Writing is ‘like opening a portal to [a person’s] very essence’

Sophomore named round four finalist in New York Times Learning Network 2020 Student Narrative Contest


contributed by Diego Mercado

PV sophomore Diego Mercado (left) and his brother Nicolas Mercado (right). Mercado’s personal narrative, “War and Peas,” got him recognized as a round four finalist in the New York Times Learning Network 2020 Student Narrative Contest.

Francesca Sanelli, Staff Writer

When PV sophomore Diego Mercado submitted his personal narrative titled “War and Peas” to the New York Times Learning Network 2020 Student Narrative Contest at the end of last year, he never expected to be recognized for his hard work. However, he was later named a round four finalist. 

“I liked my short story and I had hopes that it would be chosen, but it was nothing more than hope – [I had] no real expectation for something as amazing as this,” Mercado said.

Mercado was inspired by a previous winner of the contest. With help from PV English teacher Matthew Morone, Mercado was able to develop his narrative. (contributed by Diego Mercado)

Mercado decided to take a trip down memory lane and write about his fourth-grade self. His story revolves around his experience with lying: how it affects people and more specifically how it impacted his life. 

After PV English teacher Matthew Morone set up an interview with a previous winner of this contest, students were able to learn about her writing process as well as ask her questions and engage in conversation. This inspired Mercado to begin thinking about writing topics and reflecting upon his past. 

“She also wrote about lying, and how she always lied to her friends, telling them that she was next in line to be queen, or she was related to Britney Spears or something,” Mercado said. “That made me think about my own experience with lying, and I remembered my 4th grade self throwing out peas and lying about it, and I thought, ‘how funny is that story?’”

The piece was challenging to write, according to Mercado. However, with the guidance of Morone, he was able to better organize his thoughts and create a story worth being proud of. 

“I tend to see my role as a teacher of writing to be one where I work with what you’re bringing to the table and I try to help you see it from my perspective [or] other perspectives to ensure that your story comes out as effectively as possible,” Morone said.  

Morone said that he sees Mercado as a creative writer who “looks at everyday situations from very unique or original perspectives.” Along with this, Diego’s brother, Nicolas Mercado, described his brother’s favorite qualities. 

“I would describe Diego as a reserved and receptive person,” Nicolas said. “He is trustworthy, and quite honestly hilarious, as we share many laughs together. I constantly go to him for advice because I know that I can tell him anything. I couldn’t ask for a better older brother.”

Mercado said that he does not see himself pursuing writing as his main career, but he would like professional writing to be a part of his life in the future. 

I am passionate about writing. I think when someone writes, it’s almost like opening a portal to their very essence – who they are.”

— PV sophomore Diego Mercado

“I’ve always favored the subject [of] English because I enjoy reading and writing. I don’t really write in my free time, but sometimes I get random ideas for books and such,” Mercado said. 

Mercado has a gift when it comes to writing, according to Nicolas. 

“To be completely honest, I always knew that he was good at it [from reading some of his other stories and poems], but I never saw Diego as a writer,” Nicolas said. “Although this is true, I consistently find that my brother has a knack for description and alliteration. I really enjoy reading his writing, because it is always packed with beautiful examples of literary devices.”

While Mercado doesn’t write in his free time frequently, he expresses great passion for it.

“I am passionate about writing,” Mercado said. “I think when someone writes, it’s almost like opening a portal to their very essence, who they are.”