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The Second Annual Authors’ Award for Excellence in Imaginative Writing was presented to student Christine Hamilton of Stow in the school’s library on April 24, 2012. This award, a $1,000 scholarship funded by a private donation and awarded annually to a talented Minuteman High junior, helps to promote students’ college applications.
Hamilton’s winning story, titled “Perfection,” describes a futuristic, dystopian community whose residents must take an all-important test, the results of which frighteningly determine their destiny. Those who pass are permitted to live. Those who do not are deemed too imperfect to exist and must forfeit their lives against their will. Gripping in its eerie sense of foreboding and impending doom, Hamilton’s story exudes such subtlety and sophistication that it’s easy to see why it earned the top prize. Her sure-handed mastery of language, distinctive literary voice, and sinewy, lean style make “Perfection” a memorable standout.
In second place was student Ian Smith of Arlington for “The Triple Decker.” Third place went to student Kristen Buchanan of Belmont for “The Geologist’s Tale.”
Hamilton, 16, is studying Environmental Technology at Minuteman, and hopes to attend college for biology and environmental science and eventually go into biology. When she heard about this writing award, she said she began thinking of possible subjects for a story of her own to submit. Influenced by classic works of literature like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Hamilton crafted “Perfection.” Once she had a handle on developing the plot and characters, she said she dashed off the story over February vacation.
“It pretty much came out the way I was envisioning it,” Hamilton remarked. Her mother read it before Hamilton submitted it to the contest. According to Hamilton, she declared, “It’s absolutely great, but really disturbing.”
The anonymous donors who make the contest possible noted in an interview that Minuteman previously had very few awards geared specifically toward juniors, and in addition, “Kids dislike writing essays about themselves for college applications.” Now, thanks to the contest, students can submit a piece of creative writing that they are proud of, excited about, and that showcases their distinct ability.
The donors spent a year working on pinpointing the best panel of judges who would be willing to invest the time in the contest and thoughtfully critique each student’s submission(s). WBZ Radio talk show host Jordan Rich was instrumental in bringing in friends of his who are writers and expressed an eagerness to help out, the benefactor said.
One judge was so ecstatic about Hamilton’s story that he wants to put her in touch with his own literary agent.
The donors expressed great satisfaction at how the contest has turned out for the past two years, and said it has been funded for at least two more.
“We really feel like it can make a difference,” the donors observed. “It’s been a really great experience. The students at Minuteman are gifted people with a multitude of diverse talents.”
This year, seventeen entries were submitted. Five distinguished judges discussed and analyzed the students’ work:
Hallie Ephron – Novelist and author of 11 published books including the recently published suspense novel Come and Find Me. She is also a crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe.
Scott Crowley – Up-and-coming local author of two published novels, Ian Baxter and A Sense of Entitlement.
Jon Merz – Film and television producer and author of over a dozen novels including the Lawson Vampire adventures such as The Kensei, mystery/thrillers and adventures.
Jordan Rich – Host of “The Jordan Rich Show” on WBZ Radio, Rich has interviewed hundreds of best-selling authors, international film and TV stars, musicians, entertainers, and celebrities.
Robin Stratton – Writing coach, director of The Newton Writers and Poets Center, editor of “Boston Literary Magazine,” and author of Dealing with Men, Interference from an Unwitting Species & Other Poems, and The Revision Process – A Guide for Those Weeks, Months, or Years Between Your First Draft and Your Last. Her fiction has appeared in “Word Riot,” “Antithesis Common,” “Chick Flicks,” “63 Channels,” “Blink-Ink,” “Pig in a Poke,” “Shoots and Vines” and elsewhere. Her novel On Air will be published in June 2012.
Minuteman English Department Chairperson Maureen Archambault explained the origin of this contest. “Last year, private donors approached me with the idea of a creative writing contest for juniors; the $1,000 scholarship would be awarded to the winner and would serve to promote the student’s college application. The donors asked our department to come up with a name for the contest. Our department created the name, ‘The Authors’ Award for Excellence in Imaginative Writing.’
“The first year,” said Archambault, “the English teachers chose 13 entries for submission. The donors contacted five authors who discussed each piece of work, commented on what they liked, what they thought worked, what could have been improved, etc. At the end of the evening, one winner and two runners-up were chosen. Only the first place winner received a prize.
“This year,” Archambault continued, “we had seventeen entries. Once again, Graphics student Christina Zoller created the program. The two donors, English instructor Greg Donovan, and I attended, along with one author. Four authors phoned in and once again we had a conference call. The authors chose Christine Hamilton’s piece as the winner.”
Chairperson Archambault congratulated all three award winners, thanked the donors who made the awards possible, and expressed her gratitude to Christina Zoller for designing the beautiful program, the Culinary Department for providing refreshments, and the Horticulture Department for arranging centerpieces.
The Minuteman English Department thanks all those involved for helping to make this annual award such a tremendous success. As one of the donors put it, “It’s really been quite an interesting adventure.”