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Meet the 2015 Sophie Kerr Finalists

Date: May 12, 2015
To help get to know the five Sophie Kerr Finalist of 2015, we asked them to answer four questions. Here is what they wrote.

1) What was the first book you read and loved?

2) What is your favorite word?

3) What do you like to write?

4) What are your plans for after graduation?


Julie Armstrong

I think I would have to say Harry Potter. But running a close second (perhaps maybe even around the same time?) is Alanna, The First Adventure, of the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. 

This is such a tough question. I tend to collect and horde words, so I never have just one favorite. I also like words that have beautiful or unusual meanings. So here’s a few: scintilla (a spark or very small thing), brontide (the rumble of thunder in the distance), sparsile (of or pertaining to a star not included in any constellation), and featlet (Old English word for four pounds of butter).

Almost always poetry, and occasionally fiction-but only when the mood strikes. If I try to force fiction I tend to kill it, kind of in the same way you kill a plant if you over-water it. 

I am hoping to go into the publishing industry. I want to be an editor, and someday perhaps be able to work for a press somewhere. I’ve always enjoyed the structures afforded to language through grammar, and I love reading other pieces of writing and having deep discussions about them. 

Julie’s Writing Sample


Valerie Dunn

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. 

Tarn - a small body of water that collects on a mountain.

Plays, poems, prose, essays, love letters, and to-do lists.

I have recently received a SANDBOX grant to investigate theatricality in nature with drama Professor Laura Eckelman this summer in locations such as Iceland, England’s Lake District, and the farm-framed strip malls of my hometown: Westminster, MD. The project endeavors to create a series of performance pieces generated within and in response to various environments. I will then move to Philadelphia in July to begin working for experimental theatre companies, such as the Bearded Ladies,  while continuing to write.

Val’s Writing Sample


Ariel Jicha

A YA book called Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. 

I like the word Waldeinsamkeit, a German word which means the feeling of being alone in the woods. 

I enjoy writing mostly poetry at the moment. 

After graduation I plan to pursue an MFA at University of Maryland. 

Ariel’s Writing Sample


Paige Kube

The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this novel when I was young and loved the way the author explained colors in a world without any. It was probably the first time I appreciated the “show, don’t tell” methodology, maybe without even realizing it.

Therefore. I love the sharpness of each syllable and the fact that it is a perfect word to follow a semi-colon. Plus, there is a mathematical symbol for the word, which gives me a reason to use it in all the time– both in writing and in the sciences.

I began by writing fiction, but I slowly shifted into the realm of nonfiction. Now, I write mainly lyric nonfiction, and I think I belong in this genre.

I will be starting medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in the fall. I hope to pursue a career as a pediatric physician while continuing to write in the medical humanities.

Paige’s Writing Sample


Sydney Sznajder

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.   


I learned to write by trading novels, chapter by chapter, with my friends. I’ve been mid-novel for most of my life at this point, which is amazing.

I am a corporate editor at a consultancy in the Washington, D.C. area. I think I’m very lucky to be in a field that informs my writing life and is constantly evolving. A piece of writing can always be clearer, stronger, and more precise, whether it’s a litigation report or a sonnet. 

Sydney’s Writing Sample


Alex Vidiani

The first book I read and loved was “Goodnight, Moon,” with my mother.

My favorite word is stone. It is a recurring image in my writing, but I also love how the mouth forms it when spoken.

I like to wrote elegiac poetry as it allows me to converse with those lost, in a manner of speaking.

After graduation I will attend the graduate program at the University of Maryland, College Park. There I will start my Teaching Assistantship next Spring.

Alex’s Writing Sample

Last modified on May. 18th, 2016 at 10:26am by Julia Armstrong.