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Four Literary Magazine Contributors Earn Gold Circle Certificates

Lighted Corners feature

Sierra Merson, C'19, earned a Gold Circle Certificate of Merit for her illustrations, Setting, shown at left, as well as Floating and Sinking, both shown below.

Four Mount St. Mary’s University students earned Gold Circle Certificates of Merit from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) for their writing and illustration in the Spring 2019 art and literary magazine, Lighted Corners. In September, the publication was awarded a gold medal by CSPA, achieving medals for the tenth time in 12 years.

“I don’t believe we’ve ever had four students selected in the same year,” said Associate Professor of English Thomas Bligh, Ph.D., who has served as faculty adviser to Lighted Corners since 2007. “Our strategy was to study our recent issue carefully and match the strongest pieces with the appropriate CSPA category.”

32899870707_24f53e07a8_w.jpgThe 36th annual Gold Circle Awards program attracted more than 7,100 news and magazine entries submitted in 86 categories, of which 807 winners were selected. The Mount’s Katie Brittingham, C’19, Elizabeth (Betsy) Busch, C’22, Sierra Merson, C’19, and Megan Schultz, C’19, earned Certificates of Merit and deemed worthy of honorable mention in the categories of traditional fiction, experimental fiction, portfolio illustration and essay, respectively.

“This is my first recognition from CSPA,” Busch said. Her experimental fiction piece “At the End of the Trail,” first garnered attention during its early drafts in Dr. Bligh’s Storytellers course. “Betsy Busch displays drive and ambition,” Bligh said. “She’s triple majoring—and she’s an integral member of the Lighted Corners editorial team for 2020.” Busch said her award-winning piece captures the attachment most Mount students feel to their mountain home. “What would the mountain think about us, if it was conscious of our presence? I was curious about this reversal of perspectives.”

Brittingham wrote her award-winning submission in Bligh’s introductory course to creative writing. “Her story impressed the class when she shared it for feedback and revision advice, then captivated the Lighted Corners staff a few months later when they reviewed it for possible publication,” Bligh said. Later that spring, Brittingham was the recipient of the William Heath Award for Outstanding Achievement in Creative Writing at the Mount’s award convocation. The psychology major, currently employed as an environmental educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, recently submitted a short for an outdoor adventure podcast called the “Dirtbag Diaries” and is hopeful to record an episode of their next season. 

“I always see so many different people at campgrounds and wonder what their stories are—so I decided to create one,” Brittingham said. Her fiction piece titled “The Allies” describes a young man’s journey with his family through North Dakota on their way to a funeral. Using the prairie as a stage and a Lakota woman’s advice about friends and allies, Brittingham writes, “Not many tragedies had occurred in James’ life, but this was the closest he had come, and he had an idea that in the face of a tragedy, what a man ought to do is sit outside and have a drink and a smoke.”

sinking.jpgSchultz’s personal essay titled “How to Fold a Paper Airplane” was submitted after Bligh visited her senior seminar and offered the class insights on strategies for creative writing. The instructional and personal piece explains her version of The Happiness Project—and her love of all things creative and tactile. During her time at the Mount, Schultz was the coordinator for Notes of Kindness—a group which invited students, faculty, staff and administration to write anonymous motivational messages to other individuals on campus. “I spend days writing to strangers, and I feel like I’m making a difference,” she said. The essay, like her deepening affection for spreading joy, started with instruction and gave way to accomplishment.

Merson’s art was recognized with the Simon Gabriel Bruté medal in the annual student exhibition where she won second place for painting and second place for drawing. Her work in Lighted Corners was an asset to Art & Design Editor Rachel Donohue, C’21, who used the daring and vibrant colors to enhance the visual impact of the issue. “I was very impressed by Sierra’s pieces,” Donohue said. “The published works titled Floating, Sinking, and Setting are all oil paintings that demonstrate knowledge of the medium, color theory and composition.” Merson's work Sinking was recently accepted for publication in the online anthology Plain China. She is currently a substitute teacher at Frederick County Public Schools.

CSPA is an international student press association recognizing outstanding achievement in both verbal and visual categories for newspapers, yearbooks and magazines.