Look over the titles of this year’s Write Rhode Island winners and try not to be intrigued: “Unwelcome Guests,” by Amanda Woodard and “Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun,” by Sam Read – both of Barrington High School – and “Dream Pool,” by Rebecca Smith of Montessori Pathways in Exeter. As with every good short story, the names spark the imagination, drawing the reader in.
For the second year, Providence’s School One hosted its creative writing contest, drawing submissions from teenagers across the state. An arts-focused high school on Providence’s East Side, School One uses the contest to engage fledgling writers from a number of Rhode Island schools. The best part: winning stories will be published in a print anthology.
“We wanted to develop something that motivated kids beyond the classroom,” says Diana Champa, outreach director at School One. “We wanted to give them something to write for that wasn’t a grade. When you submit something for publication, it’s usually your best work.”
School One teamed up with Goat Hill, a collective of local writing instructors, as well as individual high schools, offering extracurricular workshops to motivate interested students. The contest had only two hard-and-fast rules: the stories couldn’t be longer than 2,500 words, and they had to somehow feature Rhode Island. By the deadline of December 10, the judges had received 153 submissions from every corner of the state.
“The students usually have their stories set somewhere in Rhode Island,” says Champa. “I think the stories reflect teenagers’ real lives – everything from friendship to loneliness – and also their imaginary lives, like zombies and characters with superpowers. They do an incredible job of setting a tone and a mood. If it’s Block Island or Westerly, Newport or northern Rhode Island, they manage to capture what that specific landscape feels like.”