J.K. Rowling wrote her first story about a rabbit at the age of 6. Around the same age, Stephen King copied comic books into a notebook and added his own descriptions.
Budding authors start at all ages and through a variety of ways, and this year’s winners from the Anne Arundel Council Literacy Chapter’s Young Authors Contest are no different.
Across Anne Arundel County, each grade had one winner and one runner-up for both short stories and for poetry. In the poetry category, two first-place winners and two runners-up came from Broadneck High School. Freshman Ja’Niya Gaither took top honors for her grade.
“I got my inspiration from a story I wrote that explains the depth of life and the trials people face every day,” she said. “Also how there's someone who will always be there for you when you need them and someone to help guide you. No matter what life brings, there's always a positive outcome to everything in life.”
Runner-up Blake Martin wrote from another perspective.
“I deal with anxiety and I deal with paranoia,” he said. “Sometimes it makes it difficult to sleep. One night, I had a panic attack, and I wrote precisely what I felt.”
Sophomore Clementine McLemore also earned first place, penning a poem inspired by the increased polarization of the United States.
“I feel like people, especially politicians, are becoming more and more defensive about their positions [and] that they don't listen to other alternatives,” she said. “My poem was written to expose and draw attention to the fact that people need to distance themselves from the comfort of their own views and need to open their minds to see what's best for humanity overall.”
Madeleine Stern, president of the Young Authors Club at Broadneck High School, earned second-place honors for a personal poem.
“I was thinking of times I wanted to do all the things I wanted to do,” she said. Reflecting on her message, she added, “You shouldn’t be wishing away your life.”
Middle school winners included Severna Park Middle seventh-grader Abbie Heath (poetry) and eighth-grader Kaylee Winters (short story). Magothy River Middle seventh-grader Aaron Semos (poetry) and Severna Park Middle eighth-grader Noel Castillo (short story) earned second place.
Students at Folger McKinsey made their school proud. Entries by fourth-grader Sophia Vandiver (poetry) and third-grader Kaitlynne Wilt (short story) were selected for first place, with first-grader Clara Plessinger being honored for second place in poetry.
In Kaitlynne’s story, “A Rainbow That Sticks Together,” two sets of colors start clubs called the Cool Colors and the Warm Colors.
“It’s a fun way of saying we should work together even if we’re different,” she said.
Asked what she learned, Kaitlynne said, “It doesn’t just take one copy to make a book perfect. It takes work.”
Although her poem took work, Sophia also enjoyed the writing process.
“I really wanted it to snow and it wasn’t snowing,” she said of her inspiration.
Clara was also intrigued by the weather. She started her poem as a kindergartener in North Carolina.
“I made this because it was spring time … and in North Carolina, it was hotter,” she said, adding that she is most proud of the line, “Blossoms grow and snow melts.”
Benfield, Broadneck and Jones elementary schools were also represented with Young Authors Contest winners and runners-up.
Winners will advance to the state level. While some of the students enjoyed writing for fun and some viewed it as an emotional outlet, they unanimously agreed that the process was rewarding.
“I’ve used writing as a way not only to express myself but also to reduce tension,” Martin said. “It’s a great feeling not only to write but also to share it with others.”
Photos by Zach Sparks
2-3. Folger McKinsey Elementary students Kaitlynne Wilt, Clara Plessinger and Sophia Vandiver were among the Young Authors Contest winners.