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Young Writers Compete for Awards Tonight
By David Pencek
Norwich Bulletin
June 4, 2004

Connecticut has been home to such writers as Mark Twain, Eugene O'Neill, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Robert Penn Warren and, more recently, Wally Lamb.

The next best-seller could come from one of the 17 young writers competing in the seventh annual IMPAC-Connecticut State University Young Writers Awards.

The annual dinner is tonight at the Litchfield Inn. Two $1,000 awards will be given to the state's best young writer in prose and in poetry. The 17 writers, who are between 13 and 18 years old, already have won $1,000 for winning the regional competition.

"We've had consistent high quality of writing over the years," chairman Andy Thibault said. "Very often there are quite a number of strong contenders for the state prize. It makes it difficult for the judges."

New London and Windham Counties have two representatives each for the state awards.

For New London County, Emily Dykes, a sophomore at Montville High School, won the award in prose for her story "The King" and Julia Canfield, a senior at Norwich Free Academy, won the award for poetry for her poem "Norwich."

For Windham County, Allison Kelly of Woodstock Academy won for prose for "Through Time and Space" while Devin McDonald, who lives in Columbia and attends the Arts at the Capitol Theater in Willimantic, won for poetry for "Yellow Lights."

The four will compete against winners from New Haven, Middlesex, Tolland, Hartford, Fairfield and Litchfield counties.

"I never thought the story was good enough to win anything," Dykes said. "It started out as a one page monologue I wrote during a study hall. Two weeks later, my teacher asked me to make it a full-length short story for my final grade."

"The King" is about a young woman named Karya who marries a king but is always alone because he must go off to fight a war.

In her poem about Norwich, Canfield wrote how the city has changed because of the casinos, but still tries to maintain its quaintness.

"It's a perfect suburban town that has lost itself," Canfield said. "There's a lot of pride in town that I was trying to get by with the poem."

In "Yellow Lights," McDonald wrote about a scene during a thunderstorm.

Kelly's entry, "Through Time and Space," is the prologue and first chapter of a novel she wrote. It takes place in the future and Earth has been destroyed.

"I'm into the whole dark ages, but people had written about that before so I put my characters in the future," Kelly said. "It has a moral point to it. One is if we don't stop hating each other, we'll be our own undoing."

English professor Audrey Kerr and poet Emily Madsen, who won the 2002 state poetry award, will be the keynote speakers during tonight's reception.

"We want to affirm the work of young writers and say, 'Yes, they actually are writers,'" Thibault said. "Writers need that, so we have a big party for them and give them lots of money."

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