Ohio’s Original Interscholastic Creative Writing Program for Middle Schools
The air crackles with excitement as 7th and 8th grade writers gather for Power of the Pen competitions. By the time the tournaments begin, these young authors have spent months polishing their creative writing skills under the guidance of a Power of the Pen coach, and the competition is their chance to shine.
After a welcome and orientation, students spend the morning in three 40-minute extemporaneous rounds of writing, crafting each piece in response to an open-ended prompt. Students break for lunch with friends and family while judges evaluate the morning’s work. By early afternoon, young writers pour into the gym or auditorium for the highlight of the day - the awards ceremony. The shouts and cheers in celebration of excellent writing rival those of the most heated sports competition.
At the conclusion of the day’s events, every student has received one-on-one feedback on their writing. Students feel supported, encouraged, and energized to continue developing their creative writing skills.
Power of the Pen offers three levels of tournaments: district, regional, and state. The season begins with district tournaments in January and February. Qualifying students move up to regional competition in February and March. The initial registration fee for participating in Power of the Pen includes a district tournament, as well as a regional tournament for students who qualify.
The season culminates in a two-day state tournament, where students compete with the best 7th and 8th grade writers from throughout Ohio. Every state tournament features a guest author - an award-winning professional author of middle grade or young adult books - who motivates and encourages students on their writing journey.
Every school begins competing at the district level. Schools are encouraged to sign up for the district tournament closest to their location. Schools are also encouraged to register as early as possible in the school year so that they can form a team and begin practicing.
As schools consider which district tournament to choose, they should keep in mind that the day’s events usually begin with registration at 8:15 a.m. and end with an awards ceremony that usually concludes by 3:30 p.m. Check the date of the regional tournament, too, since schools must attend the regional tournament associated with the district tournament in which they competed. Note also that schools must provide one qualified judge for each grade level in which they compete.
Each district tournament accommodates up to 20 schools. Each school may enter a team of up to six 7th graders and a team of up to six 8th graders. Students compete only against others in their grade level. Both individual and team awards are given. Qualifying students move on to regional competitions.
Regional tournaments feature a similar schedule as district competitions. Students compete in three extemporaneous rounds of writing, and their accomplishments are celebrated in an awards ceremony early in the afternoon. Only qualifying writers, usually the top 50% from district, compete in the regional events.
Participating schools must provide one judge for every three qualifying writers at each grade level. Schools should carefully check the dates of district, regional, and state tournaments before registering for a district tournament, because they must attend the regional tournament associated with the district event in which they competed.
The state tournament will be held at Ashland University in Ashland on Thursday and Friday, May 18-19, 2023. The highlight of the season, the state tournament features 1-½ days of activities for qualifying young writers from throughout Ohio, usually about the top 20% of students from regional.
In addition to individual and team awards from the writing rounds, the state tournament provides an opportunity to honor young authors who have excelled throughout their time with Power of the Pen. The state tournament features a guest author, usually an award-winning professional author of middle grade or young adult novels, who supports and encourages tournament participants.
Schools should plan for the state tournament to include a registration fee and costs for meals and an overnight stay. Each participating school must provide one judge for every three qualifying writers at each grade level.