By Mike LaBella
---- — For the past 21 years, judges have agonized over choosing the best stories and poems submitted to the annual Write Away!! contest, which is sponsored by the District Parent Council and Haverhill’s public schools.
It was no different in this year’s 22nd annual contest, which judges said was highlighted by many excellent submissions from students at all grade levels.
“I spent the weekend reading these with my two sons (ages 7 and 9) who agreed with me that it was hard to pick a favorite for many of the grades,” said Tracy Fuller, director the Haverhill YMCA and one of this year’s judges.
The annual contest celebrates and promotes good writing in Haverhill’s school system and is run by volunteers. Prizes are funded with donations.
Shelly Ann Cullen of Haverhill Bank said her experience as a first year judge was “sensational.”
“I was so inspired and so intrigued by the stories and the writers that I would love to be involved more by assisting (if needed) with the 2,000-plus essays from inception,” she said.
School Committee member Joseph Bevilacqua, also a contest judge, said he was amazed by this year’s entries.
“The writers displayed a quality that made the reader think and wanting to continue on with their story or poem,” Bevilacqua said. “Great talent and interest.”
Ashleigh Bergh, a past Write Away winner and now a judge for the contest, said it was difficult to place this year’s winners as there were so many great stories.
“It was refreshing to read stories with big imagination and thought-provoking themes,” said Bergh, a story editor for MXN Entertainment in Hollywood, Calif. “I hope the authors continue to write, as they’ve all got great voices and a knack for putting words on paper.”
More than 2,000 entries per year have been received over the 22 years of the contest’s existence, said Ashleigh’s father, Herb Bergh, who co-chairs the contest along with Tricia Manjounes.
Contest entries are ranked by a panel of judges which includes elected officials, college administrators, librarians, retired teachers and authors and others in the community. Cash prizes, gift certificates and Certificates of Achievement were presented to the authors of this year’s 55 winning entries at an awards ceremony held in May at Haverhill High School.
During the awards program, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn gave contest winners a pep talk, saying the only thing that makes him happier than being in a room full of books, is “being in a room full of writers.”
“And this is a room full of very creative and talented writers,” Glenn said.
He told students that writing can help transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
“Whatever you choose to do, the chances are very good that you will need to be able to express yourself clearly in writing,” he said. “Being a good writer will help you get your foot in the door, and keep it there.”
He also told students that as writers, many of them will make a difference with their words, and noted a number of literary giants including William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, J.R.R. Tolkein and J.K. Rowling, whose words he said made a difference in the lives of millions of people.
“They helped entertain and enlighten, they explained history and changed the course of countries and politics, they preserved nature, and helped children rediscover the wonder of books,” Glenn said. “They did all this and a lot more, and so can you.”
Among this year’s winning entries was a story by fourth-grader Chelsea Daigle, which she titled “The Witch and the Messy Lab.”
Here is an excerpt: “Settled in the deep woods was a small village of witch families. In this village, there was a young girl named Jazmine. Jazmine owned a bakery where she made magical pastries of all kinds ... She worked in the small, dark basement with shelves cluttered with bottles, jars and all kinds of witch stuff and of course all the books filled with her secret recipes. This is where she created all her delicious masterpieces including cakes, cookies and special pastries.”
Tenth-grader Erika Thornhill’s story, “I have no name, I have no age,” began with a young girl telling an unhappy story of being a foster child. But it turns into a tale of horror when she reveals to a detective who was investigating a rash of brutal murders that she was the suspect he was looking for. “He believed I was a poor, unfortunate, abandoned orphan girl that needed his pity,” Erika wrote. “I am death,” she went on to explain to the detective.
Here is a list of this year's winners, the title of their work, their school, and teacher: Kindergarten :First place: Angelina Joy Lucia, The Little Pancake, Walnut Square, Mrs. Demaris. Second place: Kayshamylle Quintero, The Zebra, Golden Hill, Mrs. Lucia. Third place: Nicholas Schraffa, Luke Meets Givos, Bradford Elementary, Mrs. Vinci. Grade One :First place: Grace Gillert, Advenchr With a Mrmad, Walnut Square, Ms. Pelliccione. :Second place: Nicholas Wilson, When I went to Daddy's Work, Tilton Elementary, Ms. Eaddy. Third place: Talan Stratton, My Favorite Planet, Pentucket Lake, Mrs. Parent. Grade Two :First place: Jaliya Diaz, The Scary Pumpkin, Consentino, Mrs. Soraghan. Second place: Cameron Connor Ross, Finding Gold, Greenleaf, Mrs. Tucker. Third place: Amelia Paquette, Santa's Vacation, Walnut Square, Mrs. O'Leary. Grade Three :First place: Maci Gould, The Haunted House, Bradford Elementary, Mrs. Ziminski. Second place: Merrick Battaglia, The Day I Met a Fairy, Pentucket Lake, Mrs. Dolan. Third place: Alexsia DeOliveira, Valentine's Hearts, Golden Hill, Mrs. Shea. Grade Four :First place: Chelsea Daigle, The Witch and the Messy Lab, Bradford Elementary, Mrs. Riley/Mrs. Flores. :Second place: Ailish Ferrick, Yankeey Home Coming, Golden Hill, Ms. Atwood. :Third place: Melody White, The Bad News, Bradford Elementary, Mrs. Riley/Mrs. Flores. Grade Five :First place: Shannon Koiser, Papa's Advice, Bradford Elementary, Mrs. Murphy/Mrs. Breton. Second place (tie): Kaley Dupont, Peace, Consentino, Mrs. Church. Second place (tie): Angel Tricoche, The Haunted School, Consentino, Mrs. Buzzell. Grade Six :First place: Natalia Clark, My Companion, Hunking, Mrs. Paquette. :Second place (tie): Jadynne Hill, Why I Play, Consentino, Mrs. Hartung. Second place (tie): Kimberly Henriquez, This World, Consentino, Ms. Schena. Grade Seven :First place: Caitlin McCutcheon, Slave, Nettle, Mr. Sirois. Second place: Ellalandra Arakelow, Enslaved My Self, Nettle, Mr. Sirois. Third place: Corey Hollins, My Perfect Day, Consentino, Mrs. Miller. Grade Eight :First place: Veyli Ortiz Solis, Does it Have to End This Way, Nettle, Mr. Mueller. Second place: Madalyne Buco, Alone, Whittier, Mrs. Eddy. Third place: Kelsea Arsenault, Oden, Hunking, Mrs. Daley. Grades Nine and ten :First place: Erika Thornhill, I Have No Name, I Have No Age, (10th grade) Mr. Andrews. Second place: Camille Clark, The Burned, Bloody Curtain, (ninth grade) Mrs. Baker. Third place: Alexandra Conwell, Yes, I will Keep My Smile, (10th grade) Mrs. Baker. Grades eleven and twelve :First place: Haley Peabody, Our House, (12th grade), Mrs. Quinney. Second place: Rhianna Waterman, Silence Speaks, (12th grade), Mrs. Quinney. Third place: Alex Zylkuski, Las Palomitas, (11th grade), Ms. Medvetz/Mrs. Barberio.