JAMESTOWN — Going from middle school to high school, Abby Powers was sad to say goodbye to the Power of the Pen writing competitions.
“That was the one thing I was going to miss about middle school,” the Greeneview High School freshman said. “Writing was just something that was really important to me. It helped me through a darker time for me.”
A state finalist while at Greeneview Middle School, it’s easy to see why Powers was glum. But she, along with other budding writers in Jamestown, received some good news this school year when they found out Greeneview was selected to host the start-up Southwest Regional PenOhio tournament.
Designed from the mold of Power of the Pen — a decades-old creative writing program — the regional is one of three in Ohio that allows high school students to express their creativity via the written word. The tournament runs 8 a.m to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 and includes 12 junior varsity teams (9th and 10th grade) and 14 varsity teams (11th and 12th grade). Cedar Cliff and Greeneview have teams in both divisions, while Greene County Career Center has entered a varsity team.
“This is a really awesome experience to have,” said junior Onyx Kraner, who was also a Power of the Pen state finalist. “It was like my niche. School has beaten me down so much, I don’t feel like I’m creative anymore. It’s nostalgic.”
Much like POP, PenOhio participants are given a prompt and then they scribble away.
For instance, one of the prompts was, “You found a shoe.”
“That was all it was, that’s all they gave you,” said junior Emylee Stringfield, a state finalist while in middle school as well.
Participants have 40 minutes to write as much or as little as they need to answer. That time limit itself is the biggest “burden,” according to Stringfield.
“You feel like your story is too cliche,” she said.
All admit writer’s block sets in myriad times but they work through it and hope for the best.
“You could write a story that makes no sense,” Powers said. “But it could still be better than any other person in the room.”
To help get the creative juices flowing, the teams meet once a week for practice.
“We watch writing workshops and work on a prompt, or work on a prompt leading up to competition,” Powers said.
The meetings themselves are therapeutic for the trio.
“We all have inside jokes,” Stringfield said. “We’re like a little family. It’s really lighthearted.”
Added Kraner, “It’s like a once-a-week family reunion.”
This is the second year for PenOhio. The first tournament was just in the northeast. This year there are three regionals and by next year, organizers hope to have universities host the regionals, according to Greeneview Principal Brian Masser.
It was Masser who made the Southwest Regional happen for Greeneview. Knowing how much the students enjoyed the middle school writing, he contacted the POP folks to see if they had any options in high school. Organizers were quick to jump on the idea of a southwest regional as well.
“It’s been quite of a whirlwind,” Masser said. “Kids have been really excited about it.”
Wright State has offered a $1,000 scholarship to the individual winner of the varsity competition, while Cedarville has pledged a full scholarship to its summer writing camp to the JV winner.
The varsity team is coached by Daniel Kloosterman, while the junior varsity team is coached by Brittany Dewitt.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.