WOOD RIVER JCT. — Andrew Ackroyd of Charlestown, a Chariho High School junior, was presented with a Write Rhode Island award Tuesday for a short story entitled “Going Under.”
The Write Rhode Island short fiction competition is for students in grades 7 to 12. Twenty winning stories will be published in the anthology.
Ackroyd is the only student in Rhode Island to have had a story selected for the anthology in each of the three years the competition has taken place.
The sponsors of the competition, Taylor Polites and Hester Kaplan of the Goat Hill writing group, and Diana Champa of School One, in Providence, surprised Ackroyd in a Chariho classroom at his InkStigators writing club meeting. Ackroyd is vice president of the club and English teacher Rebecca Burns is the club’s adviser.
“We had over 150 submissions this year,” Polites told the students. "It was a really tough competition, a lot of great stories. We have a team of volunteers who work very hard to read through these stories and evaluate them and help with the judging process.”
As students fidgeted in their seats, anxious to hear who had won this year, Polites finally made the announcement.
“It’s incredible to see someone who has submitted stories and gotten acknowledged for it and now, to be one of the top two stories and a state winner, we want to congratulate Andrew Ackroyd,” he said to loud applause.
Ackroyd said his winning story was a departure from his usual genre.
“I branched more into the realistic fiction as opposed to strict horror,” he said. “It just sort of happened. It came out.”
Ackroyd, who has been writing since his freshman year, said he plans to make writing his career.
"I want to write. Books, hopefully,” he said.
Polites said the judges were struck by Ackroyd’s literary style and character development.
“The mood of it was really moving. It was a really well-crafted, atmospheric story,” he said.
Watching Ackroyd’s progress as a writer had been a pleasure, Kaplan added.
“It’s been wonderful to see a writer like Andrew develop over the the three years,” she said. “We read the submissions blind, so obviously we didn’t know, but it was a special surprise to us to see his story.”
Champa, director of literary engagement at School One, credited Chariho’s humanities program with nurturing great student writers.
“They have a great humanities program and I think they have a lot of teachers like Rebecca that support the students,” she said. “They have a creative writing club, Rebecca teaches creative writing when she can in the curriculum and I think 95 percent of the students who enter Write Rhode Island will cite a teacher or a librarian as their reason for entering the competition. Somebody’s pushed them and encouraged them to enter.”
Burns said she was delighted to see Ackroyd win again.
“I am so proud of him,” she said. “I had him in English class for two years, I had him in creative drama, I had him in creative writing, I work him with the club. He’s a natural when it comes to creative writing but it’s been so fun to see his writing progress throughout the years and I can only imagine where he’s headed in the future.”