Creative Writing Students Win Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance Annual Sense of Wonder/Sense of Wild Writing Competition

Nora Voght, Reporter

The Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance is a non-profit organization which helps develop educational information for public participation, specifically about nature. This helps reflect Rachel Carson’s ecological legacy and her life in association with the house where she wrote “Silent Spring.”

Carson was a marine biologist, a conservationist, and author. “Silent Spring” is an environmental book about the environmental effects caused by pesticides.

Each year the RCLA hosts a writing competition where people work in intergenerational teams to compose an entry under the themes of “A Sense of Wonder” or “A Sense of Wild.” Groups of writers can submit entries either as a essay, poem, essay and photograph, or poem and photograph.

Winners receive an RCLA certificate and their first names along with their written piece on their website. For more information check out

Creative Writing teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen asked her students to work in intergenerational teams to compose entries. She said, “As a class, we talked about nature, conservation, preservation and students’ experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about my students’ connections to nature and about how much they care for the environment. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the RCLA in the future.”

Madeleine Clark, a junior at AHS, and one of the winners of the RCLA award (who wrote “Call of the Loon”), says, “The special thing about these teams is that they have to be intergenerational meaning people from different generations. I personally worked only with my teacher, Ms. Jorgensen. We spent a few class periods working on polishing our drafts, then sent them off to the competition when they [were] finished.”

The judge made the following comment on Clark’s piece:  “This essay describes a family kayak adventure and an encounter with a loon in a lovely, poetic vignette. Evocative language and an artistic photograph bring the story to life.”

Joanna Wahmhoff, a junior at AHS and one of the winners of the RCLA award (who wrote “An African Dream”), says, “The process of writing for this award was to first pick your category and topic. For example, I picked Sense of Wild, poem and photograph and then based the poem on certain aspects of a lioness, what the picture was of.”

The judge made the following comment on Wahmhoff’s piece: “Like the pride of lions described, this poem represents a tightly-woven intergenerational effort. The poem’s direct inspiration can be seen in the powerful accompanying photo. Strong sensory imagery makes this a wonderful celebration of the African lion.”

Rachel Kriehn, a senior at AHS and one of the winners, (who wrote “Little Wonders”), says, “For every student who’s interested in writing, I think the best advice is just to persist. Even if you’re going through a period where nothing you write is good, you don’t have any ideas or inspiration, push through it.”

The judge made the following comment on Kriehn’s piece: “This poem evokes the tiny miracle of an anthill as discovered by a child. Good narrative flow, tight focus and strong description make this a very effective enactment of wonder.”

Wahmhoff says, “My advice for students interested in writing would be to simply just write. In order to improve you must practice and continue to grow as a writing and solidify your style and what you like to write best.”

Kriehn says, “The only effective medicine for writer’s block that I’ve found is to write even though it sucks. I have written some of the worst poetry you will ever read while in a bout of writer’s block, but if I hadn’t done it, I never would have come back to writing. If you’re passionate, don’t give up. Not ever.”

“To have this many students selected as winners is a true blessing and honor,” Jorgensen says.