Portrait of the artist as a young woman, very young | ParkRecord.com
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Portrait of the artist as a young woman, very young

Truman Capote began seriously writing at the age of 11 with three hour sessions. But he didn’t start publishing short stories until he was 19.

With the publication of her first short story in a professional anthology at the age of 16, Danya Bush has the literary titan beat. Danya, a junior at Park City High School, penned about a teenage ballerina who loses her friend and lover. The brief but poignant story "Looks Like Newsprint," has won her the admiration of in-the-know writers, teachers, and her parents, who didn’t know their daughter had submitted a manuscript to the competition. "I almost didn’t enter my piece because of the $20 entry fee," she said Monday. Because of how the manuscripts are judged, festival organizers didn’t know Danya was a teenager until she had already received top honors. "People were definitely surprised that I was only 16 and had written about such a controversial topic," she said.

Asked how she came up with the idea, Danya responded with poise belying her age. "I don’t really know," she said. "It was the duality of love, the innocence of love."

Kate beat out more than 350 competitors, most of them professional writers and teachers, to become a finalist at the 2008 Wordstock Writing Conference held in Portland, Ore., earlier this month. Her story has been published along with nine others in Wordstock’s 2008 anthology.

Danya’s mom, Kate, said she was thrilled when her daughter told her that she was named a finalist in an adult competition. "I came home and she was all smiles," Kate said. "It was kind of a big surprise. I assumed, like everyone, that it was a juvenile competition."

Upon investigation, though, she discovered that the competition was not for kids. "Danya is really talented in a lot of things," Kate glowed. "This was just amazing recognition for a child to get."

Although Danya’s siblings are artistically inclined, she doesn’t come from a literary pedigree. Her mom is a personal trainer and her dad is a computer consultant. Nevertheless, Kate said he daughter has been a disciplined writer from a young age and has had stories published in Kaleidoscope, the high school’s literary magazine.

Kate’s friend, Regen Dennis, has worked as a publicist and professional writer in Seattle for 35 years. "I was absolutely blown away," she said of Danya talent. "Here is this quiet nice young woman. You just don’t expect that quality of writing."

What amazed Dennis most is the story’s unabashed and mature take on love and loss as well as Danya’s command of grammar and attention to detail. "For someone like her this isn’t a fluke school assignment," Regen said. "Clearly she’s taking her own time when other leisure activities beckon."

As for the future, Danya plans to graduate in the spring, a year early, and study abroad in college. She wants to attend Goucher, a liberal-arts school in Baltimore. "I’ve been writing since I was six," she explained. "It’s always been a huge passion of mine. Why not go for it? Why not go for it and become a writer?"

Except from "Looks Like Newsprint"

I’m watching the little girls through the door window, my eyes following pink tutus puffing and sinking with pirouettes. Do you remember when we did this together, our cheeks pressed against one another’s, breath mingling? It was fall and the air smelled of apples. It’s spring now, a day before my sixteenth birthday.

There was a moth on the bus yesterday, gray wings frantically beating against the air. Someone was going to smack it against the window with a rolled-up newspaper, but then I thought of you and stopped them. I caught it in my cupped hands and held it and its desperately beating heart in my fingers until the bus stopped. I opened my hands to the sunlight and it flapped away.

It reminded me of you.

I miss walking home with you, the heat of our intertwined hands

warming us against the wisps of autumn wind. The walk doesn’t look

any different: there are the same oak trees; the pavement’s still cracked

and laced with strips of tar; I still watch the butterflies.


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