If Vanessa Lorusso wrote short stories just to win acclaim, she wouldn’t write at all. So the Gold Key and Honorable Mention awards she won for two short stories were an unexpected surprise.
“Honestly, I’m not hugely into awards,” Lorusso said humbly about the recognition she received from the Mass. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards program, which is sponsored by the Boston Globe and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. “I’m glad I won an award so maybe more people will be interested in reading my stories because I think they can be beneficial to them and inspire them,” she said.
Lorusso’s “Wilson and His Snowman,” won a Regional Gold Key and is on public display at Cohen Auditorium at Tufts until March 25; “Home Away in the Stars” won a Regional Honorable Mention.
Writing has been a passion for Lorusso since her youth, but her talent really blossomed in high school, most recently in her junior and senior year English honors classes with teachers Kathy Habel and Marie Fraher respectively. To polish her skills, Lorusso has also worked with Habel since sophomore year in the Creative Writing Club.
“She (Ms. Habel) would give us prompts to help us think about things to write about,” Lorusso said. “Sometimes you have so many ideas, that a prompt helps you to focus on one idea. It really gives you inspiration.”
The club provides students with the opportunity to read their writings aloud, and to give and receive feedback to each other, which Lorusso said, “is good to help you get better.”
Habel has enjoyed working with Lorusso. “She’s such a wonderful, creative, imaginative writer,” she said. “She puts so much thought into her work and cares about every word she puts on paper.” Fraher agreed. “She is extremely conscientious and thorough, very creative both in writing and in art, and she does an enormous amount of work independently.”
Lorusso is always looking for new ideas. “My ideas come from so many things,” she said. “Living gives me ideas.”
But whatever her ideas, Lorusso likes to use her work as a vehicle for expressing spirituality.
“Everything is a work of art and art is in everything, which is God,” she said. “A lot of my work is inspired by God.”
Spiritual symbolism is especially evident in, “Home Away in the Stars,” which was inspired by the painting, “Nocturne in Black and Gold - the Falling Rocket,” 1874, by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
“When I looked at it, I kind of saw the whole story that I wrote,” Lorusso said.
In the painting, the sea meets a star-filled sky, which Lorusso interpreted as the present life meeting the next life. “What I really liked about it was the way it connected a lot of things for me symbolically and personally. I wanted to show the oneness in everything, because I know In the end, we are all one, that we become part of one with everything and everything with God. I wanted to share that. And I really just wanted this writing to encourage people to go after their destiny and what God calls them to be, to be one with everyone else, to be part of God’s whole family and part of him.“
In “Wilson and His Snowman,” Lorusso expressed a similar theme, using the life of a snowman as a metaphor for life itself. “I wanted him (the snowman) to come back to show that nothing really goes away, that he’s still here,” Lorusso said. “I feel that in life, nothing ever truly goes away. The boy (Wilson) treasures that the snowman is still there in the snowflake. All the snowmen in life come back: God is always bringing things back again. It’s that way in nature and with the snowflake.”
In that story, Lorusso chose to mix fantasy with real-life people and events.
“I really like history, it’s just cool,” Lorusso said. “History is just a collection of true things that happened. That’s what history is supposed to be, different truths about the world. Fantasy stories can be the same thing. People think history and fantasy are opposites, but I don’t exactly think they are always opposites. I try to merge them.”
To write, “Snowman,” Lorusso dug into the past, learning and including in the story - from the mouth of the snowman - that the first known drawing of a snowman can be traced to a book published in 1380 A.D.; that Asian snowmen are made with two snowballs not three like those in North America; and that the tallest snow woman ever built was in Bethel, Maine. Wilson, the young boy, is based on a real person, Wilson Bentley (1865 – 1931).
“The boy is a real guy who took pictures of snowflakes,” Lorusso said. “It’s a cool thing to put in there. So it’s sort of a fantasy story about what this guy did. It’s tied to history and it’s tied to a fantasy message.”
Lorusso’s writings, which include poems, have appeared in The Bottom Line,
the school’s literary magazine. She has even had several stories published in OnTray, a Braintree-based entertainment and dining magazine.
But Lorusso’s talents aren’t limited to the written word: her paintings have also appeared in The Bottom Line and on the school’s jumbotron screens outside the main office and in the cafeteria.
“Vanessa is an extremely talented art student,” said James Coughlin, her art teacher for three years. “Her work is always meticulously done and superbly completed. Vanessa is always willing to challenge herself to go beyond what is expected of her in any assignment. She is not a student who asks, ‘Is this good enough?’ I truly believe that, as she is doing any assignment, she is asking herself, ‘Is this the best I can do?’”
With graduation only weeks away, and a decision pending about which art college to attend, Lorusso is already looking to the future - in writing, and in the arts.
“I want to make my own stories with animation,” she said. “I really want to try all different kinds of animation, including claymation. Maybe I can create my own type of animation and connect it to the old. The new is just the old seen in a different way,” she said.
If Lorusso’s creative expression in the future is anything like the present, she’ll be pleased, especially with, “the good message that people get out of it, and the good message that I want to tell people.”