Writing about writing

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“The national judges were very strict this year as you can see from the numbers below,” said Donna Adcock referencing Alabama’s Letters About Literature entries.

Adcock was absolutely correct. Last year’s Alabama participants in this Library of Congress sponsored contest numbered only 245. This year, Alabama almost doubled its submissions with 479 letters.

Calling students to write letters to authors revealing how books change their perspectives about the world or themselves—this competition becomes extremely useful for promoting student reading. Certainly, in order to be writers, students must be readers.

In writing classes, we examine and create our own blogs, post and read the posts of others. We listen to podcasts and examine periodicals. Digital media is valuable and consistently current. However, professionally published books that have traveled through editing—and been reviewed exponentially more than what is quickly posted on the web—serve as students’ best examples.

Searching for titles that change their perspective of the world or themselves sometimes causes students to read dozens of books each. These letters, mailed directly to the Library of Congress, are judged by a committee of professional authors who will return only the finalists to Alabama’s Center for the Book. From these returned finalists’ letters, state judges choose first, second and third place in state for each level.

The Library of Congress returned one dozen high school letters to Alabama this year. Nine of the 12 finalists’ letters were written by PHS students. What does this fact reveal about the Pelham community? These students have been blessed with families, teachers, public and school librarians, indeed, an entire community who’ve urged them to read and celebrated the love of reading alongside them.

Junior Laura Tatum and senior Jamie Abbott placed second and third, respectively, in the state competition; other finalists included Erin Riley, Maria Quintana Garcia, Jessie Todd, Olivia Johnson, Isabella Finley, Guadalupe Valtierra and Brendyn Matthews. Letters will be published in the PHS Literary Magazine which will be available before graduation.

Keep reading Pelham—amazing books await at Pelham’s new public library.