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English students place first in TACWT competition

Two Lamar University English students won first place awards in the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers writing competition. Alaina Bray, Hamshire senior, and Ruth Grace Megnet, graduate student from Switzerland, placed first in student writing categories and will present their work at the annual conference Sept. 28 at University of Texas Pan-American in Edinburg, Texas. Both are students of Jerry Bradley, professor of English and modern languages at Lamar.

Bradley said the conference is a great opportunity to hear other students read their work and meet like-minded students from other universities. He and faculty members Gretchen Johnson and Jim Sanderson will also make presentations at the conference.

“Besides student and faculty writers, there will be editors of other periodicals, so it is a good professional opportunity,” Bradley said.

Campuses from all over Texas nominate student writers for the six contests. There are undergraduate and graduate contests in fiction poetry and essay on both levels. Faculty nominates a student’s work to be entered into the competition. Bradley nominated Bray and Megnet for work they completed in his courses.

“We are allowed to nominate one student for each category,” Bradley said. “We had students place in two of the six categories, which is very good for Lamar.”

Megnet won first place in the graduate essay category for her work “The Typewriter.”

Bradley said Megnet’s work in English, a second language for her, is exceptional.

“It is one challenge to learn a language, but quite another to learn to write creatively with nuance and allusion,” he said. “She is an exceptional student in our program.”

Being a native of Switzerland, Megnet said she decided to take graduate courses in English at Lamar as a means of improving her language skills.

“I am still learning English, so I thought I would take more English courses,” she said. “My hope is to one day write without an accent.”

“The Typewriter” is a reflection of a 10-year-old Megnet who received a typewriter for Christmas. Megnet said writing the story helped her realize and awaken a dormant passion from her past.

“Maybe writing stories was always important to me,” she said. “I didn’t realize it, but taking this class brought back a lot of that creativity in a way I never really planned.”

In addition to taking graduate courses in English at Lamar University, Megnet holds a degree in literature, a master’s degree in fine arts from Stephen F. Austin, and a master’s degree in visuals arts from Lamar. She is an assistant professor of art at Lamar State College in Port Arthur.

Bray, a former Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities student at Lamar, won first place in the undergraduate fiction category for her story “Dust,” which tells the story of a young woman struggling for identity in her hometown.

“She and her father have been clashing for a number of years,” Bray said. “The story starts with her leaving the town and as she looks back, the back story unfolds.”

After graduation, Bray plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English. She said she hopes to teach at the university level and publish her creative works.

Intelligence is part-and-parcel to being able to express oneself creatively in language, Bradley said. “And these two are certainly exceptional. I think the award is a great tribute to their skill, work ethic and creativity. I am going to be proud to show them off as their mentor.”