Big Things Come in Small Packages
I’m so glad you joined me today for this very special interview with Molly (pictured right). And once you’ve seen her thoughtful and articulate answers and visited her website, you’ll find it hard to believe she’s just eleven years old!
So pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of cocoa, and come along with me to meet this extraordinary young lady!
Kim: Welcome, Molly! I’m looking forward to our interview today. First, I’d love to hear how you decided to launch a website centered on writing contests.
Molly: Thinking that it would be a great learning experience for me to enter some writing contests, my mom started searching for them online. Quickly enough, she found that it was all like a disassembled puzzle: you had to go to each site and look it over before finding whether or not it worked for you (age limits, deadlines, et cetera). That’s what gave us the spark for my site—a chart listing these writing contests so it’s easier for us and others to find contests which were the best fit.
I originally thought that I could make my own contest on this site, but then I abandoned that idea and decided to focus just on other people’s contests. Perhaps I will reconsider that idea, now that my site is underway. Not only has this site been a great business opportunity, but it’s been an incredible learning experience! My mom was right when she thought these few contests would be constructive—they’ve opened up a whole new world!
Kim: This is such a great idea. What makes your contest chart so unique?
Molly: I’d have to say the organization. There are other lists of contests, but I think having it in a chart format is easier to use, because it gives the user preview information. While some lists offer contest details, they tend to mesh it together into a descriptive paragraph which often is long and rather disorganized, not to mention that it’s harder to read.
I’ve also tried to keep my chart up to date and to exclude fee-based writing contests and those permitting adults to enter. There are only a few contests on my chart with a fee, but the fees are quite minimal. Other lists tend to have old info and contests for adults or those with fees.
My chart lists only writing contests, while other lists usually have all types of contests. My brother has just started a math site similar to mine, so you can find math contests there. However, for homeschool writers who aren’t as interested in other contests, my chart will most likely be much easier to use than other lists. With over forty writing contests listed, we believe we have the most complete and easiest to use collection of free youth writing contests on the web.
Kim: What other features does your website offer homeschoolers?
Molly: Gradually, I have been working on adding more and more homeschool resources, foremost among these being the Curriculum Reviews page. We have several writing reviews up, which my mom has been working on for me, including a review of WriteShop. She has also written one grammar review for Rod and Staff’s English program. In addition to the Curriculum Reviews page, I have been finishing up a new Favorite Literature page, with our family’s personal favorite books.
I also have a free e-mail deadline reminder (sent about twice a month), where you can sign up for a reminder e-mail to be notified of expiring contests. Like I said, I keep adding things!
Kim: How did you learn website development?
Molly: I started out learning HTML from a library book, Sams Teach Yourself HTML and XHTML in 24 Hours by Dick Oliver and Michael Morrison, which a family we know recommended. After getting about halfway through the book, I had created a basic and simple site. Homeschool Writers was a small HTML file on the computer, and I had made a little chart with around a dozen contests. It was then that we decided that it was time to post it on the web.
We signed up for OfficeLive’s free web-hosting service. Having done this, I began to re-do my site with the design tools they provided. It was no small feat but finally I had my new site—this time much more professional than my own HTML, thanks to the design tools! My HTML learning from that book wasn’t in vain, though, because through it I’ve gone from word processors to the web, and I’ve made my website.
Kim: Wow, Molly! You’ve accomplished a lot for an 11-year-old! Would you share a little about yourself?
Molly: I am the oldest of four, and I have two sisters and one brother. We have always been homeschooled. In my free time, I enjoy knitting, crocheting, sewing, folding origami, drawing, writing stories, reading (sometimes), and working on my website. Additionally, I enjoy participating in a weekly Greek class taught by my mom. Because I love swimming too, I am looking forward to summer coming soon!
Kim: What subjects do you especially like to write about?
Molly: I generally prefer writing poetry to essays, and creative writing such as stories and novels to reports. Most of my stories are fictionalized. I have written a few animal stories, but, as in my reading choices, I prefer to do people stories. It simply seems more real and natural.
Kim: We developed WriteShop for our own reluctant sons. As a young student yourself, can you offer a word of encouragement for the child who doesn’t like to write?
Molly: First of all, contests are great motivation. Among the forty plus contests on my chart, there are many that make writing more exciting, such as the SillyBooks contests which takes the winning story and turns it into an animated movie online.
Because writing things out by hand was so detestable for my brother, he had pretty much decided writing was not his favorite subject. Suddenly, he learned to type and started typing his papers, and now he enjoys it much more. The physical way in which you write makes a difference as well as entering contests.
Kim: Of the contests you’ve entered, which did you most enjoy? Have you won any awards?
Molly: Probably, out of the nine writing contests I have entered, the DAR American History Essay Contest and the SillyBooks contest have been my favorites. I have not won any awards yet, but I just found out this morning that I was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Letters About Literature contest!
Kim: Congratulations are in definitely in order. That’s exciting news!
Molly, writing and reading often go hand-in-hand. Would you share your ten all-time favorite books?
Molly: Well, that would be a hard decision. We’ve read and enjoyed so many books! I’m probably missing some, but here’s a list of ones my family (and I) have enjoyed immensely.
- The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis
- Winnie-The-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
- In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson
- The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (My mom read this one aloud so she could skip some of the more gruesome parts.)
- Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
- The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and those by Melissa Wiley (about Laura’s grandmother and great-grandmother) – the unabridged ones!
- Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery
I have a more extensive list, including most of these books, on my website’s Favorite Literature links.
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Thanks for stopping by to meet Molly Fox! To find out more about Molly’s writing resources, including her contest chart and her mom’s curriculum reviews, visit her website: www.homeschoolwriters.com.