Catelyn Errington doesn’t “usually win a lot of things” so it was exciting when the news came that her writing took first place in the statewide Letter About Literature Contest.
“It’s crazy,” Errington mused about a win that has put her work in national competition. “This is definitely new. I’m really happy.”
Errington will be recognized among the state winners on Oct. 29 at the Louisiana Book Festival. She’ll also receive $100 as a first-place winner in the grade 9-12 or level 3.
First-place winners’ entries have been submitted to the Library of Congress for national completion. She hopes to receive news about national winners this month.
In Louisiana, the contest is made possible by the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana with the additional assistance from the Louisiana Writing Project and the Louisiana Library and Book Festival Foundation. Funding for prizes is provided by the Library of Congress grant.
The HHS sophomore’s letter she was chosen among 378 submissions overall from Louisiana students in grades four to 12. They wrote personal letters to authors, whether living or dead, to thank them and explain how their works in various genres changed the students’ way of thinking about the world or themselves.
Errington wrote her letter to author Markus Zusak, an Australian writer who as written “The Book Thief” and “The Messenger.” His internationally best-selling novels are for young adults.
In her letter to Zusak, she recounts her “pity party” over falling out of popularity with friends at school and how she related to the characters in his books.
“Ed was very plain, basically an underachiever,” she wrote in her letter. “The fact that he became such an amazing person was shocking to me – I wanted to be just like him. Next, I read of Liesel and her willingness to go against the grain for what she knew in her heart was right. Liesel taught me that I can be good even if I do what everyone else thinks is wrong. It was at this time that I began my search for a different goal.”
Her journey to self-discovery was defined by her refusal to consider herself as popular or meaningless.
“And so, Mr. Zusak, I will be frank,” Errington states in her letter. “Your books were my saving grace when all I knew was that popularity was the only goal. You showed me that along my stolid sojourn, the path most traveled is not the only way to scale life’s staggering sierras.”
Errington’s mother, Crystal Schouest of Luling, said she found it equally interesting of how her daughter related to Zusak’s characters. She and her father, Jason Errington of Hahnville, are proud of their daughter. The statewide award was a surprise, but a pleasant one.
“She loves writing and we’re glad she’s getting recognition for her work,” said Schouest of an area that has always been a strong one for her daughter. “We’re just excited to see how far she can progress.”
What started as an assignment in her English class has ironically made Errington’s young life a winning story.
This young writer said her words come from her own experiences.
“It was something I hadn’t really thought about,” she said. “It hadn’t really been put to rest… the fact that one of my best friends tossed me aside. I hadn’t talked about it before … it was hard to put into words. When I do write, I try to think about every little experience and incorporate them. To me, writing is what comes from you and not what you can make up.”
When the email came from her English teacher saying she won the competition in her category, she didn’t believe it. That is, until she saw the announcement from the Letter About Literature Contest bearing her name as a winner and, even then, she had to read it a few times before she realized what was happening.
The Hahnville High School student readily admitted that winning is just not something that happens to her that often, which is why this honor came as a surprise even in something she loves to do – writing.
“It wasn’t like I walked into the school and everyone knew my name,” she mused about her fame although she did enjoy a few congrats from friends and teachers.
Errington noted, “It’s just the fact I entered something, forgot totally about it and then I was the state winner.”