Short story yields surprising results

Erin Schilling, Editor-in-chief

“The program was like any other run-of-the-mill writing contest,” senior Emily Beardsley said. But a “run-of-the-mill” contest wouldn’t have allowed Beardsley to fly halfway across the world to a writing workshop in Falmouth, England.

She found out that she was shortlisted for the Falmouth Youth Writers’ Prize contest a couple months after she entered, which meant that her story was in the top 10 list for the contest, earning her an invitation to Falmouth University in late May for a day-long workshop.

Beardsley took Writer’s Workshop with Justin Spencer her junior year, and she stumbled across the writing contest while doing work for the class. “We had to do four entries in writing contests in Mr. Spencer’s class, and basically I was cramming because I hadn’t done them by the end of the semester,” Beardsley said. “I went online and found a bunch of different ones that didn’t have too many restrictions, but I didn’t really look at the names.”

She entered her story “A Man Married to the Sea” into the contest, which she began in Writer’s Workshop and polished after getting critiques from her classmates. “My story was about a page and a half, and it’s about this guy who is reminded about the day he lost his wife and in the end he gets closure from it,” she said. She wrote two drafts before finishing the final copy and used this piece to enter in a couple contests she found online.

Falmouth Youth Writers’ Prize gave her the opportunity to go to sister universities Falmouth and Exeter to hear published writers and work with authors to better her writing techniques.

Beardsley’s grandparents work for Delta and have flight privileges, so she and her family decided to go to England for a week to visit family and attend the workshop. She spent three days in London then drove down to southern England to Falmouth and checked out the university campus.

“When we were in Falmouth, we went and visited the campus before the actual prize day to get a feel for it,” she said. “My grandparents had the idea that I could apply there, so I also got information on that.”

When the day of the workshop came, the shortlisted story writers first watched the introduction of the Falmouth University staff members and took a short tour of part of the campus. Authors then worked with the young writers in professional writing skills workshop, allowing them to choose between fiction-writing or screenwriting. Beardsley participated in the fiction workshop.

“The workshop was science fiction, and I cannot write science fiction to save my life,” Beardsley said. While she said that her story she wrote in the workshop wasn’t very good, it opened her up to new ideas. “My teacher was really into looking at things like an alien because she’s a science fiction writer, so it helped me to not see everything philosophically but more literally– not trying to find meaning in every little object.”

Guest judge and novelist Allan Boroughs chose the top three stories out of the ones shortlisted, and a prize ceremony was held after the workshops. Beardsley’s story did not receive any further recognition. “I hadn’t expected to get anything published or be noted in any contest,” Beardsley said. “This was the first contest I heard back from and that got me in the mood of writing.”

Since the Falmouth Youth Writer’s Contest, Beardsley has been published in the American Library of Poetry. Spencer entered his whole class in this contest, and they asked to publish Beardsley’s work along with a couple of her classmates. Beardsley is now taking Creative Writing with Jillian Bowen to continue to better her writing and enter more contests.

“Of course I want to write,” she said, “but that’s not going to be my sole career.” She plans to major in business marketing or management and establish a career and write on the side. “If it turns out writing is more successful,” she said, “I’ll stick to that.”