When I was seventeen, I had to write about something that mattered to me for a class assignment.
Growing up in Duluth, I was never far from Lake Superior. I drove up to my high school as the sun rose over the water, and drove home trying to simultaneously watch the road and stare at the moonlit path on the water. I rollerbladed on the boardwalk every day over the summer, and swam with my friends after ultimate frisbee whenever I could. When I was sad, I went to the beach. When I was happy, I went to the beach.
So that’s why I wrote about what the lake meant to me. “A Presence in the Waves,” I called my essay.
My Honors British Literature teacher (amazing superwoman that she is) and I worked on it for a month, through three revisions.
Why do I remember all this so well? I can’t tell you much about any other paper I wrote in high school. Can’t even remember the topic of a single one, even though it was my favorite subject. (Obviously).
I remember because I was so excited to enter my essay in the local Rotary Essay Competition. Oh the honor, the glory, the golden bars! I could only imagine how incredible it would feel to WIN THE LOCAL ROTARY ESSAY COMPETITION! (I heard you chortle to yourself, just now. Take my teenage-self seriously, puh-lease!).
And guess what? I won.
Now I’m not just telling this story to toot my own horn. Though I’m sure you’re very impressed. I’m telling it because writing contests can be such a compelling way to suck your writers into the beautiful slipstream of caring about their writing. An authentic audience, the lure of fame and fortune, there’s just something about it.
As we can see from Exhibit A (me), a writing contest isn’t just a one-off. Though it might feel unfair to try to help students get excited about writing by making it competitive, what that really does is light a little fire to help them dive into writing and swim around a little more. Try some new strokes. See where they can go with it. When the contest is over, the memory and enjoyment of this kind of writing just might last.
So today I wanted to share a little about a new writing contest host, Write the World. I’ve been exploring their site and checking out their free monthly competitions, and I like what I see. There’s a contest every month, so you can either choose the topic you like for your students, OR choose the month when it’s convenient to fit a contest into your curriculum. Can’t beat that! Plus, students can submit drafts on the site and get peer and professional feedback before submitting a final draft.
Allow me to give you a little visual tour of some of your options. Then you can head over to their site and learn more if you’re interested.