“Write and write and write”: Maryn Hiscott

Estelle Timar-Wilcox

I know freshman Maryn Hiscott from Nine Muses literary magazine meetings, where she’s often one of the first to show up and quick to offer insight on poems or stories being edited. She sat across from me for our interview in her distinctive denim jacket, covered in pins featuring everything from Star Wars references to the words “nevertheless, she persisted.”

Maryn describes herself as a writer, and it’s definitely an accurate description.

As ten-year-olds in fifth grade, while the rest of us were probably spending our time looking forward to the next recess, Maryn Hiscott was writing and self-publishing a 45,000 word book.

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Her 162-page book, called “30 Days of Terror and Torture,” tells the story of four runaway orphans and their encounters with magic and monsters.

“I really enjoyed this book written by an 11 year old,” said one commenter on Amazon, who left one of many 5-star reviews of Maryn’s book. “Excellent labor of creativity by an extremely talented up-and-coming author,” said another.

“It’s not the best written book,” said Maryn when I asked her about it, pushing her short blond hair back and laughing. Even so, the experience set Maryn on track to keep writing.

“It was a project and I was determined to finish it, so I was able to push myself through it and I think I grew a lot,” Maryn said. “I think my writing improved drastically and I think in that process I decided, ‘this is really something I enjoy, something that I want to keep doing.’”

And Maryn has kept doing it. Since fourth grade, she’s been writing non-stop. Last year she earned a silver key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and this year her work earned a gold key. She’s also part of a writing group, where she meets with other writers to workshop her pieces and give others feedback. Before joining Mason’s literary magazine, Maryn worked on Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School’s Flaming Pen literary magazine.

A group of students pose with magazine copies.
Maryn Hiscott (far left) poses with last year’s copies of The Flaming Pen, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School’s literary magazine. Maryn worked as the club’s head editor last year and now works on the literary magazine at Mason. (Photo courtesy of Maryn Hiscott)

Each November, Maryn participates in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a program for writers in which the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. For a point of reference, that’s like writing 12 extended essays in 30 days, or a book about the length of The Great Gatsby. I’ve heard of the program and always thought the idea was too daunting to try, let alone actually finish. Maryn has finished the challenge for two years in a row.

“Last year I stuck to my schedule pretty religiously,” Maryn said. “I did the 1,667 words a day almost every single day and was able to finish early.”

Maryn finished early this year, as well, though her completed novel wasn’t 50,000 words long.

I ask Maryn if she writes anything besides novels. I probably should’ve asked if there’s anything she doesn’t write.

“I write mainly novels and poetry,” she said, “but I also do songs as well, and on and off I’ve been working on a musical, and I’ve started a couple of screenplays and I hope to finish a couple someday.”

Writing isn’t just Maryn’s hobby or a casual interest. She goes on enthusiastically about her passion for storytelling.

“I like exploring what the world could be like,” she said. “I also like humans, like seeing how we work, trying to figure it out, and looking at situations and thinking, ‘okay, how would someone really react to that, how would they feel, what would they do?’”

I listen as Maryn tells me about all the projects she’s working on. Right now, she says, she’s trying to pick one to focus on; she has several stories in the works, and as she gets better at guitar, she wants to work more on songwriting.

Even Maryn’s bedroom reflects her wholehearted dedication to writing – she has a piece of cardboard covered in sticky notes meant for keeping track of ideas and planning stories. Sometimes, Maryn finds that it’s suddenly 10:30 p.m., and she’s so immersed in her writing that she’s forgotten about homework.

”It sounds like it’s your life, basically,” I suggested.

“Yeah, that’s pretty accurate,” Maryn answered cheerfully.

It’s a life she seems to love. “I’ve got so many different stories I want to do,” she said. “It’s never really a problem of having an idea, but just deciding how to develop an idea and which idea to pick.”

Maryn hits the same writer’s block as anyone else, but she has ways to work around it. “I try not to let it get to me, and instead I just write anyway,” she said. “It’s resulted in some lower-quality work, but then it jump-starts something more. A lot of time I write something and it’s trash, it’s just utter trash, but if I like one certain part I’ll pick it out and do something else with it.”

And when she’s not entirely happy with her writing, she’s always ready to improve it. She leaves me with a piece of writing advice: “I think the best way to get good at writing is to write and to write and write and write,” she says. If anyone embodies that advice, it’s Maryn.

Maryn’s dedication to writing occupies most of her free time, but she has a diverse list of other interests, too: computer science, Mason’s mock trial team, watching theater productions, teaching herself guitar, politics, band, and Mason field hockey. She lists these off to me, but she’s not as excited to talk about them as she is about writing. To Maryn, these all tie back to her main passion.

“I think it’s important as a writer to have so many different interests, because you have a way to express them and you need some sort of other passion to fill in with your writing.”

A girl plays flute in a band.
Maryn playing flute in George Mason’s band at a concert for students at TJ elementary school. Maryn tries to get involved in a wide range of activities at Mason, both for fun and to get ideas for her writing. “I try and draw inspiration from pretty much everything,” Maryn said. (Photo courtesy of Maryn Hiscott)

”You’re a freshman so you probably haven’t thought about it much yet, but do you have any idea what you want to do for college?” I ask carefully. Even as a senior, I would have no idea what to tell you if you asked me what my plans for the future are. Maryn seems to have it figured out, though.

“I have thought about it a fair amount. I’d like to do English major, maybe a comp sci minor,” Maryn said. “I want to be a writer, and also I want to be an editor for a mid-sized publishing company. That’s my goal. But, let’s be real; writers, unless you’re like, JK Rowling level, they don’t make enough money to support someone. That’s probably my biggest challenge.”

She doesn’t know for sure what she’d want to do outside of writing, though she toys with ideas of going into something technology-related or teaching. But Maryn is confident that her passion for writing will stay constant, and she seems prepared to roll with any other changes high school might throw at her. I ask her how she would describe herself in three words, and I’m expecting a list of clichéd adjectives, but of course, she has something a little more poetic: “Subject to change.”

“Except for writing, all of my other interests fluctuate and what I want to do changes, but writing is a solid thing,” Maryn said. “And I’m still pretty young, still developing, still changing, still finding out who I am.”

No matter how Maryn changes in the future, she’s certain to have a pen and notebook or a laptop at her side, and I can definitely say I’m excited to see her name on the cover of a book, screenplay, or musical script someday.