• West Sylvan Eighth Grader Wields a Mighty Pen

    Dr. Holly Graham and Miranda Yesser

    Even as a small child, Miranda Yesser possessed a keen understanding of the mercenary nature of the publishing industry. 

    According to her one-page, tongue-in-cheek author bio, which hangs on a clothesline in English teacher Dr. Holly Graham’s colorful classroom, “Yesser began writing books at a young age, then trying to sell them to her family for 5 dollars a copy.”

    It might be time to scoop those copies up. Miranda recently received honorable mention in the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her short story, “Youth.”

    According to Dr. Graham, the short story category is one of the most difficult in an already extremely competitive contest. 

    “The Scholastic awards are the oldest and most competitive creative contest in the country,” she said. “Every submission is held to an extraordinarily high standard, and the fact that Miranda was recognized for her short story is incredibly impressive, although not terribly surprising. Not to me, anyway. I’ve seen how Miranda brings a unique and mature focus to her work that is quite unusual for someone her age.”

    Through lyrical prose and sharply observed social commentary, “Youth” explores the immense societal pressures placed on women to remain young and beautiful, a message right in line with the novels of Miranda’s favorite writer, Jane Austen.

    “When you’re around a lot of girls and women, which I am because I’m a girl, you can’t help but notice the emphasis on skincare and makeup,” Miranda said. “That can be really fun, but the underlying message in those things is that you should always try to look better and younger and I wanted to write about what that means, the impact that has on real people.”

    The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have been recognizing excellence in student artistic achievement for nearly 100 years. Past winners in the writing category include Joyce Carol Oates, Kay WalkingStick, Stephen King, Charles White, and Amanda Gorman. 

    “It’s a very special club,” Dr. Graham said. 

    Miranda is no stranger to special clubs. At West Sylvan, she and a friend founded the school’s first-ever creative writing club. She’s also involved in speech and debate and played a pivotal role in launching West Sylvan’s Stop Sexual Harassment club, which aims to raise awareness of sexual misconduct on campus and improve the school’s reporting system.

    She is also no stranger to writing awards and being recognized for her talent. In 2022, she tied for first place in West Sylvan’s annual writing contest. That same year, her story, “The Samara’s Flight,” was published by the prestigious children’s literary magazine, Stone Soup.

    Miranda plans to keep writing, focusing for the moment on magazine pieces. As she wrote in her author bio, she also hopes to improve her writing in Spanish.

    “In the even further future,” she wrote, “Yesser plans to go to design school and then to law school so she can make it in God knows what profession.”

    Dr. Graham is confident that Miranda will be successful in whatever profession she chooses.

    “I read a lot of eighth grade writing,” she said, “and it’s no fault of the writer, but at this age, a lot of kids have a hard time expressing themselves clearly, let alone using figurative language in a way that isn’t in your face. I’m not finding fault – it just tends to be that way. But the kind of sustained attention Miranda brings to her work is unique. It’s special. And this award, it’s all hers.”