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Teen is Master of Her Craft
Emily Dykes has written two books, hundreds of poems and a produced play
By AMY LAWSON
Saturday December 3, 2005
Emily Dykes had two books written by the time she turned 18. She is working on her third, a psychological profile of the Star Trek character Dr. Spock, just for her own amusement.
Only a senior in high school, Dykes has not only won an award - twice - for her prose, but has also seen her work performed on stage. Her play, "Safety," was used as Montville High School's fall theater production.
"It's kind of weird, because I was directing, but my friends were in it," Dykes said. "But they did an amazing job."
For a teenager with so many literary accomplishments under her belt, Dykes is humble, to say the least. She said her first book, which she calls "a Lord of the Rings rip-off," was simply a growing experience. It took Dykes two years to write the 250-page work that she said is "absolutely terrible," but she's used to the time it takes to put thought and energy into a story to make it work.
"It's awful, but it was good practice," Dykes said. "I've done those two books, and written a couple hundred poems, but those come out easier than the books do. The second book took me about four years, because I took a bit of a hiatus from writing in the middle, and lost heart. But I got back on track, and started writing again."
"Safety" won Dykes the New London County IMPAC-CSU Young Writers Award for prose, and in 2004, she was the winner of the statewide competition with another short story titled "The King."
Dykes traveled to Ireland last spring when she was awarded the title to attend a recognition dinner and workshops with the contest's judges.
She said the awards and production of the play have garnered her unexpected attention, and she's still not quite sure how to handle it.
"The weirdest thing was when two classmates asked me for my autograph," Dykes said with a laugh. "I thought they were joking, but they weren't. It's kind of disconcerting, and I'm a pretty shy person. I don't know how to deal with it all."
Dykes said she's hoping to go to college after high school, but isn't sure if she's been accepted to her top choice yet. She said sees college more as a formality than a necessity for someone with enough motivation.
"I think the influence of school is limited after a certain point. Writing is one of the few fields you can be self-made in," said Dykes. "In Abraham Lincoln's day if you proved you were good enough, then that was it. Now, things are so institutionalized. I think it should be more about personal exploration than a piece of paper."
Dykes said that if she does pursue school, she'd like to major in history.
Thomas Amanti is the principal of Montville High School. He said Dykes was also given an award from the Board of Education for outstanding achievement, upon receipt of the IMPAC award, and that she serves as a role model for her classmates.
"She's an excellent student, and I think when her fellow students see that one of their peers can achieve something of this magnitude, it motivates them to do better and better and better," Amanti said. "She really inspired her classmates."
Amanti estimated that between five and 10 students from the high school enter the competition each year.
Dykes said she has found no shortage of material in daily life and plans to keep writing. She said the awards and feedback from fellow students have given her the confidence to consider submitting some of her work for publication.
"If you're interested in something, definitely go for it and pursue it," Dykes said. "As long as you're doing something you love, you'll be happy, and if you keep working at it, you can only get better."
Reach Amy Lawson at 425-4235 or .
*Name: Emily Dykes.
*Education: Montville High School senior.
*Accomplishments: Two-time winner of the IMPAC-CSU Young Writers Award for prose. In 2004, was state-wide winner, and was county-wide winner in 2005.
*Interests: Member of Flock Theatre community acting group in New London, trombone player in the Eastern Connecticut Youth Orchestra and participates in drama club and academic decathlon at school.
*Influences: J. R. Tolkien, Richard Adams and T.S. Eliot.
WHAT IT MEANS
Having two books while still a teenager is no small accomplishment. What exactly goes on in Emily Dykes' mind as she's dreaming up another idea for a story? According to Dykes, more ideas than could ever be put on paper.
*"I don't write anything down, I don't map it out. I don't have any written plans," Dykes said. "Most of it just goes on in my mind. Almost everything I've ever written has started with a character, more than a plot."
*Dykes said she gets the ideas for characters from traits she sees in people.
*"I spend the vast majority of my time daydreaming just to brainstorm. I take the characters I've grown and I put them in situations and think how they'd react," said Dykes. "Then, a story is born."
*She said her novels and stories take place in "other worlds," but aren't entirely fantasy. She began writing her first novel at the age of 11.
*"I just start writing, and I already have everything in my head and know everything that will happen in the book."
*Dykes said she doesn't let anyone near the book until she feels its absolutely complete. She rereads her work and makes revisions, and edits things she feels need to be changed.
*She then will let her mother read the story and make additional changes. Dykes said her parents generally like what she writes, and give her good feedback.
*"They're very proud, and they're happy, I think the awards have gotten them to be a little more supportive, and feel more secure about my writing. I think now, they realize that I can be a writer, and I might not starve to death," Dykes laughed.
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