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Six students to be published in New Voices

January 21, 2008

Sam Kampa and Elyse Kallgren win awards for their works

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

This year, six Dassel-Cokato students will be published in Bemidji State University’s New Voices publication, with two of them receiving awards.

New Voices is an annual creative writing publication, featuring works from selected Minnesota high school writers.

Students in Susan Marco’s expressive writing class submitted more than 30 works, and eight were chosen.

The upcoming anthology includes writings from DC senior Jacob Wuollet, senior Claire Salmen, senior Kayla Koivisto, senior Jesse Eckroad, junior Sam Kampa, and junior Elyse Kallgren.

“It’s very exciting to have six students published,” said Susan Hauser, the faculty editor of New Voices.

More than 1,000 pieces were submitted, and only about 50 were selected.

Three awards are given out for poetry, and three for fiction.

Kampa and Kallgren both won awards for their writings. Kampa won the Robert Frost award for poetry, and Kallgren won the Margaret Atwood award for fiction.

Hauser explained the specific writer awards are paired up with a similar spirit or writing style of the person they are named after.

For example, Kampa wrote in a traditional form with a similar mood as Frost did – Atwood was character-driven and exemplified an understanding of human nature, such as in Kallgren’s short story.

Kallgren found it ironic that the one piece she disliked the most was chosen for the award.

“The writing process was fun, but I wasn’t pleased with the outcome. I could’ve improved on it,” Kallgren said.

Although she was shocked, she was very excited upon hearing the news she was selected.

“I really love creative writing and if I could ever make a career out of writing, that would be incredible,” she said.

Kallgren has always enjoyed self-expression through writing, she added.

Kampa was also surprised he received an award for his entries.

Writing is something Kampa has always enjoyed doing, he just never thought to submit his work until his mom kept “bugging” him to do so.

What Kampa enjoys most about writing poetry is the liberties one can have with it.

“There is no definite structure – it’s the easiest form of self-expression,” Kampa said.

The six are invited to the Publication and Reading Reception at Bemidji State Friday, April 4.

“It’s quite an honor for DC to get six (students) in there and it’s been a few years since we’ve had students who won awards,” Marco said.

The students will also be honored at this year’s academic awards in the spring.

Published works included both poetry and short stories.

In Eckroad’s short story titled, “Lightning Rod,” she writes about experiences regarding prejudice against sexual orientation in school.

Wuollet wrote two short stories, “Snowball,” about a snow boarder in a competition; and “The Background People,” about a little boy who grew up in a hunting family, but didn’t like to hunt.

Salmen wrote a short story, “Coming Home,” about a young woman who runs away from home and lives on the streets, and later finds out she wants to come home.

Koivisto wrote a short story about children’s fears titled, “The Ribbon.”

Kampa wrote two poems, “Grandfather,” dedicated to his grandfather, who died a few years ago, and “The Wheel.”

Kallgren wrote a short story about an old woman who is overly particular, but mentors a young girl by her own childhood experiences.

Grandfather

By Sam Kampa

I almost laughed when he stepped off – I didn’t want to; it wasn’t funny.

But the irony tickled my stomach in a most unusual way.

The cells in his head were confused;

We knew they would get the best of him someday.

He took the final step in bowling shoes

And it was his heart, not his mind, that surrendered.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

His heart never did function properly.

It never said what it should have said.

It’s pumping was inconsistent.

I almost laughed when he stepped off-

I didn’t want to; it wasn’t funny.

I almost laughed when he stepped off

And I almost cried.

“The Right Way”

By Elyse Kallgren

Meow! gurgled Fluffernutter the Persian Cat. Mrs. Feasecorn set the crystal goblet full of Fancy Feast onto the tiled kitchen floor. As soon as the beastly animal started eating, Mrs. Feasecorn returned to the bathroom to finish cleaning. It was Saturday, and she’d almost completed her obsessive cleaning regime, right down to taking a Q-tip to the air vents. You could eat cereal out of my toilet bowl it’s so clean, that’s what! Mrs. Feasecorn thought to herself as she inhaled the overpowering scent of bleach mixed with zesty lemon cleaner.

The shrill brrring! of the phone ricocheted throughout the house. Mrs. Feasecorn strode purposefully to the kitchen to answer it. Fluffernutter was startled by the abrupt noise and shrieked, then shot out of the kitchen, successfully tripping a surprised Mrs. Feasecorn and causing her to sprain her ankle.

A few hours of turmoil later, Mrs. Feasecorn had returned home from the hospital with the help of her neighbor, Sandra Kelly.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mrs. Feasecorn?” Sandra asked with concern as she propped up Mrs. Feasecorn’s tender foot with a stack of pillows. An ice pack full of lumpy blue gel was wrapped around her ankle.

“As a matter of fact, there is.” Mrs. Feasecorn’s stern expression was made all the more severe by her tight white hair bun. It pulled her skin taut and made her eyes widen to an unnatural size. “I didn’t finish all the cleaning I wanted to today, so I would appreciate it if you could help me with a few chores.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Mrs. Feasecorn, but I just remembered I have to bring my son to soccer,” Sandra interjected quickly. “Perhaps I could send my daughter over for a few minutes?”

“Fine, fine, that will be fine, just so long as everything gets done properly.”

Taylor Kelly popped her gum and looked in dismay at the long “To-Do List” written in Mrs. Feasecorn’s impeccable script on the back of a soup can label.

“I expect you to fold the towels in thirds, then place them in the linen closet with the tags facing the back. Then I need you to polish the silver and wrap it in cellophane,” Mrs. Feasecorn ordered like a military commander. She reclined on the velour couch, which was a difficult feat for a woman who always sat as if she had a steel rod rammed up her spine, a bag of pastel mini-marshmallows on her lap.

Taylor raised a dark brow. “I can read, you know.”

Mrs. Feasecorn surveyed her and said, “You could have fooled me.”

Taylor rolled her eyes, but dragged over the laundry basket and plopped down onto the rug in a cross-legged position. Mrs. Feasecorn observed her sharply, like an army general surveying the enemy through a spy glass.

“Why are you wearing your mother’s cleaning rags?”

Taylor snapped open a rumpled towel. “I’m not. I made this T-shirt myself.”

“Why does everything you wear have graffiti on it?”

Taylor’s dark eyes speared Mrs. Feasecorn’s pale gaze. “It’s not graffiti. I drew on it on purpose.” She folded another towel then added, “It’s a form of self-expression. I figure if I can’t take my art classes, then at least I can be somewhat my own person.”

“Why can’t you take art classes? You surely need improvement.”

Ignoring the barb, Taylor snapped her gum again. “My parents don’t want me to take art classes.” Her voice became high and sarcastic. “I’m supposed to pay attention to my academic pursuits and such sophisticated activities as book club and the debate team.” Taylor’s tone returned to its alto range. “That’s what my parents say, anyway. Especially dad. He figures since we argue so much, I might make a good politician, like him.”

Absently rolling a pink mini-marshmallow between her dry fingertips, Mrs. Feasecorn contemplated Taylor’s words.

“Your parents are trying to mold you into something you aren’t?” she questioned unnecessarily.

Taylor snorted. “Something like that.”

Mrs. Feasecorn observed her again. Taylor’s clothes were definitely unique, but matched her sassy demeanor and intense, dark looks. If nothing else, she showed some artistic talent. Compared to the other hooligans she’d seen running around on their cul-de-sac, Taylor was very distinctive. So much like herself at that age.

“Taylor?”

The girl looked up.

“I’d like to tell you something, something I think you might need to hear …”

“It all came to a head the summer I turned 15. There had been many signs before of my lack of conformity, but my parents had tried to brush it under the rug. My love of mystery novels was one of the smaller issues, but I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Being the eldest daughter of a conservative pastor, there was a way of life I was expected to adhere to: be respectful and responsible, set a good example, don’t dance, don’t smoke, don’t play card games, don’t listen to Elvis, read only wholesome books. That was where I struggled the most.

“I loved reading. If I had to choose between a life without books or dying, I dare say I’d choose death. Reading was my escape from reality, from responsibility to my siblings and family, from having to be what someone else wanted.

“My favorite books were mysteries, especially Nancy Drew novels. I’d lie in the hammock in our backyard eating Andy Capps and marshmallows, pretending that I was smart and beautiful and famous. I also pretended I had the support and encouragement of my father. Nancy Drew had it – why didn’t I?

“That summer day, my father caught me reclining in the hammock. He lectured me first on my bad posture, then my gluttonous eating habits, and then on my reading material.

“I can still hear his voice, booming like exploding cannon: “No daughter of mine will read such garbage, that’s what!”

“Maybe it was the heavy, humid July heat, or maybe it was my own form of self-defense. Whatever the reason, I snapped.

“You think you’re doing the right thing, but you’re not!” I shrieked as he was walking away.

“He whipped around. ‘How dare you talk to me in such a tone!”

“I don’t care!” I screamed. “All these rules and regulations – it’s going to drive me insane! I’m already paranoid about doing every thing the ‘right way’! All I want is for you to like me the way I am!” My face was hot. I caught my breath and said with defeat, “But I’m just not perfect enough for you.”

“My father’s face grew still and cold. Had I touched it, it would have been as hard as granite. ‘You will not speak to me that way.’ He turned and walked away.”

Mrs. Feasecorn shook her head, as if to clear away the bad memories like she’d sweep leaves off the porch. Taylor had ceased folding towels and was staring at her intently.

“Do you understand what I am trying to say? I tried to please my father and myself, but I failed both of us.”

Taylor nodded solemnly.

“I’m not telling you to disobey your parents, but I want you to think about what I said.”

“I will.”

Meow! gurgled Fluffernutter. Taylor set the crystal goblet full of Fancy Feast in front of the fat cat and waited for it to start eating before sitting at the oak table with Mrs. Feasecorn. Taylor had been coming over every Saturday to help Mrs. Feasecorn while she was infirm. Even though her ankle was fully healed now, they continued to meet.

“How are your art classes coming along?” Mrs. Feasecorn questioned before popping a marshmallow in her mouth.

“Awesome! My teacher picked my painting to be the main attraction at the art show! Every other piece is going to center around it!” Taylor bragged happily.

Mrs. Feasecorn applauded. “Bravo! Are you parents impressed?”

“Oh yeah! Dad’s even happy about it. He said something about political cartoons being okay as long as they weren’t directed at him.”

Mrs. Feasecorn smiled slightly. “I’m glad things are working out so well.” She pushed a dish towards Taylor. “Would you like some Andy Capps, my dear?”

“Thanks.” Taylor paused, her hand outstretched. Her look grew thoughtful and her voice became soft. “Thanks for everything.”