Chichester Central School sixth-grader Alysse Cleasby is all smiles as she accepts her award from Dr. Harold Lyon of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. With the young writer is Chichester Central Principal Pamela Stiles and teacher Kate Dockham. (COURTESY)
LINCOLN - When Erika Brown talks about fishing, she could be talking about her passion for writing as well.
"It's relaxing, it gives you time to think. It gives you a different outlook on life and the world," she explained Friday. Usually not much of an outdoors person, she drew inspiration in the quiet of nature while fishing with her sister and an adult relative at Moore Dam last year.
This fall, when she saw the notice of the New England Outdoor Writers Association's 2013 Youth Writing Contest posted on her classroom wall, she reached back to the day, remembering details and how she felt fishing and imagined how the fish felt being caught.
After writing the best essay in the senior (grades 9-12) division for the state, Brown, a freshman at Lin-Wood High School in Lincoln, went on to win first place overall for New England.
Alysse Cleasby, who is a sixth-grader at Chichester Central School, wrote the winning essay in the junior (grades 6-8) division for New Hampshire, and first place overall for New England.
Students were asked to write an essay of not more than 500 words on an outdoor activity that increased enjoyment and knowledge of nature and natural resources.
Dr. Harold Lyon, board member of NEOWA and chair of the contest, said he is very proud of the young writers and the English teachers who encouraged them - Kate Dockham of Chichester Central School and Heather Krill of Lin-Wood High School. Lyon visited the two schools and presented the winners certificates for the New Hampshire and New England contests, and two checks each, $50 each for the New Hampshire contest, and $100 each for the New England contest. He also gave each teacher a red rose "to acknowledge their inspiring influence behind the scenes."
"As a long-time educator, teacher, outdoorsman and writer," Lyon said, "I am very excited about acknowledging excellence in writing as well as motivating our students to spend time in New England's lesson-rich outdoors. You may have heard the term 'nature deprivation,' as coined by Richard Louv in his book, 'The Last Child in the Woods.' A growing and alarming percentage of today's younger parents are not outdoors people and often view nature as a dangerous place for their children. Too many children are now spending most of their time indoors watching TV or on computers, missing both the health and educational benefits of time outdoors. The NEOWA Youth Writing Contest both acknowledges excellence in writing and fosters meaningful outdoor recreation for our youth."
Randy Julius, president of the association, said, "This is the first year for the competition and we hope, as the word gets out, to attract more New England students to write about their outdoor experiences."
Both Brown and Cleasby will have their essays published in a future issue of North Woods Sporting Journal (sportingjournal.com) as part of the prize package for winning the contest.