Eighth-grader Tessa Reinhart has a bright future after winning a statewide writing contest two years in a row.
The Arizona StoryMakers Contest is produced each year by Eight Public Television in partnership with Qwest and open to any sixth- through eighth-grader living in Arizona. Prizes are awarded for first, second and third place of each grade in the categories of non-fiction and fiction.
Reinhart first entered the contest as a seventh-grader, because it was required by her teacher at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, but after taking first prize she decided to try it again in eighth grade.
"I was kind of surprised the first time," Reinhart said. "I kind of wrote it last minute. As I looked back at my story I thought, wow this is pretty good for what I did. I guess I looked back and realized I do have talent and I should use it. I definitely thought I had a shot at it this time and maybe I have a shot at being an author."
Reinhart won a laptop for taking first place each year. She also got a chance to meet Arizona author Terri Fields.
Her first entry to the contest was a fictional story about an American nurse in Afghanistan who befriended an Afghan boy. Eventually the woman was jailed for helping the boy's family and it was up to him to save her.
Reinhart's entry this year was a non-fiction story of her great-great-aunt in Norway during the Nazi takeover. She was placed on a boat at a harbor on a pitch black night and left to die. However, the woman prayed to God, the clouds parted, and she was able to see enough to lead the boat to a different harbor.
"I just told Tessa the facts of it," said Lisa Reinhart, Tessa's mother. "Tessa took what she thought she would be feeling at the time down to the sounds of boots clicking and seeing her breath. It's loosely based on a true story of a relative."
Tessa Reinhart says that even though she has never visited either of the places she wrote about or been in those situations she does her best to picture herself there.
"That's one thing I'm good at as a writer," she said. "I like to get to the tiny details of everything I write about. I'm really good at just imagining myself in the situation. I learned in history about Nazis and what they did and what they dressed in and everything. I kind of just took that and just expanded on it and put details to it."
Reinhart said she's always wanted to be a Christian missionary and that may come out a little bit through her stories. Soon she'll be writing a column for Lighted Lamp Magazine online about proverbs in the Bible. She's also working on her own book.
"She loves to read," her mom said. "I think a lot of that has come from her love of reading. That's helped her write. At this age they're so interested in so many things, but I definitely think she could be successful in that if she wanted to go that route. I'm excited for her."
Reinhart plans to take writing classes at Desert Vista High School and some in college too, when she gets there, so she can get into the writing world. She wants to be a marine biologist but plans to continue writing on the side.
"My grandpa used to always tell me that you can do anything you want to do," she said. "You have the ability to because you're such a hard worker. I've kind of taken that as encouragement. I can do anything I want. All it takes to do stuff is hard work."
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