Anoka Middle School for the Arts’ literary magazine earned the top rating from a teachers council.
Sophia Collins has always had a flair for the literary. Her dad gave her a specially bound journal when she was little, and ever since then she has filled notebooks with her take on “what’s going on in the world.”
So, Collins, a seventh-grader at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, jumped at the chance to get her work published in the school’s literary magazine, “The Storm.”
Now she can say her work, a poem titled “Two Tornadoes,” has appeared in an award-winning publication: The Storm last month snagged the top honor in a literary magazine contest from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), an Illinois-based professional organization.
The middle school’s annual magazine, which originated in 2006, landed the “Highest Award.” Two other metro-area publications, from Eastview High School in Apple Valley and St. Paul Academy and Summit School, each received the next level of “Superior.”
Entries are judged state-by-state, and the Highest Award isn’t always given out, said Jolanda Dranchak, faculty adviser for the Storm. She is a curriculum integration coordinator at the Anoka school.
Nationwide, only 26 of 373 entries garnered that award for 2013, according to NCTE information.
Besides literary achievement, “production values are important, and the extent of student participation is also considered,” the NCTE states.
Dranchak said the school’s feat is especially impressive given that many of the writings came from sixth-graders.
In recent years, The Storm has become extremely competitive. Last year, it received more than 200 submissions. Of those, 45 made the cut, and they came from students in each grade level at the school, she said.
Right now, Dranchak is in the process of collecting submissions for the magazine’s next issue, which has a Feb. 28 deadline.
A diverse mix
Jodi Anderson-Wolhaupter, a creative writing teacher at the school, said the magazine is unique for its diverse mix of writing forms that speak to various disciplines and genres.
Besides poems, stories and essays, the issue contains a “mind map,” academic writing, a theater script, a musical score and illustrations. A jingle written by an entire class relates to a social studies unit that centers on Mesopotamia.
People got creative with the more traditional writing forms, as well. For example, a “two-voice” poem splices together a couple of speakers to make people “comparatively think about different life conditions,” Anderson-Wolhaupter said.
The magazine sends the message that writing doesn’t have to be abstract. “There are many ways to be expressive,” even through research-based pieces, she said.
The Storm also got high marks because of the level of student involvement, she said.
Student editors work alongside adults to filter through the works submitted. “It’s empowering for students to have a voice, to say, ‘our judgment matters, we will find our own criticisms about writing,’ ” Anderson-Wolhaupter said.
That process also shows the students that they can turn to each other for insights. “It reflects the importance of the entire writing process,” how work gets refined through feedback, she said.