GVSU students to present nationally awarded creative writing

By Anne Marie Smit | 2/26/18 1:28am

GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

Each year, Grand Valley State University students submit their writing to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ (AWP) “intro awards” competition, a contest that critiques the writing of undergraduate and graduate students across the country. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, students who won an award or received an honorable mention from this competition will present their work.

This year’s contest awarded three fiction writers, three nonfiction writers and four poetry writers. 

Ashley Benedict, a senior studying psychology and writing, was the winner for the fiction category. She began experimenting with writing in middle school when she was enrolled in a creative writing class, and she never really stopped writing from that point on.

While she has submitted her work to a number of contests over the years, she has never won an award before, so winning the AWP intro award for fiction was really exciting for her.

“I have not submitted my work to other contests, but I have submitted to various literary journals and have been rejected many times,” Benedict said via email. “Rejection is a big part of being a writer, so I've learned to be okay with it. This contest was a really pleasant surprise. I almost cried when I found out.”

The story she will be presenting Wednesday is a coming-of-age story with some elements of magical realism, she said.

“The piece that I will be sharing is about a young girl from Southern California whose world is suddenly flooded with impossible things—literally, flooded,” Benedict said. “While all of these impossible things are happening, she has to deal with major changes within her family dynamic and learn how to cope. It's essentially a classic coming-of-age story with a twist of magical realism. It was a lot of fun to write.”

Benedict said she is undecided on what exactly she wants to do with her degrees after she graduates this spring, but she plans to take a year off and spend time volunteering in AmeriCorps or another service project. Somewhere down the road, she would like to be a novelist, but she doesn’t think she’s at that point yet.

“I think every writer’s goal is to eventually write a novel,” she said. “Right now, I'm focusing on shorter pieces because I don't think I'm there yet, but I think it would be amazing if I were able to become a published author one day.”

Another winner of the competition, Liv Baker, is a junior studying writing and allied health sciences with an emphasis in speech-language pathology. Like Benedict, Baker has been writing since middle school and has submitted her work to various publications and been rejected. She was, however, published in "Goat's Milk," the new literary magazine founded by GVSU alumni.

Baker’s writing began as a hobby, but as she has written more and submitted to publications and contests, she’s realized that she might be able to develop it into more than a hobby. 

“I originally saw it as a hobby, but as I’ve gone through the major, I kind of saw that there’s potential to turn it into more than that," Baker said. "I’d love to be published in more places if I can." 

Baker wasn’t actually planning on submitting her writing to the AWP intro awards, but one of her writing professors, Beth Peterson, encouraged her to do so. Her award-winning poem wasn’t the intended submission, either; it was a last-minute contribution that ended up being the winning piece.

“I submitted about an hour before the final deadline,” Baker said. “I wasn’t actually going to submit anything, but Dr. Peterson emailed me and said that I should. She emailed me about submitting my nonfiction piece, and I just threw in my poem last minute, and that’s the one that ended up winning.”

The poem that Baker will be presenting is called “Portrait of an Alter-Ego,” which she realized is a reflection of an alter ego within herself that she was expressing. 

“It’s kind of about my alter ego in a sense, but it didn’t start off that way,” she said. “It was kind of some angsty, angry piece that somehow turned into my alter ego.”

Benedict, Baker and the other winners and nominees of the AWP intro awards will present their work in the Multipurpose Room of the Mary Idema Pew Library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and refreshments will be provided.

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