Lewiston seventh grader is youngest to win statewide creative writing contest

Student Lily Douglass stands Friday morning in the hallway outside her class at Lewiston Middle School. Her story about a monster hiding under the bed won a statewide writing contest. She is Lewiston’s first and the youngest winner in the contest’s 15 years. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Lily Douglass’ story about a monster hiding under the bed was not unique.

Of 139 submissions to The Telling Room’s creative writing competition, more than 20 stories featured monsters under the bed.

Instead, it was her exceptional songwriting technique that won over the judges.

“In a way, you’d think it might not win, just because it’s not the most unique idea,” said Telling Room publishing director Molly McGrath. “But we loved the concreteness of her language, as well as her structure, the fact that she varied the length of her sentences and knew how to create suspense and rhythm in her writing. These are all very advanced things for a writer his age.

“Mostly we just got sucked into his story and couldn’t wait to see how it would end.”

Last week, the 12-year-old became the youngest person to win The Telling Room’s annual writing competition, and Lewiston’s first, in its 15-year history.

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“I read the entirety (of the email) and she bolded ‘congratulations, Douglass,'” she recalled. “I backed off a bit, and it said I was the winner. I seriously thought that was a practical joke for the rest of the day.

Each year, The Telling Room asks Maine students ages 10 to 18 to submit no more than 1,500 words to a panel of judges. The theme of this year’s competition was “mystery”.

“It was maybe a little bloodier than expected,” McGrath joked.

Writing scary stories is nothing new for Douglass. Once “traumatized” by a horror story she read in ninth grade, she learned to love the genre. She is currently reading ‘The Stand’, written by Stephen King, and recently completed another of her novels, ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’.

Student Lily Douglass stands Friday morning in the hallway outside her class at Lewiston Middle School. Her story about a monster hiding under the bed won a statewide writing contest. She is Lewiston’s first and the youngest winner in the contest’s 15 years. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Douglass often takes an idea that’s been used before — “like a monster under the bed, there’s like a million books and short stories about it,” she joked — and tweaks it to create her own story. unique. She starts by writing a rough story, start to finish, then edits it extensively.

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Her winning story, “The Monster Under the Bed,” was originally written in her creative writing class at Lewiston Middle School.

It was her parents who pushed her to participate in the competition.

“Mom and dad basically wanted me to enter the contest because they thought there was no way I was going to win,” Douglass said, only a little smug to prove them wrong.

“We said, ‘you have to learn how to show off and, you know, it’s a great story, but this is the whole state of Maine, what are the odds of you winning? “” her mother, Amy Douglass, said with a laugh.

Both agreed that it was an unexpected but welcome result.

Her story will be featured in The Telling Room’s upcoming anthology, “Echoes from the Basement,” which will feature work by other Maine children’s writers.

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In total, The Telling Room publishes 10 books with 350 children’s authors.

“We just think you have really important things to say, and we want to help them have their voices heard,” McGrath said. “We think the best way to do that is to write.”

Outside of writing, Douglass is a member of Lewiston Middle School’s cross country, swim and track teams. She also plays the cello.

She does not yet know what she will do with the $250 prize.

“My sister would probably want me to give it to her as, you know, her cup for moral encouragement,” she joked.

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