ESCANABA - Sixteen-year-old Marissa LaPorte set her sites on a goal and achieved a measure of success that a relative few attain. Marissa won second-place honors in a Nora Roberts Young Writers Institute Writing Contest for Teens for her short fiction story, "Choosing What the Leave Behind."
Nora Roberts, once dubbed as "America's Favorite Novelist" by New Yorker Magazine, began writing in 1981 and has since authored more than 160 novels that have appeared on the NY Times Best Seller List.
Marissa is the daughter of Penny Rounce of Escanaba and is a junior at Escanaba High School. A fan of romance novels and murder mysteries, Marissa said it was her grandmother, Lois Groeneveld, who drew her attention to the competition.
"She's read all of Nora Roberts' books and gets her newsletter," Marissa said.
It didn't take the teen long to decide what the topic of her story would be.
"I was in my room and imagining going to college," she said. "The transition there would be to leave a place where I've lived most of my life and going off to live in a dorm. I began looking around my room and thinking that one day the room is going to be empty. It took a long time to accumulate everything in there."
Marissa said she has always wanted to write a novel and has been inspired in her dream by former EHS English and creative writing teacher, J.J. Spaulding.
"He was my favorite teacher," she said. "I learned that truth is how you feel about something but it doesn't have to be reality. When you write serious fiction, you're mainly trying to get a point across, particularly if you write about serious topics, like racism."
Marissa said she was initially notified of her win via email and then she received a telephone call from a representative from the Young Writers Institute.
For her win, LaPorte was offered a partial scholarship and the opportunity join other young writers at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, Md., in early August for an intensive two-day institute exploring the craft of fiction writing. Unfortunately, travel and hotel expenses were too costly for Marissa and her mother to make the journey. She will, however, happily accept the $50 Amazon gift card that was part of her prize.
But undeterred about the trip to Hagerstown, Marissa said she is keeping her eyes open to any writing camps she might be able to attend.
The Nora Roberts competition isn't Marissa's only claim to fame. She has won the Escanaba High School Edgar Allen Poe writing contest for the past two years for her horror stories.
"I'm really stuck with horror," she smiled. "I'm really good at that."
Marissa said after she graduates from high school, she is considering attending Michigan State University where she will study English and literature.
"I've familiar with MSU," she said. "I've been there five times with my 4-H group - County Line Lambs. "I even thought about being a veterinarian, but I think I'd have too hard a time dealing with death, and unfortunately, that's part of the job."