Writing: Dartmouth High senior wins big at the Scholastic Writing Awards

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Dartmouth High Senior Sophia Waite set a school record in this year’s school writing competition, winning three gold keys, one silver key and six honorable mentions among her submissions.

Waite won gold keys in the Short Story, Flash Fiction and Writing Portfolio categories – the latter requiring him to submit a selection of six works to be judged together – with a silver key for poetry and honorable mentions for three sci-fi plays, two poems and a short story.

In total, Waite submitted 15 plays to the competition, most of which were written over the summer and returned to edit shortly before the competition’s deadline in December.

“I wanted to give them time,” she said. “It was good for them to take a break – I came back to them with fresh eyes.”

Waite’s submissions that have won gold keys at the state level will automatically be submitted to the national competition, with winners to be announced in mid-March.

Will Higgins, a senior English teacher at Dartmouth High who last year taught Waite’s AP English research class and is the school newspaper adviser, in which Waite also attends, said he had never had a student like her.

“She seems to be able to write in almost any genre,” he said. “She is able to juggle everything.

Waite said she was particularly pleased that her portfolio was awarded a golden key, as it puts her in the running for scholarships if her work is well received in the national competition.

According to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards website, $10,000 portfolio scholarships are offered to the top 16 portfolios, with the next top 30 earning $1,000 scholarships.

In the meantime, however, Waite has plenty to take care of.

When she’s not preparing for a contest, Waite is a novelist and uses her free time to write fantasy books whenever she can.

“I’m happiest writing long stories where I can really dig into the characters,” she said.

But just because the stories are long doesn’t mean Waite takes a long time to write them.

In fact, the young author‘s schedule is more like something expected of Stephen King than a high school student.

Waite said she generally likes to write about 10 pages a night on school days and 15 pages a day on weekends and holidays. At her peak of productivity, she said she did up to 20 pages a day.

“It’s amazing, it just seems to flow from her,” Higgins said. “She really enjoys writing in the fantasy genre where she can be imaginative and creative.”

In the fall of 2020, Waite came up with the idea for a story that would become a three-book trilogy – titled “The Guild of Heroes” – about magical schoolchildren.

“It looks like Harry Potter, but it’s not,” she noted.

The initial idea came to her in the middle of the night, she said, and ended up becoming the series’ final scene.

From there, Waite said she worked backwards to “build the world around her”.

As for writing the books, Waite said work went quickly as she prepared detailed outlines which helped structure her writing.

The first book took about three months to complete and totaled around 95,000 words – the equivalent of around 350 pages in a standard paperback – but she only picked up the pace from there.

The second book, she said, was completed in just two months, with the word count rising to 110,000, or about 400 pages.

By the time she wrote the third and final episode, Waite was so in the zone that she knocked it out in just five weeks, despite being the longest of the three at 130,000 words – or around 475 pages.

“The actual writing goes pretty fast but the rest takes a long time,” Waite said, explaining that she wrote all three books before beginning the editing process. “I wanted them all laid out before I came back to edit the first one.”

Waite edited the first book since submitting her Scholastic entries in December and said she was making the “last deep edit” during an interview in early February.

When she finished, Waite said she had an idea for another book she wanted to write between March and May.

“I just want to get the ideas out there,” she said.

In addition to her national results, Waite is also looking forward to getting responses to her college applications this spring.

As with most things in life, Waite left little to chance when it came to choosing a school, applying to 17 different colleges, including “many New England and Conference schools NESCAC”.

“I have no idea where I’m going to end up,” she said.

Once she decides on a school, Waite said she wants to pursue a major in English with a concentration in creative writing, but will also follow a pre-medical track.

Waite even gained some medical experience last summer following doctors at a maternity hospital in the Dominican Republic with a program called Global Pre-Meds.

Despite all she has already achieved, those who have worked with Waite say she is the picture of modesty.

“She’s very humble — she’s kind of embarrassed when people find out she’s won these awards and stuff,” Higgins said. “I don’t think she’s doing it for anyone other than herself.”


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