High School Writer’s Workshop

Back in the long ago. Back in the beforetimes….

Specifically, back in 1990, I submitted a piece of writing to a contest. It was a first for me.

I didn’t go looking for the contest, a teacher mentioned it to me. So I decided to send something I’d already written for class. I was proud of my last paper, mostly because I’d gotten an A on it.

I looked at the contest’s different categories: Formal Essay, Short Story, Poetry… In the end I shrugged and I decided to call my piece of writing “Familiar Essay” and sent it in.

I didn’t hold out any high hopes for winning, but since I was a senior, I knew I should start thinking about colleges. And the prize for winning this contest was a thousand dollar scholarship to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

UW-SP also offered something called the High School Writer’s Workshop. If your writing was good enough, you got to skip school for the day, hang out on a college campus, and, presumably, learn something about writing.

The end of the story probably isn’t what you’d expect. I didn’t win. I was a distant runner-up. I was invited to attend the writer’s workshop, but I didn’t go. I can’t remember why, but given that I was a bit of an idiot back then, it’s quite possible that I simply forgot.

I did apply to UW-SP, because if the winner didn’t collect the scholarship, it went to the next runner up. If *they* didn’t go to Point either, it would continue down the line.

UW-SP was the only college that I got around to applying to. Again, I can’t remember why, exactly. But again, it’s safe to say that I probably just didn’t think of it. Or I forgot. Or I was busy watching Twin Peaks and playing D&D with my friends. As I’ve already pointed out, I was a bit of an idiot.

Later on, long after the application deadline had passed, I also applied to UW-Madison. Despite my obvious inability to follow instructions or read a calender, I got accepted there too.

That meant I had to chose between Stevens Point and Madison. Two schools that I knew absolutely nothing about.

I picked Stevens Point for the simple reason that it was 100 miles away. Close enough for a visit home, but not *too* close, if you know what I mean.

It’s strange the little things that shape our lives. The small choices that turn out to be so big in hindsight.

As many of you know, I stayed at UW-SP for nine years, taking classes and generally having a great time. Later on, after I got my Masters Degree, I came back to teach for a while. It’s where I still live.

Two years ago, they let me run the fiction category of the High School Writer’s Workshop. Last year I was the keynote speaker at the event.

And this year, for the first time ever, they’ve added a new category: Speculative Fiction.

(For those of you who don’t know. Speculative Fiction is what academics call Fantasy and Sci-Fi.)

And guess who’s running this new category? That’s right, baby. Me.

So if you’re a high-schooler who lives in Wisconsin, and you like to write fantasy and such. You might want to check out this link to the brochure containing all the information you need to submit something. (Hint: You need your teacher to help you submit.)

The deadline for submissions is Oct 15th.

I can’t say for certain why I didn’t mention this on the blog earlier. It might be that I was busy with book two. It might be that I forgot. Or it could be that after all these years, I’m still a bit of an idiot…

Have a good weekend everybody,


This entry was posted in contests, musings, my dumbnessBy Pat33 Responses


  1. Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

    You have a good weekend, too, Pat. May the sun shine bright on you only if you want it to.

  2. Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

    Man, I just graduated in June, too…I would have loved to submit something :/

  3. Mickey
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

    Congratulations Pat !

    May the road rise up to greet you and the wind be always at your back ! May you warp many young minds to the spaculative fiction way of thinking. Is it Prof Bearded One from now on ? I seriously hope so…

    • Mickey
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

      sory that was ‘speculative’

    • Posted October 9, 2010 at 8:51 PM | Permalink

      “Prof Bearded One” I like that! Kudos on the Irish greeting, Mickey!

  4. xjm
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

    Hah. This reminds me of my high-school-senior self. I ended up going to UW-Madison for much the same reason. It was originally my “fallback school”, but I never actually finished my applications to other schools because I failed to meet application deadlines (or perhaps I wasn’t entirely committed to the idea of moving away from my family).

    In retrospect, though, I’m glad I made the less ambitious choice. There are too many good things in my life that I would have missed had I left the state.

    I wonder how many high school students set the courses of their lives that way.

  5. Oatmeal
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:08 PM | Permalink

    I think these are my favorite kinds of your blogs. Something that tells us a little something about your past. I love this story. I love that you can see, and recall in your own life, that it’s the little moments that make us who we are. That is something I’ve seen in my own life, and so few others see. So many people think it’s only those big things. But I digress.

    I like that you aren’t afraid to talk about a contest, and then point out that you didn’t win. And I’m so pleased that you’re running your category in the writer’s workshop. Congratulations on that, it’s not a fancy award, but it’s a chance to help kids make something of themselves, and of all people I think that you can see the value in that.

    And, by the way, am I the only one who obsessively re-reads and revises their comment before clicking post? I know I can’t be the only one…

    • Mickey
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:16 PM | Permalink


    • xjm
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

      I tend to obsessively re-read and edit after I hit submit… which doesn’t work so well when I can’t actually edit the comment. C’est la vie.

      • Mickey
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:31 PM | Permalink

        That damn button is so easy to hit

        • Oatmeal
          Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

          It really is… That’s why I scroll to a point where I can’t actually see or click the button until I’m absolutely ready. Then, when I’ve read my comment roughly 5-20 times (depending on the length of said comment) I scroll down enough to click it.

  6. Widow Of Sirius
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM | Permalink

    I applied to Point because I got into NYU, but couldn’t ACTUALLY afford to go there – and delusional little me didn’t consider that part until many application deadlines were passed by completely. Lucky for me, UWSP has a rolling application procedure, and I got in right away. I think I picked it for the same reason – just far enough away to visit home occasionally without being bothered by my family.

    Is the writing workshop open to anyone to visit? I’d super love to see the high schoolers and what they bring with them.

  7. LaisLindsay
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

    What a great way to reach out to young writers! A little encouragement at that age goes a long, long way. My HS English teacher was awesome. Getting two thumbs up from her was like winning the Pulitzer; she set the bar high. If you won her praise, you deserved it.
    I would have eaten my notebook for an opportunity like this.. just wasn’t gonna happen in East Tennessee. Kudos to UW-SP for the addition of speculative fiction to the line up!

  8. abi
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    “Speculative fiction” has always bugged me somewhat as a term for sci-fi and fantasy, all fiction is speculative by definition.
    Have fun with the contest though, maybe you’ll get a Kvothe fanfic entry :)

  9. IDV
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    Oooh, nice! Makes me wish I lived in America….

    Or maybe not. I wish this kind of things happened where I live.

  10. HarryT
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:58 PM | Permalink

    The wordpress site says “WordPress 3.0.1 is available! Please notify the site administrator.” … just F.Y.I, i guess …….

  11. wmorris
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 6:12 PM | Permalink

    Why the hell did this not happen three years ago when I was a high school student in Wisconsin? blah.

  12. Max
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 6:22 PM | Permalink

    I can see it now, winner in sci-fantasy section has a paper about Patrick Rothfuss becoming overmind of the world and how he does it with millions of minions gathered at cons ’round the world.

    • forsaken
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

      I am honestly perplexed by your answer, Max.

      You seem to have your genres mixed up. Why would a writer win a speculative fiction contest for a piece of non-fiction modern history?

      Please explain.

      • Oatmeal
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:34 PM | Permalink


        I was going to go into a long drawn out reasoning as to the awesomeness of both of these comments and then I realized, anyone reading here knows, and doesn’t need it explained to them.

        Thus: This.

    • Mickey
      Posted October 9, 2010 at 3:30 AM | Permalink

      Overmind, I like that.

      • Max
        Posted October 9, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Permalink

        You all caught me. I guess it is out of genre but, as stated, the awesomeness of the idea makes it transcend petty things like genre. It could be entered in any category, but being biographical of nature you’d think that Mr. Rothfuss would like to read it. Hence entering it in the speculative fiction section.

  13. Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

    i love this blog! so entertaining! always!

  14. Posted October 9, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    What a fantastic way to accomplish so many things! Keep your own skills sharp, water some budding writers, give back to the school you love… sounds fantastic, and I wish you much success and as few headaches as possible with running your contest! Are you going to post the winning essay?

  15. deltaflip
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Permalink

    so…what if i live in washington state? to far?

  16. Ewan
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

    Watching TV shows & playing D&D isn’t being an idiot =O
    Don’t put your young self down.

  17. Billy Sweetness
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    “…Later on, after I got my Masters Degree, I came back to teach for a while. It’s where I still live…”

    No mention of Pullman or WSU? How can you turn your back on your fellow Cougs.

    Gary Larson would never do this.

  18. Tager
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    That’s right, baby. Me.

    A fan of Tenacious D are we Pat?

  19. Aussie_Jess
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

    Why does Australia have to be so far away :(

  20. chat
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 3:37 AM | Permalink

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