Letters About Literature contest winners announced

Student essays relate how authors affect them

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Center for the Book announced the Pennsylvania winners of the 2014 Letters About Literature contest, a nationwide event sponsored by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading.

This contest invites students in three grade categories to write letters to authors — living or dead — explaining how the author’s words affected them or their world view. Veronica Mautner of Elizabethtown won the Level I award (grades four through six) for writing to Jerry Spinelli about “Stargirl,” Christopher Troll of Somerset won the Level II award (grades seven and eight) for writing to Herman Melville about “Moby-Dick,” and Linda Wen of Danville won the Level III award (grades nine and 10) writing to Amy Chua about “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Winners received a $300 cash prize and lunch with their families and representatives from The Pennsylvania Center for the Book at the Nittany Lion Inn at Penn State University Park on June 7.

A Level I honor of high distinction, which includes a cash award of $50, goes to Madison Wells-McFee of Philadelphia for writing to Sharon M. Draper about “Out of My Mind.” Level I honorable-mention winners are Sarah Devan of State College writing to Lois Lowry about “Number the Stars,” Megan Flanagan of Lafayette Hill writing to Rick Riordan about “The Heroes of Olympus,” Jessica Schneider of Meadowbrook writing to Rick Riordan about “The Lightning Thief” and Courtney Smith of Rockwood writing to Shel Silverstein about “The Giving Tree.”

Level II honorable-mention winners are: Ellie Cassel of Coopersburg writing to Rodman Philbrick about “Freak the Mighty,” Grace Lemke of Pine Grove Mills writing to John Green about “Looking for Alaska,” Danielle Rice of Sharpsville writing to Uri Orlev about “The Island on Bird Street” and Chenming (Angel) Zheng of State College writing to Frances Hodgson Burnett about “The Secret Garden.”

Level III honorable-mention winners are: Anna Atwell of Jamison writing to Jeanette Walls about “The Glass Castle,” Uma Balaji of Kennett Square writing to Margaret Mitchell about “Gone with the Wind” and Chelsea Steffes of Moon Township writing to Albert Camus about “The Stranger.”

Letters About Literature contest judges were Lynn Cockett, professor of communication, Juniata College, Huntingdon; Megan Gilpin, coordinator of outreach, Library Learning Services, Penn State University Park; Barbara A. Marinak, associate professor of education, School of Education and Human Services, Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Md.; Thomas P. Sherwood, II, founder and president of BioLexia, a literacy consultancy, State College; and Jordan Sonnenblick, American writer of young-adult fiction, Lehigh Valley.

For more information about the contest and awards, contact Caroline Wermuth, outreach coordinator, at 814-863-5472. Visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book website.

Last Updated June 13, 2014