In early August 2017, we sent out a letter and application form to all the language arts teachers in the middle schools and high schools in Tippah County, MS, where Blue Mountain College (BMC) is located, inviting them to urge their students to enter our writing contest. Students could enter poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, and critical analysis essays. The deadline for submission was February 1, 2018. We received 64 submissions and awarded a first and second place winner in each category and grade division, pairing the grades in 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12. On March 27, 2018, we held a reading and reception for the winners, their teachers, family, and school administration at the BMC campus. The lecture hall where the readings were held was packed. Our chapter members, who served as the contest judges, also participated in the program by calling out the winners in the categories and grade levels they judged and presenting them with a certificate of merit and a booklet of all the winners’ works.
The night was a great success. We encountered very few obstacles. Because of the publicity the contest received last year and the recognition afforded the winners, we had many more entries this year, so we plan to move the venue for the readings and reception to a larger auditorium next year. Our chapter encourages other chapters to host similar writing contests. While students often get recognized for athletic accomplishments, student writers do not always receive recognition for their talents. This contest is the only one in our county for student writers at the secondary level. We believe that by hosting such events, we are encouraging these students to write more in the future. Tippah County is the ancestral home of William Faulkner, and he lived here as a child from ages one to five. Who knows? Perhaps by encouraging these young writers, we may be nurturing the talents of another future Nobel Prize winner from Northeast Mississippi! Thank you for helping us with this very worthwhile project!