GAITHERSBURG --- In a writing contest for high school students, it was a teenage writer from Germantown who had the best story.
Judges chose Lundy Bowren’s entry “Pieces of Darkness” as the first-place winner of the Gaithersburg Book Festival’s short story contest for high school students. Lundy, 16, was honored at a ceremony during the book festival Saturday.
Peering at the crowd through black, thick-rimmed glasses, Lundy flashed a peace sign as she posed with the contest’s other finalists, a total of 12, according to Book Festival Organizers. Her red lipstick framed a flash of white teeth as she smiled.
“I want people to see that literature is in you,” Lundy told Patch after she the ceremony, “and that it’s different. I want them to see something new.”
The contest drew from 114 entries from counties across the state. “It was really tough,” said author and the contest’s second-round judge Sarah Pekkanen. So tough, Pekkanen said, that 12 finalists were picked instead of 10, which was outlined in the contest’s rules.
“Pieces of Darkness” is written from point of view of aliens who attempt to invade and conquer earth, only to find that humans were smarter than they thought. Lundy, a fan of science fiction, said she wanted to subvert this idea that intelligent life forms will come from a distant planet and wipe out life as we know it.
“Actually, we end up completely destroying them from the get go,” Lundy said.
This wasn’t the only literary theme Lundy set out to subvert. According to the contest rules, entrants had to pick from three writing prompts. Lundy chose option No. 2 — “Don’t open the box,” my father always told me …” — and intentionally avoided references Pandora’s box.
It was too obvious.
“What happens if you don’t open the box?” Lundy asked, hypothetically.
Lundy entered the contest while she was a sophomore at Northwest High School. She has since withdrawn, in order to speed up the transition to college, she said, and is in pursuit of a GED. She is taking Spanish and English courses at Montgomery College. Her mother said she supported her daughter’s decision 110 percent.
“We had a very gifted child who was getting bored,” said Donna Burge, a 46-year-old single mom. Lundy is her only child.
“Lundy wanted to be in a more challenging environment,” Burge said.
The family grew up Arkansas and recently moved to Maryland, when her mom took a job with the Uniformed Services University of the Health and Sciences in Bethesda.
As a young child, Lundy’s favorite book was “Chicka Chicka ABC.” By kindergarten, Lundy reading entire books on her own, her mother said.
“She’s been writing ever since she could string together sentences,” her mother said.
Lundy said that an ideal writing environment involves intense focus and some help from from Pandora Radio, chiefly alternative music that sounds like ’60s rock.
“Like The Beatles,” she said.
In the short-term, Lundy said she plans to expand “Pieces of Darkness” into a full-length novel. But in the long-term, she hopes to attend college, join the Navy — following in her mother’s footsteps —write books and make movies for a living. Mom said her daughter would end up becoming a Steven Spielberg-Stephen King combo, though Lundy would probably make a slight revision, swapping out King for science fiction and mystery writer Ray Bradbury.
“I love the way he writes,” Lundy said of Bradbury, her favorite author. “His style? He’s just so good. It’s indescribable.”