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A new challenge

Maverick Notes

HURLINWith the end of the school year getting ever closer, I entered the third trimester of my senior year knowing that what lay ahead of me was an intense course that would test my writing ability more than it had been tested in all the years before.

At Riverdale, all seniors are required to take a class called Senior Exhibition. Essentially, it is a self-designed research course in which we choose our own (reasonable) topic and craft a 15-or-so-page research paper and an hour-long presentation. Both are due at the end of May, about a week or so before our graduation. I had an idea for a topic going in, so I felt somewhat prepared and not completely thrown off guard by this new challenge.

Since the class began more than a month ago, my chosen topic has been broadened and narrowed and has jumped around, but it’s stayed fundamentally the same. And as the all-too-real dates for both the paper and my graduation grow nearer, I am more grateful than ever for my favorite and most demanding hobby of writing fiction.

I was 8 years old when I learned how to use the 2003 version of Microsoft Word on my mother’s computer, and I immediately launched into writing down the stories I had come up with over my years of relatively coherent thought. I mostly wrote about animals doing fantastical things; felines, canines and even dinosaurs ruling kingdoms and civilizations and going on adventures.

As I matured, the topics of my stories changed, and I wrote more “slice of life” stories about kids in high school and their lives, occasionally lapsing into fantasy or science fiction. I currently have a novel in process, and I like to say that it “starts as science fiction and turns into a psychological mind trip.” The story takes place in the middle of the apocalypse, but it eventually becomes character-driven and focuses on how personalities are shaped by experiences. Fiction has been my bread and butter since I was a child.

I have also dabbled in independent, open-source publishing to get my work out there and ask for feedback from other writers. This is both a blessing and a curse, as I have gotten more praise and recommendations than I would ever have expected. But it also becomes a gruesome competition for popularity between myself and other writers. Competition can be found in all walks of life, and this is hardly an exception.

Writing fiction for 10 years has given me gifts in the art of writing that can easily translate to essays and research papers. Grammar, spelling and word choice are the same across genres. I have many wonderful English teachers and online resources to thank for my talent in these areas. Along with this is sentence flow and structure, “voice” and pacing. Whether I’m writing a character’s internal monologue or a paragraph persuading my audience to agree with my opinion, I can draw on the same knowledge. Fiction is still my favorite, and I’ll jump at the chance to write a story of some kind for a class when asked for one, but sometimes writing an essay isn’t too different.

As Senior Exhibition continues and the concept of my 15-page paper becomes a reality, I can easily draw upon my years of experience to write the best essay I possibly can. My experience in English classes and the many (some unnecessary) papers that were forced upon me will impact this daunting task, just as much as my history in writing about teenagers going to school dances. It all comes from the same place — knowing how to bring concepts to life through the art of language.

So, to my fellow fiction writers: Don’t ever let someone tell you that your talent, your hobby or your creations are useless. Your stories are just as important as your school papers — if not more so.

Riverdale High School senior Skyle Hurlin is one of two Maverick Notes columnists. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..