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Essay Contests

Student Essay Contest

Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Common Reading Student Essay Contest. Entries should be emailed to shollida@shepherd.edu and are being accepted now through April 1, 2021. The winner will receive $350 toward Shepherd tuition and/or textbooks. Entries are judged by a panel of three faculty members using a rubric developed by the English Department. Essays written for a specific class or other assignment are acceptable. Choose one of the following prompts related to “Walking to Listen” to write about. Follow the guidelines below to ensure your essay meets submission requirements.

1) What is it about walking? Big George, someone Forsthoefel meets outside of New Orleans, tells him, “all you’re really doing is reading a book, just with your feet” (207). As Forsthoefel notes, “Walking is deep in the dirt bones of this country. It’s practically a religion” (24). There are lots of ways you can respond to this prompt (don’t try to do it all!). Find a way in—a focus—and make an argument about how/why walking itself plays an important role in what Forsthoefel discovers in Walking to Listen.

2) In Alabama, Forsthoefel meets Emma Lou Dailey, a 91-year-old woman whose great-grandfather was once enslaved. As he listens to her, Forsthoefel thinks, “she deserved more fame than most, because of her age and experience and resilience, but there weren’t any crowds outside cheering into her window, no lines of people waiting to hear what she had to say” (166). In his own way, he makes Emma Lou a bit famous, telling her story. Write an essay in which you do something similar: tell the story of someone you think should be a bit more famous and tell us why. Here are the catches, though: it has to be someone you didn’t know before you started this essay. Don’t be afraid to pick an “ordinary” person. Think about the steps Forsthoefel outlines: don’t ask people about “transformations” or their “coming of age.” Instead, “just start talking to people about their lives and…what their lives…taught them.” Look for what he calls “the alchemical moments” that make people.

3) Most college students aren’t going to walk across America. Yet careful readers can pick up on important ideas from Forsthoefel’s book and apply them to their own lives. Write an essay in which you reflect on the lessons from Forsthoefel’s journey that could benefit a college student. In other words, when thinking about their own path to success in college and beyond, what can college students learn from this book?

Community Essay Contest

New this year! Those who don’t qualify as Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Community Essay Contest. Entries should be emailed to shollida@shepherd.edu and are being accepted now through April 1, 2021. The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate to Four Seasons Bookstore in Shepherdstown, WV. Entries are judged by a panel of three community members. Choose one of the following community essay contest prompts related to “Walking to Listen” to write about. Follow the guidelines below to ensure your essay meets submission requirements.

1) Andrew Forsthoefel is seeking answers to life’s big questions by “walking to listen” and along the way everyone becomes his teacher. In your own life experience, what wisdom have you gained from unexpected people or unfamiliar places? Perhaps you were told something long ago that now makes sense as you have grown older; or maybe something someone once told you changed your life immediately. Write about the advice you were given and the circumstances under which you received it and how it ultimately impacted your life.
 
2) Andrew asks everyone he meets “what advice would you give your 23 year old self”? What would you have told the author if your paths had crossed during his journey? Envision your encounter and share your words of wisdom in the form of an essay, a poem, a song, or a piece of original art. 
 
3) Listening is an art form. Does listening become easier or more difficult with age? Why do you feel this way? How have you fine tuned your own listening skills? If you were teaching someone else to listen, how would you instruct them? 

Guidelines – A winning entry has the following elements: