Ninth-grader Madilyn Heller reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. The Monument Moutain Regional High School
Ninth-grader Madilyn Heller reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. The Monument Moutain Regional High School student tied for first place for fiction writing in the 9th-10th-grade category. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

LENOX -- Theodore Nappo, a junior at Lenox High School, pondered for a moment the question of his writing influences.

"Well, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and you really can't go wrong with Billy Shakespeare," he said.

Nappo is a two-time winner of the 14th annual Edith Wharton Writing Competition. This year and last year, he won first place in the fiction category.

"Yeah, I won last year, and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I'm pretty good at this,' " he said half-joking.

Nappo was one of 13 winners in two grade categories who read their work at The Mount on Sunday afternoon. The winners and runners-up were awarded prizes in either fiction or poetry. The grade categories were broken down into grades 9-10 and grades 11-12. Prizes were awarded for first place, second place and honorable mention. Cash awards were also presented with $250 for first, $150 for second and $100 for honorable mention.

Emma Lezberg, of Berkshire Country Day School, reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. She tied for first place
Emma Lezberg, of Berkshire Country Day School, reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. She tied for first place for fiction writing in the 9th-10th-grade category. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

A total of 123 students from 38 schools in Western Massachusetts, Northern Conn. and Eastern New York participated.

"We accept entries from Berkshire County and the surrounding area," said Kelsey Mullen, public program coordinator for The Mount.

Mullen said the encouraging aspect of the competition is that participation is growing. And, she said, the caliber of the writing is very good.

The contest is judged by local college professors, she said.

"It's wonderful to see young people interested in writing," she said.

The writers read their work before a packed house at The Mount.

Megan Chabre, an honorable mention winner for poetry, said one of the secrets of her writing was that she carries a notebook everywhere, "and I jot things down. Random things, that I think might inspire me."

Charbre, a junior at Rockville High Schoiol in Vernon, Conn., said she is inspired "by almost anything."

Another poet, Rachael Nutt, a senior also from Rockville High, said she has been writing potery for just a few years, "if you don't count the stuff I was writing in fourth grade." She won second prize in the competition.

"It's kind of a braided process," she said of her writing. "You're trying to connect something abstract with somwething concrete. It's difficlut sometimes."

Ninth-grader Hannah Mulvey of Monument Mountain Regional High School reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. She
Ninth-grader Hannah Mulvey of Monument Mountain Regional High School reads her entry in the Edith Wharton Writing Competition at the Mount on Sunday. She tied for first place for fiction writing in the 9th-10th-grade category. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

For Nappo, the process of witing fiction for the contest and writing non-fiction for school essays, "is like night and day. I'm constantly trying to be creative in my essays.. I don't know how successful I am."

Other local winners were Emma Bullock, Miss Hall's School, second prize, poetry, grades 9-10; Hannah Mulvey and Madeline Heller, Monument Mountain Regional High School and Emma Lezberg, Berkshire Country Day School, who finished in three-way tie for first place in the fiction, 9-10 category. An honorable mention award went to Maia Vlcek of Monument in the same category.

The Mount and the The Berkshire Eagle established the writing competition in 1998, in honor of Wharton's legacy. This year's competition was sponsored by The Eagle and Berkshire Life.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile