Freshman Breakout award winner Zebulon DeBaker (left) joined fellow Tiger Tales Literary Contest winners (from left) Archer Johnson, Abigail Knuckles, Chloe Schans, Madelline Waite and Amanda Snyder for a picture after the awards ceremony. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)Above is Chloe Schans’ cover design for the print anthology that will contain all of the winners of this year’s contest.

New categories unveiled for Allegan High School Tiger Tales 2017

Ryan Lewis, Editor

Tiger Tales is back.

The Allegan High School’s literary contest again gave cash awards to writers at the school, this time using new technology and even a new category.

Though there were half as many entries as last year, more students entered. There were 205 turned in by 183 students in all four grades. They gathered for an awards ceremony Wednesday, May 17.

Jane Kiel heads the English department at the school—which organized the contest this year—and she said their first attempt went well.

“Nancy did such a great job with this for so long,” Kiel said, referring to the teacher who founded the contest, Nancy Hascall, who retired last year. “We learned a lot.”

As with previous years, first-place awards come with $100 prize money. Second place won $50 and third place, $25. All three places plus any honorable mentions are printed in an anthology set to be released hopefully before the end of the school year.

Community members volunteered time as judges and viewed the pieces without knowing the names of the authors.

What’s new

Making the contest bigger this year was the Freshman Breakout award. Designed to encourage students entering the contest for the first time, it is given to an exceptional entry by a freshman who did not place in any of the other categories.

Its first winner, receiving $25, was Zebulon DeBaker’s personal narrative “Acceptance of Separation.”

He wrote about his parents’ separation when he was in elementary school.

“What inspired me is how far I’ve come from that and how it shaped me to be who I am today,” DeBaker. “It was a little bit of me breaking out of my shell (to write about this).”

Fundraising was new this year, too. A GoFundMe account raised $1,100 to pay for the prize money and printing costs, to which many past winners and many in the community donated.

As for the main categories: Formal Essay is out, replaced by the Editorial category. There were 24 entries.

Kiel said this is in response to the writing already built into the curriculum for juniors.

“And freshmen and sophomores are now doing more argumentative writing,” she said. “The focus has been shifting, so it made sense to make it a category.”

Eleventh-grader Amanda Snyder said she was passionate about climate science and making changes to improve how people care for the Earth. She parleyed that passion into her entry “The Need for Renewable Energy” and won first place.

“I’m just always looking for an outlet to express my opinion and this was a good opportunity,” Snyder said.

In her piece, she wrote, “Mankind has the opportunity to slow down or even stop the continuous damage to the environment by increasing its use of renewable energy.”

The Cover Design was handled somewhat differently this year too. Switching away from inviting students at the Allegan County Area Technical and Education Center graphic arts class to design the cover of the anthology, this year entries were solicited from within the school, in any medium.

Tenth-grader Chloe Schans won for her acrylic painting of a tiger paw tearing at the cover of a book.

“I didn’t want it to be delicate or dainty,” Schans said. “I wanted to show Tiger pride, strength.”

Back for more

It should be said that once again former teacher Sue Buese read the winning pieces during the awards ceremony in the school media center.

There were 74 entries in the Poetry category, and freshman Archer Johnson won first place.

Archer said he wrote “No Hijab Today” because of the hatred he saw on display at a national level.

I’m a big supporter of every religion , every race, every sexuality. I was a little taken aback how different things have changed since we got our new president.”

In his poem, he writes “The television tells me, / What my president calls me. / A radical, a terrorist...” “I feel filthy, / And I shouldn’t.”

In the Personal Narrative category, 10th-grader Madelline Waite won first place among 86 entries.

In “Father Dearest” she writes about how her father was injured falling off a roof at work with his chimney sweeping business.

“I wanted to make him feel better,” Madelline said.

She writes, “Sometimes I forget that he has belonged in a world without me, while I have not seen a day where he was not right beside me, cheering me on. ... The crooked smile my father presents when I tell him of my achievements always fills me with excitement, because I was able to spark pride inside of him.”

Finally, in Short Story, there were 21 entries. Abigail Knuckles, a senior, won first place with “Blinders” in which two characters find themselves unexpectedly discussing a painting.

She said it was inspired by her own trip over the summer to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

“That’s actually where ‘Japanese Art Bridge’ is,” Knuckles said, referring to the painting the two characters ponder in her story.

She later met someone who was colorblind.

“It got me thinking, ‘What about an art critic who was colorblind?’ What would that be like?” she said.

In her story, that person says, “What’s a color blind dude doing at an art museum? ... the truth of the matter is, I just really appreciate the glimpse into something beyond myself. Even though I can’t see it as they really intended. But that’s what it’s all about, y’know? Your interpretation of the thing some person wanted you to see. Authorial intent is irrelevant and all that.”

Abigail also won first place in the poetry category last year.

Kim Sparks emceed for the ceremony, thanking the many people who volunteered to help with the effort.

“The English Department here at Allegan High School is proud to continue this tradition, which was originally created by Nancy Hascall and Ed Spicer, who are now retired,” she said. “They longed to promote writing as an art form and not as just something you have to do in your English classes.”

Madelline said, “Yeah, we were all worried when Mrs. Hascall left, but I’m glad they kept it going.”

Kiel said they would definitely continue the contest next year.

“I think we like the Freshmen Breakout; I think more freshmen entered because of it,” Kiel said. “We’re going to keep it going. We hope every year to make it better.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at or (269) 673-5534.



Freshman Breakout, Zebulon DeBaker

Editorial, Amanda Snyder

Poetry, Archer Johnson

Personal Narrative, Madelline Waite

Short Story, Abigail Knuckles

For the full list of winners in each category, pick up a copy of the May 25 issue of The Allegan County News or subscribe to the e-edition.

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