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April 17, 2017

Highland School student wins national writing award

Highland School junior, Jenna Devanney, 16, won a national Scholastic writing award.
A Highland School junior has received national recognition for her writing by winning a gold medal in the The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Jenna Devanney won a 2017 Scholastic writing award for her short story “The Pursuit,” inspired by an ancient Irish epic.

An avid writer, Jenna also placed first in Highland’s Flash Fiction contest with her piece, “Sonder on 59th Street.”

In her free time, she works on revising the final drafts of her novel, “The Isle at the End of the World.”

The novel, a combination of Irish folklore and science fiction, is book one in a planned trilogy, which she hopes to publish.

As a seventh grader at Highland, Jenna read “Pat Murphy’s Wild Girls,” a young adult novel about two teen girls who are writers and rule breakers.

Although she had written short stories before, the book “really inspired me to write more,” she said.

Jenna started “writing seriously” at age 14.

Today, she counts Zora Neale Hurston, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats as particularly influential writers; Hurston for her evocative prose, Wilde for his biting wit, and Yeats for his deep love of country.

Jenna has visited family in County Sligo, Ireland from a young age.

“The language and landscapes I saw, and the folklore that went with them, were always very intriguing to me,” she notes.

“The Isle at the End of the World” evolved from legends she heard as a child and her “desire to know more about the country’s history.”

Jenna started writing “The Isle at the End of the World” in December 2014 and finished her first draft about a year later.

Editing has been an integral part of the writing process, and she credits Highland’s English department with refining her critical reading and writing skills.

“I have gained an enormous amount from Highland’s English classes,” Jenna said. “What I've learned about analyzing other author's books is always helpful in reflecting on my own work and trying to make it better.”

Jenna declined Scholastic’s invitation to a Carnegie Hall winner’s event in June to receive her award because she’s traveling to Mexico to study Mayan ruins.

As a rising senior, she would like to attend a university in Ireland.

Jenna’s hobbies include working with horses, drawing and writing every day.

“I love to write on rainy or overcast days,” she says, “because they just seem to set the creative mood a little better than sunny days.”

Writing “makes me happy.”

To read Jenna’s Scholastic winning story, click here.

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