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I wasn't the brave one, I never wanted to be a hero

October 15, 2020 - Student Success

Out of forty-eight entries, three of our Hillsborough County Public Schools students were awarded prizes in the 2019-2020 Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing contest.


This award seeks to nurture and recognize young writers' creativity and talent in the Tampa Bay area. It was established by the Tampa Bay Times to encourage aspiring authors to explore the genres of science fiction and fantasy and to experiment with the short story format. 


I wasn't the brave one. I never wanted to be a hero…

A powerful line from finalist Rashi Lakhotia, a Middleton High School junior whose piece is titled "Gunshot," was about a fictional school shooting, sharing recollections from the main character, who experienced survivor's guilt after witnessing such tragic losses. Her powerful and suspenseful piece earned her the Grand Prize award in the competition.


To view Rashi's full story, visit



Rashi and proud mom Priyanka."My parents have encouraged me to write my entire life and my fourth-grade teacher, who by shared books with me about women in journalism— broadening my horizons about writing careers I could go into after college," said Rashi.


Rashi also said her eighth-grade teachers pushed her to her full potential. She recalls one moment in eighth grade when she confidently submitted a writing assignment and was shocked to receive a fifty percent. After continuing to revise it a couple of dozen times, she finally earns herself that one hundred and credits her teacher for helping her go above and beyond to improve her writing skills.


Rashi is unsure what direction she will go after high school, but she plans to get a Bachelor's and Master's degree, and something tells us she will excel no matter what she chooses to do. In the meantime, we hope she continues to explore her passion for writing. 


The Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Award is traditionally presented at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. This year's award presentation will be virtually on Saturday, October 17, from 3 – 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. The presentation will also be recorded and posted on the Festival of Reading website at This year's Festival is virtual and will take place November 12-14.


On Saturday, Rashi will be reciting a piece of her writing during the virtual award ceremony and she will not be alone…


She will share the spotlight with



Witt Pizarro, Armwood High School

Writing piece: "Disco Inferno"





Audra Nikolajski, Bloomingdale High School

Writing piece: "Taking Flight"


A panel of experts judged these winning entries, including professional fantasy and science fiction authors and Tampa Bay Times staff. Congratulations Audra, Rashi and Witt! Thank you for sharing your talents and creativity with the community.


To learn more about the competition, visit