Three Colchester Middle School students were recently honored with awards for their submissions to a writing contest spearheaded by a former CMS teacher.
Author Robert Hunton is a retired Colchester Middle School teacher of thirty-two years, and he counts himself fortunate to have worked alongside other CMS educators for so long. Now making his home in sunny Arizona, he has authored the Borderlands Trilogy, including Gift of the Desert Dog, Secrets of the Medicine Pouch: Adventure in the Borderlands, and Coyote-meeter’s Abyss: Adventure in the Borderlands. Mr. Hunton guest taught with Mrs. Roberge and Ms. Garrison during his recent visit back to the area, and he personally presented the winners of the Coyote’s Howl writing contest with their awards.
The Coyote’s Howl writing contest, is, according to Mr. Hunton, a new initiative that began last spring as a way to generate enthusiasm for all types of writing. It was also created as a way to give students a voice and a forum through which they could express their views on a number of important subjects, particularly those addressed in The Borderlands Trilogy. Coyote’s Howl is the brainchild of Mr. Hunton and his publishing team at Open Books Press, and they developed it using the Young Writers Project as a model.
Contestants had to adhere to a number of submission guidelines, and the judging criteria varied according to category. In the fiction category, for example, the judges looked for such elements as an excellent hook; strong voice and writing style; sound mechanics, grammar, and punctuation; and whether the entry closely adhered to submission guidelines for length, rules considerations, and so on. In the news story interview category, judges considered the range of questions, whether the interview was voice recorded, whether spelling and pronunciation of names were verified, and so on.
The winning entries—submitted by Alana Plumb (Champlain 7), Ben Turner (Harbor 7), and Alex Gardner (Harbor 8)—were selected based upon these and other criteria, and all of them received a formal written critique, along with publication online at the contest’s website.
Mr. Hunton hopes to expand the Coyote’s Howl writing project in order to include participants from across the nation—not simply to increase interest in creative writing but also to encourage interest in what he sees as a dying art. Communication remains hugely important, and yet studies indicate that the writing skills of students across the nation have been steadily declining. “How do we produce communications of the future without fundamental, foundational skill sets?” Hunton asks. “We need to ensure that our students can produce sufficiently skilled, quality communications.” Hunton hopes that generating excitement about writing will encourage students to study it more intently, thus improving the overall quality of our students’ writing.
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