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In the tradition of T.S. Eliot, Class of 1906, and scores of Milton graduates since, Milton students show special promise as writers of creative fiction and incisive non-fiction.

The Princeton Poetry Prize is one of the country’s most prestigious contests for young writers. This year, three of the contest’s 23 winners are Milton juniors: Emily Cunningham, Yi Li and Seif-Eldeine (Dean) Och. each won honorable mention in the contest that attracts thousands of entries. (Last year, Claire Tiinguely ’04, won first prize in the contest.) Emily, Yi and Dean are students in Milton’s creative writing program, taught by Lisa Baker and Jim Connolly.

Another seven Milton students won writing awards in the The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2004, which gives about 300 prizes to student-writers nationwide. Amy Kaufman ’04 won the prestigious New York Times James B. Reston Portfolio Gold Award, a single, unrestricted $10,000 cash grant scholarship for the most outstanding nonfiction portfolio.

Other national Scholastic winners are Noah Lawrence, who earned a Silver Award in the journalism category; Eliza Brown ’04 and Amanda Warren ’07, each of whom won a Gold Award in the personal essay/memoir category; Kate Lovely with a Silver Award in the same category. Meredith Weber and Marguerite (Meg) Weisman won Gold Awards in poetry and the short story category, respectively. A National Awards Celebration in New York City on June 10-11, 2004, will recognize the winners.“We live in a world that often does not make sense,” says Noah, associate editor for The Milton Paper. “In a teasing twist, our minds still long to make sense of our world. What we have in this battle is words.

“We think in words. They are the bonds that connect us all to one another, the chisels we use to chip from the raw blocks of life a vision of how things are, or how things ought to be: sometimes for our own minds alone, often to share with others. In that sense, my Milton English teachers have taught me not only how to write, but how to think.”

“My teacher fosters and insists on an encouraging class environment that makes sure all students can feel confident with their abilities as writers,” Amanda says.

“The workshop setting of the beginning and advanced [creative writing] classes really helps create a trusting but fun environment to write in,” Meredith says. “We have extremely talented students here, and sitting in a class with so many other people who also love writing is a great experience.”
Yi Li, who won honorable mention from Princeton for his poem, “America,” says that Mr. Connolly has taught him for three years: “He’s been relentlessly pushing me to write that perfect poem,” Yi says. “I don’t think this one is it yet but I guess it’s a start.”

Meg Weisman, whose fiction has also been published in The Apprentice Writer, a literary magazine of the Writer’s Institute at Susquehanna University, says that Milton is a great school for inspiring young writers – in part because of the exceptional teachers here. “Still, you could have the best teacher in the world but I believe that the only way to reach a higher level of talent is to be in the presence of it, and my creative writing class here [has] some of the most brilliant 17- and 18-year-olds that I have ever met.

“At first, the class was intimidating, as I am one of only three juniors andI’m in awe of all my classmates; but now, I just look up to them and a few of them have become some of my closest friend.At Milton, there is a real writing community and those who consider themselves writers really gravitate towards each other, forming a real intellectual alliance,” Meg says.

Noah thanks his Milton English teachers, particularly Mr. Connolly, Mr. Britton, Ms. Baker, Dr. Apthorp, Mr. Foster, and Mr. David Smith. He says that Mr. Smith has been an important inspiration to him:

“Mr. Smith is someone whom I admire not only as a teacher, but as a writer whose work I strive to match. The weekly political newsletter ‘Dead Parrot’ that Mr. Smith wrote during his sabbatical last year is an inspiration…[his] prose is lithe and muscular, packed with intellect and arguments, but with a wryness and a bounce, as though the reader were talking to Mr. Smith over lunch. Mr. Smith is a fine writer, a moral thinker, and, I am proud to say, a teacher of mine, one of the best teachers I have ever had,” Noah says.

Earlier this academic year, senior-poet Matt Humphreys was among 125 young artists selected from a pool of 6,500 applicants to attends ARTS Week in Miami; senior Emma Clippinger claimed honorable mention for a short story, “Finding the Ocean,” in Seventeen magazine’s annual fiction contest.

Milton’s creative writing courses are workshops that help students shape ideas, personal observations and memories into fiction and poetry; the advanced course also includes individual conferences and the opportunity to specialize in fiction and poetry, or fiction and drama.