Joseph’s Inkwell Launches Teen Writing Contest
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Joseph’s Inkwell Launches Teen Writing Contest

Writing contest run by and for Jewish teens is an Atlanta summer addition.

The writing contest at JosephsInkWell.com is aimed to encourage Jewish ideas.
The writing contest at JosephsInkWell.com is aimed to encourage Jewish ideas.

Like most teens, Maccabee Anderson during the summer months stays connected to his friends and classmates at The Galloway School in Chastain Park through social media. But he felt that many creative Jewish young persons had more to say than cell phone selfies or a series of text messages.

So, he created Joseph’s Inkwell, a website that is offering teen writers an opportunity to compete for recognition through the website and a $500 cash prize for the best poetry or fictional writing and the top nonfiction entries with a Jewish theme. Anderson, who will be in his last year this fall at Galloway, believes the competition fills an important need.

“I think that there is a lack of Jewish teen voices being heard. And those that are being heard are being heard through Instagram posts and through 60-second videos and slides. We miss the nuance and ingenuity that comes through with long form writing, essays, poetry, things that require editing and thought and time. It really is just so much deeper and so much more impactful than scrolling through a social media feed.”

Maccabee Anderson, who created the writing competition, feels that social media, on its own, doesn’t encourage thoughtful writing.

He began working on the attractive website that is the public face of the contest about three months ago after being encouraged by one of his teachers at Galloway, where he was taking an Advanced Placement course in language and another in literature.

He also has been talking about a project like this for years with his father, Rabbi Spike Anderson, the senior spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Dunwoody. The synagogue put up the seed money for the project, but Maccabee Anderson indicates he’s seeking sponsors elsewhere to continue the project past the Aug. 1 deadline for the initial competition.

He’s also been inspired by what he sees as the importance of the written word in the daily life of his family. His mother, Marita, is a published poet and much of his father’s work is related in some way to the written or spoken word. Maccabee believes that formal communication and the importance of words is part of a time-honed tradition in Jewish life. The right words or turn of phrase can sometimes carry profound spiritual weight.

“Really diving deeply into every letter and every word of text, like Jews have been doing with the Torah for generations, is something I find deeply holy,” he says. “And that’s not to say that if you don’t find it holy, you can’t write. But I do think that Jews have a special connection to study, and we have a special connection to writing and analyzing and really thinking deeply, sometimes it can almost be a form of prayer.”

The website takes its name from the Biblical Joseph, who survived multiple attempts to do him in; first, by his brother who threw him into a pit or well and later during his early life in Egypt. What Anderson hopes to suggest is that Jewish teens can also find meaning in their life through another well — an inkwell — and the written word.

The rules of the contest are simple. Entries should be from 500 to 2,000 words. Poems are accepted but no more than five per entry and they should be confined to two pages each. Any teen, age 13-19, is eligible to enter and there is no fee required to participate. Judging will be performed by a panel of teen judges, and the deadline for this initial competition is Aug. 1. The seven bullet points to keep in mind for entries are available on the web.

In addition to the winning entries being posted on Joseph’s Inkwell, entries that receive an excellent rating by the judges will also be published on the site.

Maccabee admits he’s been impressed by several of the initial entries, which have come from across the country. They range from what might be described as solid, original journalism to imaginative poetry and fanciful essays on Jewish mythology.

He admits that getting the word out and fighting the clutter of the Internet is one of the harder jobs he has, so he doesn’t want those who might be interested in writing for the contest to totally give up social media. For teens interested in serious writing, Anderson believes social media is still the best way to get those of his generation to talk with one another.

“What I have found is that it is really impossible to get people interested in long form writing without some sort of social media presence. My generation lives and breathes social media, and there is no more effective tool to reach a large audience, especially of my peers, and convince them to work with you.”

More information can be found at www.josephsinkwell.com.

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