Honors English student earns Silver Key award

By: Sommer Danielsen

Sophomore Zosia Charlery has been awarded the 2016 Silver Key Award by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her short story “Sundown City.”

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the nation’s longest running recognition program for motivated, creative teens. The awards are presented by the non-profit organization, Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. More than 300,000 submissions were received in the 2016 competition. Of those, 1,900 were recognized. Those who received recognition were awarded the Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention or American Visions & Voices Nomination Awards. Local recipients will be honored on Saturday, March 26 at The Belin-Blank Center in Iowa City.

Charlery’s short story follows a boy, David, who seeks the help of a girl, Raina, to commit suicide, as an epidemic of seemingly contagious life-taking overcomes the city of Sundown. Its vivid imagery and satisfying descriptive language paints a clear picture of the contrast of hope and despair in human emotion.

In the midst of heavy circumstances, Charlery features witty dialogue. In a mere eight pages of text, a reader can easily grasp the nature of David and Raina’s personalities through Charlery’s rich characterization.

Readers become hooked to this dark and twisted trend that continues to sweep through Sundown City and witness the characters’ struggles between conforming and thinking freely. David finds it difficult to decide whether he should dare to find purpose in his life and take responsibility or evade all hope and give up his life.

“I wanted it to be out there. Something that someone else wouldn’t write,” Charlery said.

“The message of Sundown City essentially is to chase your dreams, and I think that if people can get that out of it, that would be great. If you read it don’t think about it as something about suicide, but something about human emotion and dealing with stress.”

Charley is currently enrolled in Honors English 10 with Michelle Rathe, who encouraged Charlery to submit her piece to Scholastic Awards after reading it in class.

“What I found so fascinating about her story was that it was so outside the box compared to what anyone else had. She has a very strong grasp of figurative language and imagery. The idea was amazingly different, so when you blend that with her choice of words and images that she creates with the prose, it was extremely powerful,” Rathe said.

Receiving this huge honor was stunning to Charlery. “When I found out, I was pretty much numb to it. I have really bad reactions, but afterwards it felt pretty amazing,” Charlery said.

Charlery carries a clear passion for writing, making time for it every day. Charlery also devotes her time to drawing, photography, reading novels and working with the drama department as a part of the tech crew.

All students grades 7-12 will be eligible to submit their original work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards next winter, although the official deadline for submissions has not been set. These submissions may include architecture, poetry, video game design, painting and more. Submissions are first shown to a panel of more than 100 local judges, who make decisions at the regional level. The pieces selected by regional judges then go on a panel of national judges who select pieces to be recognized.

All submissions are judged on three criteria: originality, skill and presence of personal vision.

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