I won my first writing contest at the age of eight. Here’s how I did it.
In 1963 my second grade teacher prodded her students toward entering the Register Guard’s “Why I Like Christmas” contest. I couldn’t resist.
Listening carefully to the contest rules about originality and not letting an adult help too much, I asked myself,
What can I say that has not been said?
I heard my classmates talk about all things Christmas, with anticipated gifts being the top of everyone’s list. Then there was the excitement of Christmas vacation, Christmas treats, and Christmas TV specials. What wasn’t to like about Christmas?
But since adults would be judging the contest, I needed to enlarge my perspective.
What do the judges want to see?
I searched my brain for clues to what the grown-ups in my life appreciated. Then I remembered my teacher’s enthusiastic response when I brought my baby sister’s hospital photo to Show and Tell. This was Lisa’s first Christmas – a perfect element to include in my story.
Then I visualized my grandmother, and her reminders to be thankful. There wasn’t much talk about gratitude during my peer’s Christmas discussions, so I knew it might be good to include it.
The tiny seed
Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13:18-19 ESV).
It is part of the nature of God’s kingdom that something he created as small and seemingly inconsequential should contain the ability to grow into something larger than we are.
The award for my “Why I Like Christmas” essay was five dollars, but that small beginning led me to more writing and studying and learning and reasoning and growing. The value of writing is tremendous to me personally, and I have the added reward of seeing others encouraged by my efforts.
To come up with a winning entry, I suggest you
- Carefully read the rules.
- Try to know your judges and what they expect.
- Find a new angle, something from a different perspective that energizes or excites you.
- Encourage small beginnings. The gardener in the scripture took the tiny seed and cultivated it before it grew into something great. Keep writing.
by Kathy Sheldon Davis