Olivia Oravets had never heard of a fragment essay, but that didn’t impede her from writing an award-winning piece her freshman year. Her essay “Click In a Catch Tray,” written for Emari DiGiorgio’s Writing From Experience course, took 2nd place in the fifth annual Jennifer Cakert Writing Awards in the first-year, creative nonfiction division.
Oravets, a Literature major with a concentration in secondary education, fearlessly confronted her assignment and submitted the finished product to compete.
“The style of writing isn’t widely known. It can include pieces of poetry, news articles, and photography, both original and cited. I consider this type of writing a literary collage, and writing the piece was sort of a shot in the dark for me at first,” the rising sophomore from Tuckerton explained.
As for the title, it “sort of sums up the piece; a ‘click’ is one of many copies that come out of a copy machine and lands in the ‘catch tray,’” she said.
Her thoughtfully arranged excerpts intertwined with original passages vividly depict “ancestry versus individualism and breaking away from the habits of one’s family.”
“I wanted this piece to convey that the traditions or reputation of a person’s family does not define that person, and each person, whether they try or not, is different from their parents,” she said.
“Essentially, a family has similar general qualities, like the original copy, but each carbon copy has its own uniqueness if one takes a closer look. And each copy, or person, starts out in the same place, the catch tray, to eventually be dispersed to wherever time takes them.”
Emari DiGiorgio, associate professor of Writing, noticed the rising star right away. “Olivia’s the real deal. In a class of gifted first-year student writers, she inspired her peers with her fearless honesty, unabashed humor, and telescopic description. Her writing showcases her brilliant mind and original voice,” she said.
Oravets says that she fell into writing and discovered her ability to write fluidly in high school.
Her writing is truthful and exploratory. “It helped me figure out a lot of things I didn’t understand about my life,” she explained.
“There is a point in a person’s life where they say, ‘Hey, I do this well, and it makes me feel really good.’ For me, that is writing, so I write for myself.”
The full-time student also juggles a full-time job as the graveyard shift supervisor for Bally’s and Caesars’ retail department in Atlantic City. Her days are busy, but that’s how she thrives. “I can’t function without total chaos,” she said.
Oravets is a member of the Creative Writing Club, which was established by Emari DiGiorgio as part of the Writing Living Learning Community. “We give each other some really important feedback on pieces we are working on,” Oravets said, adding that the group would welcome new members.
From October to May, she volunteers at her local church to teach special needs children. After graduation and passing the Praxis Exam, she hopes to travel or pursue a doctorate in Literature before diving into a teaching career.
Editor’s Note: The Jennifer Cakert Writing Awards are just one of the awards sponsored by the Jan-Ai Foundation, which as of February 2014, has provided over $93,000 in scholarship funds to over 236 individuals. This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Jennifer Cakert Writing Awards, which offers two prizes in three different categories: 1st-year Creative Nonfiction, Upperclassmen Creative Nonfiction, and Poetry. The Jan-Ai Foundation was established by Cynthia Walker after the untimely death of her daughter Jennifer Cakert (1980-2006), who was an artist and writer. As the website explains, the foundation “provides financial support through scholarships, mini grants, and simple on-the-spot cash awards as incentive for other young artists especially those constrained by financial or other barriers to pursue their dreams in their creative fields, offering formal recognition of a young individual’s worthwhile goals. In its pursuit of realizing the dreams of others, it will honor the path Jennifer created and will continue her lifelong artistic journey.”