And the 15-year-old sophomore in the SCAPA program at Lafayette High hasn’t stopped since.
Her skills have not gone unnoticed. Serena’s poem, “Home; Homesick,” won first place and a cash prize in the 9th-10th grade category at the 2013 Kentucky State Poetry Society Student Contest.
Last year she entered a humorous piece in a competition that earned her two tickets to “An Evening with David Sedaris” and a backstage pass.
“He was really nice,” Serena said. “He gave me a bottle of shampoo that he said he stole from his hotel.”
An odd prize, but probably not a surprising one from a humor writer.
Serena was chosen to represent SCAPA-Lafayette at the Young Women Writers Project this year at the Carnegie Center where she worked with poet-activist Bianca Spriggs.
“She taught us about magical realism,” Serena said.
Magical realism? “It’s like Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis.’”
Kafka references? Did we mention that Serena is also a gifted student?
A 4.0 student, she is taking A.P. social studies, and advanced classes in chemistry, biology, creative writing, pre-calculus, English and Spanish.
Serena even took the A.P. English test as a freshman despite not taking the class. She passed the exam.
“She is hyper-conscientious about work,” her mother Schatzie said. “She’s really focused and detail oriented.”
Along with writing, Serena enjoys science. Her father, Jitander, is an ophthalmologist who studied at Cambridge in London. He also wrote as a child, and his teacher, Brian Thompson, was a children’s book author who used Jitander’s work. The young boy earned 800 pounds for his writing.
Serena hopes to be a professional writer herself. When asked about her favorite genre, Serena gives you a long list – poetry, fiction, short stories, creative non-fiction.
She credits SCAPA’s writing program for the opportunity to create daily.
“I’m grateful that I get 90 minutes every morning to push everything aside and focus on my work,” she said.
What is next for Serena? She’s planning to attend a writer’s workshop at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. this summer and enter her work in even more contests.
“If I’m lucky, I’ll become a published author,” she said.
Don’t bet against it.