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Speak softly, but carry a big pen?
It may not be exactly what Teddy Roosevelt had in mind, but the motto works well for Sylvania Timberstone Junior High School's Power of the Pen team.
The Timberstone team wrote their way to victory May 25 at the 19th annual Power of the Pen State Competition, defeating 271 other junior high schools to capture the state championship at the College of Wooster in Wooster. Now, the junior high writers have their eye on a bigger prize: Putting together their own book.
At the state competition, the Timberstone team competed against about 643 students, taking part in three 35-minute writing rounds and a fourth "Power Round." The prizes, awarded for originality and creativity, included trophies, certificates, savings bonds, cash prizes, and scholarships valued at more than $24,000.
"It was phenomenal," eighth grader Olivia Bullock said. "It's so much fun being out there with your friends and meeting a bunch of new people that writing almost seems secondary."
The state competition was the culmination of 28 district and 12 regional competitions throughout Ohio, beginning with over 7,000 competitors at the district level.
Seven students qualified to represent Timberstone at the state level this year, including all six members of the eighth grade team.
Eighth graders Olivia Bullock and Alison Yang received the General Motors Creative Awards for Talented Young Writers for pieces they wrote during the 2006 season. Alison won second place, earning a $200 savings bond, and Olivia received a $50 savings bond. Both of their winning pieces were published in the Power of the Pen: The Winners of 2006 official book.
"Most of it just takes talent," Alison said. "I don't think writing can really be taught."
At the competition, students are given prompts ranging from a particular type of narrative to a single noun, students said. They said when the prompt is first announced, everybody makes a face and hesitates for a second, but there is no time to think or plan before writing.
This marks the second time that a Sylvania school has taken the Power of the Pen state championship. McCord Junior High School won in 1997, under Mrs. Hufford's leadership. The Timberstone team has placed second in the state for the past two years.
"I couldn't do what they do in those competitions," Mrs. Hufford said. "All I do is feed them and water them."
During the school year, the Timberstone students have been working on a book, a compilation of their Power of the Pen pieces, and they are eager to finish this summer. Mrs. Hufford said it was the students' idea to meet during the summer.
During their final official meeting of the year last Thursday, Mrs. Hufford and the team discussed how to get together and finish the book over the summer.
Students said the book is an important end to the team's year because it brings a sense of completion. Students said they have a strong emotional attachment to other members' pieces, and the book is a way for them to keep the stories with them.
"I think it's great because we've spent so much time on this and I want something to show for it," Alison said. "And this is our last chance to be together as a group before high school."
Mrs. Hufford said the team does not expect to publish the book, but a display copy will be placed in the school office and each student will get a copy.
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