Richmond Young Writers organization launches first writing contest

by | May 22, 2015 | POLITICS

The fervent attitude parlayed off of popular music through the years from songs like “All I do is Win,” and “We are the Champions,” has fueled the younger generation’s competitive nature.

The fervent attitude parlayed off of popular music through the years from songs like “All I do is Win,” and “We are the Champions,” has fueled the younger generation’s competitive nature.

The Richmond Young Writers organization hopes to find those with that competitive streak, along with a passion to write, with the launch of its inaugural Young Writer’s contest this month.

Valley Haggard, founder and co-director of Richmond Young Writers, said the contest isn’t all about having winners and losers, but rather “looking for creativity, original thought and expression.”

“I want to celebrate all writing,” Haggard said. “Some may just be further along in the process.”

Richmond Young Writers started accepting submissions on May 8th, and have received about 60 entries so far. The deadline is May 29th, and Haggard, Cox, and a third undecided judge will announce the winners on June 5th.

The competition is broken down into three age groups ranging from 9-11, 12-14 and 15-17. Three winners will prevail from each group. A workshop with the Richmond Young Writers will be awarded to the first place winner, a $15 Chop Suey Bookshop gift card to second place and a writing kit filled with a pencil, bookmark, blank journal and a book of writing prompts will go to the third place winner.

Bird Cox, co-director, along with Haggard, first started toying with the idea for a contest in 2009 when they opened their location for the organization inside Choy Suey Books in Carytown.

Haggard said the duo wanted to serve the “dual purpose of celebrating the talent of Richmond’s young writers and letting kids know about our program who might not have already known.”

Year after year, the budding business had different events and circumstances which kept them from hosting the contest, but the duo finally had a chance to sketch out some time for the contest schedule at the end of April.

The weekly workshops are the foundation of the Richmond Young Writers. A screenplay class, food writing, a “her” genre and a “life in ten minutes” are among the classes offered and classrooms generally consist of about 8-12 students according to Haggard.

“There’s a lot of connectivity between students and lots of stories and poems get written,” she said.

Haggard is acutely aware that not every student that comes through her workshops have chosen to be there.

“We love kids who are already in love with writing, but we are also trying to help kids learn how to fall in love with writing,” she said. “It helps facilitate a deeper level of compassion, communication.”

This love of creative writing extends far beyond just being helpful in a child’s academic and professional life, according to Haggard, who called it “soul and character building.”

Some of Haggard’s successes from the program are the students who have used the writing created in her class or the skills honed from her workshops to go on to great colleges and publish stories, but she said her favorite success story is “when a kid’s mind is changed about writing, when they discover that they really can be who they are, exactly who they are, and write about how they feel; when they find that confidence within themselves to be able to express who they are.”

To Haggard, creating an environment where this becomes a possibility is the end goal for the Richmond Young Writers.

“My advice for future contestants would be to just not try and write like anyone else, try to write like themselves and trust that their voice, their story, and their imagination is enough,” she said.

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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