Ohio’s Original Interscholastic Creative Writing Program for Middle Schools

Power of the Pen Spotlight

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  • Thursday, June 11, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Jasmine Warga, an alum of the Power of the Pen team at Wyoming Middle School, received a 2020 Newbery Honor for her third book, Other Words for Home. A novel in verse, Other Words for Home tells the story of a young girl who must move from her home in Syria to Cincinnati, Ohio. In the author's note for the novel, Jasmine says that one of the reasons she wrote this book is to help readers understand that children fleeing from war zones "want the same things all of us do - love, understanding, safety, a chance at happiness." 

    Jessica P. Wick, who reviewed the book for NPR, highly recommends it as a relatable and vital read for middle grade students: “There are so many reasons to read this novel. It’s a book about kindness, for one; it sings, for another, as any good verse novel should . . . It feels true. It feels like middle school and wanting things the way you do in middle school. It feels like being in the middle of so many things and not quite knowing how to navigate that uncertainty.”

    Jasmine is also the author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now. Her fourth book, The Shape of Thunder, is coming out in spring 2021.

  • Friday, June 05, 2020 7:00 PM | Anonymous

    Author Margaret Peterson Haddix, poet George Bilgere, and Power of the Pen alum and television writer Sage Boggs honored Power of the Pen writers for our annual state awards ceremony, held virtually due to the pandemic. 

    Of the thousands of middle school students who write with Power of the Pen each year, the winners of the state awards have achieved an extraordinary level of excellence. Power of the Pen annually awards State honors to young authors whose writing stands out for its powerful connection with readers.

    Read the creative works of these 2020 state winners by clicking the links:

    Paige Galperin, Kimpton Middle School, Promising Young Talent Award

    Sun-Hee Smith, St. Bernadette School, Humor Award

    Annie Johnson, John Sells Middle School, and Marie Kanzinger, Chagrin Falls Middle School, Powerful Pen Award

    Poetry Award Winners are:

    Anna Blasinski, Dr. Henry Karrer Middle School, First Place

    Zoe Stiefel, Shaker Heights Middle School, Second Place

    Allison Krzywicki, North Royalton Middle School, Honorable Mention

    Audra Lozina, Hudson Middle School, Honorable Mention

  • Thursday, May 21, 2020 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    Best friends since their days on the Power of the Pen team at Wyoming Middle School, Cambray Smith and Erin Engelhardt moved far apart after high school - Cambray to college in North Carolina, Erin to Minnesota.

    But they didn’t let distance disrupt their relationship. “Writing has been such a huge part of our friendship,” Cambray says. “We used to journal together, still regularly write each other notes and letters, and encourage each other to read and reflect all the time.”

    After her 2018 college graduation, Cambray accepted an offer for a biomedical ethics research position in Minnesota, allowing the friends to reunite. For two years, they have explored their adopted state and celebrated being a part of each others’ lives again.

    Erin is a first-grade teacher in Saint Paul, where 90 percent of her students are new to the English language. “I love teaching the foundational grades because it is when reading and writing come to life in young minds,” she says.

    Cambray has been conducting research that explores ethical questions related to medicine and science. “My current job consists of reading, asking questions, thinking, and writing, which is a perfect match for a Power of the Pen alum,” Cambray notes.

    In summer 2020, Cambray moved away again to join an M.D.-Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is focused on public health. Cambray and Erin plan to remain close, and both look back fondly on their Power of the Pen experiences.

    Erin credits Power of the Pen with giving her a place to belong. “Finding a community that affirmed who I was and cultivated something I loved was a gamechanger for me,” she says. Cambray will take the lessons learned in Power of the Pen into the medical field. “By learning how to find my voice and communicate with others through narrative and fiction, I emerged with the ability to more empathetically engage with others,” Cambray says. “Over time, I’ve realized that each person’s story is as powerful to them as my own lived experiences ... This perspective will be especially important for me to remember when interacting with my future patients, who I aim to always treat with dignity, compassion, and respect.”

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