George School’s Miranda Dobkin ’21 was recently awarded a National Silver Medal by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her short story, “The Death of the Mind.” The 2020 scholastic awards received around 320,00 works of art and writing from over 110,00 students. Receiving a National Medal puts Miranda in the top 1% of these submissions.
Miranda wrote “The Death of the Mind” for her junior IB HL English class, taught by Melaina Young. The unit that culminated in writing this short story started by building students’ analytic skills over time and focused on particular themes and stylistic tendencies of Gothic literature. Students focused on fundamental questions like “what scares us?” Students had this in the back of their minds when they read stories like “The Tell-Tale Heard” by Edgar Allen Poe and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. By focusing on a seemingly simple but fundamental question students were able to both sharpen their analytical skills in digesting the literary works of others and reflect on the human condition.
Miranda was able to draw on this background in writing “The Death of the Mind.” While Miranda considers creative writing a hobby, it is something that she is passionate about. Her interest in writing first stemmed from her love of reading as a child. Since she has poets and novelists in her family, it’s not surprising that Miranda said, “I always get excited when I’m able to do some kind of creative writing for a class.”
Miranda’s story was immediately recognized among her classmates and was voted the favorite by her class. In praising the story, Melaina singled out its narrative pacing and its effective use of a third person limited narrator. She said that Miranda chose “an innocent protagonist that seems at once repelled but also quite curious about something darker. This trope is used a lot in Gothic fiction, but Miranda uses it to her advantage in this story.” Miranda says that though she didn’t draw on inspiration from any particular story, she did try to emulate Edgar Allen Poe’s style. For Miranda, “Poe represents what I think of as the pinnacle of gothic horror.”
Melaina was quick to point out that students who are recognized for their writing, do not become good writers overnight. She stated, “I believe that good writing takes time to develop, which is a hard concept for some to understand in a world that values fast things!” and emphasized how coming into one’s own as both a writer and editor takes years to develop. Melaina praised her colleagues in the English department: “In the four years that students study English at GS, they are honing and perfecting their voice, as each class focuses on the fundamentals of good writing.” Miranda agreed, saying “I was grateful to have English teachers who gave me a lot of criticism and feedback, because in this way I was able to constantly improve my skills.”