Macdonald High Hosts First Ever Writing Contest
by Amanda McCulloch
Last September, Macdonald High School students already knew what was to come in their English Language Arts classes. The school has a long-standing tradition of public speaking for the senior levels and a monologue challenge for the younger students. But not everyone is comfortable with standing up in front of their peers and delivering resounding speeches.
That is when Grade 11 student, Michelle Clahane, approached Tamara Bush, a Grade 11 English and Psychology teacher, about perhaps offering something for students who love to write, but hate to get up and speak.
As a result, the Macdonald High School Short Story Contest was created.
Organizer Amanda McCulloch, an English teacher at Mac, created the contest to spark the interest of students in all grades who love to write and love a good challenge.
The contest saw students writing 1000 word stories – but that’s just where the challenge began. Each round, students were assigned a random genre, subject, and character. To make it even more challenging, they only had one week to write, edit, and submit their work.
Imagine being assigned criteria like an interview, a doctor, and the genre of a fairy tale- or perhaps scuba diving and a photographer, in the style of science fiction! As you can imagine, students were asked to draw upon all of their creative abilities to make it through each round.
The submissions were judged for their overall adherence to the required criteria, writing mechanics, and were scored on a scale ranging from Very Weak (Plot? What’s a plot?) to Amazing (This story could and should be published). For each round, a variety of teachers and support staff at Macdonald High participated in the judging process. The judges were required to provide positive and constructive feedback after each submission.
The first round of the contest saw 35 students across all grade levels participate. The second round had 12 students who were assigned all new genres, subjects, and characters. Lastly, six students moved onto the final round where they all received the same requirements: Open genre, eavesdropping, and a waiter/waitress. For the final round, judges from outside the school participated including Carol Heffernan, Assistant Director General at LBPSB and Sarah Simon, Team Leader for Evaluation Secondary 5 English Language Arts at the Ministry of Education.
After three grueling rounds, three winners were selected and their stories did not disappoint!
- In first place was Keirah Scott, a Grade 9 student, with her story about a restaurant with an intriguing menu.
- Second place was taken by Talia Martin, a Grade 11 student who took a classic fairy tale and gave it new life.
- Finally, third place went to Jack Leslie, a Grade 9 student whose story revolved around a moment’s decision to take a risk.
When asked about her experience, winner Keirah Scott said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the competition. It was a perfect mix of a controlled space with the prompts and regulations and an environment where I had the freedom to write virtually whatever I wanted. My imagination ran free and did things even I didn’t know it could do! Overall, this competition revealed a lot of my hidden potential and I’m sure it did for everyone in this contest. I am extremely grateful for this experience. If I ever write more (which I most definitely will) I will forever look back to this story as my first official piece.”
Runner-up Talia Martin expressed similar feelings. “This competition was an amazing way for me to express my passion for creative writing, without worrying about submitting it for grades. As an aspiring author, I hope this competition will encourage young writers to cultivate their creative writing abilities in a fun and challenging way.”
Contest organizer Amanda McCulloch, couldn’t be more thrilled with the results of their inaugural competition. “The response was overwhelming and the feedback from both staff and students has been resounding. Our students are already excited for next year. We hope to expand the contest regionally and bring other schools into the fold. It was a lot work, but a challenge I am ready to take on.”
Macdonald High School is immensely proud of all their students and their phenomenal work!