University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Rock County graduate Steffi Farrey, a liberal studies major from Whitewater who earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences in 2019, has won a national writing competition for the second year in a row.
Farrey, an English Honor Society member, received first place in the Sigma Kappa Delta poetry writing category for “Grief” and third place in the essay writing category for “Tricks of the Mind.”
“This is Stephanie’s second year of well-deserved winning,” said John Pruitt, professor of English, who has mentored Farrey. “In 2019, she won first place for her essay ‘Little Miss Independent’ and second place for her short story ‘Imperfection.’”
Farrey says she developed her love for writing during her freshman year on campus.
“I enjoy using my writing to create an experience for my readers,” said Farrey. “When I finally learned how to say exactly what I want to say without using filler phrases, clichés or templates, writing became my art.”
Speaking of the sense of community she experienced at college, Farrey said “small class sizes helped me to excel academically because I was able to get to know my professors and fellow students better. For my first five semesters of college, it was truly like a second home to me.”
In terms of her writing, she says she draws inspiration from people around her.
“I find myself sometimes overly empathetic, so writing how I would feel in their shoes helps me to process the emotions I’m feeling on other people’s behalf,” she said.
According to Farrey, her first-prize-winning poem “Grief” is not about anyone in particular, but rather a sort of combination of observations gathered over years.
“‘Grief’ is a free verse that focuses around the theme of grief,” she said. “Sometimes grief or pain can manifest itself in not-so-obvious ways. This poem attempts to bring to light the possibility that sometimes people who are angry are really just hurting and don’t know how to express that. The lines also progress in a sort of self-discovery for the subject of the poem as they become able to label their emotions as grief. The stanzas — or groups of verses — get shorter as this realization happens.”
It was just us in the dark
I called her anger
She lived beneath my skin
Never speaking a word,
Except when I least expected it
For years she hurt others
All in my own name
Lashing out her teeth
And grinning a wicked grin
Until one day she told me
Anger was not her name
Now I call her grief
Farrey was to have received the awards she’d earned for the poem and essay at the Sigma Tau Delta 2020 International Convention, which was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas March 25-28, 2020, but the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her awards will instead be mailed to her.
The Sigma Kappa Delta creative writing competition, open only to student members, receives more than 50 submissions every year in each category of essay, short fiction and poetry. The first-, second- and third-place winners, including both of Farrey’s pieces, will be published in the organization’s literary magazine, “Hedera helix.”
Farrey is currently majoring in environmental policy and planning with an emphasis in planning at UW-Green Bay. After completing her degree, she expects to earn a graduate degree in sustainability or conservation.
“I’ve accepted begrudgingly that she’s not majoring in English, because I know she’ll keep writing,” Pruitt said.
“I want to work in city planning to make our cities more resource-efficient,” said Farrey. “Although my education and future plans focus around my passion for the environment, writing will always be a part of what I do. Knowing how to express myself through words and tell a story are skills I am very proud to have. I hope to publish my own book or two someday.”