Irvine resident Natalie Wang, 17, a senior at Stanford Online High School (Stanford OHS), has received national recognition from YoungArts, one of the most prestigious platforms in support of blossoming artists. This year, Wang received the YoungArts Finalist Award for screenplay writing, becoming this year’s only finalist from Orange County – and just one of two winners in California.

In an interview with Irvine Weekly, Wang spoke about the inspiration behind her YoungArts award-winning screenplay and what she has planned for her future.

“I wrote a screenplay called The Glass House, and the screenplay contains elements of mystery, horror and magical realism. But it’s also a story about these two girls that learn to navigate friendship, codependency and grief,” she explained. “Part of it was inspired by a short story by Shirley Jackson called The Story We Used To Tell, but I had the idea of the portraits a few years ago. I only really started working on it last summer at a screenwriting workshop that UCLA offered – and throughout the rest of the year I was sketching out the plot in my mind, and starting to actually write it down.”

In The Glass House, Wang describes a “supernatural, freak accident” occurring that traps the two main characters (Willow and Cleo) inside a portrait. While trapped, Willow and Cleo must navigate time and space in order to confront deep-seated fears.

Recognized by YoungArts in the midst of applying to colleges during her senior year, Wang, who currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The Chrysalis, a literary arts publication at the Stanford University-recognized online high school she attends, was among 156 YoungArts finalists across the nation.

“I’m really interested in journalism as well,” she said. “Last summer I was invited to participate in the Stanford Daily’s journalism workshop, and that was really exciting for me because I got to learn all about the basics of journalism and I found that medium to be appealing. I think I’m open to writing in all of its forms, so I’m always open to trying new things.”

In addition to being a student-teacher and peer tutor at her high school, Wang also helps international students with creative writing assignments, where she hopes to inspire others.

“We usually go over the basics of creative writing, like syntax and all of that,” she said. “But also to collaborate and see if there’s a prompt that I come up with that inspires in other students.”

Currently, Wang said she is applying to multiple colleges across the country, but, even at 17, Wang has her sights set on bigger things.

Wang explained that a lifelong passion for writing has been a driving force in creativity, adding that the style of screenwriting required an author to tell a story from multiple perspectives.

“I guess I’ve always wanted to be a writer, in general, because it’s something both really personal and collaborative. But screenwriting, in particular, is that 10x because writing a script means you’re thinking about everyone involved,” she said. “So, how your words might translate on-screen between directors and actors – I feel like screenwriting really spoke to me.”

Additionally, YoungArts Finalist Award recipients are eligible to be nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholarship, which is one of the highest forms of recognition available to high school seniors.

Competing through 10 different arts categories, YoungArts National Competition winners are selected by “their caliber of artistic achievement by esteemed discipline-specific panels of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process,” according to the YoungArts website.

Wang said she can recall the moment she became aware she wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby.

“Before my 6th or 7th birthday, I was gifted this seashell, but it got crushed, so I wrote a poem about it. I’d like to say that moment was my thank you as a writer, but it was mostly a chance to reflect on the emotion I felt at the time,” she said. “I found writing to be a really good outlet for that, and later on, I feel like writing is wonderful because you get to connect with other people as well.”

In addition to being recognized as a YoungArts Finalist recipient, Wang, who joins the ranks of previous finalist winners that include Timothée Chalamet and Viola Davis, will attend the virtual 2022 National YoungArts Week, which is designed to help finalist winners prepare for the next stage of development in their artistic endeavors.