the winner for the junior and senior class category, was urged by her professor to submit to the contest last year, something she wasn’t entirely comfortable with as a writer.
“I really didn’t know, at the time, if I was going to be able to [make the cut],” Ender said. “I was in this transitional period of ‘Will I be any good? Will people like my writing?’ But this year, it felt less stressful to submit. I had gained some confidence in my writing, and I knew that if I didn’t become a finalist, it didn’t define whether or not I was a good writer.”
Winning second place at last year’s award ceremony gave Ender the validation she needed to submit again.
“To get second place, and then come back and see that there’s chance for improvement here, there’s something to work with, [I] can build on this,” Ender said. “It was a challenge for me to push myself to a higher level and to not give up halfway through… It taught me some tenacity, I think.”
This year, Ender submitted her short story with a newfound confidence and ease. Her story, “The Women of 213 North Hampton Drive,” is a tale of female empowerment.
“It’s really a story about women taking care of other women, and that was something I really wanted to write,” Ender said.
The story was composed just a week earlier for her fiction workshop class in a single night.
“At first, it was really, really awful, and there were a lot of flaws,” Ender said. “But I think revision is one of most important parts of writing, so there were a lot of hours of revision that went into it.”
Inspired by the passion of Margaret Wilson and her accomplishments, Ender said she plans to continue to submit her work and work on her confidence.
“It was like a dam burst and my ideas just came flowing out,” Ender said. “[Winning] definitely gave me more to work with. The whole contest in general has changed my writing from a way to live and emote to a way to put myself into the professional world.”
Junior and runner-up Claire Korzekwa also submitted a short story. Korzekwa entered the contest last year and was chosen to be a finalist for the second year in a row.
“It’s a really great opportunity provided by the staff, especially because you know everyone else who is going to be entering and you get to talk to them,” Korzekwa said. “It’s very supportive and a lot less cutthroat than traditional publishing.”
Korzekwa said she values the reassurance and validation that the contest provides, given the difficulty many creative writers face with beginning to submit their work.
“This year was a lot easier to submit,” Korzekwa said. “There was a lot less questioning and editing, and there were some stories I had already gotten feedback on, and so I thought, ‘OK, this is probably a good fit.’”
Korzekwa’s magical realism short story “The Food of the Gods is Beneath Our Feet” features a college-aged girl dealing with a disorder that makes her unable to taste flavor, causing her to enter a type of delirium.
Similar to Ender’s process, Korzekwa said she prefers to write her works straight through in one sitting. She was able to give the first draft of her story to her workshop class.
“They read it and gave me some really awesome advice on things to help make it make more sense,” Korzekwa said. “I followed most of what they said, and then I submitted it.” Because short stories aren’t Korzekwa’s strongest form of writing, she said, coming in second for her story helped affirm her writing skills and push her out of her comfort zone.
“It’s sometimes hard to apply positivity when reading your own work, so reading all of [the other competitors’] work, I can say that I, objectively, am in the same class … that people would put my stuff with these other really talented people’s work, it just feels really good,” Korzekwa said. “It’s reassuring.”
Each of the finalists received recognition, along with a $1,000 prize, for their works. The Margaret Harvin Wilson Writing Awards are meant to encourage the imagination and creativity that sparks young writers.
“This really changed my writing, and I think it will for however long I write,” Ender said. “I think this is the kickstart of everything.”
Photos courtesy of Madeline Ender