Senior English major, Spanish minor wins writing award
Fantasma was never meant to be a gamecock. No, when Natalia found the Japanese Bantam in the mercado one morning, he was alone in a cardboard box littered with the Easter dyed baby-down of already purchased chicks, not even meant to be considered.
“He’s not colored,” she pointed out.
“He’s not useful. Sus patas,” the old woman said, sun-soaked and creased like paper, sitting like a countess in her lawn chair. She motioned. “Too long. Bad Breeding.”
But he, just a fluffy cotton ball of boring gray feathers, climbed into those two stilt-like legs with the utmost dignity of being addressed. He chirped his baby chirp, settled a black eye on Natalia, and held her gaze. Don’t listen to la bruja, he seemed to say. I will prove her wrong.
Georgia College senior Mikayla Avila Vila’s short story, “Fantasma,” became winner of the third annual Margaret Harvin Wilson Writing Award.
“I’m shocked,” said the English major with a concentration in creative writing and minors in Spanish and management. “It’s an honor. A lot of my writing is inspired by my family in Puerto Rico. This coming of age story reflects part of my culture.”
Dr. Elaine Whitaker, chair of the Department of English and Rhetoric, and Dr. Martin Lammon, Georgia College creative writing program coordinator, presented Avila Vila a $1,000 cash prize and certificate of achievement in the Pat Peterson Museum Education Room Friday, Nov. 16 — the 99th anniversary of Wilson’s birthday.
“Mikayla gets the meaning of liberal learning and the fact that the learner takes risks in order to grow,” said Whitaker. “Her work presents multicultural perspectives and ties to our mission and Wilson’s short story ‘Sympathy Speaks.’”
Dr. Mary Sue Wilson Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Coleman, established an endowment to provide the annual award with a donation to the university in memory of her mother, Margaret Harvin Wilson, ’34.
Margaret Harvin Wilson graduated from then Georgia State College for Women (GSCW). She was the first in her family to attend college.
With a small trust her father provided, she enrolled into GSCW, waiting tables in the dining hall in exchange for discounted tuition and living in a “free dormitory.”
She completed her English degree with a minor in French in three years. During her senior year, one of Wilson’s teachers encouraged her to enter a writing contest sponsored by the English department. Winning first prize in 1933 for her short story “Sympathy Speaks” gave Wilson confidence for a subsequent career as a teacher.
Margaret Harvin married Leland Wilson in 1938 and enjoyed a wonderful and interesting life with him in academe. Their three daughters, inspired by the importance of education in their parents’ lives, pursued careers in medicine, law and higher education.
GSCW was critical in Wilson’s intellectual growth and development and in stimulating her desire to explore the world beyond her hometown.
The Margaret Harvin Wilson Writing Award is designed to inspire students to explore new worlds — grounded but imaginative and creative.
Georgia College faculty, administrators and MFA students screened the entries, selecting five finalists including Avila Vila:
- Rylee Edgar, “Jellyfish;”
- Rob Hudgens, “Lone Wolf Living;”
- Natalie Sharp, “Head, Shoulders, Toes;” and
- Matt Thompson, “P.O.W.”
The award winner final judges included Alex Blazer, David Muschell and Eustace Palmer from the Department of English and Rhetoric; Caitlin Powell from the Department of Psychological Science; and Ken Procter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Avila Vila plans to enter a Master of Fine Arts program and pursue creative fiction after earning her undergraduate degree at Georgia College.
“This experience has taught me to not give up,” said Avila Vila, “and you can’t edit enough. The contest was the first time I ever submitted my work on the college level. I thank my professor Dr. Allen Gee for helping me make this story happen.”