Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordcraft -- Reflections of young writers

Six of us, volunteers from the Dallas Writers Garret, gathered Tuesday for the first round judging in a national program for young writers. For more than forty years, the National PTA’s Reflections program has encouraged American students, from preschool through high school, to explore their artistic talents.

It was my second year to be serving as a judge for the literary portion of Lake Highlands High School’s entries in the program. I have to admit to feeling a little nervous. Was I judging too harshly? Too leniently? Each of the thirty-three entries -- essays, short stories or poem -- received readings by three judges acting independently.

When we discussed our choices afterward, I was relieved to find we had a consensus on most of the higher-ranked entries. Now it was up to someone else to tally the scores and decide which entries advance to judging at the district, and, ultimately, national levels.

All entries were judged on their interpretation of the theme -- “Diversity means,” for 2011-2012; creativity; artistic merit; and mastery of medium. Our group found that originality -- the “creativity” area -- was where the higher-ranked entries broke out of the pack.

Although we looked at literary compositions, Reflections also accepts entries in the areas of dance choreography, film production, musical composition, photography, and visual arts. All entries must be inspired by the current year’s theme.

The National PTA gives up to five Awards of Merit and three Awards of Excellence in each grade division, for each arts area. The PTA also holds a competition to determine future themes. In Texas, the winning student receives $100 and has his or her theme presented at the 2012 National PTA Convention. But hurry -- the state deadline for theme submissions is November 5. For details on the theme contest, see

Interested in having your school, or your child’s school, participate for the upcoming 2012-2013 year? See for guidelines. The 2012-2013 theme will be “The magic of a moment. . . ” I can hardly wait to see what it inspires.


This Saturday, October 29, herbalist Thea Summer Deer discusses her book, Wisdom of the Plant Divas, at On the site now -- her gypsy cold remedy, just in time for sniffle season.


Also this Saturday, the Dallas Public Library hosts its 6th International Book Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. The Central location is at 1515 Young Street, at the corner of Young and Ervay across from Dallas City Hall. For a schedule of events, see



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