In the spring of 2014, The College of Arts and Letters (CAL) hosted its second annual Creative Writing Contest. Students from all Schools within Stevens were encouraged to participate by submitting original work to the prose and poetry categories of the competition.
“It was very gratifying to see the response that we got from students from every School,” said Professor Billy Middleton, who ran the contest both this year and last. “I think one of the greatest strengths of the CAL Creative Writing Contest is that it encourages the student body to appreciate the creative arts for their own sake and also promotes the fact that creativity is going to be useful in any of the fields that they go into in a practical sense,” Middleton added.
This year, Chris Chiu was the prose winner with his piece titled “Calloway City's Worst.” Reflecting on time spent with an old friend, Chiu addresses topics like belonging and bullying with much humor and insight. Kyria Johnson was the runner-up in the prose category with her work of fiction titled “Red,” and Sean Balanon received an honorable mention for his prose piece “Pretty Minutes.”
Kyle Gonzalez took first place in the poetry category with his submission of two poems called “Privation Poems.” Though short in length, they were extremely rich in imagery. Melanie Panosian was the runner-up for poetry with “Salmon” and Joseph Risi received an honorable mention for his work “Miss.”
Last year when the tradition began, Tamar Boodaghians won the prose category with “(Dis)Affiliate: A Memoir,” which explored the age-old question of what is in a name. Stephen Walter won with his poem “IV,” which was also a piece of self-exploration.
By participating in the contest and expressing ideas freely, students are simultaneously developing a practical skill that can be translated to any profession. “While most Stevens students graduate into STEM fields and areas of study,” noted Middleton, “even the issues that arise in those fields—environmental issues, safety issues, issues with growing technologies and the ethics involved in all of those areas—require creative and critical thinking skills.” This is why opportunities like the CAL Creative Writing Contest are so valued by students and faculty alike.
Gonzalez, this year’s poetry winner, viewed the contest as a way to get himself writing again. He was quick to point out the importance of this opportunity at Stevens. “There is a kind of relief in externalizing an experience, objectifying it into a poem,” he said. “It becomes something you can hold on to.”
Winners and runners-up had the opportunity to share their work publicly on CAL Senior Design Day. For students, it is an invaluable experience to have their voices heard in a supportive setting. In addition, the winning works in prose and poetry were featured in the spring issue of RedShift Magazine, the creative magazine on campus published every semester.
This year’s number and quality of entries contributed to the overall success of the contest and foreshadowed many more to come. “I hope to have the contest become a fixture on campus,” said Middleton, “something that we do every year and something that continues to grow every year; and I hope that we continue to get the same high quality of work.” Pen to page or keyboard to printer, let’s keep the ink flowing at Stevens!