The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Young Authors 2015

One of my treasured memories of middle school was co-authoring a story with my best friend. He had actually written a first draft of the story but decided it was awful and was going to trash the whole thing. I convinced him to rewrite instead and offered to help. Our rewrite was actually going to be to just turn the whole thing into a joke and then scrap it. But somewhere along the way we realised that we were actually writing a really good story and decided to finish it.

That story, entitled The Wizard of Nome (despite having very little to do with the title character or place), was entered into our school’s Young Authors competition when we were in seventh grade. We were winners not just for our building, but for the entire district! That gave us the opportunity to go to the Illinois Young Authors Conference held at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1996.

It has been almost 20 years since that event. But I still remember it and the experience. My friend and I went on to co-author two sequels to The Wizard of Nome over the course of the next four years. We finished the last story quite literally right before he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. (His parents were actually waiting in the car with the moving truck while we were at the computer at my house finishing the story!)

I was so excited to learn that the Urbana School District participates in this annual contest and that students in my building are frequent contributors. After two years of someone else running the contest at Wiley, I took over last year, with the previous coordinator guiding me along the way. This year is my first official year as coordinator, but I called in help from Miss C in the primary hall because I wanted to increase participation from our younger students.

We had a total of 33 students contribute an amazing collection of original stories! Students from kindergarten through fifth grade participated, but we were only allowed to select five as building winners to go on to the district celebration, with just one overall winner to represent our district at the state conference in May (still held at ISU in Bloomington). Miss C and I convinced a number of adult readers to review the stories, rate them on a four-point scale for ideas, creativity, and overall quality each before reading through all of the stories that received a composite score of ten points or higher. Then we selected the top five and read them again to select the overall winner. It was a lengthy process but so worth it as we read and reread these stories and marveled at the creativity of our young authors!

We announced the winners today at our Coyote College after acknowledging all of the students who participated. The winners will go on to a district celebration in April, and I am really looking forward to being a part of that event before going to Bloomington with Miss C and also my wife, who has been volunteering with me at the state conference since 2012.

Congratulations to all of our Young Authors! I hope next year we will have even more students participating!

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