My Experience Competing in a Literary Arts Festival

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Wendy Rodriguez's mother

This picture was taken after the ceremony ended, on February 6, 2020 at 8:53 p.m.

Wendy Rodriguez, Staff Writer

When I’m writing, time just stops.

At the start of my sophomore year, there were several flyers around campus informing students to join a writing competition. It seemed enthralling, but terrifying at the same time because I’ve never had anyone read my writing before. I didn’t know what to expect from this experience, but I knew this would help me overcome my fears of people reading my work.  

The Literary Arts Festival is where students are allowed to express themselves by entering and submitting a piece of: Prose, Poetry, or Media. Secondary Language Arts Curriculum Specialist, Jason Crabbe, from the Santa Ana Unified School District implemented this writing festival two years ago. At Godinez Fundamental High School, my school, English teachers, Joel Medina and Yuri Lara, are in charge of the program.

With excitement and nerves, I went to the prose workshop. During this workshop, I was introduced to this year’s theme: “Imagine the Possibilities” and further information about the festival. In addition, we shared our top five topics with the other contestants and I learned how to map my story. I was very timid, but Medina was encouraging throughout the process.

After the workshop, the minute I arrived home, I began to write my story. 

I decided to write about a topic that is significantly important to me but not based on true events. I wrote it from a first-person point of view, so I was the narrator. 

Minutes before walking onstage, I could feel the breeze of a competitive atmosphere”

— Wendy Rodriguez

With all my notes and prewriting done, at last, I was ready to start. I didn’t add too much that day, but everyday once I came home from school, I would visit it and add some sentences. 

Months passed and I was feeling very good about how my story was coming along.

I struggled to complete it, because I’m not one of the students who can draft an essay in 20 minutes. I went step by step and it took time to come up with my thoughts and ideas. 

I based my story on a 15-year old teen who lost her family in a car accident and is forced to grow up in foster care. Through numerous obstacles, she finds herself in a place called home. I titled it “The Traumatic Isolation.”

On December 13th, 2019, I submitted my final draft to the Godinez Literary Arts Contest.

I was nervous but no matter what happened, I was extremely proud of myself for coming out of my shell. At the end of the day, I made about 40 revisions, and even after submitting it, I still continued to make changes. 

During winter break, all I could think about were the results. When school resumed in the new year, I waited in anticipation for the email. 

Once the bell rang on January 7, 2020, I unlocked my phone and as soon as I saw the word, “Congratulations.”  I immediately told my older sister. She was so proud of me and she told me to keep up the good work. As for me, I was speechless because I couldn’t believe that I had won first place for the school site contest. 

I read further into the email and I was told to attend one last workshop in order to record and submit my entry to the district. Again, I revised and revised until I completely fell in love with it. 

As planned, I submitted my story to the District competition, and a few days later, I received an email that I was chosen as a finalist to attend the 2nd Annual Literary Arts Contest. 

I was anxious as the day quickly approached. I arrived at Santa Ana High School’s Little Theatre and checked in. I was directed to the backstage to be mentored by Marcus Omari who is a poet, writer, and a performer. Omari has hosted the Lit Con event for the past two years.

He advised us to take a deep breath before presenting our pieces and to take our time.

Minutes before walking onstage, I could feel the breeze of a competitive atmosphere and everyone wanting to win. Performing my prose in front of an audience was nerve wracking but after it was over, I felt better. 

When everyone finished presenting, it was all put into the judges’ hands. I didn’t have to wait for a long time because the scores were being tallied up after each performance. I tried to relax and calm down. 

It was finally time to announce the results. 

Crabbe began with a huge congratulations to every participant. I held my hands tightly and took a deep breath. 

He started with the intermediate winners and then proceeded to high school poetry, prose, and media. 

When it was time to announce the high school prose winners, I was focused.  He announced the third place winner and it wasn’t me. Then, he announced the second place winner. It wasn’t me again. I was so scared but then, he said, “The first place winner from Godinez Fundamental High School goes to Wendy Rodriguez. Congratulations.” 

I looked at the speaker with no words. Walking up towards the stage, I almost started crying. My heart was beating so fast. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Since my friend was up there already, she was one of the first to congratulate me. I received a shiny medal with stars decorated on it. 

Collage created by Wendy Rodriguez
A copy of the Literary Arts Contest program and a picture of my medal.

Making my way back to my seat, my English teachers, Laurie Jocham and Medina congratulated me once more. 

The event finished shortly after that and I exited the auditorium waiting for my mom to pick me up. As I got into the car, I told my mom I had just won first place and her first reaction was, “Congratulations, Wendy. I’m so proud of you.” 

I arrived home and everyone including former teachers, friends, and my family congratulated me. I took pictures and received many hugs.

When it was all over, I said to myself as I went to sleep that night, “This is a moment I will cherish forever.”