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Sophomore Annie Hoang Wins National Contest, Publishes First Short Story

Kierra Young, Staff Reporter

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La Salle student Annie Hoang has an unusual claim to fame as a sophomore in high school: she is now a published author.

Last summer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hosted their first Spark a Story writing competition, which Annie entered and won. The product of this national contest is a book compilation of 20 short story submissions from high schoolers all over the country. Her story, Of Metaphors, Monsters, and Wild Thoughts, tells the striking story of someone struggling with depression.

The story starts with a self reflection on humanity as a whole, then delves deeper into the specifics of depression. The main character describes each aspect of their depression as a monster: the Crows, the Empty, the Pain. Each of these monsters represents a different struggle.

Through these terrors, the character expresses their suffering. They describe how each part affects them; they wonder at the hidden suffering and despair they feel. They relate the worst torment of all: that perhaps these terrors were better than the silence that could come instead.

And then, piece by piece, hope comes.

Annie’s inspiration for the story comes from frustration at society’s view of mental illness: “A lot of people think that depression is just being sad, but it’s really not about that. It is multiple things and it makes you feel a lot of different ways,” she says. “People put depression in a box and push it aside. They never really think about the words illness or mental illness.”

“[This is why] I wanted it to be shown in a visual way; because a lot of people think mental illness isn’t real, because it isn’t the same as a physical illness, but by personifying the aspects of it and making them into monsters, you can see how they torment the main character.”

These struggles inspire her story, where she uses several techniques to show the effects that depression can truly have on a person. “When you use literary devices like metaphors and such it helps people better understand the idea you’re trying to get across,” she says. Annie uses also personification to represent how depression feels and the effects that it can have.

She describes the process she went through to create her story: “When I write, I’ll start with an idea and then find a good music album that goes with it. If I run out of ideas I usually just start writing random things.”

This particular piece came from those tactics. Just before the due date, she changed her mind about the story she wanted to submit. “I had a short story I planned on submitting, and then two days before it was due I changed my mind,” she said. “So I wrote this story instead. It was based off a little paragraph I wrote for fun from before.”

After remembering the story, she reflects on what she’s written.

“I cannot read it again after I wrote it. There’s so much about it I wish I could change. I feel like it’s over dramatic and kind of melancholy and sad. A lot of it I wish I could change because it feels angsty.”

Despite this, she still appreciates her work. “I’m still really proud of it. It’s the first thing I got out there and it’s weird to think that other people could read it now.” The story represents a mark in her journey.

In the future, Annie plans to enter more writing contests and challenges, and wonders about the possibility of writing her own books one day. “If I do become a writer one day,” she says, “I want [my stories] to have things they can take from the books as well. It can’t just live in the words; it has to go beyond that as well.” This story is only one of many that she hopes to tell.

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Sophomore Annie Hoang Wins National Contest, Publishes First Short Story”

  1. Aylin Begines on November 8th, 2017 10:00 pm

    Great job Annie! Wow, what an amazing short story 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Meggie Perkins on November 8th, 2017 10:01 pm

    I like the way Annie’s intentions were portrayed so straight forward without any confusion. This article has inspired me to read her story myself!

    [Reply]

  3. Maren Sheahan on November 8th, 2017 10:25 pm

    I love that Annie is using her talent in such an amazing way. I love her point about how mental illnesses are often invalidated due to the lack of visibility. Using personification in her story was a beautiful idea and it accomplished the goal of expressing the realness of depression.

    [Reply]

  4. Rebecca Ly on November 8th, 2017 10:27 pm

    Although I don’t know Annie personally, she never fails to amaze me. This is such an amazing accomplishment! Go Annie!! I am definitely going to add this to my reading list! 🙂

    [Reply]

  5. Mr. De Ieso on November 9th, 2017 8:45 am

    Published already!? Wow! Just added this to my reading list. Do we have a copy in the La Salle library I can check out?

    [Reply]

  6. Joseph on November 12th, 2017 8:13 pm

    Heck ya!!! That’s my little sister right there so proud of you dude. You’re gonna do great things this was awesome 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. Tom McLaughlin on November 15th, 2017 9:40 am

    Congratulations, Annie! What an impressive accomplishment. And such an important topic. Thank you for tackling the issue of depression and being vulnerable. Writers serve readers not only through their words, but the inner work that the author does before putting words to paper…or computer screen. I can’t wait to read your story.

    [Reply]

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Sophomore Annie Hoang Wins National Contest, Publishes First Short Story