Brattleboro Union High School student wins national writing award

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BRATTLEBORO — Ask Olivia Howe about her novel "Murder at the Mash" and the Brattleboro Union High School student will start by revealing the big finish: Specifically, when the narrator, learning her fate is about to be divulged online but is too scared to discover it, asks her mother to look.

"Then she comes down the stairs screaming."

But rest assured, that won't spoil the book's ending. The shouts instead erupted from Howe's own mother, who took to the internet last week to find out her daughter's mystery had won a national gold medal in the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

The 17-year-old junior, one of just seven winners in the novel writing category, will receive her prize in June at New York's Carnegie Hall.

"A gold medal is the highest designation," says Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center that organizes the state level of the national contest. "It appears that Vermont students are doing very well per capita in this completion, especially this year."

Seven others received national recognition, including:

- Jahyde Bullard, a senior at Vermont Academy, who won a silver medal for personal essay/memoir.

- Freesia Capy Goldfarb, a senior at Brattleboro Union High School, who won a silver medal with distinction for art portfolio and a silver medal for photography.

- Eva Gondelman, a sophomore at the Putney School, who received an American Visions Medal for photography.

- Fiona Goodman, an eighth-grader at Brattleboro Area Middle School, who received a silver medal for personal essay/memoir.

- Do Young Kwak, a senior at St. Johnsbury Academy, who received a silver medal for art portfolio and a silver medal for painting.

- Alex Pelletier, a sophomore at Stowe Middle/High School, who received a gold medal for personal essay/memoir.

- Zoe Schemm, a junior at Bellows Falls Union High School, who received an American Voices Medal for short story.

Howe is excited about her coming trip to Carnegie Hall, although it won't be her first: She won an American Voices Medal for poetry last year.

"There's a wonderful solidarity with the other students who come from all over the country and from other countries," says the writer who wants to study language and linguistics to perhaps work as an interpreter or translator.

Howe's 170-page "Murder at the Mash" is her third novel. Her first, written in seventh grade, won a silver medal in 2010.

"My second attempt didn't go as well," she says. "But awards are extremely subjective. In the end, they're not a mark of your talent or skill."

Kevin O'Connor is a Reformer contributor and VTDigger.org correspondent who can be contacted at kevinoconnorvt@gmail.com.


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