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For seventh grader Audrey Chisholm of Sylvania Township, a lack of appealing books is never a problem: When she can’t find a story that suits her, she writes one.
Friday, the 13-year-old at Christ the King School took her passion for writing a step further when she won fourth place for her grade in the state Power of the Pen contest in Wooster.
The interscholastic writing contest drew about 7,500 students in grades seven and eight from 82 school districts.
In earlier district and regional tournaments, students competed in three 40-minute rounds, in which the young writers were to use their imagination to draft a narrative in response to a prompt.
Audrey was one of 12 from Christ the King to enter the competition this year.
After clinching first in the district at Ottawa Hills High School in January, she headed to Lourdes College for the regionals in March. Competing against scores of area students, she received the seventh-grade Best of the Best Award, a judge’s choice prize.
Audrey’s performance at the regionals earned her one of 750 spots in the state contest at the College of Wooster.
With prompts running the gamut from “things that are broken” to “detour,” Audrey wrote her way up to the final Power Round against 53 other students. In that last round, the writers were asked to write on “bravado,” and Audrey didn’t lose heart.
“Audrey is never afraid to follow the creative voice in her head,” said her writing coach, Cindy Roberts, a teacher at Christ the King. “She is very creative and fearless and, most of all, she has fun with her writing.”
Audrey finished behind seventh graders Emma Coffman of Doylestown and Sarah Szilagy of Hudson. Rhonda Krehbiel of Oxford took home the title.
Audrey’s parents recalled the excitement of the awards ceremony where she received a plaque. “When we heard that Audrey was one of the finalists, I took my camera out and started filming,” said her mother, Darlene Chisholm. “We were incredibly thrilled for her.”
As part of her honor, Audrey’s work will be in the Power of the Pen’s Book of Winners, an annual collection of award-winning pieces from the contest. It is sent to competing middle schools across Ohio. The Book of Winners is one of many resources distributed by Power of the Pen to promote the teaching and mastery of creative writing among middle school students.
A nonprofit organization founded in 1987, Power of the Pen partners with more than 500 schools in Ohio to provide instructional materials and organize annual writing tournaments.
There is no national competition; Power of the Pen is only in Ohio. But the program offers a chance to win many awards. Some years, the College of Wooster has given scholarships to junior high students. Most important, supporters say, is the love of language the program aims to instill.
This is the fifth year Christ the King has competed.
The Catholic school offers optional meetings every Wednesday afternoon for students such as Audrey to share ideas, propose prompts, and explore writing techniques, said Ms. Roberts, who coordinates the writing workshops at Christ the King.
Each Wednesday, she added, students are encouraged to write on a suggested prompt for about 40 minutes and get feedback on previous pieces. “The kids love to hear their own writing read, but equally love to hear what their classmates are writing,” she said. “They truly encourage and challenge one another to be creative and fearless.”
For Principal Joe Carroll, Audrey’s achievement is testament to the school’s writing program. “It’s really the culmination of a year’s work,” he said.
An indefatigable reader, Audrey started writing short stories when she was 8, her mother said.
Audrey said she enjoys writing “morbid” stories populated by dark creatures as well as short pieces that surprise the reader with a plot twist. For example, the story on “detour” that she wrote at the state championship portrayed a casual classroom interaction between a student and teacher but included a sophisticated switch between internal and external dialogues, Mrs. Chisholm said.
While Audrey plans to pursue creative writing as a hobby, her career plans do not include short stories or poetry lines: she dreams of attending Harvard and becoming a surgeon.
Contact Lorenzo Ligato at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.