Interlochen Arts Academy announces winner of 2020 Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition

Ella Harrigan of Charlottesville, Virginia, was chosen from among more than 170 applicants from six countries as the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to attend Interlochen Arts Academy as a creative writing major for the 2020-2021 school year.

Ella Harrigan, a high school junior currently attending Charlottesville High School in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been named the winner of the 2020 Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition. Harrigan was chosen from among more than 170 applicants from 31 states and 6 countries to receive the prestigious award, which encompasses a full-tuition scholarship to attend Interlochen Arts Academy during the 2020-2021 school year as part of the Academy's celebrated creative writing program.

"I am so excited to be surrounded by people who care about their art like I do, and to take advantage of the amazing resources at Interlochen," said Harrigan. "It will be wonderful to be part of an artistic community and to have formal instruction and time to invest in writing. I love that Interlochen is a place where art receives so much love and attention."

Students in grades 8-11 from across the United States and from as far away as India and the Philippines competed for the award. Applicants submitted writing samples in at least two of the following genres: fiction, poetry, personal essay or memoir, screenwriting, playwriting, and hybrid genre. Harrigan was selected based on the overall strength of her portfolio.

"When we came across the poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in Ella's competition entry, we were immediately struck by the skill with which her work negotiates the balancing act of rawness versus craft, and openness to risk versus depth of thought," said Joe Sacksteder, Interlochen's director of creative writing. "Ella's facility in multiple genres and her rigorous interrogation of the gray area between fiction and nonfiction showcased a young writer years ahead of the curve. In conversation, Ella's excitement over the prospect of joining our community and her familiarity with high-level texts commonly taught in our classrooms assured us that she would be prepared to get the most out of her Interlochen experience. We're thrilled to introduce Ella to her new peers, and vice versa, and to work with her every day in the Writing House."

Thanks to generous grants from the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation, the Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition Scholarship has made it possible for young writers of great promise to study creative writing at Interlochen since 2001. In turn, Interlochen's creative writing program has helped hundreds of young writers find their unique voice and expand their understanding of the craft of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting.

Interlochen's one-of-a-kind creative writing program provides expert instruction to high school writers from around the world in an ideal setting. Students benefit from small class sizes and a faculty of experienced and dedicated teachers who are also professional writers. Faculty provide individualized mentorship to students in building portfolios, submitting to contests, applying to college, and honing performance skills for public reading opportunities throughout the year.

Previous recipients of the Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition Scholarship have gone on to earn degrees from Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Michigan. They have won or been shortlisted for numerous awards including the Norman Mailer Award for Fiction, the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize, Juxtaprose's Short Fiction Contest, Wigleaf's Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. They have published books and have been featured in a variety of publications including Driftwood Press, Black Warrior Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, Broadly, Entropy, and more. Twenty creative writing students at Interlochen have been named Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the most prestigious awards for high school graduates.

To learn more about the creative writing program at Interlochen Arts Academy, visit

About Interlochen Arts Academy
Interlochen Arts Academy is the nation's premier fine arts boarding high school, where emerging artists from around the world transform passion and potential into purpose. Guided by distinguished artists, students pursue pre-professional training in music, dance, theatre, visual arts, creative writing, and film alongside a robust academic curriculum, preparing them to excel in the arts and beyond. Nestled in scenic northwest Michigan, the Academy has been a leader in arts education since 1962 and has produced 46 Presidential Scholars in the Arts, more than any other high school in the country. To learn more, visit Follow Interlochen on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at @interlochenarts.

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