Senior Cosette Gonzalez wins California Writing Project
“Some people say people go to bridges for one reason. I imagine her standing there, an elongated moment of flight, seeing into the imperceptible horizon, indistinguishable from the gray above and the water below. It is a moment of possibility; a semi-colon. A breath. A crossroads with one path, but under the semblance of choice. Then she plunges — a bird swooping down to the catch, killing as it goes, but really aiming for something further, the water.”
The dramatic scene described in the passage above is an excerpt from senior Cosette Gonzales’s short story “Sister, Soldier.” Last year, Gonzales was given the prestigious Gold Key Award, and she was once again recognized for creative writing talents this year after submitting a portfolio to the California Writing Project.
Among the seven pieces included in her collection was “Sister, Soldier.” The other works featured in her portfolio were a poem about her experiences with public transportation, a short story titled “Vodka and Violins,” a personal narrative exploring her Filipino roots through family stories, a short story about two orphaned siblings who struggle to make ends meet, a poem about a runaway and a train, and a final poem about a sojourn she took to get frozen lemonade at the shore as a child she lived in Boston.
“Vodka and Violins” won the Gold Key award last year, and her personal narrative essay won a Merit Award. “It’s funny that two of my stories very much revolved around the interactions between siblings since I am an only child and don’t really know anything about that; although my mom had eleven siblings. I suppose in my writing I draw both from what I know and what I don’t, mixing that realistic element with something more fabricated and imagined. I just haven’t lived enough yet,” said Gonzales.
The ceremony was held in downtown Sacramento on February 10, 2011, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Gonzales and her dad made the long trek to the state capital. “I was pretty excited, and I went to attend with my dad via a road trip to Sacramento, where we kept awake while driving through drinking many cans of Vietnamese coffee and through pit stops at really delicious hole-in-the-wall taco shops off the highway,” said Gonzales.
The theme of the awards ceremony was “I Write the Future,” and Gonzales and others were honored for their pieces that fit the message of the competition. It was really great to be able to attend and be with other teen writers and their families/teachers. A guy at my table had written a persuasive essay about the persecution of Muslim minorities in Burma and wanted to go into international relations. I’m not good at writing essays; they all turn into narratives for some reason, so it was great to meet people who were so diverse yet interested in so many different things,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales spent a year writing and polishing her pieces for submission; she also wrote a Statement of Purpose for the competition, and English and Creative Writing teacher Mrs. Christy Bailleul wrote a recommendation on her behalf. Submissions are sent to UC Berkeley for judging.
Gonzales was given the Silver Key, an award at the regional and state level for her portfolio. The highest honor is the Gold Key, which she won last year. Works by winners of the Gold Key Award are sent on to the national level for judging.
In addition to winning a small silver “key,” Gonzales received a certificate and a pin for one of her teachers. Last year, Gonzales told El Cid she aspired to write a novel, and as a prospective English major, her dream has not changed.
She said, “I was listening to someone from a university talking about that and how the world, workplace, etc. is always in need of people who are able to communicate well, whether that’s through speaking or writing, no matter what field you are going into. So perhaps that says something about the power of the medium of words, and maybe I am not doomed to be one of those starving artists who wears berets and hangs out in cafes incessantly while doodling on napkins JK Rowling-style, but we’ll see how that goes. I have a beret at home ready to go, just in case things go awry.”