XI High School grad Amy Mrotek received the M Magazine Editorsí
Choice Award for the writing portfolio she entered in the 2012
Scholastic Writing Awards. She received a silver award in the
Amy Mrotek is
holding her breath. Her Pius XI High School creative writing teacher,
Dan Martin, has handed back her short story, "Oil and
Water," not with a grade, but a note: "See me." She
wonders what sheís done wrong. After class, Martin explains.
ĎIíve been teaching 20-plus years and this is really something
special,í" Mrotek says.
The story became
part of a portfolio of prose and poetry that Mrotek entered in the
2012 Scholastic Writing Awards. Before Martin suggested that she
enter, she was not even aware of the competition. The portfolio earned
her a silver key in the local contest and M Magazineís first-ever
Editorsí Choice Award.
really impressed with the range Amy displayed in her writing,"
says M Managing Editor Janet Raasch. "She really developed a
unique and believable voice in every story."
communication and program coordinator at Still Waters Collective, the
organization coordinating the writing portion of this yearís local
competition, agrees: "When I first read her portfolio, I was
impressed by her distinct poetic voice, and how convincingly she was
able to narrate experiences of such a broad range of characters in her
works of fiction.
"All of our
students were especially talented this year, but Amy writes with the
precision and maturity of someone twice her age," Schumann says.
Mrotek, 18, will
major in English education and creative writing at St. Norbert College
this fall. "If it would be possible to support myself writing,
that would be ideal. But teaching would be just as awesome. I look at
my teachers and theyíre the ones who got this whole thing
going," she says.
inspiration comes from poets like Frank OíHara, Vladimir Mayakovsky,
Jeffrey McDaniel and Wislawa Szymborska. Although she enjoys writing
fiction, poetry is her first love.
really like about poetry is how thereís really no format to it. You
can literally make it entirely your own," she says.
satisfying moments come when she completes a piece, she says, but thatís
only after dissecting every word, especially on the stories and poems
she submitted to Scholastic. "I canít even tell you how long I
spent reading them over and over and changing words here and there,
perfecting it," she says.
sure if she has the patience to write a novel, but "I actually
have one idea that Iím trying to work on right now."
She rejects the
idea of outlining a piece, letting the story develop a life of its
own. "When I sit down to write, itís centered around one
specific person and how I think they handle life," she says.
"I try to be as specific and as into the head of one person as
possible, and I go from there."
information on the Scholastic Writing Awards, go to www.stillwaterscollective.com
excerpt from 'oil and water'
My mother always warned me to never date an artist.
have no sense of responsibility!" I remember her enraged
face shouting after boyfriend No. 6 left. Or maybe it was No. 7.
I canít really seem to recall, they were all so similar with
their too-shaggy hair and Kafkaesque clothes. This one had
been a poet, though. I do remember that little
detail. He had written my mother a whole notebook of verses
calling her "his Aphrodite." Maybe thatís why
she was so hurt when he left. He took the notebook with
up, I learned from a very young age not to take anything my
mother said too seriously. So when she would go on these
verbal tirades against landlords and taxes and artists who
dangle beautiful poetry in your face and then snatch it back
without any hint of remorse, I would simply sit back and stare
at the creases forming on her brow. They entranced me as a
child, the way they slid around like snakes, forming new
patterns on her forehead depending on what mood she was
in. Then she would scold me for something stupid, like not
tying the knots in my shoes tight enough or sipping my juice too
loud. Then she would find another boyfriend.
how my mother coped with the world.
When I was
8 my teacher complained to the school shrink that I didnít
talk. Not that I didnít talk enough, no, the issue was
that I didnít talk at all. For me and my mother, this
didnít seem like that big of a problem. To the rest of the
world this was a disturbing situation that needed immediate
correcting. They tossed around fancy words like severe
childhood depression and anti-social tendencies. My mother threw
back the word lawsuit.
time she moved onto boyfriend No. 10, I entered high school. I
was still seeing a shrink for my talking issue, which had
improved a little over time, I guess. Those were the days
where I felt my life was just one giant VCR. Play, rewind,
repeat. Play, rewind, repeat. All day, every day, the
movie never ended. I could close my eyes and literally feel the
life being monotonously sucked out of me. Looking back, I
was trapped inside my own eyelids, unable to escape the borders
set by the repetition in my life. I remember there being
weeks on end where the only thoughts in my head revolved around
ĎAm I the only one who feels this way?í"