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People of PT: Shruthi Shivkumar

Angela R., Print Editor-in-Chief

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When the email arrived in her inbox, Shruthi Shivkumar was rather surprised, to say the least.

“I was like, oh my God did I actually win something?” said Shivkumar, a junior.  “It was like 10:00 at night, I was about to go to bed, but I woke up and started screaming.”

For those who know Shivkumar as the girl who earned a perfect score on not only her SAT, but also her ACT, it may be shocking to hear that she can still be amazed at her own success.  However, she entered the Johns Hopkins Creative Minds Essay Contest on a whim – hardly expecting to place, let alone tie for second in the international competition.

In her winning narrative, Shivkumar chronicles a biological concept known as “epigenetics;” simply put, although the structure of an individual’s DNA cannot change, the environment in which she lives and certain habits she follows may influence the way her genes are expressed.

“[My essay] was kind of a weird, psychological rant about what this could mean,” Shivkumar explained.  “I talked about high school life and if its stress could affect future generations.”

Although she only began to publish her stories when she entered high school, Shivkumar’s writing career dates back to second grade.

“Our teacher made us write little books on cardboard pieces of paper, and she bound them for us.  I thought it was so cool,” said Shivkumar.  “I wrote this story about three penguins who got separated.  Their names were Chris, Christie, and Christina.  It was really cheesy, but after that, I started writing more, and I started making my own books.”

Since elementary school, Shivkumar’s portfolio has expanded well beyond harrowing tales of avian adventure.  Last year, she won a gold medal with her piece for the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.

“It was a very short flash fiction from the perspective of a bridge about suicide jumpers,” she said.  “It was a really emotional piece.  I’ve been trying to refine it, but it’s almost like I can’t touch it for some reason.”

Nonetheless, awards and all, even Shivkumar is not immune to the author’s worst enemy: writer’s block.

“I’ll have these bursts of imagination, but there’s a lot of times where there’s nothing left, and no matter how hard I try to force myself to keep writing, I just don’t get anything,” she explained.  “So I’ll use random [word] generators because sometimes it just takes a few key words.  This one time, I wrote an entire poem based on the words, ‘under the moonlight.’”

Although Shivkumar plans to study either neuroscience or bio-medical engineering in college, she hopes to pursue a minor or double major in creative writing.

“I just like it too much to leave it behind,” she said, a huge smile lighting across her face.


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People of PT: Shruthi Shivkumar