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English Major Wins Short Story Prize and Advances to National Competition

Posted on Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Westminster College junior English major Kelly Lake won the $3,000 first prize in the Pittsburgh Regional Literature Contest sponsored by the National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL).

Lake's two short stories were among those submitted by about 30 Pennsylvania writers aged 18-33.

Lake's "Myself and the Midnight Dictum" is told in first person, inspired by the real-life living arrangements of Groucho Marx and Bud Cort near the end of Marx's life. It tells the story of the mentor/mentee relationship between the veteran actor and the young, struggling actor.

Her second winning submission, "The Barnacle of Bostonia," is written in third person and tells the story of a young man expelled from college. He is struggling to adjust to the work force before deciding to become an "academic barnacle," posing as a prospective college student who sits in on classes without enrolling.

"Kelly is an exceptionally talented writer," said Dr. David Swerdlow, Westminster professor of English and one of Kelly's faculty advisers. "Few writers of her age know how to handle tone better. Beyond talent, she has discipline."

Dr. Ross Wastvedt, associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of English and Public Relations, has known Lake since she was enrolled in Wastvedt's class the first semester of her freshman year.

"I still remember the short story she wrote then," Wastvedt said. "It stood out as excellent and I remember sharing it with other English faculty. The next year, she wrote creative pieces in my 300-level English class."

"Kelly is a great reader of traditional 'great literature' and she has an impressive knowledge of film and popular culture," Wastvedt added. "She draws on all of this knowledge for material in her writing."

Lake will attend the NSAL national convention in Clearwater, Fla., in late May, where her stories will be entered in the competition for the national prize of $10,000.

Lake is a daughter of Walter and Catherine Lake of Boardman, Ohio, and a graduate of Boardman High School.

Contact Swerdlow at (724) 946-7345 or e-mail dswerdlw@westminster.edu for more information.