Saturday, November 24, 2018

Judging the 2018 National Book Week Essay Writing Contest 1 of 2

This week, the winners of the National Book Week contests will be awarded at a special ceremony in Gateway Gallery in Cubao. Congratulations to all the winners! 

It was my first time to judge in one of the contests which was the Essay Writing Contest. My co-judges and I read through 60 entries and after four hours, deliberations included, we were ready to submit the winners.

In general, the entries followed a template of lofty ideals presented in one main idea and supported by details. Written by high school and senior high school students from different regions in the country, I had a glimpse of the students’ experiences of libraries, books and reading. Their stories are poles apart. Some essays show a rich expoaure to books while many reflect the scarcity of reading materials. I also had a sense of the level of writing skills of students of today. Essays with strong voices stood out as well as ones that are well structured. There are essays that are too personal, it missed the discussion of the NBW theme. On the other hand, there are essays that discuas big ideas related to the theme that lacked the authenticity of a high school student’s experience. At some point, I wonder who the student writer is writing for and does he or she know her purpose for writing the essay more so, joining a nationwide competitionz

I think these things need to be established early on. Writers write for themselves, yes, and this has to be processed and discussed with the student. Because, while this is true, writing is an art of communication. In my writing workshops with teenagers and adulrs, I begin by asking them existential questions: 

Who are you? 
Why do you write? 
What is your message or story?
What do you know that is worth sharing with others?

Wirting is personal and writers reach out to the world by communicating their stories and their knowledge. 

It is also important to know how to communicate one’s message and story. Enter craft, use of language and the mechanics of writing. This is the hard part. So, a writing process and model are set up so students will not be lost. If ever they wander away, which is often the case, then the process and model come in handy to bring them back to focus. 

Writing is a complicated cognitive activity. Students need mentors. While they have teachers, librarians can come in the picture and help teachers mentor students in the writing journey.

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