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How I Became a Writer This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Ilana F., Deerfield, IL By Ilana_F, Deerfield, IL

I. On art

I was six the first time I ever saw a naked man. Lured by the promise of cultured family bonding, my parents had dragged us both, my sister and I, to the recently opened Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. As she was still at that stage in life when, confined to a stroller and incapable of coherent speech, she probably had no idea we were in a museum at all, I was left to assume that the excursion had been intended for my benefit.

By the time we had fielded our way through two collections of Plexiglas chairs, labeled “Do Not Sit,” an expansive room full of Sock Monkeys in piles ankle-deep, guarded by a “Do Not Touch” sign, and what felt like a whole new race of human being—the kind that used words like “existential” to describe Sock Monkeys—I felt exhausted.

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