But Sara Gates can.
Sara is Edison Middle School’s first Power of the Pen champion, a title she earned at a recent state competition at the College of Wooster. Power of the Pen, a creative writing competition, gives students prompts and limited time to write a fictional story. In each competition, students must write their stories in black ink.
At state, Sara wrote stories in three rounds before making the top 50 to qualify for the fourth round. Though Sara had 30 minutes to write in the fourth round, she finished in about 20 minutes.
Based on prompts given to her at the state competition, Sara penned stories about suicide, alcoholism, among other topics. Competition judges look for well-developed characters, setting, plot and more to award points.
After finishing four rounds of writing, Sara scored 99 points out of 100.
“I didn’t expect to win,” she said. “I don’t think I even heard my name called.”
In elementary school, Sara’s third-grade teacher encouraged her to take up creative writing, leading her to join Edison Middle School’s seventh grade Power of the Pen team. About 2-3 times a week, Sara wrote for about 40 minutes to prepare for competitions.
During many practices, she preferred to write from underneath a desk.
“It doesn’t matter to me where they write, as long as they write,” said team advisor Colleen Hansen, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Edison Middle School.
Hansen said she’s impressed with Sara and the school’s Power of the Pen teams. The seventh-grade team placed first at a regional tournament at Lourdes University. Multiple Edison seventh and eighth-grade students also earned individual honors.
“Sara has a gift,” Hansen said. “The back of our (team) T-shirts say ‘to write means more than putting pretty words on a page, the act of writing is to share a part of your soul with the world.’ Sara has the ability to share her soul through her pen.”
An excerpt from Sara’s winning story, “Lola Ray.” The prompt: “But I have promises to keep.” Tell us about one.
Crystal meth is laid out across the rooftop of the car, illuminated by the light. It looked almost beautiful. The money it made was even prettier. But nothing compared to Lola Ray.
I was goin’ to jail, leavin’ my sweet brown-eyed girl without a daddy and ashamed of her name.
I broke my promise.
“But I have promises to keep!” I shout as the police slam the door in my face. I put my head down, regretting my choices. I’m just trying to provide for my family but I broke the only promise I ever made to Lola Ray.
Tears drip from my eyes as I am flooded by the ultimate regret. A broken promise to my daughter.