Winning words: Teen takes top honors in poetry contest

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

— When Phoenix Middle School students heard that eighth-grader Carly Hopkins took a first place in a poetry contest, they clamored to hear the poem. Carly is well known among her teachers and students for having an exceptional gift of writing, and they enjoy listening to her read aloud.

The 14-year-old's poem, "24 Lines," won in the annual WillyCon Poetry Contest, which is run by Wayne State College's Science Fiction and Fantasy Club, in Wayne, Neb.

"I was very surprised that it won," Carly said. "It was a spur of the minute thing."

Carly competed with other middle school students, who submitted science fiction or fantasy poetry. The contest is open to students around the world who write in English. Carly also won a fourth-place award for another poem in another contest category.

Ron Vick advises the college's Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. He said the contest received 200 entries in both the poetry and prose categories. Each category has elementary, middle school, high school and adult divisions.

In addition to poetry, Carly loves to pen prose.

The eighth-grader has started writing more books than she can remember. Currently, she is revising one about a girl and her brother who were kidnapped by demons and snatched away to the underworld. She has been working on the fantasy book off and on for five months.

Ask her why she writes, and she responds enthusiastically.

"Writing gives me a way to create my own world," Carly said. "I am in charge. I can make things go the way I want them to."

Ask her where she gets ideas for her fantasy books, and she will tell you that they mostly just show up in her head.

"They just come to me," she replies. "Sometimes in a dream. Sometimes from other people."

Carly is the daughter of Kathy and Wayne Hopkins of Darien Township.

"She has been writing every day since about age 9," Kathy said. "She also has several books in the works. I think it comes from her love of reading."

Carly is such a voracious reader that her mother cannot buy books fast enough. Since September, Carly has read 96 books—and counting.

Kathy traces Carly's love of a good story to when she was a baby.

"We read to her from the time she was an infant," said Kathy, a retired speech pathologist. "Our pediatrician said to read to her 20 minutes every day. We read to her until she could read independently. I think all children need to develop a love of reading."

Social studies teacher Jessica Rima has been nurturing Carly's love of words during 30 minutes set aside daily at school for Carly to write. The special "academy time" gives students enrichment in reading and writing. It also gives them time to get extra help in subjects when they need it.

Rima first met Carly a year ago when Carly read an original poem in a school talent contest.

"When she finished her poem, the whole school erupted in applause," Rima recalls. "She has a colorful way of telling a story. She is so descriptive."

Carly has submitted poems and short stories to about 25 competitions, but she will not hear many of the results until this summer.

Rima sees more middle-school students embracing science fiction and fantasy novels, probably because of so many popular vampire and fantasy movies at the box office.

"The genres are coming back," she said. "I also have a lot of students who like poetry, and they are using it to express themselves."

In addition to being a talented writer, Carly belongs to student council and volunteers at the local animal shelter.

"I'm really proud of Carly and of our school to allow students to grow in their gifts," Rima said. "Carly is such a unique and special student."

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

Last updated: 10:39 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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