Amazing Kids! Magazine

Writing Game

By Kylie Miller, grade 8, Ohio


Here’s a tip: A gym full of loud teenagers does NOT help with stress. And no matter how many of those noise absorber things they hang up, the echo will still be terrible.

“Doughnut hole?” Zoe held a Dunkin Donuts box out to me.

“Thanks.” I took a glazed chocolate, which are obviously the best doughnuts of all. She made the journey back up the bleachers to the other team members, probably to offer them some more doughnut holes.

The air was uncomfortably warm; it felt like a thousand people breathing their hot air, and those stupid sound absorbers were trapping it in here. I decided to focus on the rest of the gym. As I had before mentioned, it was filled with at least a hundred yelling kids. Lines of seats stood on either side of the cavernous room. My arms still ached from lifting so many chairs. A wooden podium stood proudly in the middle of it all. Seventeen or something writing teams from all over Ohio sat waiting for the opening ceremony. So many writers, I’m sure all of them were better than me. Or maybe that was just my anxiety talking. It was February 10th, which meant it was also the Power of the Pen Districts competition. Our team had been preparing for this since October, with writing prompts given every Thursday and a few small writing exercises every Tuesday. I couldn’t have felt more prepared, so why was I so worried?

“Hello and welcome,” Mrs. Jordan, one of our writing coaches, took up the microphone. The opening words passed through my head in a blur. All that really mattered was getting through the writing and hopefully not bombing. As an alternate, I technically wasn’t a main team member, so I sadly wouldn’t get to write on that fancy carbon copy paper. Oh, yeah, and it also meant I would have to follow one of the non-alternate writers. So, I decided to go with doughnut Zoe. I fidgeted my hands with a mixture of nervousness and excitement while my partner assured me we would both do fine.

107 was the numbered room we would begin our first of three rounds. A prompt would be given, and we would have 40 minutes to complete an entire story based on said prompt. Thinking on my feet wasn’t really my strong suit, but I almost felt confident from all the practice I had put into everything (despite still being an alternate).

I could still taste the doughnut hole when Zoey and I split up to work at different desks. It was the kind of an annoying aftertaste that makes you really thirsty, and all you want is some water to quench that annoying aftertaste type of thirst.

A sweet, middle-aged woman introduced herself as one of the room’s three judges and explained who would hand their papers to whom. I noticed my seat had a letter sticker.

By the time I looked up again, one of the judges had already written the prompt on the board. When did that happen?

The room was silent like a snap of a finger. The only thing that could be heard was the rustling the paper. I took a look back at the prompt. What is your character’s happy place? That seemed simple enough.

Taking a look around, I noticed most of the other competitors had at least half a page written down. “Oh, shoot!” was the first thing to go through my mind as I scrambled to get my story started.

Those 40 minutes went by in a super speeded blur. It’s weird how time goes by so much faster when there’s a timer and you’re stressed. I handed in my paper feeling a little worn out and followed Zoe to the next room.

The next two rounds passed even more quickly than the first, each piece progressively getting worse. After everything was finally over, the whole team went to Frisch’s for a well-deserved lunch. I felt a mixture of relief and dread. I wasn’t all that worried about placing. Being one of the team’s alternates, I wouldn’t get to place. It was more receiving the feedback I was worried about. I thought I had been so prepared for this whole thing, but none of my stories were something to be particularly proud of. We had worked for MONTHS on improving our writing, but I still wrote like I always had. Writing with prompts is a little different, though. Nothing can prepare you for what it’ll be.

Everyone assured everyone that the stories were amazing, despite not getting to read them. Well, it beats telling each other the stories probably sucked.

We had a good time playing cards at our table, which helped me forget about the whole writing situation. The closing ceremony came sooner than I hoped. This time the gym wasn’t only full of several screaming teenagers; their parents were here now, too. The closing ceremony felt like it went on for hours! They had to give out at least 50 awards with many of the top spots taken by both my seventh- and eighth-grade team members. I was also surprised to find that they gave awards to alternates, too, one in seventh and one in eighth.

I wasn’t expecting on filling that seventh-grade spot, and of course, I didn’t. After what felt like an eternity, they started to hand out the team awards. All 19 of us, including our three coaches, held our breaths as the second- and third-place trophies were handed out. You could hear a pin drop as every single one of the 17 teams waited and hoped for first place. “And first place goes to Mariemont!” I’m sure no one else in that entire gym clapped louder than I did. My chest swelled with pride as we took an awkward team photo with our trophy. No one was more proud of how my team did than I was. Or least it felt that way. We were all there for about another 20 minutes putting away the chairs and congratulating each other for a job well done. I thought about the unpredictability of the prompts and how there was no way I could have been 100 percent prepared. It made me feel better. At least the rest of my team did well, and I think that’s all that really mattered.

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