(Posted Jan. 30, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
They are given a prompt. It could be a phrase or a single word. Then, for 27 minutes, they let their imaginations run wild.
It happens every Tuesday during intervention period at Southeastern Junior/Senior High in South Charleston. Nearly 20 seventh- and eighth-graders gather to practice writing fictional stories on a time limit.
That practice paid off on Jan. 11 at the District 1 Power of the Pen contest at the Global STEM Academy in Springfield. Entrants each wrote three impromptu stories in three 40-minute sessions. When the scores were tallied, the Trojans’ seventh-grade team placed fifth out of 16 teams, and the eighth-grade team placed seventh out of 16 teams.
Six of those students qualified for Regionals, set to take place on March 14 at Wittenberg University: seventh-graders Kylie Corbitt, Malloree Taylor and Madison Watson, and eighth-graders Carson Bell, Regan Cline and Mireya Hammett. Watson earned a medal for finishing fourth out of 77 seventh-graders at Districts.
These accomplishments are impressive considering Southeastern’s Power of the Pen program is only in its second year. Ashley Banion, an English teacher, and Bryn Dean, grade 7-12 librarian, are the advisors.
“This is a learning curve for all of us,” Dean said. “Plus, we only meet once a week for a short amount of time during the school day. Other teams meet for an hour before or after school once or twice a week.”
Southeastern’s pensters seem to be happy with whatever time they get to turn words into stories.
“I like embracing my creativity and letting my mind go to a different world,” said Kylie Corbitt, who recently wrote a narrative in which a teenager is run over by a car but gets a chance to redo life.
“I like to write about things that have happened but in a different person’s perspective, and I just like to write for fun,” said Malloree Taylor.
“From fifth grade until now, I’ve written mini stories on Google docs. Now, I get to compete, and it’s really fun,” said Regan Cline.
With much of classroom writing centering on research or presenting an argument, Power of the Pen provides an outlet for students with a creative bent.
“It’s something different,” Dean said.
That something different really appeals to Mireya Hammett who, for one of her recent contest pieces, wrote about a mixed martial arts athlete who thinks he’s living reality but is actually in a coma.
“I didn’t like writing at all before Power of the Pen. Now, I love it,” she said, adding that her grammar, spelling and sentence structure have improved, thanks in part to help from fellow club members.
Carson Bell appreciates the club as much for the friendships as the chance to “put anything down on paper and create” his own world.
“It’s really about all of the people in the group,” he said.
“I like that we are all together and can share our stories with each other,” added Madison Watson.
Between now and March 14, Southeastern’s half-dozen regional qualifiers will continue to hone their craft in hopes of good showings at the next level.