Shawnee sophomore finds a way with words following ‘Catastrophe’

The Shawnee sophomore proved she has a way with words, so much where her string of words will be in the Library of Congress.

Shawnee High School sophomore Sophia Westfall shows her creativity and places people in her imagination as she crafts an award-winning short story – 98 words to be exact — on the aftermath of a catastrophe (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

From budding writer to award winner, Sophia Westfall proves that she’s got the chops to tell a story. And she can do it in under 100 words.

At the Lenape Regional High School District Oct. 16 board meeting, superintendent Carol Birnbohm announced Westfall was among one of the winners in Young Writers USA’s Survivor: Mission Catastrophe writing contest.

The contest was open to writers in high school and they were tasked to come up with a short story in under 100 words on a catastrophe that “had almost eliminated the entire human race.”

I got everything down and written, and then I went back and edited it and cut down a ton because I exceeded the 100 words by milestones,” Westfall said. “Those last few details are the hardest because I’m deciding which words to leave in and which weren’t very significant. I finally got it down to 98 words and I was good.”

Her story centered around a war occurring, wiping out 14 billion people, and a victory couldn’t be claimed between two rulers since everyone was dead.

The Shawnee High School sophomore didn’t just win a spot in the “Survivor Saga” book, her story will be placed by Young Writers USA in the Library of Congress, much to her surprise. Shawnee will also be presented with a copy of the finished book.

Entering in the contest, however, wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the urging of Westfall’s freshman English teacher Amy Felix. Felix, Westfall added, surprised her during a class with the news of her win, and Westfall said Felix’s encouragement to have students think and write freely has helped her immensely.

As a now award-winning writer, Westfall said she wasn’t always into writing when she was younger, but has since grown a deep appreciation and love for writing and the arts. She hopes to be able to study it in college.

I love writing such [things] as little short stories, or jotting things down in the corner of my notebook,” she said. “I love expressing my drawings because I love drawing mythical creatures, history and anything I can relate to.

Being a well-versed person in the English language and someone who loves studying the dictionary, she admitted she did have a few favorite words she loves using, after hesitating on which are her tops.

“‘Bewildered’ — there’s something about it. It’s a little magical and wild,” she said. 

She listed “eccentric” as another favorite because it’s fun to spell and write, and “throb” because it’s one of those words that expresses pain so well.

“‘Susceptible’ is a fun word to say,” she added.

After going through the writing, submission and awarding process of the contest, Westfall encouraged other young budding writers to take advantage of the contests thrown their way.

It’s a break from the school stuff, to take a break and let your mind go wild,” she added.