Second Annual Art of Writing Essay Contest

Art of Writing held its second annual Undergraduate Essay Contest this spring. Because it is a central principle of the program that thoughtful revision is essential to good writing, students were asked to submit an essay in both its early and final stages, along with an account of the changes they made to the piece in between.

This year’s winner was Sophia Stewart, a sophomore from Los Angeles with a major in Media Studies and a minor in Spanish. She works as an editor and staff writer for the campus publication Caliber Magazine, and serves on the board of directors for BareStage Productions, UC Berkeley’s oldest student-run theater company. She aspires to work in the television industry as a writer and critic. 

In her prizewinning essay, Stewart offers a sensitive exploration of her own experience as a person who stutters:

I’m not praying to be totally fluent tomorrow, or even mostly fluent. My request is specific and far more realistic. I want to be able to say my name fluently; not Sssssophia, not S-S-Sophia, just plain old Sophia. I gather up the courage to ask:

O Mysterious Gods of Speech, in its perpetual ebb and flow. Tomorrow, allow my speech to be sufficiently cooperative that I may introduce myself unimpeded. That’d be dope.

They listen. The next day I’m able to introduce myself to the class fluently. Of course, when I’m asked to share my major, I have to slip out the untrue but easier open vowel of ‘I’m not sure yet’ instead of the true but closelipped nasal consonant mee of ‘Media Studies.’ It’s a compromise I accept. Better to pretend I don’t know my major than my name.