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Writers share their musings from competition

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WAKE FOREST — Teen writers and their families gathered at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest on June 22 for a live reading of their winning submissions from the 2019 May of Magnificent Musings Writing Competition.

The competition — designed to promote teen literary achievements — is the brainchild of Rajeev Dutta, a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Suzanne Lucey, the owner of Page 158 Books.

Dutta originally conceived The Magnificent Musings as “a website that allows anyone to write and share their ideas in the form of poetry, a reflective essay, memoir, whatever they want.”

“It ended up evolving into this event where I wanted to get high schoolers specifically involved in the site because I realized that as a high school student I wasn’t really encouraged to write about things I wanted to write about,” Dutta said. “I had to write essays about Gatsby — which was fun — but I realized too late that I wanted to write about philosophy and I wanted to write poems. I didn’t really have a motivation to do them.”

After graduating, Dutta took it upon himself to correct this issue, setting up a website ( where anyone could share their own works, and critique those of others.

“The bottom line of everything that I think we’re trying to accomplish here, and I think that Page 158 Books is as well, is we want people to love writing and we want people to love reading because they’re two fantastic skills and modes of expression.”

Lucey came into the picture when Dutta walked into her store looking to partner with her for an event.

“(Raj) came in one day and asked us about it and he asked us for ideas — and I’m like ‘why don’t we do a contest?’” said Lucey. “I want the next great writer to come from here, so when he came to us with the idea I was like ‘yes, let’s do it!’”

Dutta informed local highs schools about his contest, and garnered 23 submissions from around the Raleigh-Durham area. From this he narrowed the contest down to three finalists: Riley West, Naveen Ahmad and Halden Levin.

Second runner-up Riley West, a rising sophomore attending Apex Friendship High School, submitted her poem “Strings,” a work dealing with the issue of one’s self-image.

“I wrote about my struggle with body positivity and actually loving my body, and just overcoming the fear of loving it,” West said.

First runner-up Naveen Ahmad, a recent graduate of Wake Forest High School, decided to send in her poem “Colorful Princess” after the contest was announced at her high school’s library.

“I wrote a poem about my culture. I was always insecure about some parts of my ethnicity so I just kind of embraced it while I wrote it,” Naveen said.

Coming in first place was Halden Levin, a rising senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, who submitted her piece “The Sculptor and the Sculpture.”

“It’s about a sculptor who creates a sculpture, and in creating this sculpture he really put his whole body into creating it ­— to the point where it becomes himself. It’s almost playing off the idea of divinity and God and creating a being with yourself and your soul,” Levin said. “There’s supposed to be an ambiguity to this poem so that the person reading it can interpret it their own way through their own experiences.”

Readers will be able to find Levin’s poem in an upcoming issue of CIRCA Magazine, and can read every submission at