Tournament of Writers

Lois Helland, left, stands with Debra Christiansen after it was announced that Helland, of Schoolcraft, was the Grand Prize winner in last year’s Tournament of Writers competition.
Schoolcraft contest beckons aspiring authors

Last September, 13 aspiring writers from Schoolcraft and Vicksburg achieved something they may have only dreamed of: seeing their work published. And more writers, from a broader area, will have the same opportunity this fall.

The Schoolcraft Community Library is holding its second Tournament of Writers competition for aspiring poets and writers. The inaugural competition was held last year, and its participants were surprised when the Friends of Schoolcraft Community Library, the committee presenting the contest, printed the submissions in a book called Small Town Anthology.

“When I presented each one of the entrants with a book with their works, the roof blew off the building,” says Debra Christiansen, author and president of Friends of Schoolcraft Community Library. “Nothing matches the thrill of seeing your name and your words in a book the first time you hold it in your hands.”

Tournament of Writers was inspired by the Kalamazoo Gazette’s Community Literary Awards competition, which highlighted local poetry, short story and memoir writing. When that competition ended in 2011, it left a void for community writers wanting to showcase their talents, says Christiansen.

“I wanted to bring a writing competition back to our community because we didn’t have many outlets before,” she says.

The Tournament of Writers is open to Schoolcraft Community Library cardholders and reciprocal cardholders, including those in the Vicksburg, Kalamazoo and Portage library districts. Submissions of nonfiction, fiction and poetry will be taken from Sept. 8 to Oct. 16 in categories divided by age groups: a junior division for those under 12; a teen division for ages 12 to 17; an adult division for ages 18 to 49, and a senior division for ages 50 and older. Entrants can submit only one entry per category in their age group, and the maximum length of a submission is 2,500 words. Submissions can be made via mail or email, and there is no entry fee for the contest.

Christiansen says the guidelines for acceptable writings are purposely lax to include as many writers as possible. Even a Tweet could be submitted, she says.
There will be first, second and third prizes for each genre per age division, plus the grand prize, which is a gold fountain pen.

Last year’s Grand Prize winner, Rusty’s Last Ride, by Lois A. Helland of Schoolcraft, is a true story that relives the last day of the author’s ailing dog. Christiansen says the story brought tears to the eyes of some of the judges.

“I was impressed with all the entries for our first contest. They were very imaginative,” Christiansen says. “Some of the writers have the talent to produce full-length books.”

Christiansen says entries will once again be published in a book, with the proceeds from sales to fund the library.

“The competition brings us together as a community of writers,” Christiansen says. “It shows the community that we have a lot of talent and that the library is more than a building full of books. Our slogan for the tournament is ‘Swords down! Pens up! Get clacking! Go!’”

J. Gabriel Ware

An editorial intern at Encore, J. Gabriel explored historic curb cuts and the nonprofit Jamaica Rehab Partners for this month’s issue. While working on his story Therapeutic Mission, J. Gabriel got a glimpse of the lives of poor patients in Jamaica and a special bond between father and daughter. “This is the most significant story I have written so far. I attempted to tell many stories in this one piece because I felt that each one of them needed to be told,” he says. J. Gabriel will be a senior at Western Michigan University this fall.

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