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Roberts scholarship thrills teen writer

June 28, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

BOONSBORO -- Even Katie Wennick's mother, Linda, wasn't allowed to read the short story that won a $30,000 scholarship from romance writer Nora Roberts' foundation.

Wennick, who graduated from Boonsboro High School this month, showed her story only to four friends, for reactions and editing, and to Roberts.

"It has more me in it than I wanted to (have)," Wennick said, "and that kind of made it more private."

She said she's thrilled to get affirmation from Roberts, a world-famous author who lives in Keedysville, and plans to go to Roberts' next book signing.

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"It's kind of like a star-struck feeling," said Wennick, 18. "It makes me feel a little less crazy for calling myself a writer."

The scholarship, awarded annually to a graduating Boonsboro senior, will help Wennick attend Towson (Md.) University.

She's already been introduced to college life and learning by attending the University of Maryland Young Scholars Program.

Wennick said she wants to study journalism in college because "I want to be the first to know."

She could see herself as a columnist, which is fitting for someone who's opinionated, and who likes to meet and talk to people.

Wennick hopes to travel far and study abroad. Her long "places to see" list includes Greece, Italy, England, France and Brazil.

"Julie's Scrapbook," the short story she submitted for the scholarship, looks at how words pop up in a girl's life, prompting vivid memories and feelings. She said she wanted to show that, despite the "sticks-and-stones" maxim, words matter a great deal and can hurt.

The story takes place in Boonsboro and includes familiar local places.

Wennick said she might think or act in some of the same ways as Julie, but the character isn't entirely her.

While she was working on another story idea, a friend told her about a bumper sticker that made her want to run into the vehicle on which it was pasted.

That powerful emotion made Wennick take a different approach for her scholarship application story.

"It kind of all just poured out of me," she said.

Asked through her publicist about Wennick's story, Roberts wrote in an e-mail:

"Katie's strong and creative use of language really made her story stand out. She brought the narrator and the narrator's thoughts and feelings into sharp relief by her specific and deliberate word choices.

"She used words to paint a vivid picture that drove the story forward, gave it emotion and brought it to life. I found her voice and style remarkably mature and engaging."

As a reader, Wennick said she likes many types of books, including classics such as "Jane Eyre" and "Oliver Twist."

She recently read John Green's "Paper Towns" and "Looking for Alaska."

"Pride and Prejudice" is her favorite. Her copy of the book was so well worn, a page fell out when her mother borrowed it.

Wennick writes notes and highlights passages in books as she reads.

When she has time, she writes in a journal.

"I definitely want to write a novel and maybe have a movie," she said. "I realized this is something I have a great passion for."

She estimated that she's tried 16 times to write that first novel.

"I can't get past page nine," she said.

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