On Saturday, I went to help judge a high school writing competition called Power of the Pen. Schools from around the area sent teams of contestants, who competed on both an individual and team basis, in three rounds of 40-minute compositions. For the Eighth Grade, of which I was one of the judges for Best of Round, there were three prompts for the compositions.
Round 1: Show what it takes to start all over again.
Round 2: Write about somewhere you’d rather be.
Round 3: Use the pronoun them as the central theme of your story.
The essays were inventive and personal, and full of adolescent angst. Bullying, cliques, cutting, and medical traumas were all prevalent, but so were historical fictions, war stories, mafia, competitive swimming and horseback riding. Some of my favorites were nature stories, and although we were warned not to reward stories of personification, I like the Round 1 response of floating in limbo-land, until finally the chrysalis hatched and our protagonist discovered his wings. There were also great stories of peer pressure, cliques, bullying, procrastination and test anxiety that made me remember what it felt like to be in eighth grade. I am so very glad that I am no longer in eighth grade!
All in all, an entertaining and enlivening way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and inspiring to see so many different interpretations to the same question. Long live the Power of the Pen!