Best Midwestern High School Writing 2013 Winners

The Illness-Infused

Haley M. Winkle, Kalamazoo Central High School

Haley's description work conveys all of the sharp and dark power of loss that is at the core of the piece. Using the distant eye of the observer, she bathes the reader in a multi-sensory pool of atmosphere. Leaving the lone, barely living subject of the piece nameless and genderless, she layers one impression onto another until the sadness and eventual stillness of a room clutches me with its accuracy. The authentic presentation of the landscape forced me to revisit the deathbeds I try to hide in my memory. This piece is unforgiving, as it should be. It takes me straight to a place she has been. It is outstanding because it moves me with its hard beauty and its sheer quality. It is outstanding because it inspires me to be as courageous when writing what I too have lived.

To be answered by the student

'The Illness-Infused' is a description piece threaded with poetic details that show what this scene looks and feels like altogether. I wrote about what the whole room looked like, circling around to what the piece is about - a young person, dying of incurable illness and taking their last breaths. Keeping it very general regarding the personality and life history of the character, I gave them a story within what little is known about them. I portrayed the five human senses from both the body of a possible visitor as well as the dying person with omniscience.

I was sure to convey all of the sensory details of the room of an unidentifiable person on their deathbed. This is a view that I have a past experience with - however I did not portray the same experience here. I focused on the setting of the empty room that nobody dares to enter because of the heavy emotion that is so very unsettling and familiar to all. This is a piece that I feel a lot of people can or will in some point in their lives relate to, seeing as everybody will have to suffer the loss of somebody close to them at least once during their lifetime. The emotions conveyed in reality will never be exactly the same between people, but there is a concrete idea that I have built this piece on. We all have the inevitability to suffer the potent visual and emotional memory of someone’s deathbed.