By Curt Yeomans
For Kendrick Middle School sixth-grader, Naomi Watson, writing short stories is a way to pass the time -- when she, of course, does not have homework to keep her mind occupied.
"Sometimes, when I'm bored, I'll just write to keep myself busy," said Watson.
Another youth, Asia Love, a fourth-grader at neighboring Callaway Elementary School, said a career as a writer is a possible path for her future, so she is trying to build up her vocabulary now.
"I need to use bigger words," said Love. "Baby words don't work for me. I'm getting older. I can't use baby words anymore."
While Watson,12, and Love,10, are in different grade levels, at different schools, they do have something in common. Last month, both learned they earned second-place honors, in their respective grade levels, in the Georgia National Fair's "Fair Bear" Writing contest.
In the competition, which has separate categories for fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders, participants are asked to write about how a circus bear, known as "Fair Bear," saved the circus. All the details, including "Fair Bear's" back-story, are left up to the writer to create, using his or her own imagination.
Watson had "Fair Bear" toppling a dictator ringmaster, while Love had him fill in for an elephant, who died from lung cancer.
In Watson's story, the ringmaster -- whom the animals and participants call "Mr. Chick" (per his orders) -- deprives the circus animals of food when they do not perform their acts exactly the way he wants them performed. As a result, "Fair Bear" does his routine of jumping through a ring of fire, while doing cartwheels and splits, but ends the act by pinning the ringmaster on the ground until he agrees to quit the circus.
"I read a lot, and I have a really big imagination," Watson said, adding that she prefers to read fantasy books, like the "Twilight" and Harry Potter" book series. The sixth-grader said she did her story for her social studies teacher, Vance Wallace, as part of a social studies assignment. Afterwards, she received help from Language Arts teacher, Vonda Brown, to clean up the grammar.
Meanwhile, Love said her use of lung cancer in her "Fair Bear" story was meant to bring social awareness of the dangers of smoking. In her story, the circus' star elephant, named Burrow, gets lung cancer from breathing in second-hand smoke from the cigarettes the circus clowns are smoking. "Fair Bear" then decides to step in and replace Burrow by turning "flips on a string up in the air," according to the story.
In the end, the new act is a hit with the audience.
"I've known people who smoke," said Love, who added that she preferred reading problem-solving books. "Teenagers seem to think it [smoking] makes them look cool ... It's bad, though. It causes you to have black lungs and black teeth. Ugh! It's nothing you want to have happen to you." Love said she did her story as part of a writing assignment for her Language Arts teacher, Wanda Greenwood.
In addition to Love, the other top Georgia writers in the fourth-grade category were first-place winner, Erich Barkley, from Bloomingdale Elementary School, in Bloomingdale, and third-place winner, Reyn Boling, from Tiftarea Academy, in Chula.
In addition to Watson, the other top writers in the sixth-grade category were first-place winner, Raven Dean, from Isle of Hope Elementary School, in Savannah, and third-place winner, Sandra Scott, from Midway Middle School, in Midway.
Winners in the fifth-grade category were Daniel Soroho, from Freedom Park School in Fort Gordon (first-place), Rayna Perry, from Georgetown Elementary School, in Savannah (second-place), and Kyle Windham, from Byron Elementary School, in Byron (third-place).
As second-place winners, Watson and Love, each received $75. Both said they plan to put the money into savings accounts. They also will receive complimentary admission, and meal tickets, to the fair, which will be held October 7-17, in Perry, and enough ride coupons to ride between 12 and 20 rides, according to the fair's web site.
Their schools also receive $100 to purchase classroom supplies, according to the students' teachers.