Friday, March 7, 2008


For the second year in a row I have been asked to judge a writing contest as part of Etowah County's Big Read program. Last year students were asked to write a short story in the same vein as Daniel Wallace's BIG FISH. This year students were asked to write an essay addressing the theme of "gifts" in Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

I am no stranger to judging contests. What's interesting is how many entries must be rejected right of the bat for not following the guidelines set forth. This go around I had to set aside some really wonderful essays because they didn't address the specific subject matter of "gifts." The guidelines were written for a reason, folks!

People always ask how one arrives at a winner, so I'll tell you. The best work is well-organized, well-thought out, and original in some way. The winning essay in this contest had me from the title. And the author followed through on what was promised by thos first four words. Something else I liked about this particular entry was how the author used quotes from the book to support his ideas. None of the other entrants did this.

How wonderful to meet a young up-and-coming word-lover!

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway, and you see it through, no matter what."


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