Join the discussion.

Inklings News

Join the discussion.

Inklings News

Join the discussion.

Inklings News

Freshman wins the “write” way

Apocalyptic Author: James O’Brien ’17 won third place in the Arisia 2014 Convention’s Student Writing Contest with his story “Orange,” an apocalyptic science fiction tale set in New York City.

When talking to James O’Brien ’17, it’s easy to feel a bit green with envy. His sunny disposition and red-hot confidence can make you kinda blue, especially considering his recent accomplishment.

“Orange” is O’Brien’s gripping science-fiction short story, and, out of all New England, O’Brien took third place in the Arisia 2014 Convention’s Student Writing Contest.

“Orange” was inspired by Manhattan, the story’s setting, and mentions the historic High Line and everyone’s favorite crooner, Frank Sinatra.

But in main character Lance’s world, the High Line is “one of the few surviving relics of the 20-21st century era” and Frank’s crooning is “long-gone.”

The U.S. is overrun with an apocalyptic disease.

While Lower Manhattan remains a haven for the healthy, Lance’s view across the Hudson River underlines just how fragile the safety is.

“Looking down what little street remained between him and the rising Hudson, he could see fires burning across the river in shells of old towers- silent to him, but constant. The stench of death hit him through the gusts of wind. He gagged.”

This chilling opening may seem a little bit far-fetched to some. It’s the power of the science fiction writer to create a world that still remains relatable and grounded in reality.

“I wanted to write something unique, as well as interesting and relatable,”  O’Brien said. “So I thought, what people are really scared of is something they can’t control or understand. I thought a disease would bring some of that in.”

“Orange” began as an assignment for O’Brien’s English class. When his teacher mentioned the contest, he couldn’t help but feel compelled to research the details and enter.

O’Brien modestly described his accomplishment as unexpected.

“I had no idea I would become a finalist, so I never imagined I would get to go.  Making third was a big surprise,” O’Brien said, especially when he learned his story was only about a third of the length of most of the others.

O’Brien won $100 and a free weekend membership at the convention. Excited to have the hard work of writing and the anxiety of waiting to hear back over, he could now kick back and enjoy his prize.

“Inside everybody was wearing a costume, everybody had a cool hat or shirt on, everybody was having these wonderful conversations,” O’Brien recalled fondly. “It was the most welcoming place. You could really feel the difference.”

“It was such a unique experience,” O’Brien said. “You can’t miss the people. They love what they do.”

But the real prize wasn’t the cash, the free stay, or the cool people; it was knowing that O’Brien had made it all possible for himself.

“The best part was knowing in the back of my mind I never would have gotten to experience it without something that I was able to create,” he said. “The whole thing was a blast.

‘Though it’s clear O’Brien takes well-deserved pride in his work, he also makes it clear it helps to know the tools of the trade.

“I read somewhere that a story can have one or two of three things: extraordinary people, extraordinary events, or an extraordinary setting,” O’Brien said. “To have all three just makes a bad story, to have none is boring, and to have one is alright. But to have two, and use them well, can make a story great.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Jessica Gross, A&E Editor
Most kids might shy away from new experiences and dread trying something they’ve never done before, but not Jessica Gross ’15. “I’m totally open to new things,” said Gross, “Actually, I love trying new things.” And it makes perfect sense. The A&E Page Editor has lived in Hong Kong, been to Paris to see a rock concert, and even attended a Berklee College summer program for the performing arts. While she indulges her passion for performing arts through her involvement in Staples Players and her love for journalism in Inklings, Gross’ guilty pleasure is baking. Whether it’s for friends, family, teammates or co-workers, she is always able to put her own spin on any traditional treat. And it’s not just her friends who take note of her knack for baking; even her boss at the restaurant she works at has remarked on her talent, adding a dessert special to his menu featuring Gross’ homemade cookies and brownies. She has even ventured as far as making mini key lime pies, a favorite on the menu. When someone has so many different passions, it’s hard to pick their proudest moment. However, Gross’ came to mind easily: “My band and I opened up for Paul Simon at a concert,” she said, “it was incredible.” Gross is actually the lead singer for that band, created at the School of Rock in Fairfield. Few musicians were invited to join the band at School of Rock, only those with rare talent made the cut. Whether it is finding an interesting topic to cover for Inklings, practicing with her band to get the best sound, or even baking a delicious snack, Gross does it all with flair. So as she embarks on her senior year, take note of her name, because who knows, Jessica Gross might be headlining a tour, opening up a bakery, or even writing for The New York Times in the near future.

Comments (0)

All Inklings News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *