Central senior earns recognition for short story

An early awakening. Out the window the sun has yet to make its rise. But a single light from the nextdoor neighbor's home suggests someone else is already stirring.

Those prosaic morning observances helped illumine the imagination of Hinsdale Central senior Analise Budziak, whose subsequent short story, "A Trick of the Light," took first place in the inaugural Randall Albers Young Writers Award contest, sponsored by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

"It's very exciting," said Budziak of the honor, presented May 13 in a ceremony in the Harold Washington Library Center. "I like writing short stories. My creative writing teacher told me about it and thought I should give it a try, so I did."

Budziak, who uses the pronouns they/them, said the tale delves into the paranormal.

"Two kids go out to a dock at night to look at the stars when one of them sees a light in the distance that keeps getting closer and closer," they related. "It's creepy."

They said the story's characters had been in development for a while and finally had a opportunity to make it onto the page. While fantasy is Budziak's preferred genre, they enjoyed venturing into less familiar territory.

"There are so many different approaches you can take with a short story," Budziak said, "and trying different genres exercises different muscles."

Word of the writers award actually came secondhand since communications went through the parents of Budziak, then still a minor at 17.

"My mom texted me and said, 'Did you see the news?' I told her I didn't, but I figured probably something good had happened," they recounted.

Budziak's mom forwarded the message, but the reality didn't register at first.

"I had to keep skimming over it because my brain didn't think it was right," they said.

At the awards ceremony, each honoree read their stories. Budziak admitted reading their work aloud is not their favorite activity but also acknowledged the power in that practice.

"There's something about reading things aloud that just gives them a different life," they said, noting the enrichment of hearing the pieces of their fellow prize winners.

The award was named for Randall Albers, professor and chair emeritus of fiction at Columbia College Chicago, to honor his "tireless efforts to enhance the city's literary profile," according to the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame website, as well as his energy "helping young writers find, develop, and amplify their voices."

Budziak enlists others to make sure their voice comes through clearly, citing vital counsel from both their mom and Central English teacher Angelique Burrell during the editing process.

"I like to have people read over my writing," they said. "(Mrs. Burrell) had so much good feedback that was really helpful. My mom and I read each others' work a lot because we both like writing. She sends me her chapters, and I send her mine."

After graduation, Budziak will pursue a degree in writing at St. Olaf College.

"Writing is what I hope to do when I grow up," said Budziak, recalling how reading the "Ranger's Apprentice" by John Flanagan ignited their interest. "Maybe one day someone will read my stories and want to be a writer. The world is a better place with stories."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean