The college recently announced the winners of the Hare & Bell writing contest, with the top three each taking home a substantial monetary prize.
Hare & Bell was initially started a few years ago, but after being discontinued, returned this year with results that exceeded expectations for Kathryn Byrne, director, Writing Center.
“I see beautiful writing in the writing center all the time and students turn their writing in and then that’s it, it’s gone,” Byrne said. “It just seems to me that students should understand that writing is very [tightly] associated with commerce and that it can do something more for them than just give them a grade.”
The contest gives students the opportunity to not only compete, but to expand their horizons. It was left open-ended, allowing students to find something they found interesting and tell a unique story.
After receiving only six submissions during the inaugural competition, the committee, made up of eight professors of various disciplines and beliefs, was tasked with picking three from 38 submissions this year.
The winners were Brandon Bender, student, who won first place for “America’s Most Infamous Chief Justice.” In second place was Talita Shirky, student, with her piece “On Stupidity and the Ban.” The third place winner was Savannah Price, student, who penned “Keep Calm, Carry On, Exchange Insurance.”
Each of these three received a considerable reward for their efforts, with first receiving $500, second $300 and third $100.
Bender said he discovered the contest after seeing posters on campus.
“I think part of it was I saw an opportunity to write about something that I wanted to write about and that wasn’t necessarily like an assignment for class,” Bender said.
He decided to write about Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court Justice who is best known for his ruling on the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case.
Bender said he was inspired to dig deeper on this topic by recent events.
“I think it was just everything that’s in the news,” Bender said. “The country really hasn’t made up its mind about what it wants to do with the legacy of slavery or confederate monuments and things like that.”
After researching further, Bender discovered that the story of Taney was more than what it seemed on the surface.
“The person who wrote the Dred Scott case, the most prejudiced case in United States history, had freed his own slaves and had defended abolitionists … and had made pronouncements against slavery in the past, as a young man,” Bender said.
Exploring topics such as these is exactly what Byrne hoped Hare & Bell would result in.
“The goal is to showcase academic writing that happens here at Johnson County Community College,” Byrne said.
Byrne said she also sees how participants will benefit beyond the contest itself.
“I think that they’ll have a stronger sense of what writing is for,” Byrne said. “I think they’ll understand their subject matter better and I think that it will help them find a job.”
Bender described what he learned, saying that now he better understands the importance of not oversimplifying history.
In terms of the contest itself, he said that it gave him an outlet to learn and grow as a writer.
“At this point I’m not really concerned with being accepted or rejected, it’s more about just putting yourself out there,” Bender said.
Byrne said that the college plans on continuing the contest next year. She said she is excited and optimistic about results the Hare & Bell can bring in the future.
Potential participants can keep an eye out for announcements around campus, with the deadline for the next edition likely to be in February of 2019.
Bender said, “If you feel strongly about something and you have something that you think other people would be interested in hearing, I would say put yourself out there, go for it.”