HOLMDEL, N.J. – Two talented Holmdel High School sophomores, Aidan Choo and Owen Walor, recently received accolades in two separate prestigious writing competitions.
Aidan Choo was recognized as the winner of the Sijo competition in the Sejong Cultural Society’s annual contest. According to their website, the Society’s mission is to “advance awareness and understanding of Korea's cultural heritage amongst people in the United States by reaching out to the younger generations through contemporary creative and fine arts. It is our hope that, through this, the rich culture behind Korea's colorful history will be accessible to people of any ethnicity and nationality while being a unique part of the larger, more familiar Western culture, and that such harmonizing of the two cultures will create a better understanding between them.”
The sijo that Choo composed is a Korean verse form comprised of three lines of 14-16 syllables each, for a total of 44-46 syllables. Originally intended as songs, sijo can treat romantic, metaphysical, or spiritual themes. Choo explains that his interest in the contest stemmed from his Korean heritage, and the fact that his older sister submitted to the contest when she was in high school. He feels that his sister Celine has been a major influence on his writing. She is currently a junior at Cornell University studying Computer Science who still has a passion for writing and Aidan explains that she has taught him quite a bit about the craft.
Like most writers, Choo admits that, “Coming up with a good idea is the most difficult part for me in writing.” So how did he go about formulating a concept good enough to win first place?
“I got the idea for my sijo from watching people of all ages play chess,” Choo says. “Often at tournaments or even in chess tables in parks, I would see many grandfathers and their grandchildren playing chess together. I found it interesting that the game of chess could appeal to all people regardless of age or skill level.” And from there, an award-winning sijo was born.
Owen Walor’s recognition came as part of the Writer’s Theater of New Jersey’s (WTNJ) annual Jersey Shorts Prose competition. The contest asks students to submit two works– a 1500-word prose fiction story and a 750-word piece of “Flash Fiction” based on a prompt decided annually by the Jersey Shorts contest organizers. Walor received one of two runner-up awards for his fiction entry and was part of the Governor’s Award in Arts Education ceremony celebrating all winners on May 22 in Trenton.
Owen spreads the credit around when asked what inspires him as a writer and why he chose to enter the contest, a first for him. He includes his current English teacher, Margaret McDonald, who encourages her students to embrace writing and keeps a list of contests on her website. His family is who inspires him to write, but he admits that Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams mostly influence his voice and style. In referring to Vonnegut he says, “I think any ink touched by Vonnegut becomes the golden ichor of the gods.” It is okay. You can look up “ichor” if you need to.
Both these young men have made their teachers, families and community very proud. We hope to hear more of their words as they continue to create and elevate their craft.