Bluefire WinnersFour Nueva students were recently recognized for their creative writing achievement by the Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation. For the past five years, the Foundation has run the "$1,000 for 1,000 Words Creative Writing Contest" that challenges students to write a piece of short fiction using exactly 1,000 words. Winning entries will be published in the annual literary journal Bluefire, by the Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation. 

Both the foundation and the contest were created by Mark and Jessica Beban in honor of their daughter Leyla, who joined Nueva as a sixth grader and graduated from Nueva’s eighth grade in 2012. Leyla passed away on November 26, 2012, while riding her bike to school, when she struck and killed by a pickup truck. 

Beatrice S. won the eleventh-grade prize for her story “The Undying Summer,” Maya A. won the eighth-grade prize for “Never Say Forever,” and Lachlan C. won the sixth-grade prize for “Permission.” Eighth grader Charlie D. was recognized with an honorable mention for the story “Southbound.” For the complete list of winners, click here

"I came up with my story idea because I was inspired by a topic that came up in a debate class," Lachlan said. "I decided to write from the perspective of a family going through the fear of losing DACA. Also, when I was in fourth grade, Matt Berman taught me to write in different ways and incorporate new things into my stories."

Beatrice shared that her story “is an excerpt from a larger novel about the aftermath of sexual assault. This prize is very meaningful to me because it’s validation that my character’s story has affected others. I believe that representing diverse and honest stories is an important mode with which to make change, and I am honored to be able to help make that change.”

In the last five years, the $1,000 for 1,000 Words contest has received over 3,000 entries and distributed prizes to writers both in the U.S. and abroad. Between 20 and 30 stories are published in the journal Bluefire each year, the cover of which is designed by Nueva alum Diana Baszucki, with layout by her sister, Claire Baszucki, who is also a Nueva alum.

Karen Tiegel, middle school writing teacher and Leyla’s former writing teacher at Nueva, said, “Leyla was a talented writer, strong in both creative and nonfiction writing, and she wrote with a depth that reflected her incredible observational skills. She was also an incredible reader — she constantly had a book with her, and could often be found curled up in the library, reading.” A stained glass picture of a jellyfish designates "Leyla's Nook" in the Hillsborough Library, where she would often sit and read. Leylas nook

“Her writing drew the reader in,” Karen said. “Leyla wrote believable characters and setting details that made you feel you were part of the story, an observer in the worlds that Leyla created for you.”

David Susman, Leyla’s creative writing teacher at Nueva, reflected on the meaning of the Leyla Beban prizes for young writers: “One year at the luncheon the foundation hosts for everyone whose stories will be published in Bluefire, we asked all the writers how many of them had written their stories for a class in school. Maybe one hand was raised, maybe two.”

David continued, “Every other story we were publishing was written entirely outside of class, outside of school — and only because there was a contest prompt out there. So while it's great to give talented young writers an opportunity to be published and recognized, for me the greater benefit is that 500 or so young people go write stories that, for the most part, would not otherwise exist.”

Congratulations to all four Nueva student winners for this recognition of their creative work!


By Lily Brown, Upper School English Teacher

May 16, 2018

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