Welcome to the Winner’s Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Today we’re celebrating Wonell Miller who placed in two of our recent contests: Unplanned Trip Essay Contest and Kindergarten Picture Book Contest!
What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
I have two winning entries: The first was to the “Unplanned Trip Personal Essay” contest. The second was “The Kindergarten Picture Book ” contest.
How many writing contests have you entered?
I have entered just the two.
Tell us the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
My first entry was entitled “The Trip That Didn’t Go As Planned”. This was my first contest and I thought everyone’s story had to have that title. Hearing that wasn’t the case was rather embarrassing. I won’t make that mistake again! In my essay I actually told of an event which happened to my son, Ben, while recovering in the hospital. He failed the “swallow test” and it was devastating for him.
My second winning entry was entitled, “Where Do You Think We Go?” It is kind of an interactive concept book which has the reader guess where the kindergarten class goes during their school day. It has clues and repetition so not only can the students guess what will be on the next page, but they can also recite some of the text along with the adult who is reading it to them.
What inspired your winning entry?
My first entry was inspired by my son, Ben, and all the obstacles he has overcome in his battle with depression. I feel like our story may help others who are dealing with the same illness. This entry was just a small part of his journey.
My second entry was inspired by my students over the years. I work with children every day and try to write stories they will learn from, understand and enjoy.
How has entering this contest helped your writing?
Both contests have given me the confidence to pursue publishing my work. Winning second place has validated my hopes that other people may want to read my work besides just myself and the people in my writer’s group.
How did the critique in the Winners’ Workshop help you?
The critiques were helpful to me because the judges gave general as well as specific advice on what I am doing well and what I can improve on. It is so helpful to listen to their ideas and suggestions.
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?
I am a full time elementary teacher. Writing is just my favorite hobby.
How long have you been writing?
I took my first writing course from ICL around 1998. I have been hooked ever since, so I guess i have been writing on and off for 21 years.
What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
I plan to improve both pieces. I plan to expand my essay. My son and I want to write together to give both perspectives of his story. I plan to revise my kindergarten story and try to get it published.
Any fun plans for the prize money?
I used my latest prize money to register for the Christian Writer’s Conference in Minnesota this summer. I am totally excited!
What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I walk away when I am blocked, sometimes for longer than I want to! Life gets in the way! I have often found reading what I have out loud helps me figure out what to write next. I also have learned that I don’t have to write 6 pages in order to feel like I have accomplished something. If I write one paragraph or change a few words, and that’s all I have time for, I am happy with that. Maybe I will be able to write more next time.
If you could go to the yard sale of any character in the history of children’s literature, whose would you go to, and what would you buy?
If Ms. Frizzle had a garage sale to raise money for one of her Magic School Bus trips, I would LOVE to rifle through her clothes rack. My students would really get a kick out of some of the outfits I could find.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your ICL experience?
I have been getting emails telling me to enter contests for years! I just never found the right one or felt I had the time or talent. After winning my first one I am going to enter as many as I can. What a confidence booster! Thank you for having contests like these for us novice writers. This is the perfect place to be recognized and maybe break into the writing world.