A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to serve as a judge for Power of the Pen, a writing competition for 7th-and 8th-grade students in Ohio. Schools send their writing champions to compete against each other, like they would send their swimmers or football players or basketball players, but instead of playing a sport, they demonstrate their creative writing skills.
Each school sends a team of six students in each grade, and the kids sit quietly in rooms with prompt readers. The readers gives them an open-ended subject prompt, and the kids get 40 minutes to write out long-hand, and there are three rounds of writing. As a judge, part of a team of three, I helped read through the top ten submissions in each round per grade—that's more than 120 stories—and we chose a winner per round. At the end of the day, we met all the students in the school auditorium and announced the winners. There were other winners beyond those we selected—other judges gave them points for certain things, so lots of kids were given trophies and ribbons. It was an encouraging and gratifying experience, and I wrote about it in today's edition of Small Town Newspaper.