Isabel ’14 grew up in a literary household. Her mother is a novelist, and her family reads a poem together every Wednesday morning. From an early age, Isabel was drawn to the written word, crafting short stories in her spare time and attending various writing workshops. All her efforts came to fruition when, in early November, Isabel was named one of fifteen writing finalists out of 10,000 applicants to the National YoungArts Foundation, an organization that recognizes young visual, performing and literary artists.
Isabel has longed to enter this contest since she first heard about it at California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA), where she studied creative writing during the summer of 2011, before her 10th grade year. YoungArts representatives came and spoke to Isabel’s CSSSA class, emphasizing their program’s prestige and merits.
“I appreciated a lot how in writing workshops I could be with people who were really likeminded and kindred spirits…and it seemed like there were people doing that at a really high level in YoungArts,” Isabel said. “It’s something I’ve aspired toward for a few years now.”
Isabel spent the last few years honing her art by participating in CSSSA, the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop, the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio.
“I kept seeking out writers workshops to expand the creative space I didn’t really have time to carve out in school,” she said.
It was in Iowa that she wrote the eight-page short story “Night Driving,” which she eventually submitted to YoungArts.
The piece tells the story of two women, friends in their youth, who reconnect in middle age and attempt to relive their teenage years. The topic was foreign terrain for Isabel.
“I don’t usually write about middle-aged women, because I don’t really know much about [their experiences],” she reflected.
As one of fifteen writing finalists, Isabel traveled to Miami, Florida in January for YoungArts Week, where the 170 finalists exhibited their work in all fields and attended master classes with distinguished mentors. She said she enjoyed connecting with other writers and artists who have reached advanced stages in their work.
Ruby ’14, along with Isabel, is one of the senior editors of the School’s literary magazine The Edge.
“[Isabel] is an amazing writer, and she’s going to be famous one day,” Ruby said.
English Department Head Reid Cottingham taught Isabel last year in AP English III and said that she was a remarkable student and writer.
“I asked for copies of every paper she wrote to use as examples,” Cottingham said.
Cottingham also recalled a moment in class when she assigned her students to write in the voice of Virginia Woolf; Isabel’s piece brought her to tears in front of everyone.
“She’s a writer beyond her years,” Cottingham said. “On top of all that, she’s an extremely nice person.”