Students Get Creative With Young Authors Contest

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This school year, students may have been limited to their homes for in-person instruction, but their minds traveled elsewhere while submitting stories and poems for the Anne Arundel County Young Authors Contest, sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Literacy Chapter.

These Severna Park and Arnold writers penned works about subjects from a variety of countries and time periods.

Arabella Gong, Severna Park Middle
Short Story, Grade 6 Winner

Arabella Gong used the Young Authors Contest as an opportunity to reference her Chinese culture in a fictional story. Writing her story, “Dumplings and Stir Fry,” became a personal experience.

“‘Dumplings and Stir Fry’ is about a girl in sixth grade who wants to experience American Thanksgiving traditions but realizes she has to be proud of her own cultural identity,” Arabella said.

She was overjoyed to win the contest at her grade level, but just as important was the chance to share her message.

“Your identity makes you special and you should stick with it,” she said.

Samantha Lavallee, Severna Park Middle
Short Story, Grade 7 Winner

Family history was also a motivating factor for Samantha Lavelle when she entered the Young Authors Contest. Growing up, she has been fascinated by World War II and stories about her grandfather, a Cypress native who served in the military.

In “Dreams and Resilience: A Family’s Journey through WWII,” a father serves in a station from the Springfield Armory.

“I love to read World War II books,” Samantha said. “I am very interested in that topic and that time period.”

She researched using the Army’s official website, the National Archives, Encyclopedia Britannica and other sources, she said, often having up to 20 tabs open on her web browser. One of her favorite takeaways from that research was the important role played by women.

“Everyone talks about how women were not involved in the military aspects of the war, and that’s not true,” Samantha said. “They had the WAVES (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). They had air traffic controllers and they did the radios.”

Samantha has also been focused on another writing challenge: the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest. For the essay, students nationwide in kindergarten through 12th grade were asked to imagine leading a one-week expedition to the moon’s South Pole.

Every student who submits an essay will receive an official certificate and be invited to a NASA virtual event featuring an astronaut. There are even more perks for the semifinalists and finalists.

Sean Litchford, Magothy River Middle
Poetry, Grade 7 Winner

In Sean Litchford’s family, there is a longstanding joke about being the descendants of Vikings. That was Sean’s catalyst when writing “The Norsemen,” a poem about Norse people.

The story is about a battle and the ensuing moments.

“The Vikings plunder a village and sail away to their cold homes,” Sean said. “Toward the end, the Vikings make a gift for their chief – an ax so great and so terrible.”

The writing process was anything but terrible for Sean.

“I got to learn a whole bunch of new words and I just had a lot of fun with it,” he said.

Max Buono, Severna Park Middle
Short Story, Grade 8 Runner-Up

“Not Your Average Carnival” earned Max Buono second place for grade 8 short story.

“I have always loved magic and mythical worlds, and two years ago when I read ‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians,’ I fell in love with Greek mythology, which has a heavy influence in this story,” Max said.

Not only was Max driven to write a short story, but he is also working on a full-length novel featuring the same characters from “Not Your Average Carnival.”

“I set it in a carnival because I thought it would be a fun setting with lots of interesting tidbits that my characters could interact with, making the adventure seem a lot more captivating,” he said. “Overall, I just tried to have fun and create something I would be happy to create and enjoy reading myself. I am very happy with the results.”

Savannah Hogue, Severna Park Middle
Poetry, Grade 8 Runner-Up

Savannah Hogue was inspired by her thoughts about war while writing "The Whistle of the Train." In her poem, the speaker recalls when a loved one left for war and the emotions she felt while awaiting the loved one's safe return.

Not only is Savannah a proficient wordsmith, but she was the Severna Park Middle School spelling bee champion this year, as well as the runner-up last year. As champion, she went on to compete in the Anne Arundel County spelling bee.

Cameron Ochalek, Folger McKinsey Elementary
Short Story, Grade 2 Winner

Cameron Ochalek wrote a story about having a sister with Down syndrome so that others can learn how it feels. His sister, Ellie, previously shared her story on “Good Morning America,” and Cameron is her biggest cheerleader.

“It is important to share this information so that others can learn that people with Down syndrome should not have to be treated differently than people without a disability, because that is not OK, and people with disabilities do not want to be treated that way,” Cameron said.

Liam Sabo, Broadneck Elementary
Poetry, Grade 5 Winner

While some writers dove into the past for their subject matter, Liam Sabo focused on current events with his poem “Equality.”

“I did this because during this time, there has been more injustice and not equality,” Liam said, noting that he heard about the injustices rather than witnessed them. “I hope people read this [poem] and think about the injustices instead of forgetting about them.”

The surprise for Liam was not only winning the contest but also the way he was informed.

“I was pretty excited; the teachers rang my doorbell and had balloons,” he said.

The Young Authors Contest had four other local winners. Folger McKinsey first-grader Abigail Wallace had a second-place poem called “The Two Nutcrackers.” Another Folger student, Cameron Ochalek, won the grade 2 short story contest with “Having a Sister with Down Syndrome.” Benfield Elementary student Lawson Terhune was the first-place selection for grade 3 poem with “The Stream.” For grade 5 short story, Broadneck Elementary student Adam Goodenough earned second place with “Game On Broadneck.”

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