Photo Gallery | Seventh Grade Berkshire County Writing Contest

DALTON — The sounds of pencils scribbling against lined paper were replaced by a flurry of fingers clacking across keyboards, ushering the Seventh Grade Berkshire County Writing Contest into a new era.

For the first time in the contest's 34-year history, students composed their essays on computers in the Nessacus Regional Middle School library, indirectly apropos to this year's writing theme, "New Beginnings." The entries were managed and shared with judges using the Google Docs app.

A total of 67 students from Nessacus, Reid, Herberg, Hoosac Valley, Mount Greylock and Lenox middle schools, and St. Agnes Academy participated in the daylong event last week.


Two new coordinators, Nessacus seventh-grade language arts teachers Corey Walsh and Kimberly Lagerwall, headed the contest, taking over for Tom Fielding, who ran it the past several years.

Following a morning of writing, the students heard from guest speaker Robin Catalano, a Berkshires-region editor, blogger and social media maven. Catalano shared a slideshow of "supersmart" pointers and tips to help make writing zesty and engaging for readers.

She also put an emphasis on the revision and editing process. "By showing up our weaknesses, we get better and better as writers over time," she said.

Meanwhile, the students' essays were reviewed using a number identification system and ranked by a panel of contest judges, including educators Mary DeMaranville, Aaron Udel, Meghann Donovan, Jim Armstrong, Kathy Voltoline, Debra Belland and contest founder Patrick West.

Deb Roloson helped judge the annual literary magazine entries, which were also shared digitally this year, instead of being bound in a book. All entries were judged using criteria for creativity, clarity, story development, figurative language usage, and unique focus.

This year's winners were as follows:

Seventh-graders from around Berkshire County gather at Nessacus Regional Middle School in Dalton on Friday, May 27, for the 34th Seventh Grade Berkshire
Seventh-graders from around Berkshire County gather at Nessacus Regional Middle School in Dalton on Friday, May 27, for the 34th Seventh Grade Berkshire County Writing Contest. It marked the first year students wrote their essays on the computer, versus using pencil and paper. (Jenn Smith — The Berkshire Eagle)

Magazine winners: Aurora Bullett, Mount Greylock; Samantha Blau, Herberg; Rachel Smith, Reid.

Essay winners: Jacob Fanto, Lenox; Harrison Keator, Lenox; Cloey Parlapiano, Reid; Olivia Winters, Mount Greylock; Elizabeth Westerdahl, Mount Greylock; Esperanza Santana, Reid and Isabella Penna, Herberg. Runners up were: Charles McWeeny, Mount Greylock, and Morgan Martin, Herberg.

This year, the contest also received a $1,000 grant from the Seven Towns' Education Partnership Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. So in addition to the traditional pre-contest snacks, certificates, and pizza luncheon, the contest winners were also awarded Amazon Kindle e-readers.

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.