Exceptional Storytelling

Rewriting Realities winners (group shot)
Front row (L-R): Eryn Harris, Christina Pritchett. Back row (L-R): Young Kwon, Julia Terbrock, Haylie Larsen, Jenny Herman and Nathan Wright. Not pictured: Witt Wells, Ari Wagner, Delan K. Ellington and Nate Compton.

MU’s third annual Rewriting Realities contest pitched one question with three words and endless definitions to students, “Who are you?”

Sixty-three students from a variety of degree programs bared their deepest insecurities and greatest struggles through works of creative literature, visual art and digital storytelling.

Nine judges including writers, philanthropists, artists and doctors from MU and the Columbia community selected first through third place award winners in each category, along with two honorable mentions, one in creative literature and one in visual arts. First-place winners were awarded $300 each, second place, $200 each and third place, $100 each. The honorable mention recipients each received $50.

The winners shared their work during an award ceremony in the MU Student Center on April 26. Smiles were shared and tears were shed among both award recipients and audience members.

The first-place digital storytelling winner, Eryn Harris, presented her video, “This is me,” featuring nine black women speaking candidly about the insecurities they have had about their bodies. The film ends with one of the girls explaining why she loves her body.

“I hope my video shows you not to let other people define who you are,” said Harris, a digital storytelling sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri. “Love yourself; no matter what.”

The students’ work addressed topics including body image issues, eating disorders, sexual violence, losing one’s childhood innocence, battling between two cultural heritages and finding joy in life.

“This competition was an amazing opportunity to express aspects of myself that aren’t normally shown in a professional, academic or social setting,” first-place visual art winner Hailey Larsen said. “I sometimes feel like a robot being sucked along the conveyor belt of life.”

Larson is a junior from Chicago and is pursuing a degree in nursing. Her work is entitled “Break.” Through contrasting a robot and a phoenix, in her piece, she compared the opinions others have of her to her true self, waiting to “break free.”

The final student awarded was first-place winner in creative literature Young Kwon. Her poem entitled “I Am” was an exploration of her identity, as a Korean-American.

“Sometimes my stories are deemed irrelevant and are pushed to the side,” Kwon said. “I learned that not telling my stories was easier. Now I am slowly realizing that even though it is hard telling my stories, that some may see me as selfish for advocating for myself, telling my stories is powerful and healing for me.”

Kwon is a senior strategic communication and international peace studies major. She plans to volunteer for the Peace Corps in Morocco after graduating from MU in May.

“There are few times in my 26 years here at Mizzou that I’ve seen the power and the courage demonstrated today by the students who make themselves vulnerable,” Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain said. “It’s not the talent, it’s the courage; it’s humbling, it’s inspiring, and it’s the very thing that we celebrate the most, here at Mizzou. It’s the most special part of who we are.”

Since its inception three years ago, the Rewriting Realities contest has been sponsored by the Multicultural Certificate program and directed by MU psychology professor Etti Naveh-Benjamin.

The full list of awards and recipients can be found below.

Digital Storytelling

  • First: “This is me” by Eryn Harris
  • Second: “Death of a Child” by Nathan Wright
  • Third: “Keys” by Julia Terbrock

Visual Art

  • First: “Break” by Haylie Larsen
  • Second: “Hollow” by Ari Wagner
  • Third: “Skeletons” by Nate Compton
  • Honorable Mention: “White Bird” by Christina Pritchett

Creative Literature

  • First: “I Am” by Young Kwon
  • Second: “They Won’t Tell You” by Jenny Herman
  • Third: “How to Survive the Police” by Delan K. Ellington
  • Honorable Mention: “Mr. Teapot” by Witt Wells