A 15-year-old Nelson student has won a short story prize that she thought was beyond her reach.
Frances Myers Lynch, a Grade 10 student at L.V. Rogers Secondary, won the UBC Okanagan short story contest in the high school category with her story Bird Bones. The award came with a $200 prize.
She was surprised at the win because she was competing with older students from many communities across the southern Interior. She had entered on the urging of her English teacher.
“I never actually thought of the possibility that I would win,” she said. “It just didn’t occur to me.”
Bird Bones is the story of twin sisters who find a baby bird fallen from its nest and climb up the tree to return it.
From there, the reader is led into what seems like the supernatural. Are the strange ensuing events real, or are they somehow part of a shared psychology of the two girls?
“It could be taken in two different ways,” Myers Lynch says. “Usually I just stick to is it real or is it not real. But I kind of wanted to blur the lines with this one, so that the reader could choose if they wanted to believe if it was actually real, if it was just a memory.”
She started writing as a young child.
“Ever since I was very young, I’ve had like a lot of stories in my head, and I really loved having them out somewhere, like a notebook or on a computer.”
At age 12 she decided to get serious about writing.
“I developed my own style of writing. Before that I had been reading a bunch, not really copying other styles but using other styles to develop my own. And when I was around 13, I really found my own style.”
It is clear that the author of Bird Bones has worked hard on her word choices, her images, and her observations of nature and weather.
“I definitely put a lot of work into the detail of a story. Because I feel like that’s what makes up good stories, the complex details.”
Myers Lynch says Bird Bones began as an English assignment – her teacher had asked the class to write a suspenseful story.
She says one of the UBC Okanagan contest adjudicators told her that Bird Bones created a haunting emotional suspense that did not let up.
In her reading preferences, Myers Lynch is an adult. Her favourite novels are the Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and its three sequels. She has read them several times and is currently watching the TV adaptation with her mother.
She says she also admires the Irish writer Sarah Crossen.
“What I really like about her is that she writes like a poet, it’s almost like a poetry book. It is a story, but the format of the writing is in poetry. She definitely influenced me too.”
Myers Lynch says she is considering studying creative writing at university after high school. Meanwhile, the award has motivated her, she says, because people outside her family and her school have recognized her work.