Perse pupil has the write stuff to win national fiction prize

Neelkantha Mukherjee (Year 10) showcased his story-writing skills by winning a national schools media competition.

He clinched the Fiction Writer of the Year honour in the Shine School Media Awards for his work Alphonse’s Story – a tense tale set in the Louisiana swamplands in which the eponymous character recalls a time in his youth when a series of cotton plantation workers were suddenly transformed into tiny Voodoo dolls.

The judging panel included Dr Glenda Cooper, Senior Journalism Lecturer at the University of London, Elle magazine Editor-in-Chief Kenya Hunt and Liz Hunt, Daily Mail Assistant Editor (Features & Comment).

They commented that Neelkantha’s story was “an excellent piece of imaginative writing, evocative, gripping and the writer achieves a slow, tantalising build-up of horror. We really wanted to know what happened – and the climax surprised us all’.”

Neelkantha’s submission featured in the Michaelmas 2021 edition of Synthetic Violet, the Perse student-led cultural and literary publication, which itself was shortlisted in the Shine Awards Best Magazine category.

He said: “I was absolutely astounded to win. I didn’t expect it because there were so many good writers, so I felt very honoured to receive the prize. It means a great deal to me.”

Neelkantha was motivated to write Alphonse’s Story after his parents told him about the “secrets and mystery” of Louisiana following a visit to the US state.

He said: “It inspired me to explore the concept of Voodoo, which is often portrayed as being about dolls. In my story, people get an inexplicable fever and become what Alphonse calls ‘strange mis-shapens’ as they are turned into Voodoo dolls themselves.”

Neelkantha also enjoys writing factual prose – he has his own maths and science blog – but said he loved creating fiction as a “way of getting my innermost thoughts out”.

He praised Synthetic Violet for providing a forum for Perse students to have their stories, poems, essays, reviews and artworks published.

“Often, people don’t get to appreciate literature or look at wonderful art, so Synthetic Violet is very important,” said Neelkantha.

“It’s a brilliant idea, for which I have to highly commend the editor Carole Tucker (Year 11), along with Mr Green (Perse Director of English & Drama).”

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