Author of Tomorrow Poem Schway
The Debt by Poem Schway (age 14) is shortlisted for the 2020 12-15 category.
The Debt is a short story about two siblings who are struggling to find their place in an endless desert. The protagonist is a younger brother who has always benefited from having his elder sister protect him. When she is taken by a group of bandits, he must consider the lengths he is willing to go to get her back. This story draws heavily on themes of solitude, family, and belief.
An Interview with Poem:
What is your favourite book?
While it isn't a traditional book, I have to say that the web serial Worm by John C. McCrae holds a special place in my heart. I started reading it around the time that I was ten, and it provided much of the framework for my current writing. Because of its sequential format, its strengths lie in having each chapter be even more intriguing and action-packed than the last to keep readers coming for more. I definitely credit it with teaching me a lot of things about writing.
Who is your favourite author? Or one who has inspired you and why?
Can I choose two authors? Because if I can, I have to go with Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. This is kind of cheating, because while they've both written and published books they're most well known for creating the near-universally praised animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender. A:TLA is not only a marvel of gorgeous world-building but it also boasts witty, iconic dialogue and contains arguably the best executed redemption arc of all time. Because of this, it serves as an amazing guide on how to tell a story, and has absolutely helped me get where I am today.
What is/was your favourite subject at school?
English? Nah, that's too obvious – I probably like physics the most. While writing will always be my one true love, sometimes its utter subjectivity gets tiring. Hard science provides a haven of sorts where I can sit back, relax, and bask in the knowledge that my answers are concretely either right or wrong.
What does ‘adventure writing’ mean to you? Why did you choose to try your hand at an adventure story?
When I think of adventure writing, I think of a story that takes you beyond the scope of your day-to-day life and throws you into wild and vastly different scenarios. I've always had a fondness for writing things with a touch of the strange and unsettling, because it feels properly epic in scale. For this particular piece, I wanted to convey the inherent wonder of the desert, because I feel like that biome doesn't get nearly enough attention from writers.
If you could ask an author anything, what would you want to know?
Hmm. I'd probably ask how they prevent themselves from comparing their work to others' to the extent where it gets unproductive. I'm a bit insecure when it comes to my writing – probably because I surround myself with very talented young writers – and while I know logically that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, sometimes it feels like I'll never be as good as I want to be.
Who would you consider one of your heroes and why?
Alan Turing. He was an absolute genius, in every sense of the word, and provided much of the foundation that runs our computers and artificial intelligences today. Even by just taking a brief look around my house I can see a multitude of devices that would not exist if not for his contribution to humanity. I don't say this about many people, but Mr. Turing was unequivocally a hero.
What is the most adventurous thing you would like to do, or place you would like to visit and why?
I think I can answer both these questions at once. It's always been a pipe dream of mine to visit outer space and peer through the cold little windows down onto Earth. I think it would provide me with a certain calm to see that, ultimately, we're all scrabbling little creatures in a mudball of a planet suspended in a vast and supremely uncaring universe. Also? Space is just cool.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Music. Whether it's Billboard 100 pop or indie rock or the OST to a beloved children's show, music has the unique ability to capture a particular vibe and elicit complex feelings in a matter of minutes. Usually when I'm a bit gutted for ideas I'll put on a playlist and go for a run on the treadmill, and when I'm done I almost always feel like putting something down on paper.
If you could time travel, where would you go and why?
There are so many remarkable and fascinating civilizations that I'd have a hard time choosing one, so instead I think I'd go back to the prehistoric eras. There's something so appealing about the idea of traveling an utterly wild, untamed Earth. Realistically, would I get eaten by a dinosaur before I got twenty feet from my time machine? Absolutely. But let me dream.
What three words would you use to describe your story?
Self-contained. Fantastical. Heretical.