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Webutuck seniors Morgan Sprague, Sarah Sheely and Kai Brant. Photo submitted

Webutuck students win international writing contest

WEBUTUCK — Five students in the Webutuck Central School District will see their work in print this year after submitting to a writing contest through Young Writers, a UK-based book and periodical publisher.

The students are all members of Jenna Garofalo’s English classes at Webutuck, and had the option to submit to the contest for extra credit.

A few months later, Garofalo received notice that all five of the students who had submitted their writing were selected for publication.

“First and foremost, I am so proud of them. It was optional, so they had to take on additional work on their own time!”

The book is titled “Twisted Tales - The Truth Revealed” and includes the writing of middle- and high-school writers from all over the map. In order to submit, students had to respond to the prompt “Through their eyes” and keep to a 100-word limit.

In Garofalo’s eighth-grade class, Emma Sprague penned “The Beast” and Brenden Dean composed “Puzzled.” From the 12th-grade contingent, Kai Brant wrote “To Be King,” Morgan Sprague wrote “The Wicked Witch,” and Sarah Sheeley authored “Vanished.” The three seniors take English 101 with Garofalo for college credit through a partnership program with Dutchess County Community College.

To Garofalo, the opportunity for students to see their writing in print helps them to build confidence, and see themselves as writers.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to realize, ‘Oh, I do like to write and I’m actually good at it.’ It means a lot for them to hear that their work will be published in an actual book … The look of surprise, particularly on one of my eighth-grader’s face. He was so surprised in himself that he could do it; it was a great confidence booster. His mom was so proud of him.”

Garofalo has taught at Webutuck for 10 years and has, for a number of years, provided the opportunity for her students to submit to a Young Writers contest. One student, Morgan Sprague, is a return winner, having successfully submitted last year as well.

But to Garofalo, the benefits of creative writing in the classroom extend beyond contest winning. The five selected pieces all arose from “Warm-up Wednesdays,” when students are provided with writing prompts, or time to journal, at the start of the day. Doing so helps “get their brains ready and activated,” similar to stretching before gym class. It also provides Garofalo an additional teaching angle through which to guide her students’ learning.

“One of the things that I love most as an English teacher is to see students writing and expressing themselves. But it also helps to form really great relationships! By reading their work, I learn a lot about them, and it’s a really beautiful point of connection.”

The Young Writers book is set to arrive near the end of the year — it has to ship from England — and once it does, Garofalo looks forward to displaying it for all to see.

“I have two books already from previous students, so I’m hoping to create a little shelf over the years and be able to say, ‘Yes, all these students are published authors,’ and have all of these books on that shelf. So I’m pretty excited to see that.”

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