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Willmar seventh-grader rewarded for fantasy fiction work

Willmar Middle School communications teacher Chelsea Brown and seventh-grader Eleanor Schmitz, 13, discuss her award-winning short story about warring clans of wolves and foxes. She won third place in the 12th annual Creating Spaces Writing Contest. The story, called a narrative, was written as an assignment for Brown’s class. (LINDA VANDERWERF | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR — The wolves and foxes are feuding in the forest, and two young friends who don’t even know why the fight started are plotting to bring their families back together.

But the plan of Goldenheart, the fox, and Kaeska, the wolf, goes awry in the short story by Willmar seventh-grader Eleanor Schmitz. In the end, the clans are brought together by Goldenheart’s death and Kaeska’s grief.

Eleanor won third place in the 12th annual Creating Spaces Writing Contest sponsored by Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative based in Marshall.

Students from 13 schools in southwestern and west central Minnesota entered the contest — 251 students submitted 393 entries, according to a release from the service cooperative.

Eleanor and other winners attended a banquet where they received medals and a bound anthology of all the fiction, nonfiction and poetry winning entries.

After reading the other two entries in the seventh-grade category, Eleanor said, “I really (like) their stories, so I think mine was placed perfectly.”

She get the idea for a story with talking animals from a book series.

“I was reading the Warriors series, which has a lot of talking animals,” she said. The Warriors books are young adult fantasy novels. She had tried writing with animal characters before but felt it hadn’t worked out well. She decided to try it again.

“It is a very clever story,” said her teacher Chelsea Brown. She felt Eleanor’s story could be expanded to a novel.

Brown teaches communications at Willmar Middle School, and the story was written for an assignment in Brown’s class. Students were to create their own narrative, and they went through a number of pre-writing exercises like formulating characters and writing rough drafts.

“All of the seventh-grade students got a big chunk of writing time,” Brown said.

“I’m not the best speller so I had to go over it bunches of times to pick them all out,” Eleanor said. “I still think there’s a bunch I could do with it to make it better.”

As for the future, Eleanor said she didn’t have an idea yet of how to continue or expand her story to make it into a novel. She likes writing, but isn’t sure she wants to make it her primary career.

“I really want to be a teacher, but I will do writing on the side,” she said. She thinks she would like to teach art or science.

The contest honored young writers in poetry, fiction and nonfiction in grades 3-12. Students in the SMSU Creative Writing Program did the preliminary judging, and professors in the college’s English Department did the final judging.

First-place winners in all categories and grade levels received $20 Amazon gift cards. First-place winners in the category for grades 11 and 12 received a $2,000 scholarship to SMSU.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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