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Young Writer’s Imagination Takes Her to First-Place Award in Statewide Contest


Jennifer Ernst (Photo - Mara Soloway)

Jennifer Ernst (Photo – Mara Soloway)

Jennifer Ernst Has Been Writing Since She Could Hold A Pencil

By Mara Soloway

Having a quiet environment to concentrate on her writing doesn’t work for young author Jennifer Ernst, who will be 16 in July and a junior at Clements High School in the fall.

“I always find my writing process funny because some people think I must have complete silence to concentrate. But most of my writing is done at 2 in the morning with Netflix on one side of the screen and my Word doc on the other, with music playing. I need something in the background to start to focus in on,” she said.

Her process obviously works: Jennifer’s short story called “Heaven Doesn’t Need More Angels” recently won first place in the statewide writing contest for students from pre-K to 12th grade, the Abydos Writing Contest, in the prose category. In the story, Jennifer writes from the first-person voice of teenager Andrew who is trying to understand his friend Connor’s suicide.

She admits the topic is heavy. She wrote the beginning down and a few months later, reopened the document and her active imagination took off. “I didn’t even know what it was going to be about till I was about half way through writing it. It just came out of nowhere.”

 

Blood is a strange color. Darker than you would think, closer to black than to red. A little more than seven pints. That’s what I had learned in Ms. Meijer’s science class last year – the average human being has a little more than seven pints of blood in their body. I wondered how many of those pints were pooling on Conner’s carpet now.

 

Her mom was a little concerned when she first read it but Jennifer assured her that the story wasn’t inspired by any real-life incident. Her parents, Norha and Vincent, have supported her writing talents since Jennifer began showing them her stories as a child.

The piece also shows Jennifer’s sense of humor, which she refers to as sarcastic. When Andrew’s father asks him what happened, she writes:

 

“What do you think happened?” I snap. In my head, anyway. My physical self is still trying out for the lead role as a vegetative ice cube.

 

Jennifer shared the story with her English teacher, Ashli Taylor, who encouraged her to enter it into the Abydos contest. “I have learned a lot in Ms. Taylor’s class. She’s a very good teacher,” said Jennifer, who obviously has a fondness for her English teachers. In fact, she is still in contact with her sixth-grade English teacher.

“She is an incredible writer for her age. The characterization she uses, the figurative language, the imagery – it’s really all very mature. It’s something like an adult would write,” said Ashli. “She’s a great young lady, and I think we’ll hear more and read more from her in the future.”

Jennifer wrote “Heaven Doesn’t Need More Angels” as a male character. “I usually do write from a male perspective. It’s easier to for me to write from that perspective partly because a lot of books are written that way. It’s better for the audience to relate as well.”

Some of her favorite authors are Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wall Flower), Edward Bloor (Tangerine), and Rick Riordan (the Percy Jackson stories). “Their stories are all realistic fiction — that’s what I like. They all have a good ending but they’re not always completely happy,” she said. “They could happen in real life to you or someone you know.”

She is making good progress on a realistic novel with another weighty topic – teenage homelessness. “There are some heavy things in there – my writing doesn’t tend to be light. The opening scene is when the main character is running away from a store he’s just robbed, which draws you into the action. At one point he does get caught by the police. He gets into the system where he meets a family, but he gets into a very large argument with them,” Jennifer said. She does see the resolution of the story as being a nice one. “I think he does get back with them; I see that happening.” At some point in her life, she would love to see this as a book published the traditional way. (“Heaven Doesn’t Need More Angels” is availableon Amazon.)

To relax, Jennifer turns to baking and has taught herself to decorate cakes, cookies and cupcakes. “I love it. I started doing them for people’s birthdays and holidays.” She’s made Dutch spice cookies for Christmas, crème puffs and doughnuts, and has tackled cakes decorated in a military theme for her brother Michael’s 18th birthday, Cinderella, a piano, and a cake covered in strawberries.

Jennifer is also inspired by music, which lately includes the message of peace in John Lennon’s “Imagine.” She herself is a dreamer. “I daydream constantly; there are always ideas in my head,” she said. If you see Jennifer with that look on her face – like she’s zoned out and not listening to you – don’t worry or interrupt her thoughts. She’s deep into letting new story ideas come to her. Heaven might not need more angels, but our world needs Jennifer’s creative energy and imagination to take flight.

Jennifer-Ernst-cake3

One of Jennifer’s cake designs. (Photo – Jennifer Ernst)

 


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