PHS students place in writing competition

By Connie Nolen / Community Columnist

“They’ll have a copy of your letter on the podium. I have a larger print copy that you can use if that helps nervous eyes,” I messaged to Anna Carden, PHS graduating senior and the State of Alabama’s Letters about Literature first-place winner.

“I may take you up on that larger print copy,” Carden replied.

Early the next morning at the University of Alabama’s Gorgas Library where the Alabama Center for the Book is located, seated beside her close friend and the second-place winner Lupita Aguilar, Carden said, “I want that large-print copy.”

Letters about Literature (LAL) is a writing competition sponsored by the Library of Congress that requires students to read, write and think critically. Each year, the prompt requires students to write letters to authors of books that have changed their perspective of the world or themselves.

Searching for LAL perspective-shifting books is the quest many of my students and I begin on our first day together. Students sometimes read dozens of books searching for the one that speaks to them. In the process, they’re studying the best writing practices that I could ever teach.

In the way that athletes watch film, writers read books. Reading books allows writing students to study the craft of writing both from the front row of the fifty-yard line and the ESPN Sports Center review the next day. Examining up close the detailed intricacies of the craft, students also reflect on the message, the theme, the underlying meaning—emanating from that crazy ego within all writers that promises that, if others can share our vision, the world will be a better place.

PHS students love competing in Letters about Literature. These past two years the Library of Congress has chosen nine out of twelve finalists on the high school level from Pelham High School entries. PHS students won second and third place last year—and first and second place this year. First-place winner, Carden reads her letter to the audience—revealing that an author helped her discover more about herself—making her world more manageable—and making Pelham very proud.