High School Scholarship Recipient 2017


Emily Dean is a first-year student at Greenfield Community College studying liberal arts. Emily loves reading, writing, and taking pictures with her friends. She is very grateful to have been a recipient of the 2017 Straw Dog Scholarship.


When did you first begin to care about writing?

My father was an English major, and even to this day he enjoys spending time writing stories and reading so many books that take up so much extra space around our home. His love for reading and writing was also handed down to my sister, who is also an English major at Smith College. I inherited my love for writing from my family, and although the type of writing that I enjoy doing may be different from that of my father and sister, I truly believe that written word is the best form of communication.


How do you envision writing being part of your future, professionally and/or personally?

Almost every job requires some form of writing, especially at this point in time when the internet provides us with a vast array of knowledge on any topic that can be thought of. I personally prefer to get my news through reading articles as opposed to television or radio (although any form of media is helpful). I feel that it is extremely important to stay up to date on local, national, and international news, so the media plays a major role in keeping us informed. As someone who enjoys reading and writing, the use of written word will play a major role in both my professional and personal future.


What activities did you devote yourself to in high school?

During the first semester of my senior year, my closest friends and I created our schools “Button Club,” where we would meet once a week after school in the library to make buttons and pins for events at our school (football games, school clubs, etc.) and for our own personal use. It was a great creative outlet for the students who joined, and by the end of the year our club had grown so much in size and popularity. My only wish was that we would have created the club sooner so we could have had more time other than senior year, but Button Club will continue this coming year, thanks to some great underclassman who wanted to keep the club going.

I was also very dedicated to working after school at Richardsons Candy Kitchen. The store has a great sense of community and I feel very fortunate that I was able to work with such great people for my first job.


What are your plans for college? What do you plan to focus on there (as a major and/or extracurricularly)?

I will be attending Greenfield Community College as a liberal arts major this fall, and I am planning on transferring to UMass Amherst.



What was the subject of your college essay? Would you be willing to share it with us, so that we might quote an excerpt?

My college essay focused on my discovery of how to break through the structural boundaries that society has set up for girls, both in lifestyle choices and the professional sense. I am a firm believer in the fact that young women should be encouraged to explore any possible career paths and decisions that they like, not just be limited to traditional female gender roles. This is an extremely important time for young women to be able to express themselves and make choices based on how they feel rather than how society thinks they should act.


Tell me about a teacher who motivated/inspired you – why and how?

I am very thankful to have had so many wonderful teachers during my time at Frontier Regional School, but there are several in particular who really influenced me. The first would be my English teacher Mrs. Varnon, who I had as a teacher during my freshman year and senior year. Her kindness and love for writing helped orient me towards a possible career path in writing. I will always remember how clear and helpful her written feedback was, and how it made me into a stronger writer. Another English teacher who motivated me towards a career in writing was Mr. Costello, who always gave honest feedback to make sure that my writing was perfect.


Tell me about the place reading has in your life – it’s so often central to a writer’s existence too. What’s the best thing you’ve read recently? What childhood book did you love and have you returned to? What’s your favorite book (more than one is OK!)?

I always wish that I was able to fit in more time for reading, because whenever I can find a really great book I feel at home. I am currently reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I had originally chosen this book because I saw a friend reading it and I thought that the cover of the book was lovely, so it looked interesting to me. I am so glad that I finally started reading it because it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I have also been reading Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood, a collection of short stories, which I love. My favorite writer is Truman Capote and my all-time favorite book is the classic true crime novel, In Cold Blood. I’m not usually drawn towards true crime novels, but something about the way Capote writes is different than anything else I have ever read. Some of my favorite childhood books were from The Mother Daughter Book Club series, which I enjoyed so much that I had to send an email to the author to tell her how much I enjoyed her books. I was also very fond of American Girl books, because I thought that there were not nearly enough books that told the story through the eyes of a young girl like me.


What is your writing process like? When do you do your best writing? Do you have a particular place or way of writing (e.g. in a journal vs. laptop, at a desk or sprawled on your bed)?

I have found that once I start writing I am almost unable to stop, which can be very helpful when I’m writing essays or assignments for class. I also often have a lot to say on any given topic, so something I struggle with as a writer is limiting myself to a certain number of words or pages.  I do my best writing when I am all alone in silence, because I like to really concentrate on what I am trying to say. I prefer writing on my laptop at a desk we have in our family room.


I know you are planning to become a political journalist. Can you tell me something about why that path is calling you? Are there any particular political journalists whom you take as your models, or whom you read regularly?

My interest in politics combined with my love for writing perfectly sets me up for a career in political journalism. I prefer writing on certain topics and writing opinion pieces rather than writing stories, and I have always thought that being a journalist would be exciting. The most recent presidential election was the first one that I was old enough to really feel invested in, and I noticed what a large role the media played in it all. I enjoy discussing politics with people, even those who disagree with me, because it’s helpful to see both sides of an argument. I also enjoy reading about politics, and my go-to news source is usually The New York Times, but I also enjoy reading articles from other sources as well to get different perspectives.