To recognize and encourage the talents of literary artists, the Arts Council of Westerville, Westerville Public Library and the Westerville News & Public Opinion invited writers of all ages to be a part of the 2012 Celebrate the Arts Writing Contest.

To recognize and encourage the talents of literary artists, the Arts Council of Westerville, Westerville Public Library and the Westerville News & Public Opinion invited writers of all ages to be a part of the 2012 Celebrate the Arts Writing Contest.

The contest, in addition to calling upon writers to share their works, was conceived as a new dimension to the monthlong celebration of the arts in Westerville during April.

This is the sixth year for the collaborative event which originally launched in January 2007.

Writers submitted their entries according in categories arranged by age or grade in school. The submissions were required to be original works of 800 words or less. Any genre was welcome: poetry, free verse, short story and others.

The first-place winning entries follow. Entries chosen for second place, third place and honorable mention awards also are published online in the Westerville section of ThisWeekNEWS.com.

A collection of all the entries also has been published and is available for checkout in the library collection, as well as online at Lulu.com.
Writers, their families and fans gathered for congratulations, refreshments and the opportunity to read from their work at the Reception for Writers held at the library April 14.

The first-place entries. (NOTE: No edits were made the writers' entries for punctuation or spelling.)

1st Place
Category: Grades K-2
Tatum's Winter Fun
By Tatum Hubble

I love many things about winter. Sledding is fun because my dog tries to bite the sled when my brother and I sled down the driveway. Building a snowman is something I like to do with my daddy. He likes to make the snowman bottom big. I like to put on the carrot nose. My family and I enjoy making snow forts and having a snowball fight. Maximus, my dog, loves when I make snow angels. He attacks me when I am on the ground. He also has fun trying to bite our gloves. One of my favorite winter foods is flavored snowflakes. My mom and I use our imagination by sticking out our tongues and catching the snowflakes. We yell what flavor we caught. My real favorite winter food is hot cocoa. I drink it when I come in from playing in the snow. There are lots of things I love about winter!

1st Place
Category: Grades 3-5
The Vinder Viper
By Alex Fletcher

Once upon a time there was a guy name Rick White. Rick lived in a big house with a lot of windows on Powderhorn Lane. On April 5, 2012 the phone rang. Rick answered the phone to a guy with a low gruff voice. He said "This is the Vinder Viper. I vill be there in 5 days." Rick was really scared. He went through the town asking people if they had ever heard of the Vinder Viper. He also tried to find the Vinder Viper on the computer.
A few days later the phone rang again. Rick answered the phone to hear "Hello, this is the Vinder Viper. I vill be there in 2 days." Rick locked his bedroom door and hid in the closet for 2 days.

Two days later the phone rang early in the morning and Rick answered the phone again to hear a guy with a low gruff voice say "Hello…this is the Vinder Viper. I vill be there in 1 hour." Rick thinks to himself and decides he is not going to be scared any more. I'm getting out of this closet.
One hour later the doorbell rings. Rick nervously answered the door and a pleasant looking guy in a uniform says "Hi, I'm here to vipe Rick Vhites Vindows can I have a drink of vater please?"

Rick felt much better after all the research online and asking people was for nothing, because now Rick White knows that the Vinder Viper is a just a guy that can't pronounce his w's correctly and washes windows.

1st Place
Category: Grades 6-8
The Silver Dollar
By Kalie Sivick

The year was 1937. I was seven at the time and my little brother Sam was five. It was the week after Christmas and we had each been given a dollar as our present. We had gone to the movie theater before; it was no big deal for us to walk there alone. However, a spectacular new movie theater had recently opened up, and we had been desperate to go since it opened. Our parents would not give us money for the theater, of course, or even pay us for the work we did around the house; we had had to wait until Christmas. Our parents thought it was silly and a waste of money, but we didn't care; we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to the new theater.

We had saved our Christmas money for an entire week, which was a hard feat in itself. The temptation to head up to the corner store for some penny candy was almost overwhelming. However, I knew I would not have enough for the film if I wasted any money on childish desires.

One cold morning at the start of January, Sam and I threw on our clothes: tattered, worn pants of undetermined origin and warm, wool Christmas sweaters that our mother had spent so many hours knitting. I helped my little brother into his old parka and mittens and struggled to get on my own, too-small coat. We headed out the door, promising Mom we'd be careful.

I held my money in my clenched fist inside my flimsy glove. It was one silver dollar, a dollar that my father had worked hard to earn in the coal mines and deserved to keep himself-but instead chose to give it to me. My cold gloved hand holding tight to Sam's, we hurriedly crossed the street and entered the movie theater.

The first glimpse at the new theater! It was grand, taller and wider than I could ever have imagined. Decked out in beautiful crystals, the main hall gleamed and sparkled, leaving us in breathless awe. Timidly, we approached the large, brightly colored stand in the middle of the room. An older, jolly-looking man peered over the counter at us, smiling.

"Well, well. What can I get you two boys?" he said, spectacles sliding down his nose.

"Ummm… two tickets for As You Like It, please, sir," I said, voice quavering.

"Ho-ho!" laughed the jolly old gentleman. "Isn't that film a bit…mature for you boys?"

Not sure what to say, I replied, "Oh, no, sir. We're very mature. Our mother helped us pick out one we'd like."

The old gentleman stroked his beard. "Well, all right then." He pulled two ticket stubs out and handed them to us. "Let's see. That comes to… thirty-five cents each, so, seventy even."

I took off my gloves, took out the coin and handed it to the man. "That's for me," I said. "Sam's on his own."

Sam, looking slightly green, tugged on my sleeve. When I looked down at him, he whispered to me, "Mark, I ain't got my money."

"What? You had it when you left! It's in your pocket," I said, suddenly worried.

"No, it ain't," he told me. "It musta fallen out." Looking crestfallen, he said sadly, "And that was a whole silver dollar, too. Now I ain't got no way of seeing the movie."

He looked so disappointed that I said, "You know what, Sam? I'll pay for you, too."

Astonished, he looked up and said, "But Mark, that's your Christmas money! I ain't gonna do that to you!"

Not regretting my decision at all, I told him, "Nonsense! C'mon, let's go see that movie!"

Now, so many years later, I don't remember much about the movie; I have no recollection of what happened after. But what has stayed with me, even now after my brother is gone, is the joy I felt in being able to truly give something from my heart to someone so special to me. Sam, I will never forget you.

1st Place
Category: Grades 9-12
The Money Jar
By Michelle McKenzie

When I was seven years old, Mama gave me the money jar. I asked her what it was for, and she just laughed. She said it was for me to save my pennies in, since I had acquired a fine collection from rakin' Miss Hawlbrooke's lawn and sweepin' Mister Miller's sidewalk. Before Mama gave me the jar, I had set the pennies (and sometimes nickels, if Miss Hawlbrooke was in a particularly good mood) on my bookshelf, right above Tom Sawyer and Mama's copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

After a year or two of savin', I started dreamin' of buying Papa a new car, like the one sittin' in Mister Miller's drive. He'd always say "See that car, Annie? That blue one over there?" and I'd say "Yes Papa, sure thing." Then he'd go on and on about how he was gonna buy that car someday, and take me and Mama and Susanne all over town. I would smile and close my eyes, picturing Papa drivin' us to church on a fine Sunday morning, seein' everyone's jaw drop as we pulled up.

"This one's got character, though," Papa would smile, turning away and pattin' our old station wagon.

Then I was ten, I thought about buyin' Mama a new dress, the one I'd caught her lookin' at in the store. It was beautiful; bright purple with flowers printed all over. I watched her look at it longingly, fingering the price tag. Then she turned away, pulling me and Suzanne to her sides. "Now what would I do with that?" She'd laugh. "I got my two girls. Don't need no dress." We walked past the rest of the store windows, smilin' and laughin' with each other, and not once did Mama ever look at that dress again.

A week before Suzanne's eight birthday, I asked her what she'd want, if she could have anything in the world. She sat and thought about this for awhile.

"In the entire world?" She asked, lookin' up at me.

"Yep. Anything," I said, waiting for her answer.

"Nothin'," she said finally.

"Nothin'? Nothin' at all?" I , surprised.

"Nope. I got everything I want right here," she smiled. "Don't need nothin' else."

No more than a few months later, Mrs. Edgar went ill. She was a middle-aged woman, with more than seven kids at home. Mr. Edgar had died years ago, from drinkin' himself to death, people said. Mrs. Edgar herself kept in good health, it seemed, until Pastor Brown informed us of the bad news one Sunday morning.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, waiting for everyone's attention. "As some of you know, a member of our congregation, Sara Edgar, has fallen ill. Unfortunately, none of her children are old enough to work, and Sara will require surgery at the hospital up in Springfield." He paused, taking up the offering basket that was always passed around after service. "Today's offering will be going to Mrs. Edgar and her family. And in God's name, have a generous heart. They're going to need anything you can spare." He passed the basket to the first pew. "We will keep them in our prayers."

The church stirred, as people began to dig through their wallets for more quarters. I sat next to Mama as she pulled a five from her pocket.
A thought suddenly occurred to me. Slowly, I stood up, making my way past the pews, towards the door. As soon as I got outside, I ran as fast as I possibly could towards home, through the front door, and up the stairs to my bookshelf. I wrapped my arms tight around the money jar, heaving it off the shelf. I ran, slower this time, out the door and around the corner towards church. By now, the service had ended, with people gathered outside for the social hour. I searched for Pastor Brown, not seeing his face among the crowd. Nobody noticed as I slipped inside the church, through the propped-open door.

As soon as I walked in, I saw Pastor Brown at the altar, head bowed. Not wanting to disturb him, I set the jar down on the nearest pew. It would be better if no one knew, anyhow. I was about to leave when Pastor Brown spoke.

"I see you have quite a lot of money in that jar," he said. I turned to face him.

"Yes sir. I've been savin' this since I was seven, if I remember right."

"I'm extremely impressed with your generosity, Miss Annie, but are you sure?" He asked.

I thought for a moment, not that I needed to. I had known the answer for a long time.

"Yes sir," I said with a smile. "I got everything I want right here. Don't need nothin' else."

1st Place
Category: Adults
On Teaching
By Jennifer Ryjewski

I sat in my older brother's first grade classroom watching his teacher direct the kids before a party and in a heartbeat I knew that I WANTED THAT JOB. I was three or four at the time and that dream was put on hold only once or twice in high school when I considered becoming a zoologist (who wouldn't want to play with monkeys all day?) or a veterinarian (more animal love) or an anthropologist (visions of observing native tribes in the rainforest sure sounded exciting). Practicality and other logistical issues (animal excrement, euthanasia, cholera) eventually brought me back to my first dream.

I graduated from Miami University in 1996 with a bachelor's in elementary education and a minor in Spanish. I intended to use the Spanish skills I had honed in college, and a school district outside of Chicago hired me to do just that. I started that year with so many grand aspirations and plans to change the world. Lots of long days, longer nights and many tears brought me to a Reduction in Force letter in the spring. I had poured out my heart and soul to those kids only to be dropped by the district due to budget cuts. A teacher left the school that summer to stay home with her babies and a great shuffling of staff took place so that my position reopened. I was hired again.

I continued to teach in Chicago for five years more, moving classrooms every year, and changing schools every other year.I got married and moved to North Carolina, teaching in Chapel Hill for two years. Though my skills as a teacher improved with time and practice, the job never got easier; the expectations I set for myself only increased. At the end of those eight years I felt like I had been chewed up and spit out, that I had given my all and had nothing left at the ripe old age of 29.

At the end of that last year, a student told me about a website students could use to rate their teachers.

Though I was curious about what the kids had to say about me behind my back, I was also afraid to find out. After a difficult day, I logged onto the site and searched for myself. Though I read reviews of my colleagues in all of the schools where I had taught, no review of me existed anywhere. Suddenly I felt very humbled. For all the work, all the time, all the tears I had poured into my job, for all the sleepless nights I had had thinking and worrying about my students, for all the tutoring sessions, all the letters I wrote to them, not one student had anything to say about me, good or bad. My aspirations to change the world fizzled and drooped. Though I had done my best, I hadn't made the difference I had so hoped to make.
Years later as a stay-at-home mom to three wee ones I am still in touch with a few former students, a list that grows thanks to the wonder of technology and things like Facebook. What a terrific thing to see these 12-year-old kids all grown up with independent minds and ideas. I didn't change the world but I did get to take part in it at least and I have pacified myself with this feeling of participation if not one of affecting change. I did my best and I guess that's as good as it gets.

In the fall of 2010, I contacted a former student and it was that note online that opened her heart to me. Though Emily had painted a perfect life to me in her letters and cards over the years, her reality was one of the grimmest I know of personally. Her over-achiever status was a thick veil covering the trauma she had experienced.

Here was a girl hurting from years of neglect and abuse, alone in the world with this terrible secret.

Nine months later, Emily moved in with us and four months after that, felt comfortable enough to call me and my husband "mom" and "dad". We have adopted her even though we never felt called to adopt before. While my husband and I are wandering through how to parent a 22-year-old,our new daughter is wandering through how to be a part of a loving, stable family.

Somewhere between now and last year at this time I realized my true purpose as a teacher. I wasn't meant to be remembered for changing the world. I was meant to help. Though I didn't make a lasting impression on almost all of my students, I have made a difference to one. And that is more than enough.