Isabelle Curtis receives Gold Key

Posted:  Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 8:45am

Boothbay Region High School senior Isabelle Curtis has received a Gold Key from the Maine Scholastic Writing Awards. Her eight-piece portfolio “Fact and Fiction” earned her the prestigious award in Maine’s chapter of the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The award earns her candidacies for various scholarships and passage to the national stage where the United States’ finest teen writing will be reviewed for the highest awards.

“I’m very, very excited,” said Curtis. “It’s pretty prestigious and some famous people like Stephen King, Truman Capote, and Sylvia Plath have won it and it’s really amazing to be even kind of considered at the same level of those writers.”

In addition to the Gold Key, Curtis was awarded a Silver Key for a piece of fiction titled “Excursion from the Encampment” and three honorable mentions for another piece of fiction titled “Death of an Immortal,” a piece of journalism titled “An Examination of US-Turkish Relations Through the Lenses of the ‘Propaganda Model,’” and a piece of poetry titled “Our Revolution.”

Curtis said she had the freedom to choose basically whatever she wanted and however many for each category. Her portfolio consisted of two nonfiction pieces, two journalistic articles, an essay, a memoir and two short stories. Her first article’s subject was the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the lack of federal aid to Puerto Rico. The second was about US-Turkish relations and the tensions avoided between the two countries by the creation of media silence.

“Because Turkey is our ally, we don’t talk about it,” said Curtis. “It’s kind of a media blackout and how mainstream media won’t cover things that look at our allies badly.”

Curtis said that though she is not sure where she wants to go to college – she still has yet to hear back from schools she has applied to – she knows she wants to be a journalist.

“I like researching. I find it methodical and comfortable. That’s pretty good if you want to do journalism.”

Curtis’s journey to becoming a writer has been interesting. “When I was really young, I hated reading, I hated writing, I didn’t want to do any of that. Then, I just begrudgingly did it until, maybe, fifth grade when all of a sudden I had this reading epoch. All of a sudden I just loved to read and just devoured everything and my writing got better as a result.”

Curtis originally wanted to become an author, but said she does not feel as though she could create a fictional world.

“All throughout middle school and high school I had teachers saying ‘You should be a journalist’ … whenever I would have to write things similar to journalistic pieces. This past couple years, especially with the political climate, I really just changed my mind. This is what I want to do – I’m just going to go for it … It’s kind of my thing. I have a passion for it. I feel like journalism is something that we kind of need more than ever. Truth.”

When she has the time, Curtis continues to write fiction, but mostly as a form of escapism from the non-fictitious, biographical and historical nature of high school humanities writing. However, Curtis still considers herself a “humanities person.”

“I’ve taken all of the history classes. I really like the Victorian Era, but I got into the musical ‘Hamilton’ and I never was really into the American Revolution (until then).”

Has she entered any other contests or competitions? “No, I haven’t, but I might,” Curtis laughed. “I’m feeling pretty good … Mr. Gorey sat at the front of the class and flourished at a (Scholastic Art and Writing Awards) poster and said ‘You guys should do this.’”

Mark Gorey, English teacher at BRHS, was an invaluable source, said Curtis, helping her gather the variety of works from her junior and present year.

“Working with Isabelle has been amazing for me as an educator because, in addition to being an insatiable reader, she already has the ability to comprehend and render coherency in writing, complex, ambiguous narratives, fictional or otherwise, with many moving parts,” said Gorey. “Frankly, I cannot think of another student I've worked with … who has the passion and the skills necessary to investigate and report the truth as Isabelle does.”

Curtis said one thing few people know about her is that in third grade she wanted nothing more than to be a professional baseball player. Fast forward through the years of hating reading and writing, then loving it, and growing into a recognized teen writer, Curtis has the craft of the written word at her fingertips and a literary voice to crush any story out of the park.

“I came from very different beginnings,” said Curtis. And it will be interesting to see where the road leads her.

What does her teacher think? “I know I would not be surprised if, 20 years from now, whether fiction or nonfiction or both, Isabelle is a recognized author of multiple books.”