Ottoson Middle School Students Win Scholastic Writing Awards

Two Ottoson Middle School eighth grade writers have been recognized in the Massachusetts region of the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Founded 100 years ago, this well known award program is very prestigious. Notable authors who won as young people include Bernard Malamud, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Congratulations to Anja Carlson and Adel Virag on being Gold Key winners, the highest designation awarded. Anja received this recognition for her poem Spilled Milk and Adel is a winner for her short story Equilibrium. Additionally, two of Anja’s poems, My Mind a Collage and My Room; My Mind; My Heart, earned individual Honorable Mention.

Anja Carlson had this to way about her award and her poetry: 

“I've never received an award or submitted my writing to anything other than my teacher, so winning a Gold Key and two Honorable Mentions was a surprise! I'm really excited to get my work out into the world, and I never actually thought I could. I'm so glad the poem that won a Gold Key did, as it's one of my favorites. I love using metaphors and I had such a blast writing it! It’s about how people often overlook issues until they feel too big to solve.

I didn’t expect the other two, which got Honorable Mentions, to win anything, but it's amazing that they did!  These poems are more personal, and are about overthinking and living with anxiety.”

OMS English teacher Melissa Keller has this to say about her student:

“Anja is a fantastic English student. Her work always demonstrates a sense of curiosity and depth of understanding that is impressive. Anja’s deep sense of empathy colors her writing in all genres. I am very proud of her dedication to creative writing, and her use of sensory language brings a lot of life to her words. I look forward to seeing what Anja writes as a high school student, and beyond; hers is a powerful voice!:”

When asked to reflect on her winning story and her experiences as a writer, Adel Virag had this to share:

As a writer, I've always loved expressing myself through storytelling. Though I typically write short stories, the form of writing I do varies with how I’m feeling. The piece recognized by Scholastic, Equilibrium, was a story I immediately felt I needed to write. However, it was only after months of work with Cara Feinberg, head of the Writer's Den writers group, that it was ready for submission.

I first wanted to be an author in 2nd grade, as I loved reading and all creative assignments in class. However, I never wrote short fiction until 5th grade, when Writers' Den gave me enough courage to write the stories I wanted to tell. From then on, I started writing weekly and finding creative inspiration wherever I went. 

Equilibrium was inspired by my experience in a therapist's office, paying attention to the environment I was in. Afterwards, I started writing until the singular scene turned into the story of a girl facing insomnia.The goal of my story was to write a piece that captured my own experiences with anxiety and accurately represented insomnia. 

Although my own experiences influenced this piece, I wanted it to tell the story of somebody living in a different environment from myself. After a couple of months my piece had turned from a simple description of a therapist's office to a story about anxiety, stress, and trust. 

A quote from my piece is,’"What I fear, I cannot say. It is abstract, so abstract that one such as myself could not decode it even if they tried. It remains vague, incomprehensible. I cannot solve the puzzle, cannot understand myself.’"

I wrote this quote to show the vagueness of my main character's fears, which I felt expressed the feeling of anxiety realistically. I am infinitely thankful to have the opportunity to share my work, especially when the piece shared is so personal to me.”


Adel’s English teacher, Jennifer Turner, had this to say about her work: 

I'm not surprised that she won, as Adel has demonstrated a great passion and knack for writing in my class. Adel is very talented at using descriptive language and creative use of perspective in her writing. Earlier this year, she wrote a piece for our suspenseful story unit where she used multiple character points of view to build the suspense. I'm very proud of her accomplishments!”


Both Anja and Adel were eligible to attend the award ceremony for writing winners on May 11 at the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts University. The Gold Key winning poem and story are automatically entered in the national contest.