Rural writing contest for teens with ‘important stories to tell’

Chea Parton held the inaugural Literacy In Place Rural Teen Writing Contest with the theme Rural Pasts, Presents, and Futures because she believes that rural youth have important stories to tell.

Chea Parton
Chea Parton,  
Visiting Assistant Professor

Parton, visiting assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College’s Transition to Teaching Program, was inspired to hold the contest because of her own rural roots. A rural student from Gaston, Indiana, she continued on as a rural undergraduate and graduate student at Purdue University, as a rural teacher, and then as a rural doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.

“As a working-class rural kid, I truly believed that to be a published author a person had to be from New York City, L.A., or Chicago – that even if I wanted to there was no way I could or would ever be a published author,” Parton said. “I didn’t read any rural literature – at least none that celebrated or critically considered rurality from an appreciative perspective.”

Roxy, the black and white tuxedo cat
Roxy the cat
Allison Strange
Allison Strange

The first-prize winner was Allison Strange, an 11th grader from Burns High School in Lawndale, NC. Her cat Roxy inspired “Fate for a Cat”. She won a virtual class visit from award-winning YA author, Jeff Zentner (In the Wild Light; The Serpent King); a class set of the award-winning short story collection Rural Voices edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter; publication on the Literacy In Place website; and a series featuring her story on Parton’s Reading Rural YAL podcast. 

“Winning this contest was more than a shock to me! It was a simple story from the heart but really out of my comfort zone,” Strange said. “I’m over the moon about this award. I hope I can set an example for anyone else like me and show others you can do so much more than what you think you can do!”

Kevin Evilsizer
Keven Evilsizer
Luke Urban
Luke Urban

The runner-up was Keven Evilsizer, a 12th Grader from Franklin Central High School, IN, for his story “Heart Strings”. He won a signed book by the guest judges, award-winning authors Veeda Bybee (Rural Voices) and J.R. Jamison (Hillbilly Queer); publication on the Literacy in Place website; and an interview episode on Reading Rural YAL. 

Twelfth-grader Luke Urban, also from Franklin Central High School, IN, won an honorable mention for his story, “Roof Top Farmer”, which was published on the Literacy in Place website.

Parton already has plans for next year’s contest with the theme of Eat, Dance, and Be Rural: Celebrating Diverse Rural Cultures. The submission portal will open on the Literacy In Place website from July 1, 2023 to December 1, 2023, with winners announced in February 2024.

Source: Dr. Chea Parton,