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Forest Hills students take top spots in Write Michigan contest

Writers earn four of six top spots in teen category

Forest Hills — Kent District Library recently announced the winners of its annual Write Michigan short story competition, with Forest Hills students taking several of the top spots.

In the teen category, Northern High junior Sonja de Wilde won the Judges’ Choice award for her piece, “A House With a Garden,” and Central High freshman Eli Ferguson received the Readers’ Choice for his piece, “Omaha and Fire.” Published finalists included Central High senior Lucy Yoder for, “I Will Always Eat Burnt Biscuits,” and Central High freshman Jordan Fletcher for, “The People Beside You.”

In the youth category, Central Woodlands sixth-grader Elena Hood was the Readers’ Choice winner with her story, “To You, From Every Ending Cosmos.”

“My friend who was also submitting a story told me about it and encouraged me to join,” said Sonja, adding this was her first published piece. “It was super fun to work on our stories together.”

Northern High junior Sonja de Wilde won the 2024 Judges’ Choice award for her piece, ‘A House With a Garden’ (courtesy KDL)

Sonja, who plans to earn a degree in marine biology, said she is heavily inspired by the Southern Gothic aesthetic, both musically and in story form.

“This story, while more fantastical, expands act three of my album of the same name,” Sonja said. “I couldn’t tell you exactly where the inspiration for this particular story came from, because for me, stories often just … happen. I do my best to write them down so that others can experience them too.”

Sonja said through the Write Michigan competition she has learned that your own work can surprise you. 

“I went into this thinking nothing would come of it, and then BOOM! I’ve won the top award in my category,” she said. “It’s been an honor. I’m so proud of myself and so grateful for the support of the people around me.”

Eli said he learned of the Write Michigan competition through his teacher, Sarah Velie, and “thought it was a good idea to at least try.”

“It definitely made me realize that what I write is actually worth something,” Eli said of the annual writing competition. “There was this one lady … whose father was in World War II. She said my story was really accurate and really made her feel like she was there, and it made me realize how much power words can actually have.”

Central High freshman Eli Ferguson signs copies of the 2024 Write Michigan book, featuring his winning story, ‘Omaha and Fire’ (courtesy KDL)

As for plans after high school, Eli said he has not yet made any, but he has taken an interest in both law enforcement and video game design.The Write Michigan Short Story Contest is an annual statewide competition that began in 2012 and is open to all ages. Write Michigan also hosts a poetry competition and several free writing events.

Read more from Forest Hills: 
Northern High physics students host elementary STEM program
Project-based program serves lesson in sustainability

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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