2011 Aspiring Authors Contest
Two weeks ago, I met with the fourth and fifth graders from a local elementary school to talk about writing. As I looked out over the sea of young kids, I was inspired by the depth of their questions and the intelligence of their comments.
I was there to discuss the writing process, and yet, I learned so much from their expertise. It was apparent how well they had listened to their teachers throughout the years. I was excited to see how they would react when I announced the Aspiring Authors Contest.
The response was overwhelming. The kids were given a beginner's writer's kit, which I designed, and a list of guidelines to create a six-page story. They were not allowed to use more than six pages, and if they wanted to use illustrations, they had to create them with their own two hands--no computer images or newspaper cut outs. Each child was to use a story board and turn in their neatest, most creative work, along with the index cards they used for the storyboard.
The stories I received from these creative young minds blew me away! Each and every story was well thought out, organized, and had a clear beginning, middle, and end, elements that are, believe it or not, is often missed by children.
Selecting one winner for fourth grade and one for fifth grade was a difficult process. The winners, Vincent (fourth grade) and Anna (fifth grade), took storytelling to a new level.
Vincent's story, "Twisted Tales", combined several fairy tale characters and their storylines, culminating in a witty fairy tale of his own. Any child who can create a story where Red Riding Hood can burst into the home of one of the Three Little Pigs and yell, "Who said my lines?" and make it work in the story, clearly knows how to think outside of the virtual box. Thankfully, the Big Bad Wolf was eventually locked up and won't be finding his way into anymore fairy tales.
A note from Vincent's mother: "Melissa, I wanted to thank you for organizing the writing contest for the 4th and 5th graders. Vincent was so excited when he heard about it--and started writing immediately." Kin.
Anna's story, "The Girl In The Bright Red Nightgown", tackled the tasks of showing multiple characters and their emotions, each very distinct, and wrapping up loose ends for those same characters in each scene. That's a difficult task for adult writers, and Anna did a fantastic job. I was extremely impressed with Anna's abilities to write with such smooth transitions from action-packed to dramatic scenes. Anna's story took the reader through a family of young children whose parents were taken away by soldiers during a war. The oldest child took charge of the younger siblings, trekking them across the country to the safety of an awaiting boat, which would take them to a safe land. Unfortunately, the baby, who wore a bright red nightgown, was left behind one morning when soldiers were approaching and the children scattered. The oldest sister wrestled guilt and happiness as she saved her other siblings, knowing she'd lost her baby sister. Luckily, a soldier appeared at the boat with the baby, bringing the story to a happy end.
My son, Jake, decided that he wanted to learn to be a peer reviewer rather than taking part in the contest. I worked with him over the two week judging period, and he read through each submission, carefully analyzing the clarity and creativity of the writing.
Without knowledge of my choices of the winners, Jake made his own selections. He chose Vincent as the fourth grade winner and Molly , the fifth grade winner, for her story, "Impression".
Molly's story was also well thought out, very dramatic, and different than any other story in the contest. "Impression" is the story of a young girl who is terribly abused. She's very unhappy and often sneaks out at night and rides her horse. One night her parents catch her, kill her horse, and lock her in her room. She eventually sneaks out again, and rides the spirit of the horse. In her loneliness, she believes she'll find peace in death, and rides the ghost horse into the ocean, drowning herself. The reader is then priveleged to view the child in a happier state.
I'm sure your eyebrows are raised over the depth of these stories--I know mine were. There was an overall dark theme in most of the fifth grade submissions. Interesting, to say the least.
Vincent and Anna each received a $25 VISA gift certificate and Molly received $25 cash.
Every child who participated received a Certificate of Merit.
I thoroughly enjoyed hosting this Aspirng Author Contest, and will be hosting them annually from this point forward.
Congratulations to our Aspiring Author Contest WINNERS! Thank you to all who participated!
If you'd like Melissa to hold an Aspiring Authors contest at your school, use the Contact form to send her an email.
Media Coverage: Gazette Newspaper