Student’s undiscovered joy takes top prize

Adela Talbot // Western News

Emma Hunt, a first-year Foods and Nutrition student at Brescia University College, recently won first place in the youth category of a short story competition at the Alice Munro Writers and Readers Festival in Wingham for her story, The Assistant.

One summer at her cottage, Emma Hunt powered through 20 books. That’s how much she loves to read.

But it wasn’t until recently the first-year Foods and Nutrition student at Brescia University College discovered she enjoyed writing, perhaps just as much.

One of the assignments for Hunt’s high school English class was to write a short story for a unit on speculative fiction. She had never written anything before, but inspired by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Hunt wrote a story titled, The Assistant, showcasing a glimpse into a futuristic, utopian world run entirely by women.

Everyone, from her teacher to her peers to her family, loved it. Hunt’s mom encouraged her to enter the story into a contest – which she did. But that wasn’t the end of the line for The Assistant. Hunt’s story recently won first place in the youth category of a short story competition at the Alice Munro Writers and Readers Festival in Wingham.

“I haven’t written that long, or that often, to be honest. (Winning) was kind of crazy – I wasn’t expecting it,” said the 18-year-old Barrie native.

“In school, I liked science. And I liked English. But for a long time, I didn’t like writing because I wasn’t comfortable with my writing capability, even though I was getting good marks. But I’ve always read a lot,” she said.

“And I like a mix of everything, YA (young adult), fiction, non-fiction. I usually go to my mom and dad’s bookcases and pull off them, instead of buying or borrowing.”

Though Hunt never saw herself as ‘a writer,’ The Assistant is opening up new windows of opportunity and providing new outlets for her time, interests and creativity, she said, adding she has many issues she feels strongly about and wouldn’t mind exploring by way of the written word. Women’s issues are high up on the list, as is diet and healthy eating.

“Sometimes I feel bad that men, so far as I can predict, won’t hold power again, at least in my lifetime,” reads the closing paragraph of The Assistant. 

“Other times I don’t. They were doing a rubbish job for years. Yes, we survived, but the state we took over in was dismal. But it’s getting better now, everyone can see that, even the men. Maybe once poverty, war and pollution are gone forever, we’ll let them come back slowly. For now, we are happy. Countries that were at war are uniting in peace. More and more are being controlled by only women. We’ve banded together like a true sisterhood of sorts, instead of always putting each other down, judging one another, and trying so hard to be people we aren’t. There are more women than men after all; it’s only logical that we have the majority of the power,” the story ends.

“I’ve always admired writers so much and how people can connect with the stories. I could never do that, I thought,” Hunt said.

“People like writing, appreciate it and connect with it – I was scared to try that. I never thought I’d be a writer, but I don’t know, now I think that I’m more comfortable, and I’m older now,” she added.

“I think my writing skills have developed a lot and I’m a lot more comfortable writing. Now, I think I might try writing some more. I really like it.”