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Mitchell student's writing recognized at national level

Pictured is Mitchell middle school student Heather Franklin. Franklin was recently awarded an "outstanding writer" award by the National Council of Teachers of English. Franklin submitted a short story and poem in the NCTE's 2010 Promising Young Writer's Program. (Laura Wehde/Republic)

For Mitchell Middle School student Heather Franklin, writing is an escape, a necessity and a talent.

"It's cool to know what other people think and what other people are dealing with. It just creates this whole new world for us to go to," she said.

Franklin, who has been writing since the fifth grade, entered the 2010 National Council of Teachers of English Promising Young Writers Program -- a contest that aims to stimulate and recognize writing talents and emphasize the importance of writing skills among eighth-grade students.

Of the students that entered, 415 were selected for the 2010 program and 135 were chosen as "outstanding writers." Franklin was one of the 135 honored for her short story, "A Secret Angel," and her poem, "I Am the Road."

Only two students' writing samples were selected in South Dakota, eighth-grade English teacher Karen Harrington said.

"That in itself shows this is an accomplishment that is very high," Harrington said. "For the national people to say this is good writing, this goes above and beyond what most eighth graders can do."

And Franklin, Harrington said, is an exception.

"She's very engaged," Harrington said. "She's always asking questions. You can tell she always gives (writing) deep thought. Heather thinks about it."

The theme for the Promising Young Writers Program was "scattering the light and lifting clouds." Franklin needed to write about a person who had influenced her to become the individual she is today, or how she has affected someone else's life in a positive manner. Franklin did both.

In her short story submission, "A Secret Angel," Franklin recalled the encouragement and guidance middle school counselor Traci Moore had given her during a difficult time in her life. After Moore's encouragement, Franklin decided to pay it forward and provide a little bit of light in other people's lives, too.

"It's my dream if everyone could experience that self worth and that self esteem you get from being encouraged or supported by somebody," Franklin said. "The sad thing is a lot of kids aren't."

Franklin said she lends an ear to fellow students in need.

"I'm going to do my best to let them know I am someone they can talk to," she said.

Franklin's short story was based off a poem she wrote two years ago. It took about a week to write and fine-tune.

She admitted she wanted to win, but she never lost focus as to why she was writing her short story and poem.

"I wanted to do my best and be recognized, but the other part of me was devoted to why I was writing it, my intentions and what I was saying -- just to be heard," she said.

Harrington said she often searches for ways to give kids recognition for their writing -- and the NCTE contest is one more way to do just that.

The win should provide a bit of extra encouragement for Franklin's future writings, too.

"It gives you the feeling of yes, I can do this. If there's a book inside of you, maybe that will come out," Harrington said.

Harrington added that great writing skills, like Franklin's, will be beneficial in future scholarship applications and job interviews. Franklin, though, said it's just a great way for kids and adults to express themselves.

"For most of the people that write, it shows who they are and what they've been through. Even a fictional piece, you can find hidden pieces of their life, and I think that's really cool," Franklin said.