Writing is a hobby for Charlotte Christian senior Morgan McManus, but she never knew it would take her to a national stage.
McManus, 17, won a National Scholastic Silver Writing Award in the spring and is now one of about 70 nationwide chosen to be published in a student anthology called Best Teen Writing of 2012, available on Amazon later this fall.
“I’m just thrilled,” Morgan said of the honor, which she says helped her believe she is indeed a writer.
Her winning piece is called “10:23 Tuesday.” At roughly 2,700 words, it’s a first-hand account of a tragic night on a 2011 summer mission trip with her church: A member of her youth group died after being accidentally struck by an ATV.
A few weeks after the accident, Morgan turned on classical music and closed her eyes, forcing herself to recall details of the night. She said she started writing to help cope with the trauma she witnessed.
Eyes closed, she recaps the last time she looked at her clock that summer night – 10:23 p.m. She thinks about the smell of a chocolate bar out of a vending machine, clumps of people singing praise songs in the church gym, lightning cracking, rain, and a scream.
Morgan didn’t finish the piece during the summer, so when school began this fall, she chose to complete it for a creative writing class assignment: Write a memoir in less than 3,000 words, and incorporate senses into the piece.
Morgan wrote the majority of “10:23 Tuesday” in Jessica Ramsey’s class at Charlotte Christian. “She clearly has a gift,” Ramsey said of Morgan’s work.
While Morgan said she is grateful her work is being recognized today, “It’s difficult to receive these accolades ... I wish I could trade all of this for him.”
Morgan said every story comes with its own set of challenges, some more difficult than others. But in anything she writes, she takes it sentence by sentence, starting with the opening line.
“That’s what’s most impactful for me,” Morgan said. “If the reader is hooked, then they want to read more.”
From there, the words typically flow for Morgan. To help with creativity, Morgan said she listens to music to help her mood mimic the emotions she wishes to portray in her writing. Sad – classical; upbeat – rock.
“I respect any author that makes me feel the way they feel,” Morgan said. It’s something she aims to do in each of her pieces.
Morgan said she usually writes in her bedroom, where she can relax and find solitude. When she experiences writer’s block, she says, she goes for a run. She suggests all writers have an outlet that allows them to clear their minds.
Her main advice to aspiring writers: “Don’t discount your own experience and voice.”