Sophomore Dedeepya Guthikonda of Edina High School sure has her plate full. From speech team to model UN, writing for the school newspaper, tutoring children and volunteering with seniors, her talents spread far and wide. Now she’s traveled to Carnegie Hall after winning a gold medal in the National Scholastic Art and Writing Competition this past year.
In third grade, Dedeepya and a few friends entered a children’s picture book contest, and since then she’s submitted writing to poetry, fiction and essay competitions. Most recently, she entered the Flash Fiction category of the national competition, which requires work under 1,000 words.
Dedeepya first heard of the competition through a friend and decided to give it a shot based on its simple process—filling out an online application, getting a teacher’s signature and paying a $5 entry fee.
Her piece, Flickering Lights, follows a family who recently moved to the U.S. and has a challenging time feeling like they belong.
“In the very last scene, the flickering lights represent the Christmas tree that they got—a tradition they didn’t use to celebrate,” Dedeepya says. “Despite the family’s attempts of getting the tree and trying to fit in, they still don’t feel like they do, which is what the flickering lights represent.”
Dedeepya found inspiration through her own family’s immigration, but also through the recent news regarding refugees, immigrants and border protection.
“Fitting into the culture is something that is often overlooked,” Dedeepya says. “I wanted to highlight the struggles of moving to a country that isn’t your own and trying to fit in.”
The national competition is open to grades seven–12 and receives nearly 340,000 submissions. Dedeepya is just one of 11 students in Minnesota to win a gold medal. In June, Dedeepya and her family traveled to Carnegie Hall in New York City and attended the National Ceremony, among other events. Plus they saw Tina Fey—which was undoubtedly one of her favorite moments.
Dedeepya has work published in various poetry anthologies and has been a state finalist for the Letters About Literature competition. She’s also been published in The Best Teen Writing of 2018, which is a collection of teen writing published by Scholastic. And November marks her favorite challenge—NaNoWriMo, in which writers are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel in one month.
Dedeepya plans to continue carving out her writing style and is thinking about a career in writing. She did a summer writing residency at the University of Iowa and plans to continue working on a manuscript for a novel. “I also aspire to spread writing through my community, whether it’s in underprivileged communities or just introducing it to people of all ages,” Dedeepya says. To read Dedeepya’s piece, Flickering Lights, head to artandwriting.org.