By Stephanie Choate
A 14-year-old Williston poet is using her writing to spread hope, unity and inspiration to others.
In the spring, Olivia Pintair self-published an eBook of poetry, titled “When All That’s Left is Light,” on Amazon.com.
The poems focus on the connection between Pintair and Afaa Awidi, a 14-year-old friend from Uganda whom she has sponsored since age 9. The poems were written over the course of the girls’ friendship, beginning when they were both 9.
“I’ve always believed that everyone has a story, but not every one has a voice,” she wrote in en email to the Observer. “The book, while on the surface, being a collection of my poetry, is also the story of a connection shared by two children who are worlds apart. It’s my attempt to share the beauty of a rare friendship with the world, and to honor the voiceless by using my voice to support and recognize them.”
Awidi was orphaned as a young child and lives with her uncle. Pintair’s assistance has helped her receive medical care and continue her education, and, in return, Pintair said Awidi has inspired her with her strength.
“When she grows up, she told me, she wants to be a teacher,” Pintair wrote.
The book contains 44 poems telling the story of a girl coming of age.
“Not every poem is obviously about Afaa or even myself, but behind every one of them, she is the inspiration,” Pintair wrote. “My goal in creating this was to show people that though we live completely different lives, and were, at one point, quite foreign to one another, we have discovered, together, how similar we are.”
Pintair said that once she started sponsoring Awidi, she was constantly looking for ways to earn money. One summer, she sewed and sold baby blankets. For the past several years, she has created and sold greeting cards. Proceeds from the book will go to further support Awidi.
“Last fall I came up with the idea to publish a book,” she wrote. “I had always dreamed of publishing my own book. I thought it would be a great way to raise money and awareness for my cause, share some of my writing, and thank Afaa for inspiring me.”
Terri Parent, a Williston resident and poetry fan who is friends with Pintair’s mother, purchased the book online.
“I was just impressed with the level of maturity with which she writes,” Parent said. “She seems to have an emotional maturity beyond her years. It’s impressive but it’s also very moving. She has a command of the language that I’ve never seen in a person her age…I think she has a bright future in writing ahead of her.”
Pintair, who will begin her freshman year at the Emma Willard School in the fall, said she always loved poetry. She has already won several awards for her writing, including two Silver Key Awards from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a prestigious recognition program for creative teens.
“I’ve always been drawn to poetry,” she wrote. “I guess I love it because it’s a way for me to tell an abstract and powerful story in just a few lines. I love the fact that there are no rules in poetry. That kind of freedom really inspires me as a writer.”
Pintair said the work was inspired by hope. When she was young, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and it was hope that got her through the ordeal, she said.
“Through my own experiences, I have been fortunate enough to find a powerful hope and share it with Afaa,” she wrote. “Now, I really hope that people check my book out because, through my book and my voice, I strive to share hope and unity with the world.”