North Hills senior has golden moment with writing competition
“Hopefully Yours” is beyond a traditional letter closing.
Instead, the title of a book by young author Kristen Grom is part of a dream.
Recently, the North Hills Senior High School senior got word her novel had earned a Gold Medal in the 90th annual Scholastic Writing Awards competition. She and the others who distinguished themselves in the nationwide contest will be recognized at Carnegie Hall in New York City on May 31. She will miss her North Hills graduation ceremony to do so.
From the 400 novels submitted to the Scholastic Writing Awards regional competitions across the country, three were awarded Gold Medals at the national level.
Grom, 18, of West View, was declared the overall winner at the national level and therefore the winner of the PUSH Novel Contest. She will have the opportunity to work with an editor from PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., to prepare her first book for publication, perhaps by PUSH.
“There is no guarantee that each year a novel will make it all the way through and be published,” said Angela Baggetta of Goldberg McDuffie Communications, who is handling public relations for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. “It has been a couple of years since that happened.”
The PUSH Novel Contest began about 10 years ago when PUSH partnered with the Scholastic Writing Awards to recognize promising young talent.
“PUSH publishes edgier, contemporary stories by younger authors,” Baggetta said. “One of the judges described Grom as having created ‘characters that felt so real.'”
The young author remembered when the phone call came.
“I had been taking a nap,” Grom said, “and Jody Corbett (a Scholastic Inc. editor) said, ‘This is my favorite kind of call'” and gave the teen the good news.
“I thought ‘What? This is my dream. Wake me up.'”
Grom describes “Hopefully Yours” as a story about the choices June Bryant, her protagonist, makes as she journeys from a childhood of negative experiences to a young adulthood filled with possibilities. Residents of an assisted-living home also are part of the story.
“I have a soft spot for elderly individuals,” said Grom, explaining that if she and a friend are walking somewhere, her friend might see a child and say, “How cute.” Grom, however, reserves her “How cute” comments for the older couple crossing the street, walking hand in hand.
“I'm close with my grandparents on both sides,” she said.
She loves to hear stories about how the couples met, courted and married.
Grom started the book a year ago and then stopped. She knew she needed to create conflict for the ordinary people she had created. A one-week writing workshop at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove sparked her enthusiasm again. She wrote her heart out and finished her book of 72,000 words. She wrote every day, sometimes for two hours.
Donna Perry, her 10th-grade English and creative-writing teacher at North Hills Senior High School, wasn't surprised to learn of Grom's award.
“Kristen has an unending supply of ideas and is committed and dedicated to writing,” Perry, 52, of Ross Township, said. “She has a true enthusiasm and works to make it happen.”
Grom never is without a notebook to jot down anything at any time, Perry explained. Inside are ideas, observations and pictures.
Even as a child, Grom was writing.
“When I knew how to make my letters, I wrote books, but they were two pages long. The first page read ‘The Pengwen,' she said, laughing at her own misspelling. “The second page, ‘was nice. The End.'”
Yet those books sold to family and friends for a nickel a piece.
Grom credits her parents for their support of her passion.
“They're nurturing of my love for writing,” she said, “and my fan club at school is spectacular.”
The daughter of Marla and Tom Grom of Ross, she has chosen telecommunications and creative writing for her majors at Bowling Green State University in Ohio in the fall. For Grom, nothing would be better than to live her life as a writer.
“It's a joy to write, actually,” she said.
Perry, who has helped Grom enter many a contest, has seen only a few chapters of the novel and is eager to read the completed work.
“Kristen has the most dedication to the idea of being a writer than any student I've had,” Perry said.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.