Jazmin Collins ’22, a double major in English and Computer Science, was selected as the winner of the 2021 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing for her story, “My Gardening Journal: Tales from a Psychic Gardener.”
Collins was awarded $500, the opportunity to read her story at a Zoom award ceremony during the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, and publication of her story in an upcoming edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.
The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts will provide Collins a chance to share her work, attend writing workshops, and network in and around the publishing world. Her short story will be published in both the print and online editions of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.
“I submitted this story on kind of a whim,” Collins said. “I submitted two stories this year, and one of them was a very hard Sci-Fi story with aliens and stuff that I wrote distinctly for the competition. Then, as I was finishing up that story, this idea popped into my head.”
As someone who had never gardened before, she researched for hours to make sure her story was authentic.
“I now know how to grow a garden of chrysanthemums both from seeds and by transplanting seedlings, and the internet probably thinks I have a garden, because I even went into looking at good fertilizers and seed packets and anything that could be involved,” Collins said. “Eventually I'd gotten so invested in all of that research that I decided I would sit down and write the story.”
“My Gardening Journal” was written in one sitting. The story follows a psychic gardener and their plants. Collins said it is part comedy, part drama as the chrysanthemums go through different phases.
”The story of the gardener is set up and structured not like an average short story, it is structured to look like a gardening journal,” Collins said. “It keeps track of things like the dew point, your environment variables, the stages that the plants are growing through, all those different things. And there's another section called notes, where the gardener writes down what the plants thoughts were and that's actually what the plants are thinking to each other and how they're interacting.”
The characters of this story are the gardener’s plants. Each of the chrysanthemums has a distinct personality and name. But they also have to respond to difficulties of plants like weakness and being transplanted outdoors.
Collins prefers to write novel-length fiction, and she’s working on self-publishing one such piece. Collins hopes that her efforts will build industry connections and help her pursue a career in traditional publishing.