PHS writers enter Letters about Literature contest

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

Pelham High School writers enter many contests annually—including Letters about Literature. Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this contest has a simple tag line, “Read. Be Inspired. Write Back.”

The prompt sends students searching for books that change their vision of themselves or the world instructing them to write letters to their authors detailing how these books have changed them. Winners’ letters are collected in an annual book that is shelved in the Library of Congress.

For students taking writing electives, being published in the Library of Congress is the serious prize.

There are other prizes, but the promise of publication speaks most to these aspiring writers. I love that this contest keeps them reading because when writers are reading good books, they’re studying their craft. When they read, they watch the professionals do what they aspire to do.

This year, Alabama has 22 state high school level semifinalists, and PHS writers claim 13 of those spots. Letters about Literature require printed letters sent in an envelope. I must write a letter to accompany my students’ work and drive the letters to the post office. Having read these letters, I knew the treasure that I was transporting.

Most books were chosen through discussion and research with the hope that each book would be “the book”—that book that would enlighten a new vision and be letter-worthy. Senior Kat Owens’ book revealed a broadened understanding for a complex culture.

“Having taken a Comparative Religion course junior year, I knew the basics of Islam, but ‘The Kite Runner’ took me to the raw, real relationship between two boys and their world revealed a new reality, and significant understanding for a people I had little interaction with before,” said Owens, writing to Khaled Housseini, author of “The Kite Runner.”

“Your book has moved me to consider my behavior toward the people in my life and to seek to love them purely and with a noble heart,” junior Molly Steele wrote to Ted Dekker about “White.”

PHS students read the books, they were inspired and they wrote back—beautifully.