Power of the Pen

Ohio's Interscholastic Creative Writing Program for Middle Schools

A Note of Welcome to Young Writers

Dear Writers,

I wish I could give you something. The way you have given me so much pleasure over the years with your own words, shaped into stories that make me laugh. Or think. Or feel.

The wisdom in you is old beyond your years.

The child in you is still very much alive.

I wish I could give you something. Some words you can store away in your heart and revisit from time to time. Words that will help you steer your wondrous adventure through life.

Every writer should make friends with a poet. So I shall share with you a poem by Mary Oliver. She is a poet worth befriending.

~ Your friend, Lorraine



 Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,
Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

For years we have labored over common roads,
Dreaming of ships that sail into the night.
Let us be heroes, or, if that’s not in us,
Let us find men to follow, honor-bright.

For what is life but reaching for an answer?
And what is death but a refusal to grow?
Magellan had a dream he had to follow.
The sea was big, his ships were awkward, slow.

And when the fever would not set him free,
To his thin crew, “Sail on, sail on!” he cried.
And so they did, carried the frail dream homeward
And thus Magellan lives, although he died.

~ Mary Oliver



Power of the Pen's Mission

Because the ideas, dreams and beliefs of today's youth form the foundation of tomorrow's communities in Ohio, Power of the Pen is dedicated to helping young people find and develop a creative voice that is uniquely their own. It is a mission we will realize when we inspire every teacher and challenge every student to truly embrace the art of creative expression through writing as a life skill.

Our Commitment to Excellence

POP is committed to being the leading interscholastic program in written expression. Originally designed for writers at the 7th and 8th grade levels, POP:

  • Delivers interscholastic tournament competitions for young writers throughout Ohio.
  • Assists teachers in the ongoing task of facilitating better student writing by providing quality tools and resources to identify, challenge, and reward excellence.
  • Provides teachers with an educational network that shares ideas and instructional materials to improve expressive writing skills.

The program's aim is to positively impact academic achievement overall. POP does so by providing in-class instructional aids that will serve more than 120,000 students in Ohio this year. More than 7,500 students will compete directly in a Power of the Pen tournament.

Power of the Pen's History

Almost every school throughout the nation has a football team, a basketball team, and a wrestling team. Why not a writing team? Why not a season of interscholastic writing events? Why not a regional competition for the best young writers in Ohio? Why not a State Finals to measure and reward the art of written expression?

These were the questions that inspired the vision and led to the birth of Power of the Pen in 1986 by its present Executive Director, Lorraine B. Merrill.

Lorraine's first interscholastic tournament was held at Nordonia Junior High School and attracted just a handful of schools. But more importantly, the initiative helped earn her recognition as a Christa McAuliffe Fellow by the U.S. and State Departments of Education (1988). As a consequence, she was granted a year's sabbatical to bring to life her vision of blending innovative teacher training with interscholastic writing competitions as a means of strengthening academic achievement among students at the middle school level. This was accomplished (1988-1989) with substantial funding support from the Gund, Knight, and Cleveland Foundations.

Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization at that time, the program has since grown to become one of Ohio's largest educational enhancement programs. More than 120,000 middle school students will benefit from Power of the Pen instructional methodologies this year, including more than 8,000 who will compete in formal Power of the Pen interscholastic writing tournaments.

Major Milestones for POP

1986
Power of the Pen™, first called Olympics of the Pen, originated in 1985-86 as a single interscholastic writing tournament funded by the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. Nordonia Junior High School hosted the event attended by 170 students and 28 teacher-judges from 15 neighboring school districts.

1987
24 schools formed a coalition dedicated to the expansion of the program. Through the efforts of this interscholastic advisory board and supported by continued funding from the Jennings Foundation and the Knight Foundation, the Ohio Interscholastic Writing League (OIWL) was born. In one year, it was able to coordinate a season of three preliminary writing tournaments that culminated in a Northeastern Ohio Regional Tournament at Akron University.

1988
The Founder, Loraine Merrill, is honored as a Christa McAuliffe Fellow and is given a one year sabbatical (with salary paid by the U.S. Department of Education) to create a State program.

1990
Power of the Pen hosts its first State Tournament at Denison University.

2001
The College of Wooster assumes the role as official host site for a much expanded Power of the Pen State Tournament. It offers the first full college scholarship for POP's Promising Young Talent Award.

2006
Power of the Pen launches an adjunct program, Power of the Pencil, to bring creative writing enrichment to students at the 5th and 6th grade levels. Enabling grants for the program are secured from The Ohio Arts Council, The Turner Foundation, The GAR Foundation, and The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation.



Power of the Pen
PO Box 442  |  Richfield, Ohio 44286
(330) 659-3226  |  info@powerofthepen.org


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