Glen Ridge youths rise to the challenge in writing contest

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Staab
Winners of a student writing contest open to Glen Ridge sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are, from left, Amelie Yi, Charlotte Pomerantz and Priyanka Nair.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Winners of a writing contest for Glen Ridge students, rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, were announced at Freeman Gardens on Sunday, Aug. 14. The competition, in its inaugural year, was sponsored by Folkwise PR, a public relations company located in the borough. According to its founder and president, Amanda Staab, the purpose of the contest was to promote long-form writing. 

“We’ve had a very shaky two years with COVID,” she said recently to The Glen Ridge Paper. “Writing is a way to process traumatic events and deal with life.”

Staab said she loved the years encompassing grades six, seven and eight. She called them the twilight of childhood.

“The students are at that awkward age,” she continued. “And writing is a great way to process who you are and want to be.”

Fifteen students submitted works which, according to the rules, could be a story, script, essay or poem, and no longer than 600 words. The judges included three Glen Ridge School District teachers, a college professor, a negotiations trainer, a journalist and a biographer. 

First place was awarded to eighth-grader Amelie Yi, seventh-grader Priyanka Nair garnered second place and third place went to seventh-grader Charlotte Pomerantz. Each girl also received nominal monetary prizes.

The three winning entries all make the reader think long afterward. Amelie wrote a poem titled “Cag.” It is about a fantastic animal, half cat, half dog, who yearns for acceptance by just one other animal. Priyanka’s “The Park,” written in the first-person, is from an older woman’s perspective. She is awakened by a train conductor and, while walking home through a park, sees her past unfolding in stages. Charlotte’s “Waiting for Love” is about two girls who are best friends and the response of one girl when her friend falls into a coma and then revives. 

Amelie told The Glen Ridge Paper she got the idea for “Cag” because she likes cats and dogs and wanted a story about bullying.

“I landed on the idea of an animal that was a cat and a dog,” she said. “It wouldn’t fit in anywhere.”

Amelie likes to write fan fiction, which is the creation of characters and events that are introduced into the preexisting world of a published book, movie, television show, etc. She has posted several of her efforts and has read them to family and friends.

Charlotte told The Glen Ridge Paper that the idea of “Waiting for Love” came to her after planning on writing a horror story. She was skeptical about her entry because it was emotional, but the idea grew on her. She began writing in her free time a few months ago and reads her stories to family and friends.

Contest judge Jerry White, author of children’s books “Thickety,” “Nightbooks” and “Shadow School,” and a language arts teacher at Ridgewood Avenue School, told The Glen Ridge Paper that encouraging young people to write independently is tricky since you do not want it to feel like homework. 

“The best thing to do is provide a safe and encouraging audience,” he said. “Read their writing, give constructive, not critical, feedback and, most importantly, let your children feel as though their writing is treasured and valued. That, more than anything, will nurture budding young authors.”

Another contest judge, Neil Baldwin, a Glen Ridge resident whose biography on Martha Graham will be published Oct. 25 by Alfred A. Knopf publishing company, said he would tell a young person, if they wanted to write, to get a notebook and sharp pencil. 

“Find a special place and once a day, where nobody will bother you, take just five minutes to write down something good or interesting that happened that day or a new idea you had or a conversation with a friend or a dream, anything that’s from your own life,” he said. “The notebook is called a Day Book. After a few weeks, you will see a story developing and it’s your story. That’s how it begins.”

A third contest judge, Eda Uzuncakara, a Glen Ridge resident and author of “Jumping on the Drips,” said children are great observers. She said parents can use writing to connect to a child’s thoughts, beliefs or emotions. 

“They can pause as family after a trip to write their reflections together or individually,” she said. 

Staab said she thought a writing contest was a good summertime activity 

“We’re definitely going to do this next summer and expand it,” she said. “I want to show the kids there are adults who support them.”

The three winning entries can be read at