The SLCC Community Writing Center hosted the Wasatch Iron Pen Writing Competition at the Utah Arts Festival this past weekend which provided budding authors a chance to show off their writing skills and compete against their peers in a 24 hour contest.
“I have never done anything like this before, I don’t think you can prepare yourself for something like this,” says Linda East Brady, who won the top prize in the Adult Ultra category. “A friend of mine did this contest in the past and told me to just keep the pen going and don’t worry about being foolish.”
The participants were given a visual prompt at 6 p.m. on Friday and were required to turn in their submissions by 6 p.m. on Saturday. This year’s visual prompt was of the Sego Lily, the official state flower of Utah.
“It’s a really unique contest in the way that it’s constrained to such a small limitation on time,” says Keaton Butler, a writing assistant for the SLCC Community Writing Center (CWC). “Part of the idea behind the visual prompt was to tie it in to Utah somehow.”
The competition drew over 60 contestants this year who competed in a variety of different categories that was divided into age groups. There were categories for Adult Fiction, Youth Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Adult Poetry, Youth Poetry and the Ultra category which included all three writing genres.
“We have a lot of the same people enter every year but I also noticed a lot of new entries this year which is good because it means we are getting the word out,” says Meg Mullineaux, development and education coordinator for the SLCC CWC. “This contest is a way to push yourself to the limits which is very challenging because some people’s writing process doesn’t include a lot of speed and they normally need more time to generate ideas and absorb the writing.”
The winners of the competition were announced on Sunday afternoon and were given the opportunity to read excerpts of their winning pieces on stage.
Both the skill and passion of every winner was on full display as they read selections from their material.
“This was way fun, I didn’t get freaked out or second guess myself,” says Brady. “I would tell anybody to do this. Every writer in town needs to come to the writing center and do this contest every year and make a vow to do it.”
For over an hour a large audience listened to the many different stories and poems all creatively weaved around the Sego Lily topic. Despite having spent the previous 24 hours on a writing spree the contestants seemed fresh and full of energy.
“I thought it was great, the caliber of the writing was just excellent, to have one visual prompt that they have to incorporate and for all the stories to be so different is always exciting,” says Andrea Malouf, director of the SLCC CWC.
“One of our theories is that publication does not validate a piece of writing and we are all about the writing process. But I think having a competition like this and honoring the community voices brings attention to not only the writing center but to those writers who are working everyday but maybe aren’t published authors. This competition gives them a voice and showcases their work.”