The Thesis Prize

In 2015, I left my unoriginal hometown in Pennsylvania to study writing at an art school in Brooklyn, New York.. At orientation, students are informed of their Thesis Prize; a competition that happens in their senior year, where both poetry and fiction students send their thesis to be judged. The judge chooses a winner and the winner gets a little paper and some cash.

For me, I never considered it. I felt insecure with my writing. In my first year of school, I was put into poetry classes. This threw me off course because it was the first time I had written poetry seriously. I suddenly believed that I wanted to be a poet and that’s what I was meant to do.

But going into my sophomore year, I was depressed. I felt like I had made a mistake, that I wasted my time and money, maybe that I should even drop out. Instead, I spread myself out. I took a fiction class on experimental fiction where we wrote weird and terrifying short stories. Suddenly, I felt renewed. Creating these wild worlds and relationships drew me in far more than any poetry I’d been writing.

Going into my senior year, I did a sudden 360 onto my thesis. I knew exactly what I wanted to write: horror. I felt silly! I watched scary movies and adored them since I was a child. How did I not know to write horror from the beginning?

Now, that thesis prize? I never a day in my life considered it as mine. I worked with multiple classmates who were writing ground breaking work: beautiful prose that made your stomach turn, stories that made you cry. I was writing a silly horror story about a woman befriending a blob of flesh. If anything, this belief helped me write. I wasn’t worried about the prize, I put all my heart and love into my manuscript. I only entered my thesis as a, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

The day they announced the winner, we knew who would win. We all had one classmate’s name on our lips. Yet, she was a runner up. So we were all completely shocked: who could it be? Then they announced my manuscript, said my name, and I was so surprised, I began to cry right there and then.

It’s taken me a while to accept it, to not believe it was a mistake. Coming to terms with it really helped me realize one thing: you should never write for others. Write for yourself. Even if it’s weird and completely wild, if you think no one will like it—write it. Because you never know who will read it and cherish is. I take this with me as I continue to write. I write for myself, all weird and creepy, and I tell others the same. I should know, I won a prize off just writing for myself and ONLY myself.

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