Beaufort Today -

7 Beaufort students named writing contest finalists

Of 72 high school students who were named finalists in the fourth state High School Writing Contest, seven represent the Beaufort County School District.

“We started in 2013 with 23 finalists, so we have grown remarkably,” said Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College and founder of the contest. “We are impressed with the quality and quantity of writing we’ve received.”

As in years past, the topic is “How can we make South Carolina better?” Students can respond in the genre of their choice — poetry, fiction, essay, drama, letter — in 750 words or less. The contest is open to juniors and seniors in public, private and home schools.

The seven finalists from Beaufort County are:

Sophie Bellomy, Beaufort High School

Natoria Smalls, Beaufort High School

Sarah Suber, Beaufort High School

Amanda Taylor, Battery Creek High School

Morgan Mayne-Alexander, Beaufort High School

Alexandra Batista, Beaufort High School

Jessica Elkins, Beaufort High School

“It’s really exciting to have one of every 10 South Carolina finalists be from Beaufort County,” superintendent Jeff Moss said. “Expressing yourself well in written communications is important in virtually any career you can think of.”

The finalists’ writings will be included in an anthology published by the University of South Carolina Press.

“We are committed to nurturing writing talent in South Carolina,” said Linda Haines Fogle, acting director of USC Press. “We are thrilled with how this contest has been received and flourished in such a short period of time.”

The press partners with the South Carolina Honors College to present the contest. Other presenting partners are the Pat Conroy Literary Center, South Carolina State Library, University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences, and Young Palmetto Books, an imprint of USC Press.

Two nationally recognized writers from South Carolina will judge this year’s contest: Pam Durban, an Aiken native whose novels and short stories have won critical acclaim, and Nikky Finney, a Conway native whose “Head Off & Split” won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011.

Durban and Finney will speak to the finalists on the campus of the University of South Carolina on Friday, where round 2 of the competition is planned. Round 2 includes a second, timed writing test in which finalists respond to an impromptu topic.

The first-place winner in the senior class receives $1,000 and the Walter Edgar Award, funded by SCHC alumnus Thad Westbrook and named for his professor, the South Carolina historian and writer.

First place in the junior class receives $1,000 and the Dorothy Skelton Williams Award, funded by an anonymous donor and named for the late Upstate public school educator.

Second- and third-place winners in the junior and senior classes receive $500 and $250.