Rose O’Neill Literary Prize Winners

By Mary Sprague
Elm Staff Writer

The three annual Rose O’Neill Literary House student creative writing prizes were awarded at the 2017 Senior Reading on Thursday, April 20.

Rose O'Neill Literary Prize Winners. Left to right: Erin Caine, Lillian Starr, Roswell Wells, Heidi Butler, Kailani Clarke
Rose O’Neill Literary Prize Winners. Left to right: Erin Caine, Lillian Starr, Roswell Wells, Heidi Butler, Kailani Clarke

The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize deals with works of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or horror. The winner was awarded a $500 prize.

Roswell Wells, junior, won with their short story, “Collateral Damage,” and received an honorable mention for their poem, “Detection and Care of Root-Rotted Thoughts.”

They said, “At face value, both pieces are about people with strange plants growing in their homes and very ineffective and self-destructive solutions to that problem.

“I wasn’t dressed for it at all….you can tell from the picture, and I totally wasn’t expecting to have to get up two times. I’d bill my emotional state at the time as excited yet bewildered.”

They said about their future that they would like to, work with animals in some way as a career, but also “write queer fiction aimed at kids, teens, and/or young adults, and possibly horror,” as a hobby.

Erin Caine, sophomore, received an honorable mention for her short story, “Cassandra and Persephone in the Clock-House.”

She said that it’s a fantasy story about a woman who is drawn to a shape-shifting house as well as its enigmatic, one-eyed proprietor.

“When writing ‘Clock-House,’ I spent the most time just thinking about what kind of story I wanted to write and what I wanted to convey… I chose names from Greek mythology that more or less reflected [inexpressed feelings]… It was actually really fun to write; I wrote most of it in one sitting. It’s always incredibly gratifying to write something that was good enough to be recognized and praised. Competitions like these are a nice change of pace because they give me a concrete goal to work toward when I’m writing,” said Caine.

The William W. Warner Prize was awarded to the student for the best nature writing. The prize focuses on, but is not exclusive to, works about the history of the Atlantic Littoral. The winner is awarded a $500 cash prize.

Freshman Kailani Clarke won for her work, “The Rest of the World was Water.”

She said, “The work I submitted to the William Warner Prize is in essence a public-access journal entry. When I was a senior in high school, I and several of my peers took a trip to Tangier Island and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Port Isobel as part of my school’s Bay Studies program to observe how sea level rise would effect communities like Tangier. Knowing that I like to make books, my headmaster, the leader of the study, asked me to build a journal that could be passed down to future groups of students on that trip. That summer I created the book, consulted my journals from the trip, and typed up an account of what we did, what we learned, and what it meant. I transcribed the account into the journal and gave the book to my school, but kept the document, and ended up submitting it for the William Warner prize.

“I was surprised, thrilled and humbled to win the prize. I’d like to thank Dr. Hall and the staff of the Lit House for reading and accepting the piece, as well as John Lewis, headmaster of the Gunston School, for issuing me the initial challenge. Also, my mom and all the other great writing teachers I have had over the years.

“My immediate hopes for the future are to survive finals. Beyond that, continue to find my path, do what I love and help the world, and, as Prince said, get through this thing called life. And have some fun along the way.”

Junior Heidi Butler received an honorable mention for her work, “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”

She said, “[The essay] combines personal narrative and critical analysis of texts, including “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” by Annie Dillard and writings by John Muir. I look at the way many writers view nature as a spiritual place and the implications that this view has for conservation. I pair my analysis of these texts with narrative about my work at a Christian summer camp out in the woods of North Stonington, Connecticut.

“It was such a surprise to receive Honorable Mention for the prize. I was honored to have received this recognition and acknowledgement of my hard work.

“As for my future plans, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in American History or American Studies after college, and ultimately end up as a professor at a liberal arts institution like Washington College. I want to spend my career continuing my learning and scholarship, as well as working with young scholars. I hope to help future generations of students become passionate about knowledge and learning like I am.”

The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize was established through the Academy of American Poets, and awarded to the best single poem. The winner receives a $100 prize, along with a certificate from the Academy of American Poets.

Lillian Starr, senior, won with her poem, “Portrait of Boy Dancing.”

She said, “The poem is about an intimate relationship between the speaker and subject; it’s also about gender and femininity. I can’t really say much more about it unless you read it. It has Ginger Rogers in it, too, who I’m a long time fan of.

“Winning the prize was super cool. Very short, but that’s nice since it doesn’t take too much away from the Senior Reading. I also get recognized on the Academy of American Poets website for it, which is the best part.

“I’m moving to Miami in the fall for graduate school; I’m planning on receiving an MFA in Poetry in the next three years, so I guess I just hope I succeed in the program.”

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