Just shy of her 19th birthday, Jessica Lin ‘12 received word that her dream of becoming a published writer by the age of 18 had come true. 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.
It 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.” Started in 1999, “Futures” has today become an award-winning series. Publication in Nature Journal can lead to attention from the mainstream media.
“I still feel like I’m dreaming,” she said of the story acceptance, the best birthday present any young writer could ask for. “I can officially say I got published at the age of 18!” enthused Lin, who is double majoring in comparative literature and psychology at 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.
Despite having endured her share of literary rejections before landing a contract with Nature Journal, Lin has already sold another story called “Dark, Beautiful Force” (about love, disillusionment and doughnut holes) for publication at Daily Science Fiction.
Ever since her days at Harker, Lin’s writing career has been on a fast track to success. Back in 2011 and 2012, she was recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers when she won two annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (both national silver medals) in the novel writing category. She accepted the second award 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.”
“I’ve no doubt this is not the first the literary world will hear from Jessica!” said Lauri Vaughan, Harker’s upper school campus librarian, who served as Lin’s adviser before she graduated last year. Vaughan praised Lin for her magazine publication as well as for her remarkable previous accomplishments, winning the Scholastic silver medal two years in a row.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have an impressive legacy dating back to 1923, with past winners including such notables as Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates. And, of course, Harker’s very own alumna, Jessica Lin!