I just found out on Friday that I won the Arnold B. Jenkins Scholarship from the Bookbuilders of Boston!! The scholarship is given to journo students who can demonstrate their passion for books and journalism in a 1-2 page essay. I was one of two BU students to win the 2016 endowment.
Given that I am both a literature fangirl and aspiring journalist, I am absolutely over the moon that I won this scholarship. Below is my winning essay describing how my love of books led me to choose my journo major.
Thanks so much, BU and Bookbuilders of Boston!
Arnold B. Jenkins Scholarship Essay
You can’t love to write without loving to read. Not that I’m trying to make generalizations here, but the two just go hand-in-hand. For as long as I can remember, books have been as much a part of my life as friends or family. I was always known as “The Reader” in elementary school and was on friendly terms with all the school librarians. As soon as I learned to read on my own there was no stopping me; I devoured every book I could find regardless of subject matter or age-appropriateness. Snogging-fueled British school girl melodramas? You bet ten-year-old me was fully invested in whether Georgia would choose Rob the Sex God or Dave the Laugh. Dystopian fantasy novels featuring fetish clubs, coups and smashing the patriarchy? Seventh-grade Allie thought Wicked was the coolest fairy tale ever.
Writing, then, was a natural byproduct of my love for books. I was so constantly surrounded by words that I soon began using them to express myself. I wrote anything and everything as a kid: poems, short stories, newspaper articles, grocery lists…it didn’t matter what it was, as long as I could put words down on paper. I once turned in a 24-page rough draft of an ambitious Peter Pan-meets-The Wizard of Oz time travel story to a very unprepared second grade teacher. As I continued on in school my writing became less fictional but also more my own. I developed a voice studded with vocabulary gleaned from novels that grew clearer with each assignment. Even better? I found supporters in teachers who believed in my voice and encouraged me to continue writing (including that second grade teacher, thanks Mrs. Pellett!).
My nonfiction proclivities eventually turned into an interest in journalism. By my senior year of high school I was the editor and designer of the campus paper The Rebellion. Given that most of my staff believed deadlines were arbitrary, I ended up creating the majority of the content for each month’s paper. I, of course, took that creative outlet and ran with it: I published editorials about school spirit, offered advice on surviving family vacations and even penned a multi-stanza poem about spring fashion trends (much gratitude is owed to my faculty advisor for trusting my “editorial vision”). Having the freedom to write about whatever topic I wanted and a paper to print under was eye-opening. While my experiments in publishing were often silly and satirical, they introduced me to the lighter side of journalism that is Lifestyle and Culture. When it came time to apply to colleges I knew that I wanted a degree in magazine journalism and that Boston, where journalism has its roots, was where I wanted to get it.
Print journalism is very…particular. The pay is terrible, the hours are always and the work is consistently inconsistent. The only explanation for a sane person entering the field is because they love it. And love it I do; I feel the same way about journalism that I do about books. Of course I imagine myself the next Harper Lee when I’m assisting on an assignment and Jack Kerouac when I’m typing an article in a coffee shop. Everything about this field is exciting, from the creative freedom to the street-level involvement that gathering information necessitates. But my favorite aspect by far is the person-to-person engagement. Being a journalist requires you to go out into the world and interact with those who live in it. Whether I’m profiling a Seattle clothing designer or asking a musician in Dublin about his favorite city to vacation in, I’m constantly engaging with and learning about the world through the lens of the people I write about.
People are basically living, breathing books, are they not? Everyone you meet has a wildly different story and unique life experience to relate. Just like a novel, a person’s life story is full of emotional depth and intrigue. Being able to collect those stories and share them with readers is what enamors me to this field. I approach my articles with the same voracity with which I devoured books as a child. Every article brings a chance to unearth something new about the human experience, even if it’s something as simple as a favorite pit stop in Chicago (apparently the Irish have a soft spot for the Windy City). Even more enjoyable is when you discover a shared experience, like childhood day trips to the same Northwest beach. Just as you recognize parts of yourself in characters in a novel, you find as many commonalities in the people around you. As a Lifestyle and Culture journalist, my job is to write about those shared human elements. If someone feels even a fleeting bit of connection to his or her fellow (wo)man after reading one of my articles, I call that a job well done.
I’m going to stop myself before I make any more metaphors, but I think words are magical. I love how I can arrange them to say whatever I want while also enjoying the way someone else can style them. My affections for reading and writing are simply extensions of my love for words. I don’t for a second believe that I would have become a journalist if I didn’t first discover books. Everything I write today can be traced back to beloved childhood books like The Westing Game and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those books taught me that words have the power to make people feel, and that those who can capture what people feel have the power to bring this world together. We’re not so different, humans of this earth, and article by article I’m determined to prove that.