Writing South Carolina
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"All of you who contributed to this book write much better than I did in high school." That remarkable observation was made by Pat Conroy in the foreword to the first collection of student writing generated by the South Carolina High School Writing Contest, and it embodies the contest's goals: to encourage young people to write, to think deeply and creatively, to express themselves, and thereby to recognize and cultivate their abilities. This second volume of Writing South Carolina features the insightful and inspiring entries of each of the twenty-nine winners and finalists: high school juniors and seniors who were challenged to share, using any genre, their ideas for making South Carolina a better place to live.

Through essays, poems, and stories, students used their imaginations to celebrate South Carolina and to envision a state that might be improved by addressing civic and social ills, such as domestic violence, racism, drugs, poverty, and educational inequality. Despite being raised in the age of texts and tweets, these young writers offer their unique perspectives—often revealing, thought-provoking, troubling, and exhilarating—in language that is uniquely their own and often eloquent and passionate.

Marjory Wentworth, who provides a foreword to this collection, is South Carolina's poet laureate and has served as a judge for the competition with Pat Conroy.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 mars 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611177916
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Seated, L-R: Annika Imai, Sarah Saddoris, Sara Rodriguez, Jasmine Shabazz, Rebecca Glenn, Stella Rounsefell, Charish Cauley, Breckon Gardner
Second Row, L-R: Lori Able, Kayla Cordero, Abigail Fourspring, Emily Kaufman, Catherine Truluck, Abigail Harwell, Caley Chastain, Nathan Minsk, Ashley Rudd, Marjory Wentworth
Third Row, L-R: Jonathan Haupt, Khalil Gamble, John Owens IV, Matthew Clapp, Tristan Whaley, Daniel Finley, Nicholson Tate, Elizabeth Bock, Alex Lybrand, Drayton Rowe, Steven Lynn
Absent: Taylor Covington, Sarah Shtessel, Jacob Ross
Photograph by Allen Anderson

Selections from the Second Annual High School Writing Contest
Edited by Steven Lynn and A da Rogers
Foreword by Marjory Wentworth

The University of South Carolina Press
2017 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN 978-1-61117-790-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-791-6 (ebook)

Kim Shealy Jeffcoat, Series Editor
Marjory Wentworth
A da Rogers
Introduction: What We Are, What We re No t
A da Rogers
Seven Hours and Twenty Minutes
The Gift of Eternal Life
Charish Cauley (First Place)
That Accursed Flag
Cool Guy
Khalil Gamble (Second Place)
Seeds of the Palmettos
Because the American Dream Is Still Alive
Taylor Covington (Third Place)
Break the Mentality
When Fiction Described Me
Jasmine Shabazz (Honorable Mention)
Broken Song of the Wren
Our Most Inexhaustible Source of Magic
Lori Able
On Improvement
Patchwork People
Caley Chastain
Room for Hope
Babies and Dreams
Kayla Cordero
Hardships Bring Wisdom
Breckon Gardner
Fine Arts Fiasco
Great Expectations of Life
Rebecca Glenn
TARB for Tomorrow
Nature s Undiscovered Power
Emily Kaufman
Saving South Carolina
Everything s Got a Story
Jacob Ross
Finding My Way Home
The Fault in Us
Drayton Rowe
What If?
Empathy in Storytelling
Sarah Shtessel
Paving the Way for a Smoother Future
Proud Patriot
Nicholson Tate
Palmetto Proud
Unknowing Inspiration
Catherine Truluck
Till Violence Do Us Part
Friends and Wallflowers
Tristan Whaley
The Guiding Hand
Finding Meaning through Mersault
Abigail Fourspring (First Place)
Fostering a New Bilingual Culture in the Palmetto State
Planting Seeds of Hope
Sarah Saddoris (Second Place)
D.S.S. (Defective, Struggling System)
Thank You, Mr. Vonnegut
Alex Lybrand (Third Place)
Braving the World
Annika Imai (Honorable Mention)
His Textbooks
Writing about Writing
Elizabeth Bock
Funding Our Future: Reducing Educational Inequality in South Carolina
Fire, Story
Matthew Clapp
Eye to Eye
Daniel Finley
Address of the State
The Humanity of Words
Abigail Harwell
The School System as an Investment
The Yooks, the Zooks, and the Danger of Nukes: How Dr. Seuss Conveys Mutually Assured Destruction to the Children of the United States
Nathan Minsk
A Letter to Daddy
Becoming Royal
John Owens IV
Two Worlds, One Child
Sara Rodriguez
Education on the Half Shell
My Elephant s Child
Stella Rounsefell
Speak Up: Cassandra s Story
Lessons from Hazel
Ashley Rudd
If everyone could read the entries for this year s South Carolina High School Writing Contest, they would feel better about our future. We all worry that young people don t read the newspaper or care about politics or social issues; these fine essays, poems, and stories prove otherwise. These students are passionate about social justice issues, and they understand the complex links between politics, public spending, and public policy. Their empathy for the least fortunate among us is deeply felt. This is what touched me the most about their writing. Empathy is essential to every type of artistic expression. Creative people rely on their imaginations, and it often takes a great deal of imagination to envision a world that is different (more compassionate) than the one we inhabit. Poet Adrienne Rich wrote, The impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world, is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root. Rich could have been writing about the seniors and juniors whose work is contained in this book.
How do we teach empathy to begin with? It s a complex combination of education and modeled behavior in the home, school, practice field, recital hall, and religious space. It is essential to the well-being of any society, but it is often ignored in our competitive culture. Somehow these kids learned it. Their hearts are big, and I count my blessings to live in a place with such caring young people.
I WAS EQUALLY ASTOUNDED by the sheer knowledge of these students. From statistics on victims of domestic abuse to education spending, these young people know what they are talking about, and their solutions are realistic and appropriate. They should speak at a legislative session. I think we all could benefit from their heartfelt wisdom and suggestions. Whether they are writing out of imagination, observation, or first-hand experience, some of what they articulate deals with difficult home lives (alcoholic, drug-addicted, and/or mentally ill parents) and the reality of attending segregated and unequal schools. Some wrote about the capacity for literature and creative writing to save them. (I hope that some of them experienced a little healing from the pieces they wrote for this contest.) And many of them wrote about these subjects in particularly well-crafted essays and poems. It s not easy to do that, especially when it comes to political issues. Political pieces are often polemic and hammer you on the head with self-righteous proclamations. And there is some of that going on here, but even those pieces are heartfelt and honest. You have to admire that.
Some of these pieces are stunning in terms of language, syntax, and style. Many of the poets created impressive original structures to handle the weight of such difficult material, and I learned a lot from studying their work.
Many of them understand the legacy of slavery on our home place and the deep wounds that permeate so much of our infrastructure and some of our citizens. Many wrote about the symbolism of the Confederate flag, which was still flying in front of the State House when this contest was held. I read those poems with a big grin, because my poem One River, One Boat had just been banned from the governor s inauguration ceremonies that winter. Like many of the students pieces, it s a poem that reminds us that we are first and foremost a community and that we all deserve a place at the table. I was deeply concerned about the racial unrest in the country and the unhealed wounds of slavery that still fester in our home state and continue to impact numerous social justice issues. The flag belonged in the poem, because it felt like the perfect metaphor for where we were and still are in this state and country: divided by political parties, race, and economic status. But now that the flag is down, I am hopeful for the kind of future Khalil Gamble suggested in his brilliant and prescient essay, That Accursed Flag : Removing this emblem of hatred would send a message to the nation that South Carolina has changed and is moving forward. Our state could be seen in a new light, as a state that has evolved into a more forward-thinking and intellectual community. So I say to South Carolina s government: let go of the past.
We re not there yet, Khalil, but we are finally moving in the right direction.
Don t let this little book fool you. It may seem small in size, but it s big in ambition. Its goal is nothing less than to trigger today s young South Carolinians to start thinking about how they ll improve this state once they re in charge. Their mission is simple, yet not. In 750 words or fewer, they re asked to answer one question: How can we make South Carolina better? (The submissions responding to that question were written in 2014, reflecting research available up to that point.)
We received hundreds of submissions-poems, essays, and short stories-from Abbeville to New Zion. Then came the fascinating job of reading them, of learning what high school juniors and seniors in South Carolina were thinking. What did they like? What didn t they like? What should change? How could that change happen?
The brains behind this effort is Steven Lynn, who, like this book, is unassuming at first glance. Nevertheless, this native South Carolinian finds himself dean of the South Carolina Honors College, which continually ranks as one of the best public honors colleges in the country. Steve has found a stalwart and innovative partner in Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press at that time. Jonathan s know-how brought you this book and, more important, provided published bylines to writers at a very young age. His savvy also has provided distinguished judges, critically and popularly acclaimed Palmetto State writers. We thank Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina s poet laureate, and Pat Conroy, South Carolina s favorite son, for judging this year s contest. They took on the difficult job of judging the finalists work in both the submitted and impromptu categories. We re not jealous of that task.
The South Carolina High School Writing Contest is open to juniors and seniors at public, private, and home schools. To give the students a chance to meet each other, and published writers, and a university press editor-and also to ensure they didn t get too much help with their submissions-a second round of competition occurs. During this Round 2, finalists are invited to the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia, where they meet and listen to the judges, get books autographed, and participate in an impromptu writing contest. The impromptu topic, secret until revealed just before their pencils hit their blue books, pertains to the judge s talk that day. This year finalists could choose between two related topics: What story means the most to you and why? and Who is your favorite storyteller and why? The topics were inspired by Lost Cantos of the Ouroboros Caves , a collection of fables by South Carolina writer Maggie Schein. Maggie and Marjory spoke to the finalists about writing and publishing. Maggie woke up that day feeling horrible, and we thank her for managing coherently-and politely-to talk, read, and answer questions. Did we mention the writer s native fortitude?
We think you ll be impressed by what you read. The responses to the initial question reflect gravitas. The responses to the impromptu topics reflect brilliance-on-the-fly: How would you do in forty minutes? Do you remember your Hughes, your Camus, your Vonnegut, your Seuss? Are you open to today s YA authors? Alert to parents: John Green, based on the responses here, has an undeniable influence on these writers. Do you know what your child is reading?
We thank Thad Westbrook, a USC Honors College alumnus who generously funds the first-place senior award and who named it for Walter Edgar, his professor. And we thank the anonymous donor who funds the first-place junior award, named in memory of Dorothy Skelton Williams, a tireless educator and elementary school principal in Anderson.
I won t hide the names of Mae L. Bradford, a USC Honors English student, who handled details large and small.
We hope we re forgiven for any blunders made herein.

One River, One Boat
In Memory of Walter Scott
I know there s something better down the road.
Elizabeth Alexander,
Praise Song for the Day
Because our history is a knot
we try to unravel, while others
try to tighten it, we tire easily
and fray the cords that bind us.
The cord is a slow moving river,
spiraling across the land
in a succession of S s,
splintering near the sea.
Picture us all, crowded onto a boat
at the last bend in the river:
watch children stepping off the school bus,
parents late for work, grandparents
fishing for favorite memories,
teachers tapping their desks
with red pens, firemen suiting up
to save us, nurses making rounds,
baristas grinding coffee beans,
dockworkers unloading apartment size
containers of computers and toys
from factories across the sea.
Every morning a different veteran
stands at the base of the bridge
holding a cardboard sign
with misspelled words and an empty cup.
In fields at daybreak, rows of migrant
farm workers standing on ladders, break open
iced peach blossoms; their breath rising
and resting above the frozen fields like clouds.
A johnboat drifts down the river.
Inside, a small boy lies on his back;
hands laced behind his head, he watches
stars fade from the sky and dreams.
Consider the prophet John, calling us
from the edge of the wilderness to name
the harm that has been done, to make it
plain, and enter the river and rise.
It is not about asking for forgiveness.
It is not about bowing our heads in shame;
because it all begins and ends here:
while workers unearth trenches
at Gadsden s Wharf, where 100,000
Africans were imprisoned within brick walls
awaiting auction, death, or worse.
Where the dead were thrown into the water,
and the river clogged with corpses
has kept centuries of silence.
It is time to gather at the edge of the sea,
and toss wreaths into this watery grave.
And it is time to praise the judge
who cleared George Stinney s name,
seventy years after the fact,
we honor him; we pray.
Here, where the Confederate flag still flies
beside the Statehouse, haunted by our past,
conflicted about the future; at the heart
of it, we are at war with ourselves
huddled together on this boat
handed down to us-stuck
at the last bend of a wide river
splintering near the sea.
What We Are, What We re Not
The American Family and the Energy Crisis was the deadly title of the speech my classmates and I were assigned to write-and then deliver-in 1975. We were in the eighth grade, full of ourselves, oblivious not only to the energy crisis but to the idea that the phoned-in bomb threats our school regularly received weren t reasons to celebrate, even though they allowed us to gather en masse on the front lawn, thereby missing class. But we still had to prepare our speeches, and we lumbered through them, relieved when we could sit back down at our desks, speeches written, executed, over.
The student who won, who truly stood and delivered, was the one who was different from us all. Foster Johnson. Everybody knew him; everybody loved him. He had smooth, caramel skin, light freckles, curly hair, and the kind of wit and patter we d never seen. Foster wrote plays, danced like Elvis, turned classroom discussions inside out. We could tell he had a wider worldview, not that we knew the term worldview. He d moved to Lexington-Lexington!-from California.
That boy is black, a classmate s mother-white, of course-declared. No, he s not, we white kids chorused. He s Peruvian.
Twenty years later, Foster laughed long and hard when I told him that. He wasn t Peruvian. He was of mixed race, probably as mixed as possible in our melting pot country, with an ancestry from Africa, England, Germany, Ireland, and the Cree Indians. Peruvian was one of the answers he d devised as a middle-schooler before he moved to South Carolina. He knew he d have to present a definition for what he was. And he was right.
Forty years on, students in South Carolina are worldlier, and their worlds aren t just black and white but mixed, nuanced. Now, as then, they ask not to be boxed in, labeled, or classified as black or white, jock or cheerleader, nerd or cool. They are human, mixed , in all their surprising and contradictory ways, and some of them are brave enough, idealistic and hopeful enough, to enter a writing contest about how to make this state better.
Young people have interesting things to say, observes Steven Lynn, the University of South Carolina English professor who started this contest. He s got the right to make that statement: for about a decade he was director of USC s Freshman English program, requiring him to read thousands of papers by eighteen-year-olds. Now dean of the South Carolina Honors College, Lynn wanted to give young thinkers and writers a chance to perform, to compete. Athletes regularly compete and are celebrated; why not those who want to solve problems? How creatively can high schoolers think and write their way to a better South Carolina?
Don t assume Dean Lynn is antisports. He s as mixed as the rest of us. At Greer High School, he played basketball, baseball, and football-and read Faulkner on the bus. In his extra time, he played guitar in a rock band that cut a record and played in fifteen states. Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina s poet laureate and grand judge of this year s contest, likewise can t be pigeonholed. She loved words and poetry as a student but also track, field hockey, and dance. At Mount Holyoke College, where she was awarded an athletic scholarship, she played soccer and lacrosse and minored in dance, which, she learned, was more rigorous than all the athletics put together.
As teachers, Lynn and Wentworth know students can baffle and intrigue. Ask them all the same question and expect answers as different as they are. Expect, in fact, something like this book-a mix of cool-headed arguments and heart-wrenching revelations, poems of hope, others of anger. Recognize the courage, talent, and thought behind the words. Understand they re the words of those who may be leading South Carolina one day.
Writing is exciting because it s an avenue of discovery, Lynn points out. What s especially exciting about teaching writing and being around young writers in an open culture is the search for new ideas and seeing things from new perspectives. Not every culture is as welcoming, he adds. Some societies are afraid of innovation and afraid of young people s innovations. For them, writing is just grammar and corrections and learning the rules.
For Dean Lynn, Marjory Wentworth, and everyone else connected with this contest and with this book, writing is so much more. And here you have them, the twenty-nine winners and finalists of the second annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. They re black, white, brown, straight, and gay and devoted to the idea that color, gender, and ethnicity shouldn t restrict them or affect how they re perceived-or how they perceive others. Note the use of the phrases beaten down, beaten out, and beatdowns. These were words we read from the writers who weren t selected as finalists as well.
Teenage years aren t easy and sometimes they re scary, whether you ducked and covered or dispersed for bomb threats. This collection reminds us of that, and salutes those who dare to envision a better world, one more generous and fair.
Seven Hours and Twenty Minutes
Charish Cauley
I am uneducated on the brutality this world can bring. I lack basic life skills I will need for a successful life, and I can hear their voices now: It s not our job, it s the job of your parents and your preacher on Sunday. My rebuttal is always the same. I am at church one day a week for two hours, and my mother is a single parent. She does not get home from work until late and she is all I have. It is rare that we find the time in between her drunken state to sit and communicate. They do not understand that time is insufficient in home and church, but I am contained in this building for five days of the week for seven hours and twenty minutes.
I plant myself in a desk while my father s suicidal thoughts linger on my shoulder and my mother s excessive drinking leaks out onto my chest. This class is two hours long, and Mrs. Frye teaches us how to solve equations using the quadratic formula. I feel the urge to ask her if she knows a formula that can help solve my life, but we are told to be quiet because there is no time for sharing in this building. It is improper to share your beliefs; it is looked down upon to take a few minutes in class to make a point about something you feel passionate about. It is uncanny to think that every child in this classroom has some worry on their hearts that they are forced to bury every day to be able to focus on schoolwork. Maybe if we were aware of each other s struggles we could help each other and have a better understanding of each other as people. If we got the opportunity to look into the hearts of others not quite like us, we might become more humane. The objective as we all know is not to prosper in this manner, but instead that we can recite every formula by heart, have the capability to read the periodic table, and recall war dates. We are not measured by our ability to be virtuous individuals with a high moral standing. But my academics will certainly help me balance my checkbook, cook, react to situations as they occur, and behave morally in this deteriorating world.
As I move on to chemistry taught by Ms. Middel, my mind is full of letters, numbers, and random facts mixed with the indescribable emotional family pain that I am unequipped to deal with. Already distraught, I cringe at the sound of two kids bullying each other. The two boys spit uncouth remarks in every direction, and suddenly I wish my teacher were speaking on love rather than orbital diagrams. At least then when I move on to social studies there would be some hope that one day these wars we learn about will cease to exist. I attempt to distract myself and ask Ms. Middel questions about what high school was like for her. She tells us that high school in Michigan was an enlightening experience that raised her up to be successful in society. High school home economics is where she learned to cook, sew, and run a household. Her high school also allowed her to spend half the day on general subjects, and the other half focusing on her career. I just stare at her in awe and jealousy. I realize that the opportunities she had would never find me here.
When the clock strikes twenty minutes after three, I take a slow, leisurely walk out of the door of the only stability I have ever known. I know I could be of better use if I helped prepare dinner, but I wouldn t know where to begin, nor do I know when my mother could step away from the bottle to teach me. I dread walking through the front door of my house, seeing the beer bottles left over from last night, and wishing I could be back in the halls of my safe haven.
The Gift of Eternal Life
Charish Cauley
She breathed life into me and made the scattered pieces come together to make sense. I had only once admitted to feeling like a miserable speck of dirt on the bottom of life s shoe. Trapped in the belief that all who surrounded me lead a life of normalcy, I believed with certainty that no one had ever contemplated dying. The soldiers were fighting to live, and the parents were supposed to be working to create substantial lives for themselves and their children; the teachers are speaking to impact lives, and preachers are preaching to promote moral, godly lives. And all the people were working diligently to live. The motivation to live when life is battering love out of your heart, sucking energy from your body with a smile on its face, when people are just struggling to live was a foreign concept that I could not fathom.
Though my mother named me Charish Faith, with my first name pronounced Cherish, she never spoke of God or the origin from which it came. You have a beautiful name, Mrs. Debbie had said. Beautiful was not something to be associated with a girl who had thought of dying every day and ending what was misery and meaningless. My best friend dragged me unwillingly to church, where I encountered Mrs. Debbie. He sent his only son to die on the cross for you, she preached. I rolled my eyes, and a feeling of uncertainty rose in my chest. But Mrs. Debbie only nodded and smiled. She didn t know that I cried every day of my life for countless hours, or that I was enveloped in insecurity and immense hatred for the world and all who inhabited it. There was no point to live when living meant getting up every day without a purpose.
Mrs. Debbie s story about this magical man who lived far off and loved me beyond my imagination didn t sound so horrific to someone who eagerly searched for something to believe in.
I latched on to Mrs. Debbie and the idea of God and the belief that at every depressing moment, down every treacherous path, a man who built me piece by piece with his very hands would walk by my side with an unwavering grip on me. Mrs. Debbie s story was a captivating one that took a pointless life and ensured that it had value, and made the darkness I wallowed in daily become light. I have never wanted to live so badly in my entire existence.
That Accursed Flag
Khalil Gamble
There is an easy way to improve South Carolina. It is inexpensive, it requires little manpower, and it will take a few minutes at the most. What South Carolina needs to do is simple: take the Confederate flag off the state capitol grounds and bury it deep in a museum. The Confederate flag is a relic from our great state s past that most South Carolinians would prefer to forget, and the fact that it still waves at the most important building in the state is embarrassing.
The most glaring reason for its removal is it reminds everyone that South Carolina passionately fought for one of the most deplorable crimes against humanity in world history-slavery. No matter what those small groups of people who still proudly support the Confederacy say, that flag will always be synonymous with slavery. Any time anyone in this country sees a Confederate flag, they should see slavery. Every time anyone sees the Confederate flag they see black children getting whipped for wanting to learn how to read

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