Great Falls Writers Group Hosts Youth Writing Contest

Great Falls Writers Group Hosts Youth Writing Contest

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Who: All sixth-graders in Great Falls

What: Youth Writing Contest hosted by the Great Falls Writer’s Group

When: Saturday, Feb. 6 at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m.

Where: Great Falls Library, 9830 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls 22066

Register online at http://www.signup...">http://www.signup...

Sign-up is first-come, first-served.

Bring proof of residency within 22066 or proof of attending a public school in Great Falls, pencils, loose-leaf paper, and a self-addressed-stamped envelope for returning original work after judging.

Cash often motivates students to do anything — even homework. Sixth-graders have an opportunity to write for monetary prizes and fun. To encourage, inspire, and reward young writers, the Great Falls Writer’s Group (GFWG) hosts its second annual Youth Creative Writing Contest for sixth graders on Saturday, Feb. 6. The contest is at the Great Falls Library at 9830 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls.

“What we’re doing with this contest is creating excitement among young people about the craft of writing.” said Kristin Clark Taylor, who founded GFWG in August 2012.

In the contest’s second year, the GFWG expands opportunity to all sixth-graders who reside in the 22066 ZIP code or attend public school in Great Falls. Sixth-graders who attend Great Falls Elementary School, Forestville Elementary School and Colvin Run Elementary School are asked to bring a current progress report with the child’s name and grade on it as proof of enrollment. Private-schooled sixth-graders and home-schooled students must provide proof of residency within the 22066 ZIP code.

At the time of the contest, parents must provide contact information for notifying winners. Parents are encouraged to bring a self-addressed stamped envelope at the time of the contest to return original works after judging as a keepsake for their children and to cultivate more creative thought.

“Some of last year’s entries could have been developed into much bigger stories,” said Laura Malone Elliott, a best-selling author who served as a judge of the inaugural year’s contest.

“We’re reaching out and drawing in,” said Taylor. “Our ultimate goal is all of this is to make sure our young writers come face-to-face with the fact that the words they create have value, impact and staying power.”

Forestville Elementary School principal Todd Franklin says having no warning of the writing prompt and no parental or outside aid levels the playing field for participants. He sees the GFWG Youth Creative Writing Contest as an opportunity for students to display their skills and put their thoughts, feelings and perspectives on paper. He is sharing contest information with other principals and educators to encourage their sixth-grade students to build skills and confidence through opportunities such as this.

“Writing across the curriculum is a region and county goal for us educators this year,” said Franklin. “Writing extends well beyond our language and reading curriculum and needs to be promoted and nurtured across all subjects.”

The inaugural writing contest was administered as an in-class writing assignment at Forestville Elementary School last February. Students were intentionally not given advance notice of the assignment. Sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Donlon challenged her students to think creatively. They were required to do the assignment for a class grade, but they could choose whether to enter the contest — and more than 110 eagerly did.

Donlon believes the contest showcased writers of all academic abilities. A few honorable-mention awards went to students who must work harder to make the grade than many peers, but the words carried weight and resulted in being a point or two from receiving a cash award.

“Last year’s contest winners included a number of children who otherwise did not achieve high grades,” said Donlon. “The looks of pride and accomplishment on their faces as I read the winners was priceless!”

Feedback from students, parents and teachers persuaded GFWG to expand the contest to the greater Great Falls community.

Sixth-graders who wish to participate must register online at The contest provides four sessions accommodating 40 students each, to be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The biggest challenge is finding a space to accommodate as many students as we can,” said Michael Cappitelli, contest committee chairman. “We’d like to open it up to a much larger geographical area, but we are limited by space and the number of volunteers we have.”

Writing will be judged and scored upon its creativity, originality, content and relationship to the prompt topic, grammar and story development. In the event of a tie, categories will be eliminated and scores recalculated to determine top scores. Students will be assigned a number to place on entries so judging is done blindly and without names and schools attached.

Published authors, college professors and librarians are generously giving their free time between personal deadlines to judge entries.

First, second, and third-place winners will receive cash awards to be distributed in late spring. The Friends of the Great Falls Library is contributing prize money.

GFWG members Michael Cappitelli, Pat Britz, Kate Schwarz and Christina Tyler Wenks created the contest and recruited judges. This year, Mary McKay, Myrna Stewart, Merrill Lishan and Nullie Stockton join the youth writing contest committee as the contest grows.