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Aspiring writers nominated for national award

This year, two students in the creative writing department were nominated for the American Vision and Voices award.

For 40 years, Interlochen Center for the Arts has fueled aspiring authors in the academy's creative writing program.

"They write poetry and fiction nonfiction plays screenplays sci-fi horror," listed Dave Griffith, the program's director. "You name it, we are writing it."

This year, two students in the creative writing department were nominated for the American Vision and Voices award. It's a national award handed out by Scholastic to the top writers in the country.

"This award is given to only five students in each region and those five students will be grouped with the students in the other regions and a winner will be chosen," Griffith explained. "So this is the very cream of the crop. It's a testament of their hard work and to the environment we create here where they have the time and space to do it."

Alexa Curnutte, a second year junior from North Carolina, was nominated for her piece, "Life Moving Forward."

"I must've gone through 15 drafts before I submitted it to Scholastic," admitted Curnutte. "It's about how he deals with living with his mother is dying from cancer, how he deals with losing his brother he was once so close with. I think it's my favorite thing I've written so far because I can see how much I've grown here."

Lizzy Lemieux was nominated for her short story about a girl figuring out her gender identity and sexuality.

"It's really interesting to me because I wanted to test the limits and that genre fiction. I wanted it to be realistic fiction that still felt magical," said Lemieux.

"They're the ones that did it," praised Griffith. "They're the ones that put in the time. They're the ones that revised and revised and revised it and put the package together and put it in the mail."

Around 30 students spend their days in the comfort of the Writing House on campus where that magic comes off the page, nestled between books, a fireplace and company.

"I think that's really magical," said Curnutte. "Writing kind of brings you back to a childlike state and I really enjoy being there and having fun on the page and seeing what happens."

"I never realize the importance of having peers who are also your friends who are interested in what you're doing," Lemieux posed. "Back home, I had a group of friends who were supportive and loving, but who didn't understand what I needed. My friends here can give me help with my craft, can help me workshop on my own. We can have conversations about books we are reading, about books we want to write. My learning expands outside of the classroom."

Griffith said the hours they put in it could very well help them become a household name down the road.

"We also have a number of young alums who are just now publishing their first books," asserted Griffith. "I have no doubt that there are students here now working in the writing house that are going on to publish books and have their work read by thousands and hopefully millions of people. That's a really good feeling."

If you'd like to hear more from the students, there's a Red Wheelbarrow reading February 11 at the Writing House at 7:30 p.m.

It's free to the public.

Later this month, New York Times best-selling memoirist Marya Hornbacher will be speaking to students. She's the author of "Madness: A Bipolar Life which was published in 2008.

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