Brennan Palmieri with his certificate from the writing contest.

Brennan Palmieri with his certificate from the writing contest. (Emily Files)

Five Haines students were recognized for their writing ability in a statewide contest recently. The annual creative writing contest is put on by the University of Alaska and Alaska Dispatch News. Six hundred entries were submitted. Two Haines students won in their respective categories.


“Normally you get courage by doing something or being so confident in yourself that you think you’re going to win everything. Being too confident is very risky, I know from experience,” Incoming seventh-grader Brennan Palmieri reads from his story ‘Going to Petersburg.’

It won first place in the writing contest’s nonfiction third through sixth-grade category. It tells the story of his swim team’s trip to Petersburg.

“‘This is going to be the best swimming trip ever!’ I yelled off the end of the boat into the brisk, open air. Not feeling I had yelled enough, I howled at the moon like a wolf. Then some of my friends joined me. Now we were a pack of wolves, howling at the moon like it stole our lunch money.”

Brennan’s story talks about how overconfidence in an unfamiliar place caused him to mess up on the second day of the swim meet. That confidence went down the drain, and then…

“When I woke up the next morning I had two choices: be miserable or go out there and redeem myself. I chose the second option. I was so ready to win everything. The pool was cold and the bleachers were noisy. Perfect time to make the crowd roar.”

And he did. Brennan butterfly-stroked across the pool and won with a Junior Olympics-caliber time. When he got back to school from the trip, his teacher, Lisa Andriesen had assigned the class a personal narrative.

“It was all really fresh in my mind and it was a really fun experience and I just wanted to put it on paper, and we had a project due, so I decided to do that,” Brennan said.

He was not expecting his story to win the writing contest. But since it did, it makes him look at his writing a little differently.

“I think that I have a lot more potential, I guess, than I thought I did,” Brennan said. “Winning something like this boosts my confidence in writing, and maybe I’ll reach out and try new things and explore my abilities.”

Xi xiao White. (Emily Files)

Xi xiao White. (Emily Files)

Xi xiao White is going into ninth-grade, and her story ‘Saving Amelia’ won first place in the writing contest’s Fiction seventh through ninth-grade group.

“When you write, you’re the one who’s making up the story, so you decide what happens. And I just like being able to do whatever I want with it,” she said.

Her story is about a 16-year-old girl and boy.

“And they find a time machine in a museum, and the girl is mechanically-oriented and so she decides to fix it and she wants to go back in time and save Amelia Earhart.”

Here’s the part in the story where the main character, Dillon, discovers the time machine:

“I stood in stunned disbelief as I gazed at the machine. I had felt the urge to learn how it was constructed. And even more, did it work? Or was it just a fancy-looking dud?”

Dillon finds out – it works.

“‘Amelia Earhart, I want to save her from crashing in the plane.’ ‘Are you serious?’ Jessie’s eyes widened in surprise. ‘I’ve always looked up to her, she loved machines and so do I. I just feel that the way she died was not right, and I want to make things better. Besides, who knows what great things she might’ve done if she hadn’t died when she did.'”

Are the friends actually able to save Amelia Earhart?

“Well that’s how I was intending to have it happen, but then I realized that’d be kind of boring,” Xi xiao says.

So she added a twist. And at the conclusion of the story, Dillon and Jessie end up getting back in the time machine to try to save Amelia again.

Xi xiao wrote this story in her home school writing group. She says her mom had her work through a lot of drafts before submitting to the contest.

“I didn’t think I was gonna win, because I read it so many times that I didn’t think it was very good. So when I won, I was very shocked.”

Xi xiao says she already knew she wanted to be a writer, but having won this, she feels more like she can actually do it.

Haines students Mandalyn Gala, Atlin Zahnow, and Lilliana Benassi received honorable mentions in the writing contest.