Written by: Alvin Wang
On Feb. 28, junior Andrew Briggs won a $100 gift card to Bell’s Bookstore for his first place story in the age 15 to 17 age group. Sophomore Gemma Guo placed third place in the short story contest, and received a $50 gift card to Bell’s Books.
Briggs’ story “First, Do No Harm” was inspired by the controversial discussion of the Affordable Healthcare Act and the healthcare system in the U.S. during the 2012 elections.
The story is set in a dystopian, disease-ridden world, exploring the bleak state of health care and a doctor’s internal conflict between his conscience and the medical principles he has to follow. Faced with making a decision that could save a life, he justifies his actions with his mantra “I simply do my job,” while agonizing over the consequences.
The issue that troubled Briggs the most was health care, which gave inspiration to his story. “The idea behind the story was a reaction to the debate on the commercialization and ‘commoditization’ of healthcare,” he said.
Briggs also drew inspiration from John Steinbeck. Briggs admires many of the books written by Steinbeck for the social and moral messages hidden within each book.
Briggs has always been interested in writing and likes to write about social issues. This is the first writing contest that he has won.
An avid fan of computer science, he sees himself exploring a career in the field in the future. However, Briggs will continue to write on his own. “Writing will always be a part of my life,” he said.
Guo’s story, “Paper Airplanes,” is set in the modern world and gives the reader the perspective of a disabled child through her adventure. Guo wrote her story to shed light on the difficulty of living with an impairment. Guo invokes sadness and sympathy as the story traces the relationship between Ella, a girl with hearing impairment, and Jenny, her childhood friend. As the two grow up, they are pressured by society to find different types of friends. Societal stereotypes and prejudices are emphasized in Guo’s story. “I drew inspiration from my sister, who is hearing-impaired,” Guo said. “She struggled to find friends when she was younger due to her disability.”
Guo planned out and wrote her story over the course of three weeks. According to Guo, her creativity and fascination with writing developed starting from a very young age and improved gradually as she went through middle and high school. “I used to make up stories with my friends when I was in elementary school; we would act them out during recess,” Guo said. “When I was in middle school, I started writing stories for fun and I have been doing so ever since.”
She enjoys writing because it is a way for her to express her personal views and be taken seriously by others. “I like having a place to store my thoughts and say whatever is on my mind,” Guo said. “Writing is an outlet for me and helps me to relieve stress.”
Though Guo thoroughly enjoys writing, she is still undecided about whether she wants to pursue a career in the subject.