Letitia Chan Wins Prestigious Bennington Young Writers Award
by Charis Palandjian on Friday, June 10th, 2016
The Bennington Young Writers Awards is an annual writing competition for students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades nationwide, according to the Bennington website. Students may submit poetry, fiction, or nonfiction and last year, 2,300 students entered the contest for all three literary categories. This year, Letitia Chan (II) submitted a collection of three poems and was awarded first place for her poetry in this prestigious competition – Congratulations Letitia!
Letitia’s three poems are original and distinguished, as they dig into true conflicts. The first poem, titled “What Made Me,” is about a complex relationship between a mother and daughter. The poem, an unspoken desire for forgiveness, discusses how a daughter wishes to come back to her mother after becoming distant during her teenage years. Her second poem is called “Night Fishing,” which uses the metaphor of fishing for a squid, which is swimming towards light, to illustrate a female speaker’s trying to enlighten her lover. Letitia’s third and final poem is titled “Dilutions,” a poem about a girl whose grandfather favors males but is surrounded by only women in his house.
All three poems bring to light honest and true messages that we do not always have the courage to confront. When asked what inspires her writing, Letitia describes her poetry as “partly autobiographical, partly fictional.” Letitia also divulged that taking two creative writing courses during her time at Milton, one class sophomore year and one advanced class junior year, had a great impact on her development as a writer.
Letitia said that her first time writing poetry was in her Creative Writing class sophomore year with Mr. Connolly and that this class and Ms. Baker’s Advanced Creative Writing class “transformed [her] Milton career and [herself] as a person, even.” Letitia went from writing stories for fun to being published as a national award winner for her poetry. Letitia reveals that her love for poetry stems from its ability to let her “see and re-see the world.” Letitia also divulges that “[poetry] makes everyone seem human.” Ms. Baker agrees, as she writes that Letitia’s works are “searingly honest,” “original,” and “fierce.”
The creative writing courses at Milton involve writing workshops, described as “the centerpiece of the Advanced course” by Ms. Baker. In these workshops, students critique each other’s work, and this feedback guides the revisions that students make. The only formally graded assignments are when students hand their portfolios, consisting of multiple works of literature they have polished, into Ms. Baker or Mr. Connolly. A single poem or piece is never individually graded.
Ms. Baker says that “in [her] mind, grades falsely motivate work and inhibit creative work.” Even Letitia says that “it’s easy to get discouraged by rejections or negative feedback,” but that she is still drawn back to poetry because of how it allows her to make sense of the world. Letitia has a deep connection with her work, and Ms. Baker says that she sees Letitia’s continuing writing because “she needs to write.” Letitia works harder than most and still stays humble. Her work ethic is as extraordinary as her poetry.
Letitia credits her passion and talent for writing to her two Creative Writing classes. She says “both Mr. Connolly and Ms. Baker are seriously so amazing in the amount they’ve inspired me and helped me better my work.” She continues, saying that without taking these creative writing courses she “wouldn’t have discovered and made writing such a large part of [her] life and something [she] wants to do in [her] foreseeable future.” Letitia’s authorial journey demonstrates that Milton’s Creative Writing program has the ability to transform students not only as writers and but as people too.
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