Pueblo Novelist, 15, Reaches The Stars In National Writing Competition

July 6, 2016
Photo: Pueblo Novelist Art(Courtesy of Annika Clark)
Annika Clark of Pueblo won a gold medal and a trip to New York City for her novel, "Too Close to the Stars."

In fact, Clark, 15, is so good at plumbing the depths of her imagination that last year she began a novel, "Too Close to the Stars." An excerpt from the story won a gold medal in the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Clark accepted the prize during a recent trip to New York City.

"It's amazing how much dedication it takes to make yourself write," said Clark, who was a participant in the NaNoWriMo program, an online creative writing project with a goal of finishing a novel during the month of November. "About a week into the project, there’s so much doubt," she said.

"Too Close to the Stars" is a story about Amelia Stuart Maundy, a teenage girl with an abusive stepfather whose life is changed after an English teacher submits her novel to a publisher. The story is told on two timelines, one covering her life before the novel is submitted, the other covering what happens afterward.

The work-in-progress is Clark's second novel; however, despite its success, she said she's already moving on to her next project.

"I was glad it was recognized as being good but there are other things I'm working on that I feel could be better, so I’m kind of leaving it behind," Clark said. "I feel like I can’t keep working on one project for too long -- I think the (newer projects) could be better and then in my mind it’s so much better I don’t want to go back."

Read an excerpt from "Too Close to the Stars."

Junior Year:
            She would stand outside with her coat unbuttoned, and her hair down. She was hot, I mean she was sweaty, and her hair was turning gray at the roots.  
            I made spaghetti for dinner, and left the door propped open to the porch so I could inhale the second-hand wisps' of smoke from mom's cigarette.  While the water boiled I sat on the tiles of the kitchen.  My legs didn't quite fit between the cabinets.  I hugged them to my chest, waiting for my older brother to come home, listening for the door to slam, or the window to open in the dark.  But Victor never came, just like I thought he wouldn't.  
            While our forks and spoons hit the plates, and the twins, Robin and John, twirled their spaghetti, I imagined all the places my brother could be, instead of sitting here with us.  
            1.  He could be with the other seniors of Lowell High School, smoking weed and listening to awful seventies rock music.  He would be in the corner with a hood over his head, tapping his foot, or twitching his leg, masked and cloaked in smoke.  
            2.  He could be with some outcast group in a basement, playing board games, watching geeky movies.  He would play along, but he would soon get bored.  He would be a daredevil, and tell everyone they were playing spin the bottle.  Victor was smart, and desperate, and would get the bottle to spin on any guy he wanted.  And then, he would kiss him, and the other would say it was a secret, and everyone would agree, and then Victor would leave.  
            3.  He could be riding around town in someone's car.  He could have called someone, and manipulated them into driving him around.  Victor had a voice over the phone unlike any voice over the phone.  It was smooth and tired, and full of promise.  I never wanted to hang up.  So, he could be telling someone to go left, and then go left again, and again, and again…
            4.  He could be preparing for a rocket launch.  He could be zipping the zipper, and buttoning the buttons on a space suit.  He pops the helmet on, and slides the shield up.  He winks at an engineer, a chemist, a manager on the ground, and then he climbs into his rocket, and the flames carpet the ground.  The rocket flies up, and he is headed for the moon, where he will finally not be the coldest thing in a ten-mile radius.  
            5.  He could be on the roof. 
            He is on the roof.  
            I climb to him, from the window of Robin and John's bedroom.  He sits with his knees to his chest, clutching the gutter.  His palms are dirty from the shingles, and I am not close to him yet.  I lie down, and rest my head on my hands, staring at the stars.  We don't talk.  He rocks back and forth, his teeth grazing his knees, his chin tucked between his hands.  We are above the streets, above all the roots.  This is our escape, and at the same time, our demise.  No one has anything to ask in the dark, so high up here.  The night is too short.