Creative writing creates opportunities for students

By: Ryan Meier

When Ankeny sophomore Sarah Pillman was notified that she had won first place in the short story category for the annual DMACC District-wide Creative Writing contest, she was stunned.

“When they told me, I thought ‘Are you kidding me? Do you have the right person?’” Pillman said.

Pillman entered three pieces in what would be judged alongside over 100 other written pieces.

She found out shortly before the winners were publicly announced.

There were eight prize winners with two honorable mentions. The contest was divided into two categories: short story and poetry, with three winners for each category. There were also two overall winners, which were awarded scholarships.

Five instructors and professors from all the DMACC campuses judged the entries.

While there is no stated criteria set out by the judges, Creative Writing Committee member and associate professor Marc Dickinson said there are some implicit guidelines.

“In prose, it must be character driven; do they have a command of the English language and there must be some artistry to it. Is it fresh and original?” Dickinson said.

For Creative Writing Contest Coordinator and associate professor, Krystal Hering, the entry must also be sincere.

“I am looking for something that grabs my attention and pays attention to sensory detail.” Hering said.

To ensure fairness, all entries are assigned a number and are blindly reviewed.

Each judge reads the pieces on their own and curates a list of their top picks, upon which the committee meets to pick the winners.

Dickinson said that there is a general consensus among the top ten or so, but joked that when they reach the top three they do have to “fight for things and is kind of like American Idol.”

Aside from the monetary prizes, the winners will also read an excerpt from one of their pieces at Beaverdale Books on Monday, April 1st, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Both Hering and Dickinson stated that one of the purposes for the contest is to give DMACC students an audience for their writing.

“Writing can be a lonely activity,” Hering said.

For Pillman, she is a bit shy and nervous about reading in front of people.

“Everyone in my class has said they are going to come, but I’m going to do it because I feel it will  to be a good learning experience,” Pillman said.

Despite writing being an insular process, creative writing courses helped both Pillman and recent Urban campus graduate and second place winner in the poetry portion, Case Hemming.

Their winning entries were taken from pieces that had been workshopped in classes.

“It’s very helpful to have other people look at your writing, to stop the echo chamber of your critical mind and just cut through to what’s really good,” Hemming said via e-mail.

For Pillman, she is her own worst critic, but finds DMACC to be a very supportive place.

Both Hemming and Pillman seem to have writing in their futures. After graduating this spring from DMACC, Pillman will be transferring to a four-year university to major in history.

“I will probably always write. What I really want to do is write history books. I love historical fiction and historical non-fiction. I love all of that,” Pillman said.

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