The pen is mightier than the sword

Caroline Millin

No harm came to those who attended Montage’s Literary Death Match this past Thursday night in the Carl Hansen Student Center, unless they died laughing. Four talented students read their original works of fiction in seven or fewer minutes, going head-to-head in a competition that was more comedy than tragedy.

Adrian Todd Zuniga, creator of the Literary Death Match, hosted the event. Literary Death Matches happen all over the country, usually featuring adults who are fairly accomplished in their fields.

Three experts judged the event. Julia Pistell, director of writing programs at the Mark Twain House and Museum, brought literary expertise and funny commentary. Bethany Van Delft, a comedian from Comedy Central and a former model, commented on the performance of the contestants. Al Park, a stand-up comedian and winner of the 2014 Boston and Cleveland Comedy Festivals, judged the contestants on the “intangible” aspects of their performances, or the aspects he deemed noteworthy that had not already been discussed.

In the first round, freshman Emma Griffiths and senior Alan Johnson went head-to-head, each reading pieces of their original work. Griffiths kicked off the competition by reading an excerpt from her novel “After I Wake,” which included a powerful description of mental illness. Her opponent, Johnson, read three small pieces that were witty, thought-provoking and enthusiastically delivered. While the judges said they had an incredibly tough time choosing between the two, ultimately they sent Johnson to the finals.

In the second round, senior Clare Michalak read her poem titled, “To My Future Daughter,” which beautifully described the types of people her future daughter might encounter throughout her life. Her opponent was senior Amanda Damone, who read satirical articles she had written for The Barnacle, showing her ability to intelligently comment on the issues of the day through pointed humor. Again, the judges said the choice was extremely difficult for them, but they decided on Michalak as the winner of the pair.

The final round had nothing to do with judges and everything to do with literary whimsy. After selecting two volunteers from the crowd, Johnson and Michalak had to try and spell the names of several famous authors. They went letter by letter through ridiculously long and foreign names, battling to the finish until Michalak ultimately proved herself to be the Literary Death Match champion of 2015.

Junior English major Taylor Chelo, the volunteer that helped Michalak spell her way to victory, said this was the second time she had been to the annual event.

“What I love most about it is how I can come to appreciate my English major, the talents of my fellow majors and the comedic entertainment of the show Montage puts on,” Chelo said. “Events like the Literary Death Match show students how brilliant the English department is and how those who love their major will take their talents beyond the classroom walls.”

Zuniga praised Quinnipiac in his closing remarks, saying that our students can really hold their own with the work they are producing.

“I am proud to be an English major,” Chelo said. “It’s talented people like those at the event who encourage me to keep pursuing what I love.”