BRATTLEBORO -- After receiving a good deal of recognition for winning a silver medal in a national novel competition, Olivia Howe wanted to thank her two best editors for all their hard work.
And so, on Thursday, she made sure her mother and father knew just how grateful she is.
"I haven't mentioned them anywhere yet," Olivia said with a smile, on the porch of her family's Spruce Street house, with Alice Charkes and Greg Howe looking on.
Olivia, 13, is a recent silver medalist in the novel-writing category of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and hopes to use the accomplishment as a steppingstone to becoming a published author. The seventh-grader at Brattleboro Area Middle School submitted the first 50 pages of her 210-page novel "The Battle of Darkness: Arrival" through the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in December and found out via e-mail in April that she was a silver medalist.
Howe explained there were 12 silver medalists and three gold medalists selected from 400 students in grades 7 through 12 across the country. She said she was the youngest prize-winner and the only seventh-grader in the bunch.
"I was really excited, especially because I'm the youngest person. That made me feel like the honor was even greater," Howe said. "I hadn't expected to win anything. My mom kept hoping that I would win gold, of course, but I was setting my expectations way lower than that.
Greg Howe said he has always realized his daughter's talent but did not know what to expect when she submitted her entry.
"We knew we'd be hearing something back around this time of year and had hopes that something might come of it," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in Olivia's writing, and she's won some other recognition, some smaller things, but I didn't know where this would go and we were really floored when we found out selective it is. The chances of winning are really slim."
Olivia explained her 55,000-word novel chronicles the journey of a young girl named Corby and her friend, who are sent to live with Corby's grandmother when Corby's parents disappear. Inside the grandmother's house, the girls find a door that takes them to the dark side of the moon, a territory known as Crai.
The family's porch even sports two figures (which Olivia made at Bonnie Stearns' clay camp in July) of Corby's grandmother, Granny Oak, and the antagonist, Lord Quevest. They hang high in the corner as inanimate reminders of two of the characters Olivia brings to life in her novel.
Olivia told the Reformer she started writing the novel just before she started the fifth grade (when she was 10 and a half years old) and spent a lot of time trying to come up with a name for the setting before finishing last year.
"I was just walking down the street and I was thinking about crayfish, I think, and I changed the ‘y' to an ‘i,'" she recalled, "and for a long time I thought about these characters and the place and my antagonist.
"When I started typing it the idea that I'm using now began to take shape," she added.
Olivia has also written a sequel and is working on a third book. There will also be, she said, a prequel and a companion book to the series. For now, she plans to send the novel off to literary agencies in the hopes of publication, though she admits a publisher would likely have to print each book of the series.
Olivia -- who said she reads four to five books a month and counts J.K. Rowling, Sharon Creech, Ann Brashares among her favorite authors -- has had a passion for writing for as long as she can remember and knows that is what she wants to do for a living when she grows up.
Until then, Alice and Greg plan to keep editing their daughter's material and bask in the glory of being the parents of a nationally-recognized writer.
"It was thrilling. It really is amazing," Alice said. "This is what she does all the time -- she writes."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.