The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Student Spotlight: Raagini Hazarika & Bernice Yin

by Staff Writers Nishi Bhagat & Larry Shi

Earlier this year, FUSD held its bi-annual Young Authors’ Contest. Participating schools held individual school-wide contests where students submitted original books. From there,  each school site chose its grade level winners to move onto the district level competition. Two MSJ students finished in the top three of their grade level category.

Raagini Hazarika

When Freshman Raagini Hazarika starts furiously scribbling down her ideas, she can’t be stopped. As the second-place winner of the 2020 Young Authors’ Contest in the ninth grade category, Hazarika poured countless hours to turn her ideas into her prize-winning story, “Wanderlust Express.”

Hazarika entered in hopes of gaining valuable writing experience and to keep her creative wheels turning. Hazarika, new to the competition this year, found herself presented with new challenges, one of which was the prompt of children’s stories for this year’s contest. Even though Hazarika does not typically dive into children’s stories, she still took on the challenge. 

“Wanderlust Express” describes the journey of “a girl who loves to go on adventures, but always seems to get tangled up in her expectations during the journey. She’s never quite found something that is up to standards with her daydreams, but it could all change with a train ride.” Along with its riveting storyline,  Hazarika’s short story also contains a message to her readers. “The main message would probably be to keep dreaming, because one day they may become a reality,” she said. 

Despite this being her first time participating in the contest, Hazarika has spent countless hours spinning her ideas into stories and novels since seventh grade. “I discovered that I liked writing when I wrote a seventh-grade essay, and I tried really hard on that because it was a topic that I liked, so from then on, I thought that this was something really fun, maybe I could enjoy this and make something out of this,” Hazarika said. 

In the future, Hazarika has high hopes in terms of her writing future: “Writing is kind of a hobby for me, and I’d like to pursue it in the future as a career, and I saw this as an opportunity to sort of practice and get myself out there,” she said.

Bernice Yin

Junior Bernice Yin, a seasoned competitor in the Young Authors’ Contest, recently placed first again for her short story, “Once Again”. 

“Once Again” is a science fiction story about a girl whose best friend passes away, and so she time travels to when they were both 10 years old to save her best friend’s life. As for how she came up with the idea, Yin said, “I don’t really know if there was a particular spark, but I write a lot of stories so I just wanted to find different ways to portray them. Sometimes I’ll be walking around, and I’ll hear stories, and I start thinking of all the ways I want to portray them.” 

This year, Yin again decided to put her love for writing short stories into action. “I feel like … when you write stories you get to go into the world of other people and experience life in general and experiences beyond just your own life, and I like to see the emotional response I get from every person,” she said. Although she started participating in the competition because it seemed “only kind of interesting”, over time Yin’s writing skills have improved, and she came to enjoy the entire writing process. Yin particularly likes writing short stories because she feels that it allows her to explore aspects of different people in depth. 

 Despite being a seasoned writer, Yin said that editing her stories to meet the word count for the contest was definitely a challenge. “I had a lot of difficulties fitting the story I wanted to fit into [the word count] because my story goes over a long period of time, ” Yin said. “I had to cut out a lot of the story into the word limit.”

Yin has consistently participated in this contest since elementary school and hopes to continue fueling her passion for writing. As for her future plans in writing, she said, “For now, I hope to keep writing short stories but maybe a novel one day, who knows?”

Wanderlust Express Cover courtesy Raagini Hazarika
Once Again Cover courtesy Bernice Yin

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