Two ACU students recently won first place in the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers student writing contest.
Alikay Wood (’15) from Sacramento, California, won first place in both the fiction and creative nonfiction categories. Stephanie Martin (’15) from Cheyenne, Wyoming, won first place in poetry.
The competition was an opportunity for college professors in Texas to submit the work of their students. Al Haley, writer in residence and professor of English, submitted the works for both students. He said this is the first time a school has ever had its students win first place in all three genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.
“There’s no way I would have said no to Professor Haley telling me I was who he selected to enter,” Wood said. “I was truly honored that he thought my work was worth submitting.”
The fiction piece, titled Academy 6, tells the story of a high school where everything seems just a little bit off, Wood said. It was inspired by her own weird high school and the realization that the school experience she had was radically different from that of most of her peers. It offers a social critique in which high schools can be more about social interaction than serious education, Haley said.
The nonfiction piece, All That’s Left to Do is Fall, is a short piece inspired by the idea that although scientifically, the world is expanding, it seemed like the only thing Woods’ world could do was shrink as she faced the end of her college career. The story is broken into sections and alternates between factual looks at outer space and stories from her life. It was designed to make people think about discoveries in astrophysics and other scientific realms and how they tend to challenge us to find a personal significance in the face of such immensity, Haley said.
“I have been writing since I figured out how to hold a pen,” Wood said. “When I was younger, my friend and I had a children’s series that I wrote and she illustrated. Really epic stuff like, Princess Caladriella and the Seven Princes. Also very original, obviously. I’ve been writing my whole life, but taking Professor Haley’s courses and putting together a short story collection for my Honors Thesis forced me to become disciplined in my creative practices and take my writing, and myself, seriously.”
Haley said Martin used her background in biology in relation to her poetry, which turned a close eye upon nature.
“I’m always surprised and very excited when any of my students wins because these contests can be fiercely competitive,” Haley said. “There are a lot of fine young writers out there and judges have varying tastes. One thing for sure, whether the students win or not, I can always say, based on years of experience, that if I nominated them, they are worthy contenders.”