Mays Landing resident Taylor Troehler has been writing almost as long as she has been able to pick up a pencil. Now, she has received the first of what she hopes will be many accolades in a long literary career.

Troehler recently was named the national winner of the AMVETS against Drug and Alcohol Abuse essay/poem contest in the ninth-12th grade category for her poem, "I Don't Need," in which she discusses why she avoids drugs.

A voracious consumer of books and poetry as a kid, Troehler said creating pieces of her own was a natural progression.

"At some point, I don't even know when, I decided maybe I should try to write some of this myself," the 17-year-old said. "Lo and behold, I had a pretty good talent for it."

Troehler heard about the contest through her father, Bill, who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a member of AMVETS Post 911 in Somers Point.

Troehler's poem was picked from a group made up of the top submissions from each of the 40 AMVETS Departments nationwide.

She was awarded a $200 gift card and, more importantly, validation as a young artist.

The Cedar Creek High School senior has written hundreds of poems and stories. Most of her work is in journals, but occasionally she will fill one up before she can get a new one, and ideas will continue on scraps of loose paper.

Patricia Adams, Troehler's mother, has catalogued her work since she first began. Even from a young age, she said, Troehler was single-minded in her pursuit of writing.

"Any time she wants a gift, she asks for pens and a journal," said Adams, who keeps a portfolio of Troehler's work. "That's all she wants."

Troehler was notified of her win before the members of Post 911 at its meeting Aug. 3.

Post Commander Jim Donohue, who himself had heard about her being named the winner just the day before, called her before the group to announce the honor, and a spontaneous standing ovation erupted.

Donohue has known Troehler through her father since she was a kid, and said he was impressed with her even before her success in the contest.

"I think Taylor is extremely bright," he said. "I think that she's motivated, from what I can see in my brief conversations with her and talking to her dad. She's someone who I think can do what she wants to do, academically or in business."

Troehler's discipline extends far beyond her prolific work on the page. She works part-time at both Best Buy and Shore Veterinarians, which she hopes to continue through the school year.

She is a member of the Thespian Society at Cedar Creek and has played its mascot, the pirate R.J., for three years, although she says she's likely retiring from the job.

Troehler's work ethic, she says, comes largely from a compulsion to keep busy. It is in her nature to juggle several projects at once, and that makes writing the perfect outlet for her creative impulses.

"I like the feeling of accomplishment, even if it's just a couple projects here and there," she said. "I don't like sitting around for too long. I like feeling like I have something to do."

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