Friday, December 13, 2013

Young Writers Awards 2013

Young Writers Awards 2013
By Brad R. Cook

The Young Writers Awards has two divisions, one for 4th and 5th graders, and another for 6th through 8th graders. The contest which begins in August and coincides with the Kids Writing Workshops at Writers in the Park has a deadline of the first of October. St. Louis Writers Guild provides the first line and the young writers are asked to write the next 500 words.

This year brought a wonderful crop of stories! The opening line was – The Last Book On The Shelf Held A Secret…

2013 Young Writers Award Winners
Sponsored by St. Louis Writers Guild

4th – 5th grade division
First Place – The Adventures of Sophia by Sophia Kucher – 4th grade
Second Place – The Wonderers by Varsha Arun – 4th grade
Third Place – Ralph and the Candy World by Aneesh Venkat Batchu – 4th grade
1st Honorable Mention – Lego Hawaio by Aneesh Venkat Batchu – 4th grade

6th – 8th grade division
First Place – Memor Dolis by Leah Mueller – 8th grade
Second Place – The Beginning of the End by Caitlin Fleming – 8th grade
Third Place – The Book of Mysteries by Anna Huebner – 7th grade
1st Honorable Mention – Portal to Nowhere by Lauren Boozer – 8th grade
2nd Honorable Mention – The Mysterious Cause Book by Owen Lipinski – 8th grade
3rd Honorable Mention – The Book Secret by Nathan Channell – 8th grade

Thank to this year’s judges Writer and Illustrator Jennifer Stolzer, and Dwight Bitikofer, publisher of the Times Newspapers

When I was in Elementary School my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Goldman, used to come in once a week with a writing prompt. I even remember one of them, not sure why this one stuck with me, but it did – “Your sitting on a park bench when a stranger comes up and sits down beside you.” She’d have us write for several minutes and then call us up to read our stories.

Something in those early days sparked the bug within; I never stopped writing after that. I would fill notebooks by the time I entered High School. It’s made me believe in encouraging kids not only to read, but to write. Catch ‘em early and they’ll be lifelong lovers of words.

St. Louis Writers Guild has supported and encouraged young writers since the 1920’s when they created the Winifred Irwin Kids Writing Contest. When I joined the writers guild they had a kids’ writing contest The Big Write, part of The Big Read Festival, but sadly the sponsors of that contest pulled out and the contest was forced to shut down. When I became President of St. Louis Writers Guild one of the first things I did was resurrect the contest for young writers.

My inspiration, Mrs. Goldman’s writing prompts.

I have judged short story contests before and they are fun to read, but may I highly recommend judging a young writers contest. They are so imaginative, and not tied down by the writing conventions that constrain adult writers. This is my favorite contest of SLWG’s year, and I always look forward to reading the entries. I’m not the judge, but I always read the entries.

This year the stories ranged from fan fiction about Wreck-it Ralph to a cerebral sci-fi set thousands of years in the future that beautifully defined what a book had been. With this year’s focus on a book, every kid focused on that which for a book lover made for a great contest.

I have to give credit to the winner of the 6th-8th grade division, Leah Mueller, for using Latin in her short story and tying it in so well.

One joy I get is sending the announcements to the winners. The messages I get back from ecstatic parents recounting how their children couldn’t contain their excitement, always makes me think back on my own joy when someone liked my writing.

The real fun comes in meeting these young writers. Some are just kids who wrote a really good story.  Maybe they’ll become writers, but more than likely they’ll be successful in some other career, but every year there are several future writers in the mix. There is a quality to the story, it may not be perfect yet, but you can hear their voice emerging.

I always make a point of speaking directly with the young writers when I meet them. Certainly, I acknowledge the parents and thank them for supporting their kids, but I like interacting with the young writers as writers. It’s what they are. No matter how young or how old when you put words together to tell a story you’re a writer. Its’ one of the things I love about this profession.

Each young writer comes with their own story, like Sophia, who danced around the living room when her mother read the email, and then was fascinated by the history of the train station, or Nathan who seemed a bit nervous until he started reading and then captivated the crowd. Many like Varsha brought her whole family, but two entered without telling their parents which made my email quite a surprise. So, keep an eye on these names in a few years…you never know, you might be reading their books.

These young writers have ignited a fire within, hopefully that flame is eternal.

Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit , follow me on Twitter @bradrcook , or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight

1 comment:

  1. This year brought a wonderful crop of stories! The opening line was – The Last Book On The Shelf Held A Secret… Basketball Trophies