“They Said”: The Winning Poem from the 2019/20 Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest
March 17, 2020
Every year, Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program holds the Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest to celebrate the wisdom, creativity, and heart captured in student and teacher writing.
The inspiration from this year’s contest was drawn from Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, an epic historical novel that follows a Korean family over the course of the twentieth century, through both their immigration to Japan, and through the historical, cultural, and familial effects of that legacy felt across generations.
This year’s Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest invited applicants to explore similar themes of “legacy”—to examine what legacies have shaped their lives, and to look into the future, to the legacy they hope to impart to the world. The contest was open to all students, grades K-12, attending a WITS partner school during this school year. Teachers from these schools were also invited to submit their work, in a separately judged contest.
Today, we are delighted to announce that the student winner of this year’s Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest is Fenet Zeleke, author of the following poem, “They Said.” “They Said” was written at Leschi Elementary School with WITS Writer-in-Residence Jeanine Walker, in partnership with classroom teachers Jamillah Bomani and Emily Koyama.
They said you can do anything
you like. They said drink tea
if you’re sick. They said eat when
you’re hungry. Take a deep breath
if scared. They said you never lose,
you’re always a winner for trying.
They said bullies are not bullies,
they are just people that got hurt before.
They said money is not happiness.
They said just because we are
not rich doesn’t mean we are not rich
of kindness and love. They did things
I thought that would hurt me
but it was for my own good. They
hid their feeling to keep me happy.
They told lies to keep me safe.
They did all they could to keep me
The finalists for the Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest will also be featured on our blog in the coming days, as well as in a chapbook, so stay tuned for more excellent writing from local public schools.