A novel idea

Marketing and Communications

By Bridget Tharp

Kristen Grom begins her first year as a creative writing major at Bowling Green State University in fall 2013 as an already nationally recognized author.

Grom, of West View, Penn., emerged with the top prize in the PUSH novel writing competition after her work was selected out of 400 submissions. The PUSH contest is part of the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a national program for junior high- and high school-age writers sponsored by the educational publisher Scholastic. PUSH is the young adult division of Scholastic.

Grom's winning work is "Hopefully Yours," a story about a troubled teenage girl, June Bryant, whose forced community service with the elderly helps her turn around her reckless behavior.

"It's really the story of her growing up," Grom said.

Grom said she drew inspiration from her grandparents and from interactions with and observations of the elderly to create the "colorful" characters "with really big personalities" who reside in the care facility where her story's heroine serves, as well as from the typical daily drama of high school.

"It was almost research, being in high school," she said. "Though I may not partake in some of the activities and choices teens refer to at school, I know what they are talking about and it helps me to write edgier characters."

Grom is now working with an editor to prepare her novel to be considered for publication by Scholastic.

"What's promising is they haven't published a previous winner in a while, so it's about time. I hope it's about time."

She missed her high school graduation ceremony to attend the awards ceremony for the PUSH writing contest, which was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and included a webcast greeting from first lady Michelle Obama and appearances by famous poets and performers like Terrance Hayes, Sarah Jessica Parker and Usher.

Grom has wanted to be an author — and a paid one, at that — for as long as her family can remember. As long as she's been writing letters, she's been trying to craft them into books, which her parents have saved, such as "The Pegwen" (sic, penguin) and "The Hockey Boy."

Her father, Tom, laughs remembering how she opened a business for an aunt to pay nine cents to read one of her one-sentence creations.

"We're really proud of her," he said when they visited campus together for SOAR orientation this summer. "She puts so many hours into writing. She enters so many contests, and I don't know how she handles all the rejection letters."

Grom is looking forward to entering the Creative Writing Program at BGSU, especially after her participation in a weeklong writing camp for high school students at another university demonstrated the power of effective criticism.

"That showed me, 'Kristen, at the college level you could really get what you want.' You can enhance your skills. I had a week of it, and it was amazing. It helped me so much, and I'd like to learn more," she said. "A lot of (writers) don't like people to read their work because they don't want criticism. I welcome it because it's the only way I'm going to get better."

But the soon-to-be Falcon also nurtures another talent: video production. An anti-bullying commercial she created was selected as one of 15 finalists in the No Bull Teen Video contest. Being a contest finalist included an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles in August for an anti-bullying conference sponsored by the nonprofit The Great American NO BULL Challenge.

It's no wonder that Grom will create her own second major to accommodate such varied interests. She plans to create a major in "advertising" by combining courses in telecommunications, visual communication technology and other majors.

Even so, she doesn't plan to alter her dream job: Author.

"I'd like to spend my days writing," she said.

(Posted August 19, 2013 )