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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Prized Writing contest features four selected works

The Student Author Event, which highlights the works of four winners of the University Writing Program’s Prized Writing competition, will be held on Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. in 126 Voorhies.

The event will feature four students who are honored for their submissions and published in the 20th anthology of the Prized Writing contest. This event is open to the public and welcomes everyone with refreshments.

Every year, about 400 essays are submitted to the contest, which go through several rounds of “blind judging” before the winners are selected. Every quarter, four of the writers published in the anthology are asked to speak at the event.

This year Brigitte Johnson, Ronnie Smith, Matt Guess and Amy Johnson will be presenting each of their takes on the creative process of writing.

There aren’t any criteria on subject matter or content. Pamela Demory, editor of the Prized Writing anthology, said the contest honors “All kinds of academic writing … really anything that is written in any UCD course on any topic, as long as it’s ‘nonfiction.'”

Brigitte Johnson, a junior international relations major, wrote “Symbolic Oppressions: the Rhetoric and the Image of the Veil in the West.” The essay takes on western perceptions throughout history of the veil as an article of clothing and its repercussions.

“It’s about how people in the west perceive the ‘veil,'” Johnson said. “Particularly the Islamic culture and how the image functions in colonial/ imperial histories.”

Johnson used the famous National Geographic image of an Afghan woman as inspiration for her piece.

Ronnie Smith, a senior history major, wrote an essay entitled “Are You Gonna Eat That?” which takes a look at the underground rebellion of global food distribution.

“There is a whole community in Davis who goes to dumpster diving in protest against the global food distribution process,” Smith said. “For the essay, I interviewed people who do this odd protest by eating garbage instead of buying into the system.”

This is the first time Smith has entered an essay in the contest. At the event, he plans to explain his research techniques and talk about the subject matter, writing and interviewing.

Matt Guess’s essay, “Destroyer of World,” takes on the dramatic effects of Huntington’s disease.

“It’s a collage piece,” said Guess, a UC Davis alumnus with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. “I wrote seemingly unrelated pieces and juxtaposed them in a way that provides a thesis of what I am trying to argue.”

For the event, Guess will be talking about that style of writing and how it is not often used, and how it succeeds and fails as a writing form, and of course, he will discuss the disease itself.

He said his inspiration mainly derived from his UWP 104F “Writing in Health” class.

“The purpose was to write or explain a medical issue using juxtaposition to show the tone or social or emotional consequences of the disease.”

The final piece by Amy Johnson, “For Hemp’s Sake,” looks into the prohibition of the uses of industrial hemp.

Johnson, a senior design and biological sciences double major, said her essay is “a political opinion statement of why industrial hemp should be legalized.”

“Hemp’s been used for thousands of years, until the ’20s prohibited it for political reasons instead of utilitarian,” Johnson said. “Industrial hemp is extremely beneficial for the economy, environment and general purpose.”

This is her first time entering the contest, and she is extremely surprised she won.

“I put a lot of effort into it,” Johnson said. “The writing style is easy to read [and] the way I presented the information wasn’t confusing. It’s acceptable to intellectuals and normal people. It transcends social boundaries.”

For her inspiration she said, “I wanted to find something to talk about that incorporated design and the sciences – it melds both my interests. It’s one of the most controversial subjects I could have picked and I wanted to expose the benefits.”

Gary Sue Goodman, the UWP’s internship and writing minor advisor, said famous Davis-resident author John Lescroart, who is a supporter and fan of the writing program and of Prized Writing, is planning to attend the reception.

This is the Prized Writing contest’s 20th year running.

“We’re very proud of the longevity of this program,” Demory said in an e-mail interview. “It’s pretty unusual to have this kind of program continue for so long.”

BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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