Students in grades 4 through 12 are invited to enter Letters About Literature, a national writing contest sponsored by Alaska Center for the Book and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in partnership with Target Stores. For deadlines please contact the Alaska Center for the Books: http://www.alaskacenterforthebook.org/
To enter, students must write a letter to an author - living or dead - explaining how his or her work changed their view of the world or themselves. The contest has three competition levels: Level I is open to students in grades 4 through 6; Level II is open to students in grades 7-8; and Level III is open to students in grades 9-12.
Each letter must be accompanied by an official entry coupon or copy of one. Entry coupons will be available at your local, participating library or online at the Alaska Center for the Book web site . Guidelines and teaching supplements are also available for teachers, parents, or librarians at the site. (See Writing a Letter to an Author in Writing Workbooks.)
Alaska state winners at each level will receive a $100 cash prize plus a $50 Target gift card (good also at target.com). They also advance to national competition.
Six national winners will each receive an expenses-paid trip to the nation's capital to read their letters during the National Book Festival in the fall of 2007. In addition, they will receive a $500 Target gift card redeemable at any Target or target.com.
1999 marked the first year Alaska participated in Letters About Literature. The 2003 contest was the first in which entries were placed in three levels. In earlier years, the contest had two levels: Level I for students in grades 4-7; Level II for students in grades 8-12. The entries are sent to the national judges first; then semi-finalists are judged by Alaskan teachers, librarians and writers.
The 2006 contest was judged by Igluguq Dianne Schaeffer (Eskimo Heritage Program Specialist, Nome), Candy Kopperud (librarian, Palmer) for Levels I and III. For Level II, the judges were Shawn Dickson (UAF, Unalaska), Heather Lende (author, Haines), and Jodi Kilcup (United Way, Juneau).
Judges for the 2005 contest were Sara Juday (Regional Mgr., Alaska Northwest Books), Deseree Salvador (professor, Barrow), and Pam Flowers (author, Wasilla) for Levels I and III. Seth Kantner (author, Kotzebue), Daniel Cornwall (librarian, Juneau), and Cora Holmes (author, Unalaska) were the judges for Level II.
Judges for the 2004 contest included Brita Rice Shaw (librarian, Juneau); Charlotte Glover (librarian, Ketchikan); and Anna Hernandez (librarian, Cordova) for Level I. Levels II and III shared judges: Patricia Wade (Editor, Chickaloon News); Elizabeth Masoni (Risk Manager, Unalaska): and Nancy Mendenhall (community leader, Nome).
Alaskan entries swelled in 2003, up to 334. Level I accounted for 137; Level II for 130; and Level III for 67. Nationally, participation rose to 32,264! Levels I and II shared judges in Alaska, and they were Jo-Ann Mapson (author, Anchorage); Esther Ilutsik (educator, Dillingham); and Marion Owen (writer, Kodiak). Level III judges were: Jay Hammond (former governor, Port Alsworth); Joyce McCombs (librarian, Delta Junction); and Cheryl Stromme (book buyer, Sitka).
In 2002, 180 entries were received (42 for Level I). Nationally, the figure was 24,145. Not only did the events of September 11 affect participation, but the themes of the letters were more somber as well. Alaska judges that year included - for Level I: Nellie Moore (radio producer, Anchorage); Brett Dillingham (president, Alaska State Literacy Association, Juneau); and Fran Ulmer (lieutenant governor, Juneau). Level II judges consisted of: Randy Pfeuffer (assistant professor, Bethel); Susan Ogle (bookstore owner, Cordova); and Jerah Chadwick (poet, Unalaska).
Entries for the 2001 Letters About Literature contest totaled 120 for Alaska (96 of which were for Level II). Nationally, 24,052 entries were submitted, with the most participation coming from Illinois and Texas. While Alaska's numbers dropped from 2000, geographic distribution went up. Teachers appear to be sending on only their one or two best entries, rather than submitting their whole class.
2001 Alaska judges for Level I were Sue Sherif (librarian, Fairbanks); Libby Riddles (musher and author, Wasilla); and Dana Scofield (library program director, Nome). Level II judges were Dr. Ellen Cole (professor and author, Anchorage); Dorothy Gray (director, Alaska State Writing Consortium, Soldotna); and Jim Vorderstrasse (mayor of Barrow).
Entries for the 2000 Letters About Literature contest totaled 262 for Alaska (217 of which were for Level II). Nationally, 19,427 entries were submitted, with the most participation coming from Illinois and Texas. In Alaska, Level I judges were Sherry Simpson (author, Fairbanks); Bruce Woods (editor, Alaska Magazine); and Lynn Hallquist (librarian, Anchorage). Level II judges were Tom Bodett (author, Homer); Carol Sturgulewski (feature writer and editor, Kodiak); and Ann Chandonnet (journalist and children's book author, Juneau).