Middle Schoolers Win Short-Story Contest

Middle Schoolers Win Short-Story Contest
Posted on 05/01/2023
Three Montclair sixth graders have won the fifth annual Friends of Anderson Park Short Story Contest: They are Rose Wiseman of Renaissance School, whose charming story “Hot Dog Adventure” visits Anderson Park through the eyes, er, nose, of a dog; Madeline Ahern of Glenfield Middle School, whose “True Love”  is about a tragic friendship between a tree and a squirrel; and Zoe Cohen, also of Glenfield, whose “Memories” reflects on moments that she shared with family and friends in Anderson Park. A fourth student, Aaria Shah, an eighth grader at Buzz Aldrin Middle School, won the Olmsted Oak Award for a distinctive work that falls outside the definition of “story” with her “Reflections of a Writer.”

contest winners 
From left: Aaria Shah, Rose Wiseman, Madeline Ahern, Zoe Cohen

Each winner will receive $100 from Friends of Anderson Park, and the winning works will be read aloud during an awards ceremony at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair on Sunday, May 21, at 4 p.m. The four pieces are on the park conservancy’s website

Forty-seven middle-school students entered the contest, which required the authors to work Essex County’s historic Anderson Park into their stories in some imaginative way. A bounty of creative expression resulted. This year the park had secret underground rooms, armed resistance groups, aliens (aliens visit every year), a coven, and friends, enemies, parents, dogs, squirrels, ghosts, and all manner of beings there in the present, the past, and the future. 

“It takes a dash of courage to submit for judgment something that exists only in your head, just ask any writer,” said Ann Anderson Evans, a judge and founder of the contest. “These students have courage and imagination in abundant supply. The judges were thrilled by the possibilities they sensed in all of these stories, even the ones that didn’t win a prize.” 

The judges were Judy Newman, known in Montclair as the “book lady” on Halloween but known more officially as the Chief Impact Officer of Scholastic; Sharon Dennis Wyeth, the author of numerous award-winning books for children and young adults, including “Evette: The River and Me”  and “Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom”; N. West Moss, the author of a short-story collection, a memoir, and the middle-grade novel “Birdy,” forthcoming from Little, Brown; and Ann Anderson Evans, a memoirist whose second book, “The Sweet Pain of Being Alive,” will be released this year. Both Moss and Evans have taught writing at Montclair State University.

Friends of Anderson Park formed in 2006, just over a century after the Olmsted-designed park opened in Upper Montclair. It is a non-profit conservancy dedicated to the thoughtful stewardship of Anderson Park’s natural, cultural, environmental and educational qualities. Its primary mission is to protect the spirit and integrity of the park’s nationally significant Olmsted design and to rehabilitate and maintain its pastoral ambiance. 

The conservancy’s short-story contest will happen again next year, and students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades who live in Montclair or attend school here, including home-schooled students, are encouraged to keep an eye out for the announcement of the 2024 contest.  
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