The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Talented Iowa City students receive recognition for powerful writing

Two of Iowa City’s most talented student writers will win recognition on Feb. 25. Though they are not yet in high school, both girls display a wide range of creativity in everything from fictional adventures to heartwarming poetry.
Photo contributed by John Kenyon

Since she was five years old — and though that was only seven years ago — Cora Beland has been a writer.

For years, the Iowa City Community School District Northwest Junior High seventh-grader’s stories have touched the hearts of many people, as evidenced by her recognition in the annual Iowa City children’s literature festival, One Book Two Book.

Cora’s award-winning story was inspired by her own experiences with her family.

“This year I wrote a story — partly based on true events — about going on a boat ride,” Cora said, “But the drama part at the end was fictional.”

Cora’s story won recognition in the category, “The Write Stuff,” which judges one-page original pieces based on language, clarity, structure, and emotional impact. Students in first to eighth grade had the opportunity to win recognition in this category, as well as in the “From the Heart” category and the honorable mentions category.

“From the Heart” judges students’ writing based on creativity, passion, and expressiveness, while an honorable mention includes all other qualifying students. Winning students were selected from Iowa City schools and evaluated by a team at ACT in Iowa City.

The celebration, which will honor the creative talents of 26 young students, occurs from Feb. 24-25.

“This year, I wrote a poem about the Terracotta Warriors because I’ve actually done research on it,” Oceana Zhang, a sixth grader at Wickham Elementary, shared. “I visited China last summer with my family and I got to see it in person, which is pretty cool.”

Oceana is, in her words, a “big fan” of telling stories. After returning home from her trip overseas, she was inspired to learn more about the Terracotta Warriors. Through this curiosity, Oceana discovered that she enjoyed the topic, even taking it upon herself to write song lyrics inspired by the various fables about the warriors.

The resulting piece, which Oceana turned into a poem, also went on to win recognition in the category “The Write Stuff.”

In addition to being a talented writer, Oceana considers herself an artist, often drawing from the music she listens to. The middle schooler cites both writing and drawing as ways for her to express herself creatively.

“When I have a story that pops into my head, I just want to write it down,” Oceana said.

Oceana, Cora, and the other Iowa City student winners will be honored on Feb. 25 in the festival’s annual “Write Out Loud” event in the University of Iowa’s Macbride Hall auditorium, where they will have the opportunity to read their stories out loud.

“Iowa City does a great job of recognizing kids who do band or sports, but writing can be a solitary pursuit,” said John Kenyon, the executive director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. “This festival gives kids an outlet to write and honors those who are best at it. We try to make this a special day.”

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Many students of Iowa City schools are no strangers to the festival — some of them have submitted every year since they were eligible. These students include Cora and Oceana, both of whom have won in prior years as well.

A personal favorite story of Cora’s was a fictional piece entitled “Pirate Cats,” for which she won recognition in third grade, after working incredibly hard. As for Oceana, she is particularly proud of her piece from last year, which was inspired by “The Martian” and focuses on a young boy who discovers that there is life on Mars.

“I know that I love writing. It’s all I’ve wanted to do every day since I was five,” Cora said.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.