LENOX -- Three repeat finishers are among this year's 11 honorees in the 15th annual Edith Wharton Writing Contest.
During Sunday's awards ceremony at The Mount, sophomores Maia Vicek, from Monument Mountain Regional High School, and Emma Lezberg, of Pittsfield High School, were cited for finishing first and second respectively in the Grades 9-10 poetry category. Last year, Vicek was an honorable mention for her poetry, while Lezberg was in a three-way tie for first in the fiction category for freshmen and sophomores.
In addition, Christiane Lee, of Rockville High School in Vernon, Conn., followed up a 2013 honorable mention in fiction for Grades 11-12, with an honorable mention in Grade 11-12 poetry.
Vicek says the poems she submitted were written long ago, she just punched them up a bit for the contest. As for Lezberg switching writing styles, she said, "I found it easier to write poetry than fiction which takes a lot of time to figure out the plot."
A record 150 entries from 22 schools stretching from Williamstown to New York City were submitted to the contest, co-sponsored by Berkshire Life, The Berkshire Eagle, Newspapers in Education and radio station WSBS 860-AM in Great Barrington, according to Kelsey Mullen at The Mount.
"The poetry was extremely competitive this year," Mullen said.
Prior to the high schoolers reading their works before family and friends, guest speaker Karin Tanabe, of Washington D.C., opened the program discussing the relevance of Wharton in the 21st century. The novelist and former Politico reporter, says the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wharton of the early 20th century wrote about coming of age, scandal and other topics pertinent in America today.
Tanabe concedes writing novels is a lonely profession that would make for lousy must-see television.
"The worst reality show would be about writers ... found sitting on a couch with a laptop staring at the ceiling," she said.
Nevertheless, Tanabe encouraged the young fiction writers and poets to keep up their craft and write what resonates with them and their readers.
Emmett Shepard did just that in taking top honors for fiction writing among the upperclassmen. The junior at Mt. Greylock Regional High School injected humor and sarcasm into his story about a typical school day for a not-so ambitious high school student.
"The structure of the story was very difficult to create," Shepard said. "I had to find a way to connect the reader to math, history and other courses in high school today."
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The 15th annual Edith Wharton Writing Competition drew 150 entries from 22 schools in Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin counties as well as from NewYork, Connecticut and Vermont:
Fiction (11th & 12th grades)
n First place: Emmett Shepard, Mount Greylock Regional High School, Williamstown
n Second place: Katie Stonecipher, Berkshire School, Sheffield
n Honorable mention: Jacqueline Ose, Rockville High School, Rockville, Conn.
Fiction (9th & 10th grades)
n First place: Anya Sheldon, Mount Greylock Regional High School
n Second place: Karen Kibler, Emma Willard School, Troy, N.Y.
Poetry (11th & 12th grades)
n First place: Madeleine Kelly, The Chapin School, New York City
n Second place: Bryan Bliek, Rockville High School
n Honorable mention: Christiane Lee, Rockville High School
Poetry (9th & 10th grades)
n First place: Maia Vlcek, Monument Mountain Regional High School, Great Barrington
n Second place: Emma Lezberg, Pittsfield High School
n Third place: Lily Vartanian, Rockville High School