With the current increases in college tuition, it would be a nightmare for any student if he or she lost a big scholarship.
In resident Amy Dominy's latest book, "OyMG," main character Ellie Taylor has the chance to win a scholarship to a private high school, and the opportunity to compete on the best speech team in the nation. However, if the private scholarship donor finds out that Taylor is Jewish, then she could lose the chance of winning the scholarship from a summer Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts Camp. Taylor then has to choose whether or not to hide her Jewish identity in order to please the donor and win the scholarship.
Dominy hopes that after reading the book, more people will learn how to be proud of their true identities.
"It's easy to find someone out there who will tell you that you're ‘less than,'" Dominy said. "That something is ‘wrong with you' because you're different. You have to block out those voices and listen to your inner voice. I think the most wonderful thing about each of us is our uniqueness. We should celebrate that, not hide it."
Dominy grew up in Tempe, and graduated from Marco de Niza High School during the time when Ahwatukee was "mostly desert." During high school she often wrote in her diary, and was involved in both band and theater. At the young age of 13, she wrote her first story, called "The Perfect Crime...Almost." This and a lot of her earlier stories involved murder.
"Somewhere along the line I turned from blood and gore to humor and romance," Doimny said.
Her advice to teenage writers is to, "Keep at it. Start small. Write articles for favorite newspapers and magazines. Write short stories. Write a blog. Just write. And be persistent. It's not easy to break in and it doesn't happen overnight (most of the time). But it does happen."
Dominy's writing style has been compared to authors such as C.S. Lewis.
"(It feels) amazing. Unbelievable! Mostly I hope that means my book touches something universal and might make an impact on kids the way ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' made an impact on me," Dominy said.
After college, she started a career as an advertising copywriter in order to come up with ideas and get paid for it.
"My favorite commercials were the ones I did for Arizona's anti-tobacco program," Dominy said. "I wrote the tagline: Tobacco. Tumor-causing, teeth-staining, smelly, puking habit. The campaign ran for years and I had a great time writing spots directed at teens. It's great that now I can write books for that same audience."
After she realized that she missed writing stories, Dominy went back to school at Arizona State University and received a master's degree with an emphasis in playwriting in 2004. She liked to write plays because she enjoyed making up the dialogue.
"With a play, I can tell the entire story through dialogue without needing to write descriptions or long narrative passages," Dominy said. "But writing novels was always my dream. I still like writing dialogue the best, which you'd probably be able to tell because my books do have a lot of conversation and not a lot of description."
Some of her plays include "Oy. It's a Boy," which is about an interfaith couple who has to choose if they want to have their son circumcised or not. She has written many other plays like "Generations," "The Bathtub," "Plastic Angels" and "The Dreamcatcher," which was shown at the Mesa Arts Center.
When it came to creating the main character of "OyMG," Ellie Taylor, Dominy said, "It's hard to write a character and not have some parts of myself seep into her. Ellie inherited my love of arguing and a determination to succeed. She also ended up with my lousy middle-school love life, but she's not boy crazy like I was. Until she arrives at camp and meets Devon."
She also describes Ellie's love interest Devon as "the kind of guy I would have fallen for. Gorgeous (of course), but also smart, funny and quick with a comeback. He keeps Ellie on her toes."
If her novel were to turn into a movie Dominy would want the actor for Devon to be "someone swoon-worthy, smart and with a sharp sense of humor" she said. "And for Ellie, no one seems exactly like Ellie. The model on the cover of my book looks the way I imagine her. I wonder if she can act?"
Whenever she has writer's block, Dominy looks to both news stories and her old diaries for inspiration.
"When I began writing ("OyMG") Ellie was a dancer," Dominy said. "But that didn't feel quite right. Then one day I was reading the Ahwatukee Foothills News and there was an article about the Desert Vista Thunder Speech Theater and Debate Company. I cut out that article and from that day on, Ellie was an orator who competed on speech team."
Dominy currently lives with her husband and two teenagers who are just starting to look into colleges and scholarships. While looking at different forms of financial aid, she was surprised that donors look into unique qualifications when it came to scholarships.
"For instance, my daughter discovered a scholarship for kids who are left-handed," Dominy said. "That helped me develop the conflict for this book; a private donor might very well create a scholarship and not offer it to a Jewish person."
Since Dominy grew up as one of the only Jewish students in school, she experienced discrimination against her own identity. While she was a teenager she was fired from her babysitting job because she was Jewish.
"That experience, when I was fired because of my religion, was the first time I ever felt hated because of who I was," Dominy said. "I realize now that many kids feel that way for all sorts of reasons. It's never easy to be different, especially during the teen years when you're trying to figure out where you fit in."
With the recent anniversary of the signing of SB 1070 many Arizona residents understand Dominy's conflict with discrimination.
"In this story, Ellie is faced with a choice," Dominy said. "Does she stand up for herself even though it's a risk? Sadly, I think that's the choice many people face."
However, like the theme of Lady Gaga's single "Born This Way," Dominy believes that victims of discrimination need to stop the stereotypes.
"I like to think we can live in a society where we can speak up and speak out," she said. "For me that's the best thing we can do, advocate for oursevles and educate others. Hopefully, we can change some stereotypes along the way."
Dominy will be having a launch party for "OyMG" at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive, on Saturday, May 14.
"I'll be talking a little about my journey as an author as well as signing books," she said. "I'm excited to reach this moment I've always dreamed of, but I'm also nervous. I hope it won't show!"
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Anna Carlos is a senior at Xavier College Preparatory and plans to attend the University of Arizona next year. She is interning this semester at the Ahwatukee Foothills News.