Haley T.

First Place Winner

I always remind myself that if rules were meant to be followed, my favorite novel would have never existed.

I suppose you could say that it is not only the book, but the author who wrote it. Derek Landy, the author of UK book series Skulduggery Pleasant, has shown me that you don't have to follow any set "rules", both in writing and in life.

Throughout my life, I've faced major criticism for being who I am. I was never really decent at sports, but I willingly joined every team I could, even though my teammates loathed me. I was never the most intellectual, but I would challenge the intellects to, in turn, learn the information myself. I wasn't concerned with succeeding, but rather experiencing and learning. This made me a nuisance to the people around me; an outlier that did not follow the rules, and therefore was an enemy.

As I became more oriented in writing, my lifelong mentality began to show in my work. Often or not, I was incapable of maintaining a single genre. In the beginning, for focus' sake, I gave myself a set field to write. However, as the world of words began to develop on paper, the pencil often took a mind of its own and formed a work that could only be given the classification "fiction" due to its mesh of genres. Once again, my lack of proper rules lead to criticism. Teachers and peers alike would tell me I could not succeed if my stories didn't follow a single genre. As a girl who took everything to heart, I believed them, and stopped writing altogether.

Then I discovered Landy's novel. I was immediately taken off guard by the tattered appearance of the pages as it sat on the "New Release" shelf in the library, which was enough to get me to pick it up. I sat in the back and read the first ten chapters before I even approached the front desk to borrow it. The novel went against everything I was once reprimanded for. It had everything I came to know in love by then: the mystical arts of J.K. Rowling, the horrific lore of Stephen King, and even the mysterious, puzzling undertones of Neal Shusterman. All totally different, yet combined into a single novel. Even the characters themselves don't follow the rules of normality. I particularly connected to Gordon Edgely, the deceased uncle of heroine Stephanie Edgely. He was never alive in the novel, but he was defined as a uniquely terse novelist who went against the rules I was being controlled by--and ended up a success. Though fiction, his character and the novel itself inspired me to continue writing.

Now, I have completed my first novel, and am looking for a publisher. It is the same idea that was deemed useless back when, and I now take pride in it, which further shows in my writing. I still get criticism, but I don't let it control me. I always remind myself that if rules were meant to be followed, my favorite novel would have never existed.