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Student writers score high honors from Sigma Tau Delta

A small contingent of Furman writers took home a large haul of awards at the four-day Sigma Tau Delta International Convention held earlier this month in Minneapolis.

Shannon Young ’16, Erin Mellor ’17, and Cory Bailey ’16 attended the conference after their submitted papers were accepted, and Young took first place—and a $600 prize—in Critical Essays: Education, Linguistics, Rhetoric, Young Adult Literature, Popular Culture, and Film Studies, while Mellor won an honorable mention and a $100 prize in Creative Nonfiction.

“I was really surprised … They announced the title of the paper and then the person’s name, and it took me a minute after they read the title to realize they were talking about me,” Young said. “I was sitting with Erin and Cory, and I looked at them and I was like, oh, I have to go up there now. I was totally shocked.”

Sigma Tau Delta is an international honor society for English majors at four-year colleges and universities. More than 600 papers were accepted in a variety of categories, and winners were announced during an awards ceremony on the final night after participants presented their work.

English professor Margaret Oakes, Ph.D., Furman’s Sigma Tau Delta faculty sponsor, also made the trip to Minnesota, and she wasn’t surprised to see how well the school’s representatives did considering the time they spent working with faculty members editing their entries and practicing their presentations.

“They read so professionally, and they answered the questions in a very professional, scholarly way,” she said. “That just speaks a lot for both the quality of our students’ work and the kind of attention that we pay to them that really helps them shine when they are in a situation like this.”

Young’s essay, “Postmemory in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” sharply analyzes a memoir, written in an unusual graphic novel format, in which the protagonist attempts to come to grips with the death of her father soon after she told her parents she is a lesbian.

Young originally wrote the paper her junior year for a critical and cultural theory class taught by Vincent Hausmann, Ph.D., and she worked with English professor Nicholas Radel, Ph.D., to cut the piece down from 5,000 words to the limit of 2,000 required for the convention.

“(Winning) feels awesome, and writing is what I like to do,” Young, who came to Furman from Sarasota, Fla., after growing up in Connecticut, said. “I was really interested in the topic and the book when I wrote my paper… I felt more personally connected to it than I’ve felt with some of my other papers.”

In “Why We Must Qualify Travel,” Mellor combines lovely descriptive prose with jarring honesty to explore the deep and complex emotions resulting from having a fraternal twin sister who suffers from mental illness.

“Getting the Honorable Mention was really affirming. Shannon had just won first place … and we were all abuzz about it and I heard my name,” Mellor, a native of Irvin, Calif., said. “We called it fourth place, which was really fun.”

A communication studies/English double major, Mellor admits the prize has her rethinking her career path from a focus on marketing or public relations.

“I’ve always loved to write, but that’s not something I ever thought I would pursue … It’s just something I’m good at,” she said. “After my experience at the conference, my sights have expanded to a career in publishing or some kind of creative marketing with more copy work. I’m seeing where I could pursue writing a little more.”

Bailey’s piece, “This Side of the Sea,” was entered in the highly competitive original short fiction category.

“Cory did a great job, but there is more short fiction, quantity wise, at this conference than other things, so he was in a much larger pool of people,” Oakes said. “I thought he wrote a really strong story.”

For more on the 2016 International Convention, including a complete list of winners, click here.

Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director