by Mary Roach, Age 17, USA
When I was 9 years old, I considered myself a writer. That is, I read prolifically, anything from Anna Karenina to Harry Potter to the newest romance novel on the library shelves. And because I read, I also wrote constantly. I had half a dozen tattered notebooks stacked around my bed, and a favourite, particularly shabby, red one stuffed in my pillowcase.
But did I know how to write? Not remotely.
My writing was too lavish; too eloquent (I mean, I was immersed in 19th century literature; of course I was too wordy).
I was reading through my literature text book when I came across the best piece of advice about writing I have ever heard. My assignment had been to read a short story, which detailed the life of an elderly shoemaker in the early nineteenth century; a man with a commitment to quality and honesty in the midst of a bustling London suburb where honesty was no longer the norm. It was a haunting story, and I never forgot it. The author wrote in an afterword that “a sigh was more poignant than a scream.” I have no idea how the author was, what the story was called, or any of the other details.
It was only when I began to follow this advice that I started to see some success as a writer. I was published for the first time a year ago, in various poetry anthologies, and my work stemmed directly from the idea that I could make a “sigh” more memorable than a “scream.”
This is where my journey as a writer really began: carefully molding the words into a concise, haunting journey that would stay with the reader long after they had finished reading.
Writing style matters; a sigh can be more poignant than a scream.