Corinne Donnenwerth, Deja Smith and Jaelynn Bridges were the top three winners in Pratt Public Library's recent contest to support youth writers.
Pratt Public Library awarded three prizes last week in an essay contest focused on the book, “The Outsiders,” written by S.E. Hinton when she was only a teenager.
Contest rules asked writers between the ages of 13-18 to present an essay of 800 words or less addressing four prescribed questions. Deadline for entries was April 1. The winners, Corinne Donnenwerth - 1st place, Deja Smith - 2nd place and Jaelynn Bridges - 3rd place, were announced April 12. They won $50, $30 and $20, respectively.
“We chose S.E. Hinton for this contest because, for me personally, I think ‘The Outsiders’ was just the greatest book ever written,” said Eric Killough, Pratt Public Library Director. “This book touched me, touched my children, it touches every generation that reads it. To find out that it was written by a teenager, well that just makes it all that more amazing.”
More than 30 area students read the book or watched the movie and entered an essay in the S.E. Hinton contest. Most were students of Liberty Middle School teacher Mrs. Dixon’s English classes.
Every year, Dixon has her students read “The Outsiders” as part of class work and this year it happened to coincided with the library’s essay contest, Killough said.
He said responses to the contest were so positive that he plans on offering another writing contest possibly in December, or at least again next year.
“We want to encourage writing,” he said. “The library is a place for reading, but without writers you could run out of things to read. I like the concept of teaching kids to take an idea from the thought process all the way to a finished written work. We want the library to become the centerpiece of writing in Pratt.”
Killough said reading the entries to the library’s recent writing contest was a lot of fun, even though some of the essays almost brought him to tears.
The winning essay by Donnenwerth follows.
By Corinne Donnenwerth
S.E. Hinton wrote a sophisticated book at only the age of 15! The book is so relatable that people still love it, and it has never gone out of print. She really knew how to relate it to people because she wrote the book while she was living it. We still have lots of the issues covered in the story today and the social standard of cool. Loyalty is also so important and she worked that into the story perfectly.
Hinton was truly a talented student. I could not tell she was so young when she wrote the book because of the maturity it takes to notice the real social disputes between classes. To write a book like that she also had to be noticing the little details going on around her everywhere she went. Today, I don’t think someone that young would be able to write a similar story to “The Outsiders” on the same effectiveness level. By that I mean “The Outsiders” makes you reflect on what goes on around you and understand what was happening then. It would take that same level of maturity and noticing details to write a story that really made people feel the same way about social differences today. I also believe that currently the social dispute in “The Outsiders” is less of a problem in schools. However there are new issues in schools now that if a talented young person wrote about it in a way that affected people personally could inspire people to make a change.
When you think of the 1950s you usually think of poodle skirts and hair grease but there still are similarities between then and now. For example, the parental problems the characters face in “The Outsiders.” We read a lot about Johnny and Dally’s parents not caring about them or beating them. On the other hand, Bob’s parents never telling him no and thinking he’s perfect. Families will never be perfect so when you read the story you can relate a lot with how the characters fell when we learn about their families because it is still very much like that. In comparison, they have a family within their friends that they would do anything for and are always there for. Today, if you are lucky enough to have friends that close, you can really feel it when the Greasers lose Johnny and Dally knowing what it’s like to have friends that close. Another similarity is cliques. We don’t have the Socs and Greasers but we do have popular kids and not. It’s sad because this book shows that those cliques really do cause a lot of problems. Randy and Ponyboy show us that it doesn’t matter because it’s rough all over and we can all relate to each other in some way. It’s rough all over and always will be so wherever you are you will always be able to relate to people and that makes us human.
Everyone wants to be cool but the definition of cool is different from person to person. Cool to me is being considerate of other people, someone who gets involved, and someone who is easy and fun to be around. In “The Outsiders” to be cool is to have greasy long hair, smoke cigarettes, and be good in fights. That is very different compared to now. Today, if you have greasy hair people think it is gross. Now to be cool, the standard is to be in sports, hang out with a lot of people, and sadly for most, being willing to do something wrong. That would be a similarity between then and now. Then it was cool to go to parties and get drunk, and now it’s still considered cool for teenagers. Another example of differences is rumbles. The Socs and Greasers got kicks from rumbles and they were organized with rules. We don’t do that anymore, the fights now are of impulse and if you win it doesn’t necessarily make you cool. Cool also has something to do with what you wear. For the boys, then “cool” was t-shirts and rolled jeans. Now “cool” for boys is name-brand sweatshirts, jeans or joggers, and nice tennis shoes.
In conclusion, whether it is leather jackets or Nike hoodies there will always be a desirable definition of cool that people will striver to become considered as, it just depends on what cool means to you.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be in a gang. Not a present-day gun violent and drug gang, but one like the Greasers. The loyalty that goes on between them almost makes you jealous. Today, a huge problem is talking about other people behind their back. In the book, Cherry talks about how bad Dally is and Ponyboy stuck up for him by saying he was their buddy. Another example is when Johnny and Ponyboy got jumped, the other Greasers were there for them to stick up and comfort them. My close friends are there for me too. When I need anything I can go to them like the Greasers can go to each other. I have just recently gotten close to some people and I wish I had known about them during some really hard times. I wish they were there because I can tell them anything and I know they would never tell anyone else. Loyalty is so important, especially in this book. They would definitely not have survived those times without each other. They had to have each other, so you could say their loyalty kept them alive and together. Loyalty is so powerful and you can have it no matter who you are. Even Dallas had it and he is known for having no feelings. When Johnny killed Bob, Dallas was wiling to help them even though if Darry found out he would have killed him. It may not have been the best thing to do but he was doing his best for his friends and that’s all you can ask for out of someone. Loyalty is hard to find but so important to protect once you have it with someone or a group of people. The world is crazy and you need people to rely on.
“The Outsiders” is so relatable that’s why it has never gone out of print. Hinton really had a talent for noticing things around her and putting it into words. Lots of people can see problems but not all of them can make a difference. She knew exactly how to address the issues of cliques and promote loyalty. S.E. Hinton was so beyond her time when she wrote “The Outsiders.”
“Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold.”