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Lincoln Parish Library hosts writing contest, poetry slam

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For those who enjoy expressing themselves through the written word, the Lincoln Parish Library has announced an opportunity for them to share their work with the community.

Margie Mealer, head of children’s services for the library, said for the children’s competition, both stories and poems will be accepted — fiction and nonfiction.

“The children’s department contest is open to students going into kindergarten through sixth grade, and does include homeschoolers,” she said. “For those going into kindergarten and first grade, parents can transcribe the entries, but we would like the children to create it on their own.”

That is not to say that parents cannot help their children form a plot in their mind, she said.

“Parents can ask, ‘What happened next,’ but should not make suggestions,” Mealer said.

“The setting must be Lincoln Parish, although it can be past, present or future.”

Some suggested themes might be, but are not limited to:

• The day the aliens landed in Louisiana Tech

• Angels at Grambling

• When Grandpa was young in Choudrant

• Once upon a time in the town of Dubach

• All about Ruston

• Caterpillars at Cook Park

This is the first time the library has held a contest like this for the younger readers, Mealer said.

“As far as I know, this is the first year we have done it,” she said, adding that she created the contest in order to get children thinking about their environment. “I wanted to do it for several reasons. The first one is that I wanted the children to start asking questions about where they live.

“Lincoln Parish is a beautiful area, and very diverse, so I thought this might be a good way to get the children interested in learning more about it. I thought it might be a good way of starting conversations between generations, also.”

Even if a child simply takes one of the suggested topics, they will still learn about their community and their family, she said.

“One of the suggested topics is ‘When Grandpa was Young in Choudrant,’ so children could ask grandpa, grandma or someone else what they remember about the area, or what they did when they were a kid,” Mealer said.  “How did they get where they were going?  How much did things cost?  What was a typical day like?”

Having strong writing skills is also important, she said. 

“We also wanted to see them practice their writing skills a little. A lot of times, children don’t think about using these skills in the summer, and it can cause them to backslide a little when the next school year starts,” Mealer said. “This way, they can do it at their own pace, knowing they won’t get graded on it. It can be just for fun.”

All entries must be turned in by 5:30 p.m. June 18. 

Guidelines for the contest are easy for children to follow, she said.

“Stories must be at least 400 words, but not more than 1,000 words; poems must be at least 12 lines and can be free verse,” Mealer said. “All entries must have author’s name and contact phone number legibly written on the back. Entries must be an original work. No more than two entries per person.”

There will also be prizes given to winners, she said.

“A $25 gift card will be awarded to the lower elementary winner and the upper elementary winner,” Mealer said, adding that the prizes will be awarded at 6 p.m. June 23.

Even with prizes being offered, she said the whole point of the contest is for children to have fun.

“We hope to remind the children that using your imagination can be fun,” Mealer said. “That they can create something that will last, and other people will enjoy.  We hope to see them recognize what great treasures this community holds.”

The teen department of the library will also host a writing contest — a poetry slam.

Kris Patrick, teen coordinator for the library, said she wanted to host a poetry slam for the teens because she wanted them to further their writing skills.

“We wanted to do an essay writing workshop, but it was canceled and then I thought a poetry slam would do well so we decided to try it,” she said.

While this is the first year the teen department has hosted a poetry slam, she said the group was excited to participate.

“We’ve never done this before so it’s all new,” Patrick said. “The teens are really excited about it.”

Patrick said she hoped that the competition would build confidence in the teens.

“It’s a form of self expression so I want them feel comfortable enough to express themselves in that medium,” she said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

The competition will be held at 4 p.m. June 23 in the Lincoln Community Room at the library, and will accept entries from ages 13 to 18.

Three rounds will be held with each poet reading one original poem in each round for a total of three poems.

Fives judges will then decide a winner.

No registration is necessary for either competition, and it is free and open to the public.

For more information, call Mealer or Patrick at 251-5030.

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