Just a few short months ago, Kathy Gregg of Prospect Heights left her job in fundraising to devote herself full time to creative writing.
Inspired by her neighbor, Terri Murphy, and a writing club both women belong to, Gregg began developing short stories in earnest, and submitting them for publication.
On Wednesday, she collected her first award. Her short story, "In My Hair," took first place for prose, in the Arts Unlimited Art & Writing Contest, sponsored by the Daily Herald, in conjunction with the monthlong celebration of the arts in the six Northwest Suburban High School District 214 schools.
The two women joined other community winners on stage at the Forest View Educational Center theater in Arlington Heights, after the art and literary students from each school were introduced.
Prospect High School Principal, Kurt Laakso, who served as emcee, said the winning entries were selected from hundreds that came in from the community.
"I'm thrilled," Gregg said. "I'm really trying to be a writer, and this is the first time I've been recognized."
Her piece includes three vignettes describing Gregg coming to terms with a new hairstyle, as a vehicle to describe three pivotal times in her life.
Murphy, meantime, was a double winner in 2007 for her artwork and prose. This year she won second place in prose, for "Remembering Basha." The semi-autobiographical story describes a Polish girl and her relationship with a special doll.
"I know there are a lot of Polish people in the Northwest suburbs," Murphy said, "and I wanted to write a story they could relate to."
Third place in prose went to Terry Maloney of Mount Prospect, for his humorous short story," Da Beers."
A pair of Elk Grove High School students led the visual art category. Senior Allie Ofisher took first place for her photo, "Basic Cable," of a burned out television before the digital age, while senior Kelsey Brod, took second for her oil painting, "Then Just Turn Off the Lights."
Buffalo Grove senior Christine Donovan took third for her work, "Untitled."
"My interest in photography started with my first class, sophomore year," said Ofisher, who plans to major in photography at the University of Illinois. "I started taking every photography class I could, and now I'm in AP photography. This shot was part of my portfolio."
In the poetry division, Buffalo Grove senior Allison Wilber won first place for her poem, "Grandpa's Funeral," while her senior classmate, Paige Wallner, took second for her poem, "Sleep." Hersey High School student Ashley Carman placed third for her poem, "A Poem About Scabs?"
The program ended with John Hillary, the assistant superintendent for instruction and educational services, being named the 2009 Friend of the Arts recipient.
In his remarks, Hilary described his awakening, when he realized the importance of science and the arts, and it became his quest to impart the integration of both studies to students.
214 Arts Unlimited contest winners
1. "In My Hair" by Kathy Gregg
2. "Remembering Basha" by Terri Murphy
3. "Da Beers" by Terry Maloney
1. "Grandpa's Funeral" by Allison Wilber
2. "Sleep" by Paige Wallner
3. "A Poem About Scabs?" by Ashley Carman
1. "Basic Cable" by Allison Ofisher
2. "then you'll just have to go back to sleep" by Kelsey Brod
3. "Untitled" by Christine Donovan