Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Darius Cowan wins writing award

MSU English Department Chair Elizabeth Crosby presented junior Darius Cowan
with the NCTE 2016 Achievement Award for Superior Writing during a school assembly
on May 9. (Courtesy photo)
     The story is simple, touching, intriguing, enough to earn a high school student kudos in a writing competition. The synopsis: A young woman applies to an art school, and after she’s accepted, she decides not to attend because someone she cares for can’t come with her.
Darius Cowan, a junior at Memphis University School (MUS), was pleasantly surprised when he learned the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) had tapped him for the national 2016 Achievement Award for Superior Writing. He is one of three students from Tennessee to win the award.
Cowan was encouraged by his English teachers to compete for the award because they “thought it would be a good fit for me based on my in-class writing.” So the 17-year-old penned a short story entitled “Rue” and convinced the judges that he has the writing chops to weave together an inspiring story.
“I was so pleased Darius was honored by the NCTE,” said Elizabeth Crosby, chair of the MUS English Department. “He is an outstanding student, and I look forward to seeing his writing talent continue to develop.”
“I was surprised [to win] because I took a creative approach to an argumentative essay and wrote a short story along with it,” said Cowan, who wrote the winning story despite his intense focus on AP courses. “I didn’t know how that would go, but it paid off, apparently.”
The creative argument was recently published in The MUSe, the school’s annual literary magazine featuring student prose, poetry, artwork and photography. Cowen is expecting to be named the editor when he returns to school as a senior.
His school chums were happy for him. “A lot of them didn’t know I was in the competition,” he said. “When I received the award, everybody congratulated me.”
Including his mother, Dana Dennis, a divorcee who has four other children. Cowan is the youngest. “When I read the story, it was awesome,” she said. “I always knew he was talented when it came to writing.”
“I like writing fiction,” said Cowan, noting that his favorite writers are Scott Westerfield, an award-winning young adult fiction writer, composer and media designer; and Maggie Stiefvater, an award-winning New York Times bestselling young adult fiction writer.
“I like stories that evoke an emotional reaction and make people think,” said Cowan, who started writing “little stories” when he was in third grade at Christ Methodist Day School, a Christian education school promoting spiritual development, academic excellence, social responsibility and personal integrity.
Excellence, personal integrity, and any other attribute that Cowan may possess were no doubt gleaned from the story he submitted to the judges. And certainly those attributes helped to propel the young author as a model student at MUS, where he maintains a 4.24 GPA.
MUS is a non-denominational and non-discriminatory college-preparatory day school for boys in grades 7-12. The school was founded in 1893.
School is out for the summer. Cowan, however, plans to write more stories before he returns to MUS this fall. Meanwhile, he’s making plans for college. He has his eyes set on Washington University, a private research university in St. Louis, Mo.
“They talked to me about how flexible the classes are,” said Cowan, who likes science, biology and photography. “I can take biology classes and writing classes with no issue.”
Although Cowan is gifted in areas that demand his attention to academics, he still hopes to be a published author some day. “I definitely have aspirations to be a published writer,” he said. “I’m not sure of the form. But I would like to write novels.”
Dennis is encouraging her son to pursue production writing. “I’m looking to see a movie [some day] and see his name in the credits or a book with his name on it,” she said.
Right now Cowan is “kicking around a fantasy novel.”

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