DOBSON — Surry Early College High School junior Taylor Gabbey struck literary pay dirt recently with a short story submission which earned her the Scholastic Arts and Writing Gold Key Award. Gabbey, who was one of 200 winners selected from 2,600 admissions, received the honor at a ceremony in Charlotte.
According to Surry Early College High School English teacher Andrew Chilton, all 200 winners’ works are submitted and judged at the national level and may be invited to New York City’s Carnegie Hall. He indicated there were other awards including The Arts and Education Council Awards and Governor’s Awards.
Mount Airy resident Gabbey was one of five students to receive the American Voices Award. One of these five also will be invited to Carnegie Hall in the near future as well. She said she was one of only 15 participants from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region and the only entry for this honor from Surry County. Gabbey said she was one of three in the region to be awarded the Gold Key honor.
“I had this idea for a short story in my head for a few years,” said Gabbey. “Early this fall I thought I’ve gotta write this down because if I don’t I’ll lose it.”
She explained she has been writing since she was 10 years old, and remembers staging stories with her Barbie dolls about a variety of topics other than princesses. Ever a pragmatist, Gabbey said the research she did on the award indicated the effort was trustworthy and the application fee fit her budget. It was $5. She said Early College English teacher Sarah Wright helped her with the forms which were sent out in November. Word came back in early January and reached Wright before it did Gabbey.
“I walked into school and she looked at me and said congratulations you won,” recalled Gabbey. “I said, you’re kidding. This was such an uncharacteristic work for me. Usually my stories are from the science fiction or fantasy realm. Writing was something I thought I’d do when I was older, but the Eragon series inspired me.”
Her winning short story is titled “I Tell You I Done Seen God and He Was wearin’ Blue Jeans.” It is set in the 1950s and the main character in the story is Orville Walker White Brown, a young boy of mixed race.
“I thought (after writing the story) where did this come from,” said Gabbey. For me writing is an art. Words are the paint and I have to put this on canvas. You can’t understand where it comes from but it’s there. It’s like there’s a flow to the words and I have to shape it properly. Eyes figure prominently in my work. The difference between choosing gazed, peered or stared is so cool. Simple words shape the meaning just by what we choose.”
This mission to understand what motivates persons and how to set that in motion in a story has influenced the junior’s career choice. She said she wants to major in psychology even though she loves writing.
“It is very precarious to major in English,” said Gabbey. “I don’t want to be a psychologist. I want to be the one who does the studies and possibly minor in English.” The young writer, who said she comes from a teaching family, has found science and math are useful in today’s world.
She still has concerns that reading across the curriculum may become too narrowly focused.
“I’m frightened really great literature may go to the wayside,” said Gabbey. “There are really important things you can learn from literature. Look how works from Huxley and Orwell have influenced the world. They have such a huge impact and I don’t think people realize this.”
Writing appears to have kept Gabbey grounded, to use a term from popular vernacular. She said she is always struck by how improving one part of an idea leads to a story.
“Some of the coolest ideas I have ever had for stories have come from the dumbest things,” said Gabbey. “I remember how a red ink pen broke and leaked on a friend’s hand during class. The ink looked black and that was the color of blood for a villain in one of my stories.”
The aspiring researcher said she loves finding out why people do what they do, especially socially. She said the two are connected.
“You have to understand what people respond to and think about how to get them to react and do what they do in a story. It’s based on how people perceive it and that’s psychology.”
She also admitted friends knowing about her habit of watching to understand and to motivate has drawbacks.
“I had some friends over recently and there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for us all to bake cookies,” said Gabbey, laughing. “They asked me why we all couldn’t help bake. Was it an experiment?”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.