Winners Named in City of Literature Student Essay Contest

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization has completed judging for this year’s Glory of the Senses: Paul Engle Essay Contest, and will award scholarships to six high school students from across Iowa.

The winning essay was “Love Letter to an Iowan Backyard,” by Judith Williams, who will be a junior at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville. In recognition of her essay, Judith will receive one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa, offered in partnership with the UI.

The essays were judged by a team from ACT in Iowa City. Commenting on Judith’s essay, in which she describes a day listening to the songs of various birds in her backyard, the judges praised this “evocative Iowa vignette which shows how the senses are fully engaged even in this most everyday setting.”

“Using precise and well-chosen language, Judith provides a naturalistic and entertaining monolog that gives convincing voice to the yard’s birdlife and memorably incorporates all the sensory pleasures of the backyard setting,” they continue. “Vivid, playful descriptions convey the distinct personalities of backyard residents, especially Mr. Catbird, whose song “embodies the clarity and bubbling of water, the undulation of a scale, [and] the essence of late spring…”

The contest is based on the writings of Paul Engle – the long-time director of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop and co-founder of the UI’s International Writing Program – particularly his memoir, A Lucky American Childhood. Students are asked to write about an Iowa experience, paying “special attention to include details that evoke the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch of your memory.”

Five runners up from around the state will receive $500 cash scholarships from the City of Literature. The runners up are:

  • Luccas Hart, Roland-Story High School, Story City
  • Lillian Gross, Spencer High School
  • Madelyn Reiter, Beckman Catholic High School, Dyersville
  • Lilly Schildroth,, Cedar Falls High School
  • Inaiyah Smith, Iowa City High School

The contest is designed to recognize sophomores from each of Iowa’s nine Area Education Agencies, which cover the state. Due to a lack of submissions from four AEAs, not all AEAs were represented.

For more information about Paul Engle and the ways in which the City of Literature celebrates his life and work through this contest, please visit engle-day.