A Cartersville Middle School seventh-grader has accomplished a feat that's never been done before in her entire school system.
Sofia — whose last name has been omitted by request — became the first Cartersville City Schools student to win at the state-level in the annual Young Georgia Authors writing competition for kindergartners through 12th-graders.
The 12-year-old Cartersville resident won the top honor in the state for sixth-grade entries last school year with her short fiction piece titled “Journey into Crystalline," which was based on a vivid dream she had about a land where fog clustered around the tree branches instead of leaves, and the absence of light was foreboding.
"I wanted to make a story based around the dream I had — I have done that several times before — but I didn't know when since I had to finish my schoolwork," she said. "In the next couple weeks, during Canes Time sign-up, a YGA workshop showed up as one of the options, and I thought that it would be a perfect time to use my story idea."
Sofia — who doesn't remember exactly when she had the dream, but it was a couple of weeks before the contest entry deadline — said she was "very excited" when she received a letter in the mail this summer about her victory.
"I shared the news of my accomplishment with my family and extended family living out of state," she said. "I am very excited that I won the competition and look forward to competing next year."
Instructional specialist Randi Sonenshine, who oversees the annual competition at the school level, said she thinks she "jumped out of my seat and whooped" when she received an email about Sofia's win from Principal Matt Gibson in late July.
"I was and am thrilled to see Sofia and her writing recognized in this way," she said. "First place in the state level Young Georgia Authors writing competition is the most prestigious honor awarded to a student for writing and a first for Cartersville Schools, to my knowledge. We are extremely proud of Sofia for her tremendous accomplishment and excited to see where her extraordinary talent takes her."
Sonenshine could easily understand why the young writer's piece was chosen as the best sixth-grade story in Georgia after winning at the school and Northwest Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency levels.
"It's hard to create a fully developed, engaging plot and characters in a novel, let alone a short story, but Sofia did exactly that," she said. "Her short fantasy has all the elements of a great story — intriguing plot; an interesting, well-rounded main character; a well-detailed setting and point of view, all of which create an immersive and satisfying experience for the reader. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see Sofia's books on the shelves one day."
Sofia, daughter of Glynnis and Curtis, wrote her award-winning entry on her own, not as part of a class assignment from a teacher.
"We had about two to three weeks of Canes Time, if I remember right, to complete the story so I used time after school and in Canes Time to complete my story," she said. "I turned it in the day it was due so I used all the days that were given to me to write my story and revise."
But entering contests is nothing new for the middle schooler.
"I have entered the YGA competition since I was in kindergarten," she said. "When I was a student at White Elementary, I entered many competitions centered around the theme of art or STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics]. Some of these include art, writing and technology competitions. I continued entering competitions now at Cartersville Middle School. I want to be a professional artist when I grow up, and I think that entering competitions like these will help me practice for scholarship competition."
"In addition to being an incredible writer, Sofia is a talented artist and techie as well as an avid reader," Sonenshine said. "She is a thoughtful, kind and humble person and a joy to know. She is truly deserving of this honor."
After Sofia won the regional competition, her school honored her with "a few small prizes," according to Sonenshine, and Sofia said she received a certificate in the mail from the Georgia Council of Teachers of English as the sixth-grade state champion.
"For the state level, normally there is a winners' award ceremony and reception in Atlanta in May, but unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 situation, that was not possible this year," Sonenshine said. "She did receive a nice certificate from the state, and we will be honoring her locally in the near future."
The purpose of the YGA writing competition is to encourage students to develop enthusiasm for and expertise in their writing, to provide a context to celebrate their writing successes and to recognize student achievement in arts and academics.
The competition, sponsored by the Georgia Language Arts Supervisors and the Georgia RESA Network with support from the Georgia Department of Education, is open to any student currently enrolled in grades K-12 in any Georgia public school.
Entries must be the student's original work and be limited to 1,900 words. Categories that contestants can enter are short stories, poetry, essays/literary criticisms/analysis, journalism, academic/research reports, personal narratives and other original student writing.