When choosing a piece to receive the Staff Choice Award for literature, our staff had several excellent options to consider. The Staff Choice Award is an especially important award for the Scribendi staff because it reflects us as a staff and our vision for the magazine. From the first read-through of all our submissions, “The Drought” stood out for a number of reasons. Written by Jenna Forster, a student at American University, “The Drought,” for our staff, embodied the best of both thematic relevance and technical skill. The rich imagery and compelling storytelling in “The Drought” made its commentary on water conservation and environmentalism more poignant, and for these reasons, our staff was very excited to offer the piece our Staff Choice Award.

“The Drought” is Jenna’s first published piece, and she was very excited when told she was going to be published. She has casually dabbled in writing for a while, but began taking her work more seriously when she entered college. She explained, “I accidentally signed up for a creative writing class my freshman year. No, really—I wouldn’t have signed up if I knew it was a creative writing class. It can be really scary to let other people critique your work. But the whole process is also incredibly rewarding, and a little addictive. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Jenna began writing “The Drought” inspired by mood and tone more than plot. “When I first started writing, I didn’t have any idea what I actually wanted to happen in the story. I was writing to capture a feeling more than anything else, especially in the first several paragraphs. Reworking the piece to maintain the essence of that feeling while also incorporating plot and action was probably my biggest struggle,” she said to the Scribendi staff.

Jenna drew that inspiration from her own experiences with drought in California. She said, “I grew up on the central coast of California. I was in middle school when the drought began, and while I was in high school it developed into one of the most severe water shortages on record. All of the little anxieties and realities associated with the drought—shorter showers, brown lawns, constant reports of wildfires—became the norm for me. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I left California for college. Seeing the drought from a more distant perspective made me reflect on the ways it shaped my experiences growing up, and this story was born out of that self-reflection.” Jenna’s personal connection with the setting of “The Drought” is clear in the emotive language and imagery throughout the story, and the Scribendi staff was wowed by her use of setting in “The Drought” to convey important themes.

Jenna leaves us with some insight into her creative process, saying, “Every time I’m working on a new project, I make myself a playlist that’s supposed to reflect the mood of whatever I’m working on, and I listen to it while I’m writing and editing. My playlist for “The Drought” has a lot of George Ezra, Bon Iver, and Angus & Julia Stone.” Scribendi is proud to publish “The Drought,” and we can’t wait to see what Jenna writes next!