Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
A short story and poem written by Lauren Stokes ’09 went to print last month, as part of an anthology titled We Are Quiet, We Are Loud: The Best Young Writers and Artists in America. She was chosen for publication after winning a Silver Award in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards contest as a high school senior.
Stokes has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her first attempt at a novel was in the fifth grade about a group of middle schoolers in a chess club using a style that mirrored Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. This influence re-emerged in high school when she wrote her short story entitled “Alice Liddell”, a part of an eight-piece portfolio which earned her the award.
“My English teacher, Beth Ferguson, encouraged me to submit, and I was pretty stoked to win a Silver Award for the Portfolio as a whole,” said Stokes, an Honors Major in history and Honors Minor and Course Major in German Studies.
The anthology contains two works by Stokes: her short story and a poem entitled “Womanscrew.”
Stokes wrote “Alice Liddell” as part of a senior project in high school. In this piece, Stokes was “trying to capture the idea of being precocious and of desiring things you really know nothing about”. To do this, Stokes uses two characters, Alice Liddell – the inspiration for Carroll’s tales and the subject of a photo taken by Carroll – and a narrator eagerly reading The Annotated Alice (Stokes’s personal favorite book). In the short story, each of the characters enters “into an alien world of sexual desire and a world that is controlled by men.”
In her poem “Womanscrew”, Stokes tries to understand her own sexual identity. The piece details her experiences throughout high school and was written during a stay in summer camp where everyone assumed she was gay.
“At the time I wrote that piece … I was still very much working through my own sexual desires and trying to figure out what they meant and how I was supposed to tell the world about them,” said Stokes.
“These are the two edgiest of the bunch … and so I was astonished when they were chosen to be published in the anthology. I thought ‘no way are they going to publish my musings on child sexuality.’ But I guess they liked it. Sometimes being edgy works out for you.”
Stokes is unsure whether she will write professionally; however, she intends to keep writing as a means of working through any strong emotions that may arise in her daily life. Since arriving in Swarthmore she has become a lot more interested in non-fiction writing as opposed to fiction and poetry. However, Stokes still has a soft spot for the two pieces that were published.
“I still really adore both of these pieces – looking back at everything I submitted for the contest, 21-year-old-Lauren likes these two the best – so I’m glad the editors seem to share my opinion about what stood the test of time.”
Disclosure: Lauren Stokes is Editor-in-Chief at The Daily Gazette. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this story.