31 winners in annual writing contest

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Thirty-one Roane County students received awards for their writing during the third annual Roane Writers Group student writing contest last month.


Almost $5,000 in monetary awards were given to the students in grades 4-12.

The event, attended by an estimated 200 people, was in Roane State Community College’s theater with Knoxville television personality Bill Landry as master of ceremonies.

Abigail Stevenson, a 12th-grade student at Roane County High School, was this year’s grand prize winner with her poem, “Wild Words for a Way Gone World.” Roane County Executive Ron Woody presented her with a $2,500 scholarship to Roane State Community College on the group’s behalf.

Stevenson also won the Cliff Lynch Family Foundation’s $500 writing prize and the Flame of Knowledge medal presented by Michael Vanlandingham, her English teacher.

Her dramatic and inspirational reading took many in the audience by surprise.

“Miss Stevenson, that was an outstanding reading presentation,” Woody said. “(State) Sen. (Ken) Yager and I do a lot of public speaking, but I believe we could learn something from you.”

Yager and Roane County Commissioner Carolyn Granger emphasized the importance of writing skills and how outstanding teachers contribute to developing good writers.

Granger presented Sharon Parks of Midway Middle School with the outstanding teacher award and a bouquet of white roses. Parks had 10 students who received 11 awards at the ceremony.

Since the writing contest began, the number of submissions has increased each year, For the 2011 contest, 382 submissions were received, an increase of almost 900 percent over last year.

“You have touched a nerve in the community,” said Landry about the Roane Writers Group’s contest. “This effort brings pride and respect to the students, teachers, schools, everybody. What a successful event!”

Roane Writers Group President B.J. Gillum said this year’s event was underwritten by area businesses and individuals through donations and purchases of the 2010 Student Writing Contest Anthology.

“This strong community support speaks to the importance of education and of recognizing excellence within our county,” he said.

Each student read aloud all or a portion of his submission. Each winner went to the podium and spoke with Landry before beginning the reading.

Landry asked each student a couple questions to help them relax and speak loud enough to be heard.

The first award was a Certificate of Excellence presented in memoriam to Ellie Jackson, an Oliver Springs High School student who was killed in an ATV accident during the summer.

Jackson’s short story was read aloud by her friend, Sarah Smith, who accepted the certificate on Jackson’s behalf.

The writing category winners, their grades and schools are:

Elementary School Poetry — Anna Meadows, Kingston fifth-grader, first place; Emma Hill, Midway fifth-grader, second place; and Spencer Stiles, Kingston fourth-grader, third place.

Elementary School Short Story — Myles Lawson, fifth grade, first place; Haley Mae Buchanan, fourth grade, and Jenna Stewart, fifth grade, second place (tie); and Josie Shirran, fifth grade, third place. All attend Kingston Elementary.

Lawson also received a special recognition award for his short story, “Christopher Columbus and the Ferrari.” His humorous story, which starred Christopher Columbus, Lady Gaga and Peyton Manning, was full of anachronisms and earned many laughs from the audience.

Middle School Poetry — Whitney Colyer, first place; Lauren Rue and Mollie Houghton, second place (tie); and Andrew Melton, Alex Thomason and Toni Brantley, third place (tie). All are eighth-graders at Midway.

Middle School Short Story — Juliette Jettie, Midway, first place; Reagan Conley, Rockwood, and Colt Clements, Cherokee, second place (tie); and Romi Patel, and Savannah Holloway, both of Cherokee, third place (tie). All winners are in eighth grade.

Rue received an honorable mention for her short story, “The Doppelganger Tryst.”

“What an interesting title,” Landry said. “It’s really good.”

Middle School Essays, “Literacy in America — Megan Russell, first place; Jonathan Purda, second place; and Adele Phillips, third place. All are Midway eighth-graders.

High School Poetry — Patricia Howe, Midway 11th-grader, first place; Kassandra Ruiz, Roane County 12th-grader, and Shannon Phillips, Midway 10th-grader, second place (tie); and Trisha Davidson, Midway 12th-grader, Hope Smith, Roane County ninth-grader; and Rachel Smith, Oliver Springs ninth-grader, third place (tie).

High School Short Story — Nikki Phillips, 11th grade, first place; and Benjamin Benavides, 12th grade, second place. Both attend Midway.

Last year’s winning entries were published in an anthology, “The Wonder of Words: Short Stories, Poems and Essays,” which is still available for $10 a copy.

“We will try to publish our anthology of this program if we can find enough funding,” Gillum said. “We have some pretty good writing to use.”

Matt Pavel of Pavel Studios Photography donated his services by taking photographs of the event and the student award winners. His photographs will be included in the 2011 Student Writing Contest Anthology.

All Roane County students were eligible to submit entries for two categories: Poetry and Short Story. Additionally, middle school students could submit for a third category, an essay about “Literacy in America.”

First-place winners in each category received $100, second-place received $50, and third-place $25.

If two or more students tied in a category, then both received the full prize.

Contact Gillum via email at bjgillum@comcast.net if interested in joining the Roane Writers Group, purchasing a copy of the 2010 Anthology or wanting to support the annual student writing contest.

The Roane Writers Group is a nonprofit organization under the Kingston Public Library Foundation.