JAMESTOWN — When it comes to prepping for a Power of the Pen competition, just showing up is the real challenge for Carmen Kell.
“Being able to get up and go to it (is not easy),” the Greeneview Middle School seventh grader said. “I’m really, really shy and introverted.”
But once she conquers that fear and walks into the first 40-minute writing session it’s a cinch.
“I get to the room and I see the prompt and I’m like, ‘I got this,’ ” she said. “I can easily express anything I’m feeling without telling people I’m feeling that.”
Kell proved that at the regional tournament held recently at Wittenberg University. Out of 78 writers, she finished eighth and qualified for the state tournament May 24 at the College of Wooster. She will be joined by fellow Ram Writer Allison Mussetter, who finished seventh out of 78 in the eighth grade and earned her second trip to a state writing tournament.
Each writing session featured a different prompt and was scored by two judges. From the district competition 50 percent advanced to the regional, while just 25 percent advanced to the state tournament.
Kell and Mussetter each had two first-place finishes, one second-place finish, and two third-place finishes.
Mussetter didn’t receive any medals last at last year’s PenOhio state competition, which was open to middle school teams in lieu of a one-year hiatus of Power of the Pen.
In reality that was the least of her concerns when looking back.
“Last year the competition was a mess, she said. “I didn’t put my full effort into it. I’m not as good writing on paper as I am at home writing on my computer. (And) it was supposed to end at 3 p.m. and we didn’t home until almost midnight.
In fact, it was an event she would rather forget so whatever happens this year will be better.
“I improved a lot over this last year year,” she said, adding that she has ongoing writing based on characters from her favorite TV shows. “It’s going to be different.”
Kell isn’t sure what to expect from her inaugural trip to the state event.
“I don’t really know how to feel since it’s my first time,” she said. “I’ve never been through an experience like this. It’s exciting. This just amazes me, the entire thing.”
Ram Writers coach Carolyn Jones is equally amazed about her team.
“These students, they inspire me,” she said. “They keep me young with their ideas and excitement. I’m really amazed at what they can do in such a short amount of time. This is a rewarding experience.”
A third teammate, Kendal Allen, is making the trip to Wooster although she didn’t qualify. The eighth grader — who joined Ram Writers around Christmas time — will be a runner and support person for Kell and Mussetter. She narrowly missed qualifying, likely due to a fourth and fifth-place score from the judges in two sessions.
“I’m not disappointed,” she said. “I’m just happy I get to be involved. I’m just happy for my friends who get to go. I found it really fun. The prompts were creative. I have a lot of experience writing. It was really easy for me to write what I’m thinking. I think writing is a great coping mechanism.”
Ram Writers meet once a week and practice writing off prompts and general writing.
”The practice writing really helped me,” Mussetter said.
The trio heads to Wooster May 23 and begins writing the next day.