NJCTE High School Writing Contest “Hindsight” is OPEN!

Submission deadline: December 6, 2019

2020 Categories

  • Poetry (one poem, 50-line max.) – FREE CHOICE
  • Short story (5-page max. double-spaced) – FREE CHOICE
  • Personal essay (5-page max., double-spaced) – RESPOND TO PROMPT

Write a personal essay or narrative about the effect hindsight had on your life.

Hindsight is understanding a situation or event only after it has happened or developed.  In life, as in literature, hindsight might lead to happiness or success. Write a personal essay about hindsight. This may be about your own hindsight or vision that someone had about you or for you. What led to the discovery of the importance of hindsight? How has hindsight affected your life? Try to steer away from general observations. Describe a concrete experience and reflect on how hindsight hurt or helped you.

For more information, go to https://www.njcte.org/writing-contest.

Want to become involved as a judge? Reach out to njctepresident@gmail.com.

NJCTE High School Writing Contest “Hindsight” is OPEN!

NJCTE Honors High School Writing Contest Award Winners

To help forget the incessant rain we’ve experienced so far this spring, let’s re-visit the NJCTE 2019 High School Writing Contest Award Reception. We honored over 20 young authors at this event, which was held on a rare, sunny day, on April 12, 2019, at Union Catholic High School.

Julius Gottilla, former NJCTE Executive Board Member, opened the event and acted as host. He also coached the readers.

50-60 students, parents, teachers, and judges enjoyed refreshments and listened to Union Catholic students dramatically interpret excerpts from the winning works.

Michele Marotta presented the awards to the Poetry, Personal Essay, and Short Story Winners.

njcteblog8David Messineo, an NJ literary magazine editor, poet and historian, ended the program with a reading of selected poems from his eight published volumes. His emphasis on forgotten history and neglected American social groups was timely and thought provoking!

NJCTE Honors High School Writing Contest Award Winners

NJCTE 2019 High School Writing Contest Winners Announced

by Michele Marotta
NJCTE 2019 High School Writing Contest Director

It is my privilege to announce the NJCTE 2019 High School Writing Contest Winners. These are the students who have infused such imagination, insight, genuineness, color, precision of idea, humor and drama into their poems, essays and short stories that their words convinced at least four different judges to award them top scores. (Click here or the link above to see the list of award winners, their schools, sponsoring teachers, and the titles of the winning pieces.)

I am often asked, “How many schools participated in the contest? How many entries were submitted? How many poems, essays and short stories received top awards?” It’s a frustrating paradox that we require the context of numbers and quotas in order to assign a value to the achievement of winning a literary prize.

The same is not true of athletics. A 100-yard sprinter could compete against one other athlete or even against herself, and if the time she ran broke the World Record, her achievement would be recognized immediately. Distinction in using the English language is not so easily measured.

If Abraham Lincoln had submitted “The Gettysburg Address” to a writing contest and had won the gold medal, would it matter how many entries were in the competition? Of course, Abraham Lincoln’s greatness as a writer emerged in the context of the demands of many difficult situations he encountered as President during a time of war. However, he had honed his ability with words through using the English language in many more mundane activities earlier in his life. Our writing contest provides students with another opportunity to sharpen their language skills and prepare for greater demands on them as writers in the future.

Our judges, active or retired English educators, are up to the task of helping students grow as writers in this way. They are characterized by the multi-faceted intellectual gifts they bring to their reading of the entries we receive. They include among their number a sizable percentage of college professors, heads of English Departments, and even a high school principal or two. Many are published poets, or essayists themselves and appreciate any opportunity to grapple with the many layers of the English language inside and outside of the classroom. Above all, they understand the power of the written word and desire students to gain more perfect control of this essential tool.

As for the special set of English educators on our Writing Contest Committee, who sign up for more demanding roles, such as Genre Curator or Judge Liaison, they almost invariably experience a great boost in their educational careers. That is because they responded to a literary challenge beyond the classroom by helping run this contest and trying to put the interest of the students first. However, their value far exceeds any of the career “recognitions” they receive.

Thus, rather than demand quotas and numbers to assess how worthwhile it is to be recognized as a winner of the NJCTE High School Writing Contest, please urge more students you know to participate in our contest.

Most importantly, come to our Annual Award Reception and hear the words of our top medal winners performed by the Union Catholic High School Forensics Club. The event will be held on Thursday, April 11, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, NJ. David Messineo, a published NJ poet and literary magazine publisher, will offer remarks at the end of the event. This event is free and open to all NJCTE members.

NJCTE 2019 High School Writing Contest Winners Announced

Judging Season for the NJCTE High School Writing Contest Begins

by Michele Marotta

It’s a time of expectation at the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English. The annual high school writing contest has entered the judging phase when hundreds of entries from around the state are read attentively by scores of skilled judges. Students wait to see if their poem, short story, or essay has spoken its personal truth with the genuineness, clarity, and originality that will earn the top prize. Close to 250 entries were submitted this year from around the state in response to our question, “What effect has illusion had on your life?” You can almost hear the bated breath.

Thursday, April 11, marks the date of the NJCTE HS Writing Award Reception to be held at Union Catholic High School, in Scotch Plains, NJ, when the winners of our contest are recognized. Not only are they recognized, they are celebrated by the Union Catholic Forensics Team, which performs dramatic excerpts of the winning poems, stories, and essays. A professional New Jersey author also attends as a guest speaker and provides insights into the writing life. This event is open to all NJCTE members and has proven to be one of the highlights of the NJCTE calendar, so please mark the date.

The only more exciting time for me is when our contest writing prompt is first posted on our website, njcte.org, and I imagine that the next Stephen Douglas, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, or Stephen King will submit an entry and begin their writing career. For an English Language Arts teacher, like me, nothing beats helping students find their writing voice and follow in the footsteps of authors whose literary works reflect or have had an impact on so many lives.

The writer who spoke to my situation grew up in Victorian England in the 1820s. Before I read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I didn’t realize that I, like Pip, his young protagonist, lived with a foot in two different worlds. Like Pip, my parents were working-class people: my father, a blue-collar brake shoe man, and my stepmother, a maid who had grown up on a farm in Canada with a dozen siblings, and my natural mother deceased before I had the chance to know her. My home life revolved around household chores, school tests, and burgers out at Roy Rogers. Mirroring Pip again, I also spent time in a completely different realm when I visited my natural mother’s upper middle-class family in France. There, I experienced horseback riding lessons and museum visits. Dickens through Pip helped me navigate my inner perplexity and the confusing pull and counter-pull of the widely varying expectations of my relatives and friends.

The amazing reality that we hope young authors will encounter as they draft poems, short stories and essays for our writing contest each year is this: Their lives have value and meaning, not only for themselves, but potentially for many others who might read and be moved by their words. And these potential “fans” may live a continent or a life time away from them. That’s why our expectations are so great! Please join us!

Judging Season for the NJCTE High School Writing Contest Begins

NJCTE High School Writing Contest 2019

Submission deadline: 11:59 p.m., December 16, 2018. See http://www.njcte.org/writing-contest for details.

 The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English invites New Jersey students in grades 9-12 to participate in its 2019 Writing Contest:

“Truth and Illusion”

2019 Categories

  • Poetry (one poem, 50-line max.) –FREE CHOICE
  • Short story (5-page max. double-spaced) – FREE CHOICE
  • Personal essay* (5-page max., double-spaced) – RESPOND TO PROMPT

*All personal essay submissions must respond to this year’s prompt.

Personal Essay Writing Prompt:

Write a personal essay or narrative about the effect illusion has had on your life.

Illusions are false beliefs. In life, as in literature, these false beliefs might be about ways to be happy or successful or about what another person is truly like. Write a personal essay about the discovery of a truth hidden behind an illusion. This may be about your own illusion or an illusion that someone had about you. What led to the discovery of truth? How has this affected your life? Try to steer away from general observations. Describe a concrete experience and reflect on how the truth hurt or helped you.

How to enter:

  1. Visit our website at http://www.njcte.org/writing-contest and follow the instructions provided. Only New Jersey high school students are eligible to enter.

Tips to Avoid Disqualification:

  1. Each student may submit a maximum of one entry in each category (i.e. only one poem, one short story and one essay).
  2. Teachers may submit up to ten entries for their students in each genre. Surplus entries will be disqualified in order of submission date.
  3. The file submitted must be anonymous. Essays, short stories and poems with a student’s name, school or class typed on them will be disqualified.

Awards:

  • Genre Winners (poetry, short story, personal essay): Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals.
    • Gold medalists are eligible for the Governor’s Awards in Arts Education (GAAE).
  • School/District Winners:
    • Honorable Mention: Top scoring students
      • From schools with qualifying entries from at least 10 different students sponsored by at least three different teachers
    • Certificates of Merit – Top scoring students
      • From schools which submit qualifying entries from at least three different students

Winners will be notified on or after March 10, 2019. Questions: njctewritingcontest@outlook.com.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

NJCTE High School Writing Contest 2019

Help Finalize the NJCTE High School Writing Contest Prompt

Editor’s note: The NJ Council of Teachers of English will launch our high school writing contest within the next two weeks. Our writing contest committee is finalizing the prompt. This year we’re exploring the interrelated concepts of illusion and truth. Please join the discussion.

Good afternoon, writing contest friends,

There will be a brainstorming session at Panera Bread on a Thursday or Friday (4-4:30 p.m.) or Saturday (around 11 a.m.) for those interested in promoting the high school writing contest in urban schools. This will take place the 2nd or 3rd week of September.

The rough draft of the prompt below has drawn some comments:

Illusions are false beliefs. In life, as in literature, these false beliefs might be about ways to be happy or successful or about what another person is truly like.  Much of great literature centers on the dangers – or at least the foolishness – of living with illusions.  And yet, Mark Twain, perhaps humorously, states:  Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.  Write a personal essay about the discovery of a truth hidden behind an illusion.  This may be about your own illusion or an illusion that someone had about you.  What led to the discovery of truth?  How has this affected your life?

Comments so far:

  1. the word “truth,” has become such a loaded word recently
  2. the idea of fiction getting at deeper emotional truths- stretched truths
  3. the authentic search for truth vs politics
  4. Consider asking students to write one truth and one lie — might prompt some creative interaction in the fiction
  5. How have illusions governed your reality? How has your truth been shaped by illusions? How can one distinguish between truth and lies?

Thank you for your help!

Michele Marotta
Writing Contest Director

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English
Help Finalize the NJCTE High School Writing Contest Prompt

NJCTE Student Writing Contest Gold Medalists and GAAE Honorees

We are happy to share the gold medal-winning personal essays, poem, and short story from the 2018 NJCTE Student Writing Contest. These student writers were also honored at the 2018 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education reception on May 22. Please visit the NJCTE website to enjoy these pieces and post your comments.

  • “Lost in Thought” by Kush Dungana, NJCTE Gold Medalist in Short Story
  • “Family Recipe – How to Make an Indian Thanksgiving Dinner” by Swathi Kella, NJCTE Gold Medalist in Personal Essay
  • “Communion Cake and Christmas Break” by Gillian Parker, NJCTE Gold Medalist in Personal Essay
  • “Aquarius” by Madeleine Song, Gold Medalist in Poetry

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

NJCTE Student Writing Contest Gold Medalists and GAAE Honorees