Attended another UIL writing competition today…(I am an official member of the Ready Writing team here at Taft High School now.) This competition was at Medina Valley High School. Ah, there’s so much to say about it…but basically, the topics this time were REALLY hard and I took the first hour (out of two) just analyzing them. I didn’t have a topic chosen by the first hour! Mostly everybody was done by then; one person was finished within the first half hour. Three went from my school (27 participants in total,) and all three of us were the only ones there after an hour and we took both hours. When I was finished I returned to the Cafeteria and told my English teacher that my essay was even worse than last time and I just did really bad. I didn’t think I had much of a chance. She reminded me that’s what I said last time when I got third place, but I assured her that I did a lot worse this time…Well we waited for 5 hours for results…The two others from my school got 7th and 10th place, but I got 1st! I was so shocked… On my scoring sheet, I got a perfect on every category. But I realized I forgot the comma in my title, (I can’t believe I did that! I realized it right after I turned it in…) so they scribbled out the perfect for punctuation and took off a point. Still 1st place though. 😀 Anyways, my essay is after the topic. Reading it now, I still think it needs a lot of work, and I should have done a lot of things, but I got 1st, so I’m satisfied.

Topic: “The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of the rhetoric than to any other force.”
-Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), Mein Kampf

Use force on a man and he may follow for a year, but feed his mind with your ideas and he will follow for life. Speech has been known to be one of mankind’s most valuable tools and treasures, but when sharpened, can be more powerful than any other force. Many memorable leaders throughout history have caused action from their mastership of rhetoric, bringing change to the world through persuasive speeches and convincing words. New leaders continue to arise even to this day, using their sharp tongues to control our minds and manipulate our thoughts. Control people’s minds and you control the world.

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I attended a UIL competition yesterday at James Madison High School because I was invited by my English teacher. It was last minute, however, so I hadn’t attended any meets or practices and really had no idea what was going to happen. I wasn’t very prepared. I participated in the Ready Writing Invitational Test, an expository writing competition. We were given the following topic and were just told to write. My essay follows the topic. After the competition, I waited for five hours, the last from my school to leave. My teachers left early, yet I decided to stay. Of course my contest was the last to be announced. Fortunately my wait was not in vain as I won a third place trophy out of about twenty-five contestants.

Topic: “Three hundred thousand bikers spent Memorial Day weekend roaring around Washington in tribute to our war dead….The street had been closed off for them and they motored on by, some flying the Stars and Stripes and the black MIA-POW flag, honking, revving their engines, an endless celebration of internal combustion….A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti-the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing….If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read … any of a hundred books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullabaloo without exposing themselves to danger…”
-Garrison Keillor, “The Roar of Hollow Patriotism,” Chicago Tribune, May 28, 2008

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” can be heard each morning within many schools across the country. Many view this act as a patriotic student display, although true patriotism does not support it. Blindly following routine, students moan as they pick themselves from their seats and slouch towards the small flag hanging from the chalkboard. Tired arms rest hands somewhere upon their chests, perhaps not always over the heart, and cold vocal chords force out mumbled words without thought. Patriotism is not often a real feeling expressed by proud citizens, but a figurehead in society, a meer image or thought. This idea wraps around America’s people as an unappreciated security blanket, gifted by those who valiantly sacrifice themselves to keep our nation a strong and supportive country.

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Admiration and affection are important qualities that affect people’s lives, directing and guiding them through changes and new experiences. People carry and create passionate emotions within themselves that allow them to connect with the world and those around them. From these connections, relationships can form, encouraging the emotions to grow and develop. Without acknowledgement, these relationships affect a person’s life every day. By admiring a person, great changes can come about one’s life, usually for the better, but at times, creating problems rather than helping with them. In my freshman year of high school, I grew to admire my friend, Hannah Boudreau, unknowingly allowing her to affect my life in a variety of different ways.

I often refer to myself as “veiled in secrets” due to the self-destroying burdens I keep to myself. Timid and untrusting by nature, I don’t tend to open up to people easily, and finding friends becomes a challenge for me. Throughout middle school, I grew comfortable with my lack of close friends and did not find it troubling to live without a personal confidant. Although I met my friend, Hannah, in middle school, she became a closer friend to others before she became my best friend. It wasn’t until our first year in high school that we grew closer because her other friends had moved away. Through our new high school experience, we grasped the little bond we had and made it stronger by helping each other out. Hannah helped, encouraged, and inspired me incredibly and I have grown to admire her unique traits and social talents. Opposed to the shy and quiet girl I was, I was attracted to Hannah’s unusual characteristics. Hannah was independent, loud, playful, and comical. She could get along well with different people and was loved by many. I felt that I could learn from Hannah and I enjoyed spending time with her until I later found out that she wouldn’t always be there.

“It’s strange to think that I may never see you again after high school,” I once told Hannah before school, pondering over my thoughts. I was shocked and heartbroken when Hannah responded with the fact that her father was retiring and she would be moving the following summer. From that impending event, my life was effected greatly. I couldn’t think of what to say or even breathe as a pain choked my insides and the truth strangled my mind. I had just become friends with Hannah and I didn’t want to have to give her up. After years of not having a close friend, I had become thankful for having her to rely on. Ironically, from this dread of impending sadness that would surely follow losing my friend that summer, I fell into a deep depression.

After witnessing how easily Hannah made friends and realizing how difficult it was for myself, I came to the conclusion that I was simply not worthy of friends and that I would burden any person who became my friend. With these new thoughts settling in my mind, new feelings and pains also settled in. Indescribable aches and pains consumed my soul with the swallowing hurt of depression. The worst of these mysterious pains developed within my stomach and continued to sweep through my chest and throat. My heart rate steadily increasing, my throat would begin to tighten and my body would be thrown into a seizure-like state, trembling and shivering without my consent. This feeling came over me many times, always invading my mind with the constant thought of doom and emptiness. From these constant thoughts, I called the feeling my “Doom feeling.” With these pains attacking my physical being causing me to actually feel an aching emptiness within me, troubled thoughts sabotaged my mind. Fear and dread attacked my brain and blurred my thoughts into a horrid painting of confusion, colors violently thrust upon the canvas. My mentality was so wrecked that the cause of my constant sadness was usually unknown to me. Stress and other troubling ideas kept my mind awake to suffer in guilt, punishing and hurting my tired body. In the silent black of night, I would either lie in wait listening to each passing second of the clock, or would transfer my thoughts into words through each clacking key of my computer keyboard. My blog was a frequent refuge to release the burdens that tormented me, and for a while, it was my only listener. Not wanting to burden my friend with my troubles, I tried to hide them from her and instead relied on the comforting text from those on the Internet. My blog gave me encouragement, yet I still longed for a true friend. Although I was writing on my blog, it wasn’t the same creative writing that I loved. Rather than letting fictional worlds open up upon the screen, I ranted and begged for help. As if I had become an entirely different person, my interests and hobbies became dull and lifeless and I became obsessed with improving myself in both physical and characteristic qualities. The time I had previously spent drawing and writing was now used to check my weight and carefully monitor and record it as it rose and fell dramatically. My enthusiasm and enjoyment in life was falling just as quickly as my body mass and my stomach felt just as empty as my heart.

Throughout this dreadful period in my life, I desperately reached for different forms of help. Friends from the Internet sent in advice and constantly reminded me to worry less and take a break. My writing club advisor emailed me and asked me to take better care of myself and seek medical attention, and classmates from school were troubled by my appearance and suddenly changing moods, begging me to speak to someone of authority. Denying that I was even troubled, I never did seek help from a counselor or medical specialist. Trying to keep my state entirely to myself, my parents never even knew of how I was. Faking a smile each time they passed, I skillfully fought my internal war myself, yet I wasn’t entirely alone. Although I tried to keep it from her, Hannah knew what was happening to me and tried to help as best as she could. She spoke with me and helped reason through my troubling thoughts. Always knowing what to say, I could rely on her for a good word. Even though these issues were caused from the knowledge of her forthcoming absence, her current presence greatly helped.

Admiring a person can cause troubles and problems, but also help with such disturbances. When people allow friends to grow closer to them, their lives are affected in many ways and can sometimes change tremendously. Each thing a person does in life seeks a comforting stability and may weaken when that presence is taken away. Affection is a human feeling that fills the heart with passion and grants value to our lives. Relationships are the strongest fibers of our lives, pulling together our emotions and feelings with our actions and personalities, each thing affecting the other and allowing us to truly live.

Writing enables one to express the many thoughts and images that emerge from his or her mind onto paper to transfer into the mind of another. From sheer words upon paper, entire worlds can be created and characters can be born. This power may seem minor to others, while some realize the true value of it. Nicholas Taylor is one of those who has become amazed by this ability and has been improving upon this skill over the years.

Nick, currently a junior attending Minot High School, feels confident and interested in his writing. He rested in his desk relaxed and slightly reclined while curling his fingers over his scruffy chin as he explained to me. He knows he has improved greatly from the simple stories that he said “were completely void of good writing techniques.” Writing through the years, he has never lost that special interest in allowing words to escape from his mind and appear before him for others to read, which he discovered when he was in the sixth grade. The ability to create new things and express his ideas amazed him and encouraged him to read other authors’ works to learn and let his talent grow. Writing will always be a part of Nick’s life, continuously expanding and blossoming.

When it comes to writing, the words mean nothing when there isn’t an important idea behind them. Nick feels that he has many elaborate ideas within his mind, but can’t always seem to execute them well on paper, admitting to sometimes using names for characters more than once. Sometimes he will write in the first person, never giving much information about the character itself, such as the name, and concentrating more on the story and the basic idea. Being able to create things with words was the fascination that led Nick to writing when he was younger and still holds him in its enticing grasp. Although he feels the writing is a useful way to express his ideas, he does not usually portray himself through his characters or base his stories on experiences. Instead of writing through emotion and personal experience, Nick tends to write through his imagination and thoughts alone. “I do not want to sound sappy,” he stated with a strong, clear, and confident voice, his mouth, as usual, slightly pulled to the right showing his pointed incisor. In his writings, each setting, every character, and all the happenings have emerged from his mind.

Writing a few times a week, although he would like to write more often, Nick most often arranges short stories and poems with his own personal mood and tone. He prefers the first person style of writing and finds himself writing in first person most often. Usually jotting his ideas into a notebook first, he then evaluates on the new creations over a keyboard with music sometimes playing along with the clacking of the keys; a duet aiding the flow of his words.

Being able to bring something into the world that has never been introduced before is a different concept which Nick enjoys. He is interested in original ideas and stories that avoid clichés. Overused plots, characters, settings, and creatures annoy him and distract him from the piece itself. He tries to stray from clichés in his own writing and will only write what could only reside in his own mind. He also feels that he can rate his own writing well and knows what’s well-written and what needs work. He sets extremely high standards for himself and instantly begins fixing any flaws in his writing. Although he generally likes what he writes, he feels that there is always something for him to learn and an area in which he can become better.

Writing not only interests Nick as a hobby, but also as a career choice and has seeped into his plans for the future. He plans to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Creative Writing to perfect his talents and help him excel as a writer. It would be his dream to self-publish a book of short stories and later write scripts for other major passions in his life such as video games and manga, Japanese comic books. By combining his skills with his interests, Nick would like to form a substantial life that can support him well and give him something to enjoy.

As Nick is a well-balanced person, he keeps his interests and his work in order all throughout his life. Never forgetting the past and how far he has come from it while keeping a watchful and planning eye on the future, he always has a firm grasp on his life, especially in his writing. He has improved greatly and plans to continue doing so, hopefully making a living out of it. This great passion that Nick Taylor has will always be with him, his love of creating new things and sharing them with others through the English language never dying out.

As you glance at your watch, you find that it’s almost time to start heading for work. After dumping the newspaper that you had been reading into the garbage can beside you, you rush to your car and drive to the nearest convenience store to pick up your daily dose of Diet Coke. After consuming your beverage, you dump the empty plastic bottle along with the thin shopping bag it came in. After work, you pull into a gas station to fill up your close-to-empty tank and grumble at the high prices. Purchasing another snack while throwing away the wrapper and shopping bag, you find that the tax has risen and even all of the prices are a bit higher than before. To prevent this conflict from arising, communities should enforce recycling programs which help the economy, preserve the environment, and benefit the inhabitants.

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Although most people understand the basic meaning of friendship, they may not comprehend the deeper ideas associated with it. Most simply think of friendship as a social idea, usually with people who are fond of each other and spend much of their time together. By relating friendship to fire, it can be more easily understood.

When imagining fire, thoughts of flames the colors of autumn licking at the sky arise immediately, although there are deeper ideas to the element. With its welcome and warm, inviting touch against one’s face it can offer comfort and protection to those in need. While offering security, fire will always light the way and can sometimes bring back that flicker of hope a person so desperately searches for. Even though people find it helpful almost everyday with cooking, heating, and lighting, fire can also be hurtful at times, turning against man, burning those who misuse it, and unexpectedly causing pain to those who trusted it. A great deal of dedication and work must be put in to keep a fire lit. When in a fragile and weak state, fire can unexpectedly go out with a slight gust of wind but when carefully built up it may strongly rage on, standing up against any who tries to extinguish it. The first flames may come unexpectedly or may have required much perseverance and desire to achieve them. Ranging in size and power, each fire is unique and capable of unexpected changes that must constantly be monitored.

Dedication must be put into a friendship to keep it burning to benefit from its pleasures. When treated right, a friend can supply warmth, compassion, and love. Friends will usually give protection and will try to help each other out whenever one is in need. Welcoming and inviting they are normally fun to be around and help bring joy to each other. Friendship can shine brightly, keeping hope in sight through difficult times and make life easier to bear. Friendships can sometimes go wrong, though. A friend may turn on another for reasons unknown or may have never been a friend before. Friends can seem to disappear in times of need and destroy a person’s hope, smothering him to the ground. A friend may do something hurtful, sometimes meaning to and sometimes not, and a friendship can go bad when mistreated. Friendships can struggle and go through weak and vulnerable times allowing them to die out or when not given up on, they can continue a true bond for many years. When the friendship is going strong, the friends tend to stand up for each other, stubbornly refusing to give in and will try to block and shield each other from the horrors of the world. Friendships can unexpectedly build quickly, but most take time and effort to build up. How much effort and love is put into them determines the bond between the people and that bond will constantly flicker and waver, allowing a change to suddenly happen. Friendships can come and go, grow and fade, brighten and sadden.

When thinking of a friendship similar to a burning fire, one may come to comprehend the idea in a different way. Understanding the fragile flickering of the relationship, a person may be more cautious to damage the bond and may come to enjoy the benefits more. Only when a determined person works at keeping a friendship ablaze can it burn strong and continue to provide warmth, comfort, security, and protection. When mistreated, it can cause pain and destroy lives just as a wildfire would. As long as each person continues to generously throw another woodblock into the fire, friendships can continue to shine brightly.

"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare

“The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare

“Glad that you thus continue your resolve / To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy” (Act 1 Scene 1 lines 27-28.) While most may not understand what Tranio, the loyal servant of Lucentio from William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, was saying to his master, most do understand the meaning of “fun.” No matter what the century, man has always fed his craving for entertainment. Even when work must be done and the opportunity of knowledge is in hand, recreation still holds its firm grip on the mind. At times, the value of fun is held higher than that of education and duty. Even relationships are considered more important than education at times.  Today, one can still see this in the number of married people who attend college and those who drop out of high school for relationship-related issues. It is not uncommon for relationships to affect future college plans. As history continues on, man’s love of relaxation and entertainment are carried with it.

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Only in my dad’s time was the fashion so hot that it was actually on fire… Who knew that nylon parachute pants couldn’t be ironed? As the years go by, trends come and go, technology changes and grows, and memories are created and forgotten. The time that I live in now is similar to the time when my father attended high school in some ways, yet completely different in other aspects. From the crazy styles to the teched out gizmos, teenagers struggle to break free from their parents and declare themselves independent while trying to make their generation stand out from all the rest as the years continue. With this combination, an array of different times can come.

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“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinback

When imagining the Great Depression of the 1930’s, rarely does a person suddenly feel a deep and pure sympathy for each individual person who suffered through the historical event or quickly visualize the scenes the migrants had struggled through and the pain they had felt. Most people are unable to suddenly feel sorrow for something they don’t know much about or for something that seems so vast. When John Steinbeck wrote his book, The Grapes of Wrath, he kept his main purpose always on his mind. He wanted to inform the public of this impacting tragedy and wished that his piece would move people so deeply that they would actually act upon what they had just read. To make people feel so emotional, he had a great writing technique in mind that broke down the unimaginable sorrow in the Great Depression and first showed the reader the Joads, a compassionate family, strong-willed and always looking out for one another. Once he had snatched his reader’s heart, he then spanned out and showed them that just about every migrant suffering from the Great Depression was like the Joad family allowing the reader an easier transition from a single family to the society in whole. John Steinbeck used intercalary chapters to give the effect that he wanted.

When The Grapes of Wrath was written with the sole purpose to enlighten, rather than to entertain, John Steinbeck found that there were many points to get across and that he needed to intensely explain each complex idea. To be able to tell the public of the situation, however, he would first need to catch and keep the reader’s attention and create a newfound sympathy within him for the migrants of the Great Depression. This would present a challenge for any of his readers who had not personally experienced the event themselves. Steinbeck created the Joad family, making sure that they were a lovable group that could grow on one’s heart and could easily be loved. Through an array of different characters within the family, Steinbeck was able to create plots and problems, display different sides of the Great Depression, show how different people reacted to the event, and insure that there was at least one character for everybody to favor. Showing the audience how the family cared so deeply about one another and adding characters like Ma Joad, the readers felt emotionally troubled when the family suffered. Ma would always put her family first and would even deprive herself if one were in need. Steinbeck clearly shows this when Mrs. Wainwright tries to get Ma to sleep and temporarily stop watching over her daughter, Rose-of-Sharon, who had just lost her baby. “‘Come on,’ Mrs. Wainwright said, ‘Jus’ lay down. You’ll be right beside her. Why, you’d wake up if she took a deep breath, even.’” (606) From this small setting that the reader is tucked into, he is able to clearly imagine and feel how the family feels as they progress through the story. He begins to struggle alongside the characters and grow to understand more clearly. It is then that Steinbeck feels that the reader is ready to be exposed to an even larger amount of problems and finds a clever way to make an easy transition. Through the use of intercalary chapters, this can be achieved.

Intercalary chapters provide documentary information for the reader and give social and historical background that he would otherwise not receive from the story itself. These chapters do not progress the story, however, but temporarily interrupt the small setting that the author has created to step back and take a larger look at the situation in a whole. As the reader leaves the somewhat familiar and comfortable microcosm and is exposed to the much larger macrocosm, he may then fully understand the situation that the author is trying to point out. Realizing that he had thought that the small setting was unbearable, he is then shown an even larger population, all dealing with similar problems, and then truly understands the impact of such a drastic event. The single Joad family traveling from place to place is suddenly transformed into “the moving, questing people” with “great highways streaming with moving people.” (385) The reader sees that a great sum of families, each similar to the Joads, are going through the same situations and then sees the entire population with new eyes. He can now feel the entire society’s pain and suffering and feel as if he personally knows every one of the migrating families. This technique tries to overwhelm the reader, making him feel sympathetic not only for the quaint and personal part of the situation that he has grown to know and love, but also the general and somewhat unfamiliar society all together. Showing him that he can love a small piece of the population that is just like the rest of unknown migrants, he is able to be more considerate and caring. From there, Steinbeck was hoping that with this new selflessness, the reader would feel the need to do something about the situation. Through this technique, he was hoping to bring great change and help for these migrants. Steinbeck used intercalary chapters with a story to accomplish what he had hoped, which can only be affective if used skillfully.

Steinbeck successfully used intercalary chapters to inform the reader of the historical and societal background, broaden the scope of the novel, expose others with experiences similar to the Joads, provide his own opinions of the situations, and imply possible solutions or outcomes to the problems. Introducing the reader to a strong-willed family, he allowed the Joads to grow on the reader’s heart, causing him to become emotionally attached. Throwing in intercalary chapters, usually between each “Joad Chapter” he then showed the reader that even more families, each like the Joads, were suffering the same problems and something needed to be done. With the reader already feeling the pain of the Joads, it was not difficult for him to then feel the pain of the entire society and understand the problems of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. With the help of intercalary chapters, Steinbeck was able to show someone how to love and care for those he hadn’t even known.

It’s the start of another day at school and Lindsey is slouching in her desk in the back corner of her classroom, waiting for the school day to end. She hangs her head down low and avoids eye contact with other people as she quietly suffers through her fears. She doesn’t have many friends, if any at all, and she’s often alone during school. Although it may seem as if she wishes to be alone, she secretly desires for a friend. Most people, however, tend to ignore the shy girl, actually confirming her negative thoughts that nobody likes her or wants to talk to her. Nobody tries to break through her nervous exterior to find the true person within or even pauses to greet her with a smile. No one tries to understand her, and sadly, she may not even understand herself. Shyness is not only a characteristic trait; it is related to many different medical disorders, conditions, diseases, phobias, and anxieties and can lead to many more problems in life. Before anyone can understand the diseases and phobias shyness relates to, one must first understand what shyness is and the points of its extremities with social phobia as the most extreme case of shyness. Maybe after the knowledge of shyness and its related problems has been discovered, the world will be more understanding to the strange case.

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It is interesting how a person can use mere words to describe the ideas and thoughts that linger in his mind. However he twists and uses his words is also important and can change the way another person takes them in. When writing, one lacks a visual image and is forced to carefully plan out what he wants to tell his reader.

Using words skillfully can create amazing stories for people to enjoy and can deliver the creative thoughts that are forming in one’s mind. Transferring one’s thoughts into words that share the idea in a full understanding brings great pride and joy to the writer and possibly even the reader. Each time a writer spread words across a page, he is granted with the wonderful feeling of knowing that he has given another piece of his thoughts to someone else, enabling that person to understand him, even just a bit more.

Great writers enjoy watching their created characters come alive as they live and breathe in their own fictional lands. When a writer has successfully shared his creations with others, the readers can live alongside his characters and feel what they feel. As the readers feel a connection with the characters, they begin to bond with them and the author, all through the scribbles on a page.

Together, the reader and the characters can venture new worlds, overcome great obstacles, feel the same emotions, and relate to one another. An entirely new person can come alive through the skilled use of words and can even help others find new characters within themselves.

Words can bring about strong thoughts and gentle ones at the same time. It is how the words are used, which are chosen, and how the reader receives them that truly delivers the message. Anything can be shared through writing, just as anything can be received through reading.