Burlington High School senior Katherine Frevert has written more short stories than prose, but it was her experimentation with poetry that garnered national recognition.
Frevert's free-verse poem, "Nikolai," earned her both an American Voices award and a Gold Medal through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Gold Medals are awarded to "the most outstanding works in the nation." As a Gold Medial recipient, Frevert and her family — she is the daughter of Steve and Rhonda Frevert — will attend the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Ceremony at in June at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The poem was one of nearly 350,000 works of art and writing submitted to the Scholastic Awards.
"Katherine Frevert is a dedicated and talented writer," said Craig Fleece, a Talented and Gifted teacher at BHS who helped Frevert select works to enter into the contest. "In her years at BHS, she has participated in Scholastic Art and Writing and Young Writer's Conference each year. I am proud of her hard work and dedication to Scholastic Writing, and she is deserving of this prestigious award."
In addition to "Nikolai," Frevert, 17, submitted four short stories and a writing portfolio containing eight short stories for the competition. Three of her short stories — "A Paper God," "The Anarchist Whose Bombs Would Not Go Off," and "The Love Letter of the Radical" — received Gold Key awards, as did her portfolio. Another of Frevert's short stories, "Two Thousand Volts," was awarded a Silver Key.
Silver Keys are designated to works that stand out and demonstrate exceptional ability, and Gold Keys are awarded to the best works submitted to local programs, and recipients automatically are considered for national level recognition.
When Frevert and five other Burlington students, including one from Aldo Leopold Middle School, attended the Scholastic Awards ceremony at the University of Iowa's Belin-Bank Center in March, she knew of the gold and silver keys she would receive, but it wasn't until Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander read Frevert's poem aloud that she knew her work earned her a Gold Medal.
"I didn't even know that was happening. It was really surprising," Frevert said. "Poetry isn't my main thing, so I was surprised that I ended up doing well in poetry."
Frevert began writing novels in elementary school and soon branched out to write short stories. With those stories, Frevert creates hypothetical, futuristic scenarios built on political themes.
It wasn't until recently, however, that she decided to write poetry.
"I was just kind of experimenting, I guess," Frevert said.
The result was a seven-stanza poem that illustrates mental illness through a timeless lens by drawing on 19th century Russian author Nikolai Gogol's writings of schizophrenia, as well as his own struggles with mental health and self-harm.
"Kind of the base of it mainly was about a 19th century Russian author, which may be kind of weird, but also related to more personal issues and things that have been going on in my family and parallels between that author's mental health struggles and his death and emotional things, so sort of connecting the past and the present," Frevert said.
Frevert is not yet sure of where she wants to attend college next year, but she plans to major in creative writing.