Godwin junior Mia Tan was awarded the title of National English Honor Society (NEHS) Writer of the Year. She submitted stories to three out of six of the Flash Fiction writing contests. Out of those she won first place in two.
“‘Flash Fiction’ describes fiction works that range from a few words to a few pages. The ones I submitted to [NEHS] include a drabble (100 word story), twitterature (280 character story), and six-word story,” said Tan.
Her favorite story to write this year was twitterature.
“I’d never heard of the genre before. After looking up the term and reading some examples, I was struck by the idea of turning a social media concept into a literary device. I had to give it a shot,” said Tan.
Even though these are short stories it can still take hours or even days to complete. Tan spends that time “rewriting one line twenty times over or sifting through new themes until [she] finds one that [she] likes.”
Tan takes inspiration from many authors like Leigh Bardugo, Jeannette Walls, Kazuo Ishiguro, and F. Scott. Fitzgerald.
“I especially love poems by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver because of their praise for the ordinary,” said Tan.
Observation in everyday life is a big part of Tan’s process in writing.
“I wrote a poem about an elderly couple I saw at Barnes & Noble, and now I can’t decide if that’s cool or creepy,” said Tan.
NEHS and the Lit Magazine have encouraged Tan to do more writing this year.
One of Tan’s favorite things about NEHS is how it is integrated through the school projects like “recording Valentine’s Day poems this year was such a neat way to uplift the Godwin community through literature. NEHS really demonstrates how English is more than written word—English is a bridge between people. It allows the spread of news, knowledge, and emotions,” said Tan.
“For inspiration, I draw on impactful or surprising situations I’ve been in. Some ideas come from ongoing experiences. The twitterature, for example, underscored the struggles of a virtual student; I took widespread feelings about online school and tried to twist them into satire. Other ideas arrive spontaneously. I thought of the idea for my drabble while listening to Taylor Swift and struggling through a Lang essay. My sources of inspiration fluctuate, and they often hit at odd times,” said Tan.
Now calling it “magnificently cringe-worthy” Tan was just five years old when she wrote her first story about a horse. Later on in middle school she started to share her work with friends. This year was the first time Tan had entered any writing contests.
Tan’s favorite thing about writing is being able to express feelings through words.
“The ability to convey a specific feeling through words never fails to amaze me. Writing is boundless and can turn anything into art. It preserves, but it also predicts. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is,” said Tan.
When being notified that she won Writer of the year her reaction was surprised.
“I didn’t even know I was eligible for a “Writer of the Year” award. It’s funny to think that people from outside Virginia—even outside Godwin—have read my words. Since I received the email, I’ve looked over some amazing pieces by other Writers of the Year, and I feel honored to be recognized alongside them,” said Tan.
NEHS leader and Godwin English teacher, Lynn Farley, took care of the application process for Tan.
“I taught Mia in ninth grade, and I remember she cared about the quality of her work. She was one of the top students in her class,” said Farley.
After high school Tan aspires to continue writing and possibly publish some day.
“I encourage any writer to get his or her work out there—join literary-based extracurriculars, sign up for English electives, enter in writing contests, etc. Even if you receive more criticism than compliments or go unrecognized, you still grow from the experience and receive support from fellow writers. More importantly, keep writing for the joy of it, not for the awards tacked on top,” said Tan.
Tan appreciated the opportunities and experiences that Godwin has provided for her writing.
“Godwin houses so much support for anyone who enjoys writing, whether it be encouragement from the faculty or students, and for that, I am constantly grateful,” said Tan.