Hare and Bell contest recognizes great academic writing

Winners encourage others to ‘take a chance,’ write more

“Give it a try; you never know.” “Get out of your comfort zone.” “You might be surprised.” These are some of the encouraging words for fellow students shared by the Hare & Bell Academic Writing Contest winners.

After seeing posters on campus advertising the competition, each of the three winners figured they had nothing to lose, and so each one submitted an entry. They want other students to know it’s never a bad idea to try a new thing or investigate something that ignites a passion or creates curiosity. In fact, it might even pay off!

First-place surprise

Brandon Bender didn’t expect to hear he’d won first place in the writing contest. “I think of myself as a writer, but this really was a pleasant surprise.” In addition to his paper, “America’s Most Infamous Chief Justice: A Profile of Roger B. Taney,” being named the best of 38 entries, Bender received $500.

Although award-winning writing isn’t new for Bender – a short story of his was recognized by the League for Innovation in the Community College in 2016 – he liked the Hare & Bell contest because it allowed him to choose a topic in which he was interested.

Encouraging writing

Kathryn Byrne, Director of the Writing Center, said the contest was revived in the fall of 2017. “We see so much beautiful writing happening on campus, but then it doesn’t go anywhere, so students underestimate the power of their writing.”

Byrne said that by attaching monetary prizes to writing, she and the contest advisory committee, made up of eight representatives from across the College, hoped students would begin to see the value of their writing.

In addition to cash prizes of $500, $300 and $100, the winning papers have been published on ScholarSpace, one of the College’s databases of faculty and student research. The winners also were recognized at the Cavalier Conference on Writing and Literature in late April.

Make time to write

When Talita Shirky saw that she could enter a paper she’d already written for a class, she chose something she had done for Composition II. Her paper, “On Stupidity and the Ban,” won second place. “I had strong feelings about the topic, but it was never one I’d researched. So when that was part of our assignment, I found it was a very interesting and pertinent subject. And I really enjoyed writing it.”

Shirky said her experience entering the contest definitely has encouraged her to pick up writing again. She loved to write when she was younger, but as life got busy, it became more of an exercise than a creative outlet. “Winning this contest has given me a boost to continue investing in my writing.”

Third-place winner Savannah Price wrote a very personal entry – “Keep Calm, Carry On, Exchange Insurance” – about her experience with an auto accident. “It was about the lessons I learned and the importance of staying calm and in control in a difficult situation,” Price said. “Although I wrote it for a composition class, it also helped me process the accident.”

Price entered the contest because she wanted confirmation that she was a good writer. “I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I’d never entered a college writing contest. I wanted the confidence to know that others thought I have talent, as well.”

Calling all writers!

Byrne said the contest will be offered again in 2019. The main requirement is that entries have to be an academic paper, but they can be any length and on any topic. According to Byrne, “We look for style, voice, accuracy, intellectual engagement – or the significance of what the author is trying to communicate – and higher-level thinking.”

If you’re interested in learning how to enter the next Hare & Bell Academic Writing Contest, look for announcements on campus next fall and winter. The deadline will probably be in February 2019.

Free writing help on campus

If one of your academic goals is to improve your writing, check out the Writing Center in LIB 308. The drop-in center provides free tutoring, assessments and grammar checks, and you can even run your assignments through software that helps improve your writing.