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2011 Newman Young Writer Award

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       CONTACT: OU Inst. US-China Issues, 405/325-3580

NORMAN, OK. 2-16-11 – A jury of eight OU students has chosen Edmond North High School student Eleanor Sun as the winner of the 2011 Newman Young Writer’s Award. The $1,000 Prize was, according to the competition announcement, awarded to the “Oklahoma high school student(s) whose 2,000 - 3,000 word ‘mini-dictionary/ encyclopedia’ best captures the character of their high school. Dictionary ‘entries’ could explore the people, places, slang, or rituals that define their school.” OU student jurist Caitlan Campbell later said that Sun was able to “poignantly capture the true essence of her high school.”

The high school writing contest was held in conjunction with the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. The 2011 Newman Prize will go to Shaogong Han for his novel A Dictionary of Maqiao. The novel takes the format of a dictionary, with a series of vignettes disguised as entries, to describe a small rural Chinese town he was sent to in the 1960s. Students were asked to read excerpts from Han’s Dictionary to draw inspiration, but to describe their Oklahoma high school.

Ms. Sun will receive a $1,000 check and an award certificate on Friday at the same awards dinner that Mr. Han will receive his $10,000 prize. There will be a 3-5pm roundtable the same day, Friday, February 18th at The University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (555 Elm Avenue, Norman, OK) that will discuss Han’s contributions to Chinese and world literature and is free and open to the public.

Both the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature and the Newman Young Writer’s Award are sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for U.S.-China Issues. Both prizes honor Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at OU enabled the creation of the Institute. The Newmans will be present at the awards dinner, and will personally give their respective prizes to Mr. Han and Ms. Sun.

Eleanor Sun was born in Gainesville, Florida and moved with her family to Edmond in the summer of 2006. She is a fifteen year old sophomore at Edmond North whose favorite subjects include math, science, and economics. She enjoys debate, chess, reading, and listening to music.

A jury of eight OU students, chosen for their accomplishments in writing and literary studies, selected Ms. Sun on Thursday Feb. 10 from a field of 67 entries from across the state of Oklahoma. The jurists – Caitlin Campbell (Norman), Teresa Elam (Norman), Blayze Hembree (Shawnee), Kathy Hoang (Oklahoma City), Jon Lowry (Oklahoma City), Lauren Stotts (Muskogee), Joshua Wesneski (Bartlesville), and Gharrett Workun (Yukon) – were all OU juniors and seniors who had attended Oklahoma high schools themselves.

When asked to describe the work of the jurists, Professor Peter Gries, director of OU’s Institute for US-China Issues, poured on the praise. “I was particularly impressed by the earnestness and dedication of our eight student jurists. The thoughtfulness and professionalism of their deliberations truly impressed me.”

The diversity and strength of the submissions posed a great challenge for the jury. Yet Eleanor Sun emerged as the consensus winner after six rounds of positive elimination voting. “We decided that our winner needed to convey a sense of his or her high school that is entirely unique,” said Gharrett Workun, a senior from Yukon. “Eleanor Sun… recreates the place she sees and endures every school day in a way that is personal yet objective at the same time.”
Jurist Caitlin Campbell went on to say, “Sun capably reminds us of the fun, spirit, and pride many of us experienced in high school, but at the same time she teaches us the unique characteristics of Edmond North. Sun conveys a tone and form clearly reminiscent of Han Shaogong’s A Dictionary of Maqiao while maintaining her own voice and making the style her own. This is quite simply a job well done.”

 “Every student realizes by the time of their graduation that their school has become more than just a place of learning,” said jurist Kathy Hoang. “It has been, for the past four years, the nesting ground for memories, friendships, and experiences that have in some way or another transformed the student. To capture the character and spirit of the school is no easy task, but Eleanor Sun managed to do it with grace.”

Nathan Hill of Union High School was the runner up, winning $100 and an “honorable mention” certificate. The five other finalists were Ananya Rudra from Norman North High School, Arthur Dixon from Ardmore High School, Jenna Adams, Rebecca Birdwell, and Leslie Nungester from Pawnee High School (coauthored their entry), Julie Frances Grice of Plainview High School, and Lauren Hall from Norman North High School.

For more information, please visit the Newman Young Writer’s Award homepage. You can also contact:
- Eleanor Sun (Winner, Edmond North HS), 405/562-4296,
- Peter Gries (Director, OU Institute for US-China Issues, 405/325-1962,
- Joshua Wesneski (OU student jury representative, 918/914-1076,

For more information or accommodations on the basis of disability, call the OU Institute for US-China issues at (405) 325-3580.