Emory Brinson is pressing forward through her senior year of high school despite a global pandemic.
Brinson, a South Mecklenburg High School student and The Charlotte Post Foundation’s co-Top Senior of the Year with Olympic High School’s Raven Funderburk, is preparing for Advanced Placement exams and working on a novel.
“I’m using this time to work through my first draft [of a novel],” said Brinson, who began writing in November during National Novel Writing Month. She challenged herself to complete a 30,000-word manuscript.The Post has highlighted the achievements of African American students since 1975 and a formal gala to honor the Top Seniors as well as the foundation’s Educator of the Year and Luminary is scheduled for October.
“The challenge is basically to write 50,000 words in a month,” said Brinson, who intended to finish the novel by May 1. “Since I was under 18 [years old], I could set my own goal.”
However it turns out, Brinson considers writing a learning experience.
“When you think about being a writer as a kid, obviously you think books, you think novels, but from when I was young, because I was pretty much first exposed to poetry that poetry was what I was focused on,” Brinson said. “As I got older, I got really excited with the concept of being able to write a novel, but I had a lot of trouble with it. I’d never been able to finish anything long. I’m not great at plots. This was really a challenge and putting my mind to something and getting it done.”
Brinson fell in love with writing in elementary school while attending Trinity Episcopal School in Uptown.
“From the beginning they were kind of pushing poetry and writing,” she said. “In kindergarten I can remember an eighth-grade history teacher coming to read poetry to us. I was exposed to it from a pretty young age. In third grade, my teacher was in love with poetry. She introduced us to haikus. I actually wrote a terrible little book of haiku poetry. I still have it. That was the first time I was like, ‘oh, I love doing this,’ and I never stopped.”
In addition to working on her craft as a writer, Brinson is also weighing where she intends to study in the fall, as she was accepted into every college she applied, including the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Spelman College.
“I knew that I wanted to study creative writing in college, but I also knew that I wanted to complement that with something else,” Brinson said. “I’ve always been interested in social justice, and how we can make our political system more inclusive. I’m thinking about law school after college. Even in looking at what I’m writing about now I could see that there was a kind of trend of things that I’m passionate about with social justice. I thought studying political science would be a good way to complement that, not only in my writing, but in any future careers I want to go into.”
“The scholarship I won from Scholastic is giving me a little more freedom to kind of decide,” Brinson said. “I know when I go to school I want to double-major in creative writing and political science. I’m looking at schools that are going to allow me to study creative writing in the capacity that I want to so I can grow in terms of different genres—being able to write more fiction, being able to focus more on poetry and personal essays.”
Her nationally recognized writing portfolio, “A Study in a Lifetime of Elegies” utilizes poetry to express anguish over police brutality and the victims of not only that, but mass incarceration as well. It also deals with themes pertaining to first love, including anger, compassion, joy and sorrow.
Brinson discovered the Scholastic awards program as a sophomore and has been recognized at varying levels each year.
“I submitted last year and ended up winning some national awards, which was really amazing,” Brinson said. “I think from then I knew that I was going to try for the portfolio that you could only enter as a senior.”
Brinson will be celebrating her accomplishments regardless of the pandemic, but what would things look like if COVID-19 was not keeping everyone at home?
“I would be going to school,” she said. “Hanging out with my friends. We’d be doing fun stuff like bonfires and going to the mall and going out to dinner. I’d probably still be writing, but I’d be planning a showcase for my writing club at school. We had plans to do kind of an arts festival. I’d be finishing out my year strong. Even at this point, it’s hard to do work when you can kind of see the end but it would be a little bit easier if we were in school.”
I think I would just be getting ready to be done, and trying to round out my senior in the best way possible, which I’m still doing, but it’s a little more difficult now.”