Monday, March 30, 2015

Here's why our writing contest is important for young people today

When friends hear that our writer's group is launching the Celebration of Young Writers Creative Writing contest again, they invariably ask this basic question: "Why? It's so much work, and what do you get out of it?"

It's a fair question, because the contest is a ton of work. Members of the Huron Area Writers Group and our friends end up reading hundreds of entries. We take the time to judge the work based on an evaluation sheet. Each entry gets at least five reads. It takes weeks to complete the task and tabulate the results. Every entry gets recognized and the winners get small cash prizes.

But we know it's worth all the work when we see the faces of our contestants and their parents on Author's Day, which happens to be Saturday, May 16, this year. They are usually so excited they can hardly contain themselves while waiting for the announcement of the awards.

That's reward enough for our members. But we also have other motives for running the contest, which is now in it's fourth year.

Our goal is to promote the art of communicating through the written word. We want to encourage young people to develop skills that very often get lost or beaten into the ground in today's fast-paced, abbreviated world of social media. I feel sad when I hear young people say they write all the time these days - texting, Tweeting, posting on FaceBook, and e-mailing. Sorry, but that's not enough.

Writing and communicating effectively requires much more than that. We know that English and literature teachers in our schools are fully aware of this. And we are happy to work with them to advance the skills of their students. That's why our contest is run through the schools across the Upper Thumb of Huron County. We want students to work with their teachers and put together great essays, short stories, plays, or journalistic and narrative writing. Students have the freedom to select the topic and genre for their writing projects.

We also want students to understand that learning how to communicate effectively will help them in the business world when they have completed their studies. Companies today want employees who can organize their thoughts and spell them out in logical, coherent forms. Great ideas rarely get implemented if they cannot be expressed in terms that are easily understandable.

Finally, writing is just plain good for the soul. It's a great way to pour out your deepest feelings and thoughts. Expressing yourself in creative ways can be excellent therapy. If you feel like you're being misunderstood, then sit down and write about it - all about it.

We are running the contest again this year with our partners at the Thumb Area Arts Guild. No one gets paid to do this work. We are happy to do it. But we could use some help in gathering the funds to cover the cash prizes to our students and our basic expenses.

All HAWG and TAAG members can accept donations. No amount is too small. Remember, all donations can be a tax write-off, so don't be shy with your checkbooks. For more information and submission guidelines, email or call Diana at (989) 874-4016.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A tad too predictable

Gray Mountain,
            John Grisham
            368 pages in hardcover

            Review by Dave Vizard

            Most of the time, readers of John Grisham can count on him to deliver a legal thriller that’s a thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced, page burner with plenty of colorful characters and local scenery.
            “Gray Mountain,” the Southern author’s most recent work, does all of that, but it’s just a tad too predictable for my taste. Early on, I had the feeling that he was writing by formula.
            Consider the basic plot. Sweet and lovely Big City lawyer gets bounced out of her job during the economic crash of 2007-2008. She gets to keep some benefits and possibly come back in a year when the economy rebounds if she takes an unpaid internship at one of a dozen or so non-profits where lawyers are in great need. Our heroine, Samantha, ends up in Appalachia working for a legal aide outfit trying to save coal miners from everything evil: coal companies, black lung, devastation of the environment, bankruptcy, domestic violence – you name it, they got it.
            Of course, she meets Mr. Wonderful, a man named Gray, who is not wielding a whip, a chair, a gagging ball, and is totally shade-less. No, this Mr. Gray is a brilliant lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting coal companies, the very villains who have leveled his family and Gray Mountain. Problem is, Mr. Hotstuff is killed in a mysterious plane crash by … guess who? See what I mean? That leaves poor Samantha to take up with his brother, equally dashing but a terd in college and not lawyer material.
            As time passes, Samantha becomes more and more enthralled with the people of Appalachia who need her and less eager to return to New York where no one needs anybody. You can see where this is going. I don’t have to tell you the ending. And that’s the problem with this book – predictable. I wanted exciting plot twists and daring turns in the story, but there were few.
            “Gray Mountain” is very timely and topical, also Grisham trademarks. Readers will learn a lot about Appalachia, local customs and culture, as well as the business and history of coal mining. But that’s also part of the Grisham formula.
            It is, however, still a pretty good read. I did not feel cheated. I give it 3 stars out of a possible 5.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dipping my brush in paint

I've never taken any art or drawing classes, but I've always been curious about the creative process for it. Finally decided to stick my toe in the water, or perhaps I should say stick my brush in the paint,  and give it a try.

I just signed up for the Art Party on Feb. 5 at the Boathouse Bar & Grill in Caseville. After the last Art Party at the Boathouse, I heard rave reviews from several of the participants. They said it was a great evening. Good food and wine, great group of people, an excellent (caring and patient) teacher, and, best of all, your very own painting to take home with you.

Looking forward to the evening and the experience.