Outdoors blog

Rare event: No locals among national outdoor writing finalists

Logo for The Spokesman-Review youth Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students. (Spokesman-Review)
Logo for The Spokesman-Review youth Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students. (Spokesman-Review)

OUTDOOR WRITING – The Outdoor Writers Association of America has just awarded 12 Norm Strung Youth Writing prizes totaling $1,700 to young, talented writers who tackled outdoor themes in prose and poetry.

What's particularly notable to me is that this may be the first time in a quarter century that no Inland Northwest teenager has been among the outdoor writing winners.

We had some good entries and I was proud to publish the S-R's area winners on Dec. 26.  But the pool of entries has dwindled in recent  years.

I started The Spokesman-Review's annual Youth Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students in 1986 to give local students a shot at qualifying for the national OWAA youth writing contest, which requires stories to be published before they can be entered.

Inland Northwest students -- perhaps because of their teachers and close relationship to the outdoors -- have dominated the national winners circle, sweeping the top spots in prose and poetry occasionally.

But in recent years, participation from Spokane's Public Schools has virtually dried up. School principals tell me their teachers and students are preoccupied with mandated curricula and testing, leaving little time for 'extra" writing.

That's more than just sad.

The S-R's 2011 Outdoor Writing Contest will be announced in September, with rules much the same as they were in this announcement for 2010. 

Read on to see the OWAA  winners announcement released this week.

The annual contest, sponsored by the Safari Club International Foundation, has categories for poetry and prose in two divisions: junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12), and entries must be outdoors oriented and previously published in a newsletter, newspaper, magazine, literary collection, etc.

Junior and senior poetry and prose first-place winners received $250; second-place winners received $125; and third-place winners received $50. This year’s winners are:

Junior Poetry

  • First Place: "Dancing Feathers" by Elijah Provost (Aitkin, Minn.)
  • Second Place: "Lone Tree" by Alexandra Palocz (Weston, Mass.)
  • Third Place: "Cloud" by Alexandra Palocz (Weston, Mass.)

Senior Poetry

  • First Place: "Filling My Dreams" by Alisa Kane (Lake Orion, Mich.)
  • Second Place: "Death of Fall" by Liesl F. Eck (Jasper, Ind.)
  • Third Place: "First Harvest" by Paige Collingwood (Willard, Ohio)

Junior Prose

  • First Place: "The Creek" by Anisha Datta (Hillsboro, Ore.)
  • Second Place: "A Day on the Trap Line" by Ben Westin (Ironton, Minn.)
  • Third Place: "First Hunt & Hooked for Life" by Abby Wood (Gallipolis, Ohio)

Senior Prose

  • First Place: "The Long Island Sound: New York's and Connecticut's Inshore Saltwater Fishing " by Richard DeMarte (White Plaines, N.Y.)
  • Second Place: "The Henry’s Hunting: Sharing the Heritage" by Calahan Henry (Eufaula, Okla.)
  • Third Place: "My First Taste of the U.P." by Tabitha Harden (Litchfield, Mich.)

The deadline for next year’s entries is March 16, 2012. For complete contest rules and more information, visit http://owaa.org/programs/contests/norm-strung-youth-writing-awards/

The Norm Strung Youth Writing Contest was named after Norm Strung, who served as OWAA president in 1984-1985.  Now deceased, Strung received OWAA’s Excellence in Craft award in 1989. He was the Outstanding award member in 1975. In 1988, Strung was the Ham Brown recipient for service to OWAA. That same year, he organized and edited a book for OWAA titled “Selling the Outdoor Story.”

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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