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An explorer, a tropical island, a pineapple

Fifth-grader wins top judges’ prize in writing contest

In her short story titled “Finding Hope,” fifth grader Ashley Cole begins with a classroom scene involving a quiet girl with a vivid imagination who’s struggling to fit in.

It begins:

“Okay class, open your books to page 74,” Mrs.Vanhorp ordered. Dylan May Smith sat at the back of the 6th grade class drawing on sticky notes she kept under her desk. Her mind was not in math class but somewhere much more interesting. She was an explorer. She had found a tropical island. She was running around playing games and eating peaches and pineapple.“

Ashley, a student at Nickels Intermediate School, is the judges choice winner in the youth category for Write Michigan, a contest presented by Kent District Library and Schuler Books & Music. She won $500, which she said she plans to put in savings.

About 1,100 writers from across the state entered the contest in four categories — 269 adults, 488 teens, 244 youth and 93 Spanish writers.

Winners were chosen by public voting for the $500 readers choice award, and by a panel of judges for the $500 judges choice and $250 judges choice runner-up awards. They will be honored at an awards ceremony at Schuler’s.

Other local winners include:

  • North Rockford Middle School student Ramona Wilke, Youth — judges choice runner-up;
  • Rockford High School student Sophie Sales, Teen — published finalist;
  • Kraft Meadows Middle School student Allison Malone – Youth — published finalist;
  • Potter’s House High School student Anja Van Drunen, Teen — judge’s choice winner. 

‘Write Whatever You Want’

Ashley said her mom, Kristi Cole, told her about the contest. “I like that you can write whatever you want. I can be creative. I like choosing the characters,” she said, explaining how she wrote her main character, Dylan. to be a girl who is really good at drawing but doesn’t get good grades.

Ashley said she wants to be an author of realistic fiction when she’s older, and lists authors Dan Gutman and Louis Sachar as favorites. She is also a reporter on the Nickels student newspaper, Bulldog Growl

Ashley, 10, and other winners will sign a copy of an anthology featuring their work on March 14 at Schuler Books & Music, 2660 28th St. SE.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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