This article was originally published in the summer 2013 Harker Quarterly.
Just shy of her 19th birthday, Jessica Lin ’12 received word that her short science fiction story titled “Mortar Flowers” was officially accepted for publication by Nature Journal, one of the world’s most cited interdisciplinary scientific periodicals.
This acceptance marked the first time Lin had ever sold a story, which was recently featured in the prestigious magazine’s special section for science fiction short stories called “Futures.”
“I still feel like I’m dreaming,” she said of the story acceptance, the best birthday present any young writer could ask for. Lin is double majoring in comparative literature and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Lin said she got the idea for the short story several years ago when she went on a “Wikipedia tangent” and discovered Sarajevo roses, which are deformations in the concrete caused by mortar shell explosions that are later filled with red resin as a memorial to the dead.
“As the concrete is being replaced in Sarajevo, these roses are disappearing. When I read that, I was immediately struck by the enigma of how they came to be, and I thought it was a terrible loss that they were being wiped out by construction. Three years later, I still hadn’t forgotten about them! It occurred to me that I could weave these two ideas together. Immediately, I had this vision of a flower boy in a fantastical war-torn city,” she said.
Ever since her days at Harker, Lin’s writing career has been on a fast track for success. Back in 2011 and 2012 she was recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers when she won two annual Scholastic Art & Writing awards (both national silver medals) in the novel writing category. The second one she accepted at Carnegie Hall in New York City last June.
Lin recalled that during the awards ceremony, “Whoopi Goldberg and Meryl Streep gave very inspiring presentations about the importance of art and its impact on society. I will always remember something Meryl Streep said, which was that the gift of writers is to express the things that we all feel, but are unable to put into words.”