Winning Essay by Deja J. from Illinois attends Knox College
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Shonda Rhimes has been an inspiration in my life because she and I come from similar backgrounds, and she has accomplished much of what I’d like to in my writing career. We were both born and raised in Chicago, and, though my parents were less educated than hers, they always worked hard to provide for my sister and I, as well as emphasized the importance of education and pursuing our dreams. I largely have them to thank as well.

Senior year of high school I wrote a play called “A Matter of Life (and Maybe Death)” and won the 28th annual Young Playwrights Festival held by Pegasus Theatre Chicago. The production ran for a month in January 2015, and seeing my words come to life and stir emotion in people forever changed me. Many people act as if majoring in Creative Writing means I won’t be qualified for a viable career in the long run, but Shonda studied English and Film, and now she owns Shondaland, her very own production company. I dream of following in Shonda’s footsteps to produce shows and/or movies (both my own and others) that depict life honestly, dramatically, and comedically, as real life often is.

I have written several more plays and short films in college, won more awards, and only plan to get better and more talented! I get a lot of my inspiration from volunteering at hospice, mental health, and community centers near my school; similarly, Shonda spent time volunteering in a hospital in high school which led to her interest in hospitals and creation of Grey's Anatomy. My sophomore year I had the opportunity to try acting for the first time and directed one of my own 10-minute plays to be performed on campus the following night, which I loved and cannot wait to do again. Every aspect of creating and sharing stories fascinates me and allows me to share new perspectives with my audience(s), and I hope to do it for the rest of my life.

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