Writers awarded at Upstate Eight Literary Festival


Photo by Tara Deleon

Competing members of Creative Writing Club assemble outside of High School.

By Leslie Fireman, Chronicle Advisor

WEGO’s Creative Writing Club brought home 4 awards from the Upstate Eight Literary Festival, held at Elgin High School, on April 22.

The event featured more than 200 entries and marked the first time in 3 years that West Chicago Community High School students, led by English teacher Tara Deleon, were able to attend in-person, thanks to COVID. The competition includes six categories: descriptive sketch, dramatic scene, personal essay, poetry, short fiction, and slam poetry (spoken word or rap).

Freshman Dianna Jimenez took home a second-place award for their poem “Bike Ride”.

Club members, along with Deleon, travel to the UEC Literary Festival. (Photo by Tara Deleon)

“‘Bike Ride’ is an extended metaphor that I wrote to describe the feeling of being anxious and self-conscience in social situations, much like how the feeling of adrenaline and fear floods in when you trip over a rock,” said Jimenez, who originally intended to write about fear of falling.

The poem “was born from a negative experience I had had on a certain day- specifically an embarrassing moment that keeps me awake late at night. I decided to write down whatever was on my mind, and through a flurry of emotions- ‘Bike Ride’ was born,” said Jimenez.

Additionally, 3 WEGO students received honorable mentions: in poetry, freshman Denise Herrera for “Morel-la” and sophomore Alexis Avila-Hernandez for “Shooting Stars”, and in slam poetry, junior Rodrigo Alcantar for his rap, “Big Rody’s Prediction”. This year marked the first time one of the school’s rap artists has received recognition for their work.

Avila Hernandez described the honorable mention as “a huge surprise since I wasn’t expecting to get an honorable mention. I haven’t written any finished poetry since seventh grade, which made it a bigger surprise to me to know my poetry got an honorable mention after three years of not writing any sort of complete poetry.”

“It was surprising, to be honest, especially since there were many entries, but I was happy. Knowing that they liked my writing was exciting to me and I look forward to sharing more of it in the future,” said Herrera.

Also in attendance were juniors Victor Correa, Victor Abarca, and Vincent Ross, as well as freshmen Alexia Guerrero Chairez, Denise Sanchez, and Edwin Mejia.

“I am incredibly proud of this year’s crew of Creative Writing Club poets and rap artists. Every single club member wrote poetry or crafted a rap submission for the festival, which has never happened before! Usually, we have some writers submit, and some attend. We wrote, revised, shared our pieces aloud, and revised again. These students rose up despite busy work and school schedules to submit their absolute best work! I could not be more proud,” said Deleon.

The club worked on pieces for the festival all year, but finalized their selections for submission in January after careful review.

Creative Writing Club awaits the awards ceremony at the Upstate Eight Literary Festival. (Photo by Tara Deleon)

Jimenez explained that their award-winning poem went through numerous revisions, during which time they attempted to embed “strong emotions” throughout the piece.

“When I heard my name being called for second place, I was stupefied. I don’t think I realized what I had won until I had arrived home and presented my parents the poem I had written,” said Jimenez, who explained their parents were proud of the achievement.

“Everyone worked hard on what they submitted. People were creative and I loved hearing what others wrote,” said Herrera.

Due to COVID and other factors, the last time the club attended the Upstate Eight Literary Festival was in 2018.

“This was a meaningful return to the original in-person event,” said Deleon. “In-person, we were able to listen to a keynote speaker, attend break-out writing workshops, and enjoy the live awards ceremony. Students were finally able to mingle with other students from the Upstate Eight schools.”

“The Lit Fest was an amazing experience. The speaker was absolutely amazing and informative,” said Ross, who found the writing lessons offered at the conference to be valuable. “I highly recommend it along with creative writing.”

“Since Lit Fest is held at different schools each year and seeing how other schools work is a unique experience. Also the stations being held for different things to write about such as descriptive sketch and poetry were great. Plus, the fruit snacks being given out were so tasty and scrumptious. I personally liked the bags containing the most grape-flavored gummies,” said Avila Hernandez.

For Herrera, the opportunity to “look into other people’s experiences with their writing and ideas” was a valuable one.

“The guest speaker and teachers gave different points of view as well. Some spoke about their writing process, while some spoke on how you can come up with ideas from looking at a picture to hearing a door slam,” said Herrera, who recommends anyone interested in writing and expanding their skills consider joining Creative Writing Club.

The club is composed of students from all grade levels, and meets at least twice a month (the schedule changes based on student desires). Announcements for the club’s first meeting of the new school year will come out in August.

Students in creative writing, a semester-long senior elective, usually submit pieces to the festival as well.

“If you are thinking about joining Creative Writing Club, do it! If you are not yet a writer, if you write in your free time, or if you scribble down lines of poetry or rap lyrics on all of your school papers, you will love our club. We play games, plan events, go on field trips, write our hearts out, and (hopefully!) perform at Open Mic Nights,” said Deleon.