When Audrey Pratt entered the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win.” The 18-year-old did hope, however, that writer/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Thomas Kail would read her work.
Miranda and Kail are honorary chairs of the selection committee, which is made up of notable Wesleyan alumni.
Now Pratt, who just graduated from Needham High School, can’t decide which is more exciting: beating out more than 600 entries to win the four-year, full-tuition scholarship worth as much as $200,000, or having received personal congratulations from the duo.
The entries — which included short stories, slam poetry, screenplays, and songs — were judged on originality, artistry, and dynamism. Pratt describes her submission, a piece of short fiction titled “Thorns, Black and White,” as “a little weird.”
“It’s a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers, and other monstrous versions of forest creatures,” said Pratt, who has written stories as long as she can remember. At Needham High, she was captain of her school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society.
“It’s definitely a more surreal piece that’s out there in terms of imagery,” she added, “but the risk in terms of writing about a really unorthodox subject matter paid off.”
After learning she won in a congratulatory phone call from Wesleyan president Michael S. Roth, Pratt said she received tweets from Miranda and a phone call from Kail during which they discussed “what I plan to do at Wesleyan, and how there is no opportunity out of reach.”
Pratt, who had already been accepted early decision to Wesleyan when she entered the contest, plans to study creative writing, neuroscience, and film. She said she is “super thankful” to the selection committee for seeing value in her work, as well as to her teachers in the Needham Public Schools for encouraging her love of writing.
“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she said. “It has given me a lot to live up, but I’m going to try my best and hope I make everyone proud.”
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.