One of our proudest moments at the Nantucket Book Festival is when we recognize the winners of the Young Writer Award at our Opening Celebration on Friday night.
We are pleased to present the 2018 winner of the Young Writer Award, Katie Genthner, and the four finalists.
Katie's essay appears below.
The other finalists' essays may be found at the following links:
Nantucket Book Foundation Young Writer Award 2018 Winner
"Believe 9th Grade"
by 9th grader Katie Genthner
I placed my head gently against the cool glass of the car window, staring down at the dark pavement beneath me. It was late, with the only source of light coming from the headlights that illuminated the yellow lines ahead, which zig-zagged through the winding roads. On one side, a steep mountain loomed over us, with the silhouettes of snow-blanketed trees barely visible. On our other side, a never ending drop. As we continued to drive, a glimmer of light caught my eye. Through the dense rows of trees, I spotted the reflection of the full moon glimmer against the flat calm darkness of the lake.
My youth leader said we were going to a camp for the weekend. A camp where we were not only going sledding and playing paintball, but also become closer with our faith as Christians. In just one weekend, we were told that our faith would grow stronger, and we would become closer to God. Yet, at age 15, I was still unsure of my beliefs, and continued to question my spirituality. How was I supposed to be impacted by faith if I wasn’t even sure what I believed in? How was spending two days with a bunch of strangers supposed to change my life forever. We arrived after four hours, my feeling of doubt about what this weekend was truly going to bring remained.
The broad doors opened wide to the auditorium. I stood, immediately struck by the deafening sound of music. As I took a brief moment to look around at my surroundings, suddenly feeling as if I were out of place. It wasn’t the room that I had questioned, nor the blaring music and blinding lights, but the people who surrounded me. Feeling overwhelmed, I quickly found a seat amongst the hundreds of strangers. As I glanced to my right, I noticed a lengthy girl with long turquoise hair and several body piercings that contrasted against her pale skin. Her dark clothes were worn and tattered and her sneakers, once white and pristine, now clearly showed signs of weathering. The girl to my left had no hair. A floral bandana wrapped around her head, a barrier between her experiences and mine. To my front, a boy with brown hair that slicked all the way behind his head to the lower back of his neck. His large, round glasses covered most of his face, as if he were hiding from the world. As I sat amongst these strangers, I became even more unsure of my purpose here. Why was I here? The majority of the people who sat in these seats were nothing like me. These people were not like me. We were different.
The lights dimmed as a young, clean-shaven man approached the stage. I sunk deeper into my chair. He introduced himself as Miles Fidell, a pastor who had been called all the way from Alabama to preach to us about the word of God. He talked to us about the importance of our faith and why believing in this God allows for not only protection, but an eternity of love. He also spoke of reality. Reality that not even I had understood.“Each and every one of you may be here for a different reason. Some of you wear the same clothes everyday because you can’t afford anything else. Some of you are really sick. Some of you may even be thinking about taking your own life.” I had come to a revelation. It was as if I was blind before and my eyes had finally been opened to see everyone in a new light. Each individual in this room had had different life experiences that shaped and molded them into the people they are today, allowing for each and everyone one of us to be completely unique. He spoke, “If you have faith in this God, you will never question your safety or love again. You will know that a plan has been made for each and everyone of you. Your belief shows your strength, and because of that we are all united.” I looked to my right. The girl with the turquoise hair had tears running down her face. I looked to my left. The girl with the floral bandana had a smile stretched across her face. I looked in front of me, the boy had taken off his glasses, revealing his face. It was at that moment that I knew, though we were all different, we all had one thing in common. We all wanted to believe.
I found myself back in the car, staring out the same window, at the same winding road. But there was something different about my journey home. I could see the scenery this time. The mountain that seemed to loom over us now stood up with pride. The never ending drop seemed to only go a few feet down. A glimmer of light caught my eye. As I looked past the same rows of trees, I saw the dark lake that was now a crystal blue, and the reflection of the moon that was now the gleaming sun.