Reading Young Writers
I wasn’t expecting eye-popping metaphors, exquisite poetic forms, and complex fictional characters. I didn’t think, going in, that I would have difficulty choosing the best of the best from the entries in a state-wide writing competition for secondary school students.
But that is exactly what happened.
This was my second year as a judge in this competition, which required me to read and rate 30+ poems, stories, and essays by writers aged 14-18. I read the entries multiple times, each pass cutting the list in half until I finally came to the top five.
That part was fairly easy.
The next step, picking the top three, and giving them final ranks, took me two days and a lot of angst.
In the end I knew my choices were right, but what blew me away in this project was the quality of work and the intensity of emotion in all of the entries. My granddaughter is just two years behind the youngest of these students, some of whom wrote chilling stories of abuse, contemplating suicide, and wanting to escape the worlds in which they live.
I worried that some were personal essays disguised as fiction. I wondered how these young authors were able to diagnose and comprehend such complex emotional reactions to life. Were they real, or did they rip their story ideas from the headlines like an episode of SVU?
What I detest is the number of children so painfully aware of the dark side of life in our overexposed culture. What I love is the focus given, in some school districts, on writing and story-telling, and the already deeply talented young writers learning to express themselves so clearly as a result.
I wasn’t expecting eye-popping metaphors, exquisite poetic forms, and complex fictional characters, but in the three finalists for this competition, that is exactly what I got.
It was delicious.
Is there a young writer in your world?
They are the future.