Insanity’s Horse—Drew University’s art and literature magazine—announced the winners for their annual prose contest on Tuesday, Jan. 30. From Nov. 7 to Dec. 20, Drew students had the opportunity to submit fiction or nonfiction pieces to the contest. The magazine’s editorial staff rated each piece over winter break before the three highest-rated pieces in each category were sent to the English Department, who ultimately selected the winners.
Kara Huchel’s (C‘22) piece “Black Dog” won the nonfiction category, and Stefanie Shapiro’s (‘24) piece “The Piano” was chosen as the runner-up in this category. Megan Pankok’s (‘23) piece “Sanctuary” won the fiction category. Huchel and Pankok received $100 as prizes for winning their respective categories, and Huchel, Pankok and Shapiro are guaranteed publication in the magazine with the designation of “winner” or “runner-up.”
Huchel’s creative nonfiction essay, “Black Dog,” consists of several anecdotes that detail her experience with bipolar disorder. When asked about her inspiration for writing the piece, Huchel said, “I’ve always wanted to write about bipolar disorder because I’ve noticed a strikingly toxic stereotype around it. I have had more than a few people tell me, ‘You can’t be bipolar because you’re not crazy enough to be bipolar.’ What a tiny box to fit every bipolar person into. What a strange assumption, and, frankly, what a mean thing to say! Put shortly, I was inspired to write this because I wanted to put my own experience with mania down on paper.” Huchel feels that the strongest aspect of “Black Dog” is its historical references, and she hopes that her piece will prompt readers to “think differently and less critically about what bipolar disorder is.”
Shapiro’s nonfiction piece, “The Piano,” centers on a pivotal moment in which she is wrongfully accused of ripping the keys off her childhood friend Ooana’s piano. According to Shapiro, the themes of this piece include “betrayal, a broken friendship and the loss of what felt like a ‘second home.’” Shapiro appreciates how she was able to integrate her childhood and adulthood perspectives and weave motifs throughout this piece. When asked what she hopes readers will take away from “The Piano,” Shapiro said, “I hope readers feel a range of emotions [while] reading and, ideally, one of those is laughter at moments. If anything, as a writer, I hope that something I write resonates with my readers and makes them think, feel, reflect and, ultimately, enjoy.”
Pankok’s short story, “Sanctuary,” depicts the relationship that forms between two boys forced to clean the bell tower of their Catholic high school’s campus church as punishment for a fist fight. Describing her inspiration for writing “Sanctuary,” Pankok, who wrote this piece for a creative writing course, said, “My main inspiration was my own experience as a queer woman who attended a Catholic school. I wanted to convey the struggle that comes with exploring one’s sexuality, especially when a person’s religion may see it as a sin.” She is most proud of how she depicted the symbolism of the bell tower, which transforms into the boys’ sanctuary as their relationship progresses. In terms of the piece’s message, Pankok said, “I hope [readers] remember that there will always be a ‘sanctuary’ for them—whether that sanctuary be a place, a person, a thing or simply an idea.”
In order to read these pieces, make sure to pick up a copy of Insanity’s Horse or read the online version once the magazine is published at the end of the semester. Additionally, Drew students can submit to the magazine’s cover contest, which closes on Feb. 22. Feel free to follow Insanity’s Horse on Instagram (@insanityshorse) or check out their website at www.insanityshorse.wordpress.com for more updates.