by Wendy Li
Students and faculty gathered in the auditorium as winners of the 60th annual M. Ronald Heintzelman Memorial Awards took turns reading their creative pieces aloud Thursday, May 5.
The annual creative writing competition recognizes outstanding submissions from junior and senior students in Newton. Juniors Zoe Birnhak and Alli Salwen received honorable mentions, and South junior Shira Abramovich won first place.
English department head Melissa Dilworth introduced Salwen’s poem as the first honorable mention. Dilworth said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced my first love, but when I read this piece it all came back to me.”
Inspired by both the ancient Greek myth of Odysseus and Penelope, Salwen’s poem “On the Barren Wide Sea” describes the turbulence of a high school relationship.
“I do love writing,” said Salwen after the presentation. Although she doesn’t “have a lot of self motivation,” she would like to write more poetry in the future.
Dilworth then announced the second honorable mention, Birnhak’s piece, as “one of those pieces that called me back to it to make me read it again and again and again.”
Birnhak read her short story, “The Truth in the Tea,” that focuses on a reclusive man who accidentally solves a chilling murder with his morning tea.
Birnhak credited her favorite television show, American Horror Story, and her interest in the famous murder case, the drowning of Elisa Lam, as sources of inspiration.
Elisa Lam’s body was found in a hotel water tank only after hotel guests began complaining about abnormal tap water. “I thought that was kind of interesting,” said Birnhak.
Finally, South English department head Brian Baron introduced the winning piece, describing Abramovich’s piece as “a poetry collection unique in both its scope and depth of skill.”
Abramovich read, “Promiseland,” a collection of her poems interwoven with quotations from various newspaper publications about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to Abramovich, her collection consisted of several poems she had already written before the contest. She mostly prepared for the competition by weaving her poems together with meaningful quotes and editing the collection.
“I really hope that it makes people think about the conflict, and think about their views on the conflict, and then think about other people’s views and how they might think that way,” said Abramovich, “If anything, I want them to realize that it’s a very morally grey situation no matter how you look at it. Almost everyone is right.”
Abramovich said she hopes to continue writing through her college career.
Dilworth recognized Heinzelman, the competition’s namesake, as “a loved teacher who pushed his students in their reading, their writing, their thinking.”
According to Dilworth, the three winners were chosen from eight finalists by a select committee after being narrowed down from over a hundred entries from each junior English class.