Durani Wins Gold Medal in Writing Competition

As a Muslim, half Pakistani and half Dominican living in Westport, Haris Durani ’11 is definitely different than majority of the Staples student body. Writing from a minority perspective inspires his writing that seeks to change the way society thinks.

Recently, Durani entered his writing into the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition. Durani won a gold medal for his short story and memoir, and also entered a portfolio, which is a compilation of a short story, a memoir and a poem. Only eight students out of about 185,000 won a gold medal for their writing portfolio, one of which was Durani.

Receiving awards is nothing new for Durani, in the past he has received many gold keys, which are awards at the regional level, as well as a silver medal and $1000 for the National Creativity and Citizenship Award. But this year, winning the portfolio competition means professional actors read his writing, it is on a banner in the world financial center, he receives $10,000, he is published in best teen writing and there is an award ceremony at Carnegie Hall.

“I was just really excited. I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Durani said.

Although Durani was surprised by this win, his mentor and advisor, Michael Fulton, was not.

“I always thought we would win, but I really knew we would when he faxed me his new story over February break,” Fulton, who read the story while on vacation, said. “I knew during that conversation that we were going to win. I just really felt confident.”

Durani’s stories are based on personal experience and actual events. For example, one of his stories is about a Latino man who works for homeland security and rounds up more Latinos. Not only does this connect to him and his culture, but is also a reality in many places. Durani has written another piece about his uncle, who is Dominican and lives in Washington Heights. He writes about this “quirky character” dealing with the experience of the Diaspora coming from Dominican Republic to Washington Heights. However, he writes the story backwards, starting now and going back in time.

“It’s not so much making a point as showing the experience of facing discrimination. For me writing is more than words, it’s not just what you write down but the themes it conveys, and making the audience think about certain topics like social justice,” Durani said.

He notes that a lot of literature just tries to tell a good story, or a depressing story where everyone dies and the reader feels disturbed. He understands how that can work, but he recognizes that this kind of literature doesn’t always improve how society thinks.

In terms of his writing future, Durani says he does not plan to major or minor in writing. While, he likes to write about things, he doesn’t like to learn how to write.

“I really like history and math and science and I’d like to study those things and incorporate that into my writing,” Durani said.

Fulton knows that Durani’s writing path will lead him to great places.

“He finds the time for so much production. He came to me as a freshman with a 500-page novel. I knew he was special then,” Fulton said. “He has so much imagination and is always coming up with stories. He has such a care for the craft, so much time for it and there is always a new plot boiling in his head.”

However, Fulton only sees this success if he stops writing science fiction “because no one reads that crap,” said Fulton. “All joking aside, I really think he can join some of the better contemporary American writers but does have to work on creating narrators that aren’t himself. If he can do that, he’s unstoppable.”

Download and read one of Durani’s award-winning stories here.