Local Talented Student Writers Win Poul Anderson Awards

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    COVID-19 may have kept most high school students in distance learning, but it didn’t stop 41 talented local writers from entering this year’s Poul Anderson Writing Contest. Sponsored by the Friends of the Orinda Library, the contest is open to all high school students in Orinda. The entrants once again showed the depth of talent in our local area. While this year’s contestants were primarily from Miramonte, four entrants from Orinda Academy also competed.
    The judges, which included Glorietta Librarian and author Anne Lowell, Campolindo Librarian Sarah Morgan, Director of the Intuitive Writing Project Elizabeth Perlman and myself, had tough choices to make deciding upon category winners and honorable mentions. Judges were allowed to award more than one winner in a category, or no winner if 
appropriate.
    “When we are judging, the names of the writers are omitted so that we can read and judge without being aware of the identity of the writers,” said Morgan.
    Malayna Chang took first place honors in the Essay/Memoir/Biography category with her heartfelt story about dealing with the loss of her mother entitled “In Memory Of.”
    Although Chang lost her mother to cancer at a young age, she recalls many fond memories and happy times in her award-winning memoir; “When I was a young child, I remember driving up to Lake Tahoe with her and my dad, screaming to music from Les Misérables and Glee, and learning the lyrics to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ at age six.” The Miramonte rising senior also won honorable mention for her short story “Eighteen Months.”
    Shared first place honors with Chang was Chaya Tong, who graduated from Miramonte this year. Tong’s work, “The Memory Keeper,” is a charming account of being the “ultimate daycare kid.” Tong recounts her time in school as “one of the only brown kids,” but she contrasts that with how she blended in at daycare where, as the oldest, she often helped with the younger ones. She writes, “Daycare is infused in me. I can clean a room in five minutes and whip up lunch for seven… After taming countless temper tantrums, I can work with anyone.”
    Wendy Mapaye, also a rising senior at Miramonte, won in the poetry division for her coming-of-age poem, “Sand.” Ending on a high note, she writes: “I was molded and melted and formed till the ground was my cloud, till I landed and bloomed, till I asked, ‘is this what it feels like to be Strong.’”
    Miramonte rising sophomore Jarret Zundel placed first in the short story category with his homage to his grandmother in “Per Aspera Ad Astra,” a Latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars.” In his letter to her he said, “I am writing this because through your life’s limitations you taught me never to live within the borders of stereotype, society, and self-doubt.” He recalls how his grandmother told about her many adventures in China during difficult times, but he also recounts his own adventures with her in the United States, including discovering snow for the first time on a trip to Lake Tahoe.
    Honorable mentions went to Sajda Amiri (“The Soles beneath Our Feet”), Eloise Anagnost (“The Sound of Silent Stories” and “Beneath the Surface”), Reagan Kaelle (“Goldilocks”), Danielle Kelly (“Russian River”), Audrey Lambert (“Nathan and the Sunflower Girl”), Amber Lee (“Give Peace a Chance”), Willa Mapaye (“To Live”), Rowan Sandhu (“Pick the Dandelions”) and Jonathon Su (“My Identity” and “An Introspection: Are Colleges My 
Soulmates?”).
    “The smallest feeling of admiration and honor can encourage young people to continue their passions in life. I sincerely hope that these winning writers continue expressing their ideas and creativity and feel this is safe space in which to do it,” said judge Sarah Morgan.
    Each winner received $500 along with certificates of recognition from the Friends of the Orinda Library. Those achieving honorable mention received $50 each, plus recognition certificates. Winning and honorable mention entries can be read on the Friends of the Orinda Library website, http://www.friendsoftheorindalibrary.org.
    The contest is named in memory of the late Poul Anderson, a popular writer and Orinda resident. One of the most prolific writers in science fiction, Anderson won many distinguished awards during his career, including the Grand Master Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America for a lifetime of distinguished achievement. He was also the author of over 100 novels and story collections as well as several mysteries and non-fiction books.

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