June 22, 2006

Two teens win young writers competition

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Southern Illinois high school student and a Virginia teen are the winners of the Younkin-Rivera Prize for Young Writers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

In prose, Elizabeth Hileman of Herrin won for her story "The Murder I Witnessed." Hileman will be a junior at Herrin High School. In poetry, Christina Beasley of Vienna, Va., won for her untitled poem beginning "Wringing out black strands of coarse angel hair we stand." Beasley, also entering her junior year, attends Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va.

The awards, open to creative writers ages 15-18 from across the country, honor the memories of Brad Younkin and Roxana Rivera, two young writers who were once students in SIUC's master of fine arts creative writing program. Younkin and Rivera died in separate car accidents in 2003.

Each winner will receive a $250 cash award and free registration for the annual Young Writers Workshop at SIUC, set for June 28-July 1.

The workshop gives high school sophomores, juniors and seniors the chance to explore their talents in poetry or prose writing. Students will hone their skills by participating in daily critique sessions led by SIUC faculty, and by attending panels, readings and craft discussions led by SIUC creative writing faculty and graduate students.

"The awards are just one way that SIUC can contribute to recognizing talent in young people," said Allison Joseph, director and founder of the workshop. Joseph also heads SIUC's

MFA Program in creative writing. "It's important that we who are older remember how it feels to be young and creative."

SIUC's MFA program, the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, Crab Orchard Review and the Division of Continuing Education sponsor the workshop.

The summer program is in its eighth year. "I hope to bring more attention to the depth of the creative writing offerings at SIUC. I hope to nurture young talent and bring it to an audience here that appreciates that kind of achievement," said Joseph.

Offering education and training activities for pre-adult age groups is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.