This year was Lovett’s 19th annual short story contest! According to Mr. Newman who runs the contest, 31 students wrote stories for the contest.
George Izard took first place with his story “Bright” about (spoiler warning) a guy whose brother cloned him after he died. Emma Volkmann took second place with her story “The Vines.” It’s a piece of magical realism about a piano player struggling to figure out how much she wants to devote her life to performance. Katharine Childs took third with her story “The Experience I Deserve” about a kid who underestimates his teacher, but then (spoiler once again) gets transported to World War Two after wanting to learn more about it.
For George, he enjoys writing in general, but due to school he writes more essays than creative writing. Once he gets in the zone, it’s “a lot of fun,” but when the topic is bad, he hates it. Almost every English teacher talks about how reading books will make you a better writer, but George mentions how he doesn’t read that often anymore. However, he was really into Percy Jackson when he was younger.
After reading “Bright,” you’d wonder: how does someone come up with a story about clones? Turns out, it was actually completely based on a dream he had! He dreamt that he was the clone, and it was “so scary [he] thought about it all day and wanted to share the story.”
He thinks he had the dream because of some shows he watched like Black Mirror and Rick and Morty. The day after the dream, he made sure to write it down and ended up writing the story on paper. I guess sometimes all it takes is a dream to win $100.
While he doesn’t have specific criteria for what a good story looks like, “all that matters is that it’s well written.” If it’s written in a way that’s funny and entertaining, he’ll read it (even if it’s a book that’s really long like Catch 22, he says).
He actually didn’t have any challenges in writing this because “the best essays and stories happen automatically.”
His favorite part of the story is when it’s revealed that the main character is a clone, and he tried to put emphasis on it, but it was hard because he “can’t read it from the perspective of the other person.”
Emma’s “a big reader,” and enjoys writing! Over the summer is when she has more time to just write creatively and for fun while during school she does more essays. Writing has always been a part of her life, and when she was younger she would write a lot. She started as a reader and then started to write just for fun, and recently she’s gotten back into it! She has a few favorite books, including Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner and Swamplandia! By Karen Russell (both are “very good,” she says).
As a senior, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with college coming up so soon. These feelings of anxiety are actually what inspired her to write her story. It’s about the feeling of having “so many goals but not being sure how to attain them,” and feeling “swamped down.”
Whenever she reads a story, Emma looks for “weird and funky locations” and an interesting setting. For example, the book Swamplandia has an “unconventional” setting, and that’s part of what sucked her in!
Since the story itself had to be 500 words max, she had to cut out a lot, but other than that, there weren’t many challenges when writing! However, she told me that she “likes writing but isn’t a writer.”
This story was actually for her English “Stories of What If” senior elective, and when writing in general, she sticks with her first idea and “simplifies the process.”
When she wrote the story, she tried to include lots of detail and imagery, and in my opinion, she did a great job! She’s proud that she submitted her story because she was “really nervous” about doing it. In the past, she’s thought about submitting a story for the contest, but she never did. It’s definitely a good thing she did, though, because it was so good that it won her a prize!
Like Emma, Katharine wrote when she was younger. But now that high school has been so busy, “it’s a fun thing but not a passion.” She tends to enjoy writing “especially if she doesn’t have to” or if she enjoys the topic, and she prefers to write personal narratives rather than analysis. In AP literature, she read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which she said she enjoyed a lot. Just like George, she was a big Percy Jackson fan when she was younger. In a good story, she looks for things that you don’t expect, like in The Secret History. “The suspense keeps me into it,” she explained.
Even though it’s “not super clear” in her story, it’s inspired by “those stereotypical war kids” that are “always underestimating people.” That’s what the narrator was, and Katharine laughed and said, “He got what was coming to him.” She wrote the story as part of the magical realism unit in her What If… class and decided to submit it to the contest.
In school essays, she procrastinates a lot, so this one was not an exception. Obviously, “the best writing is done in the middle of the night.” We laughed in agreement when she said this. For this story, she wrote as much as she wanted over time and then cut it down from 700 words. In order to cut it down though, she had to get three editors to help her keep only what makes sense and get rid of all the fluff.
Sometimes, it’s hard to make things flow and be understandable. She just writes from her stream of consciousness, but “it doesn’t make sense until [she] explains it,” which is why it was a good thing she got to read it out loud. This is because it “has to be read with a specific tone,” especially because it’s more of an inner monologue.
In her story, she loves the clever callback at the end. For context, at the beginning of the story the teacher introduces the questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how, and at the end, the main character asks himself: “What is this? Where am I? Why am I here? How’d this happen to me? Who sent me here? When am I?
Even though this move was clever, her proudest moment was actually the fact that she was “finally able to figure out how to edit as she goes.” Usually, she doesn’t edit for grammar, but for this story she did. “Doing a whole other draft sucks,” so being able to figure out how to edit as she goes was a huge accomplishment!
George may feel like the best stories happen automatically, but it’s clear with all three of these writers that it took some time and effort to bring them into the world.