Aatf Essay Contest For Maine

Félicitations to AHS senior, Susannah Benn, who won 2nd place in the national essay contest run by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF)! The theme for the essay contest was “L’Heritage Français en Amérique/French Heritage in America,” and was part of celebrations for National French Week, held in November each year. Susannah competed against thousands of students across the country, and we heartily congratulate her for her win! Her essay can be read in its entirety below. Encore, bravo!

“L’Heritage Français en Amérique/French Heritage in America," by Susannah Benn

Music is powerful; for centuries, it has united people, expressed emotion, and celebrated culture. Given that, it is not surprising that much of French heritage in America presents itself in folk music. Cajun folk music is of huge cultural importance in modern French Louisiana. French-Canadians, or Acadians, migrated to Louisiana during the 18th century, creating a vibrant, Cajun culture with its own dialect: Cajun French. A blend of Southern Louisiana culture, Cajun folk music encompasses fiddles, accordions, dancing, and improvisational singing. Today, many young Cajuns play the music of their heritage, but keep it modern by adding new elements like rap (Cajun Music…). Cajun music’s ability to evolve has allowed it to thrive.

In the late 19th century, French-Canadian immigrants flooded into New England. Coming mostly from Quebec, they settled mostly in Maine and Vermont. Today, Franco-Americans are still the third largest ethnic group in New England, and like in Louisiana, Franco-Americans use folk music to preserve their culture. Michele Choiniere, a Franco-American musician from Vermont, learned traditional Franco-American folk music from her father. Today, she powerfully expresses her cultural identity through songs that incorporate elements from traditional Quebecois and Franco-American music. Choiniere’s work is especially important because there are few other Franco-American folk musicians of the younger generation. In her song “The Waltz of Time”, Choiniere writes that she tries to “catch time”, “remember...each sound” before the silence makes her “deaf”(Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous...). To Choiniere, these lyrics embody Franco-American cultural preservation. She longs to preserve her Franco-American roots, because, in her own words “when it goes, I will become deaf”(Michele Choiniere).

Although Cajun folk music and Franco-American folk music are different, they share a purpose; to celebrate and preserve French-Canadian heritage. And they have fulfilled their purpose; popular Cajun bands are featured in movies like Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Franco-American heritage stays relevant through celebrations like Maine’s French-American Day. Because music is so powerful, because music is so good at uniting the people, French-Americans have preserved and shared their culture in the US. Because of music, French heritage is relevant and prominent in America.

Works Cited

"Critiques." Michèle Choinière. Michèle Choinière, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.michelechoiniere.com/critiques.htm>.

"Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous Danser?: Franco-American Music from the New England Borderlands." Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <http://www.folkways.si.edu/mademoiselle-voulez-vous-danser-franco-american-music-from-the-new-england-borderlands/folk-old-time-world/music/album/smithsonian>.

Savoy, Ann. "Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana." Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana. Folklife in Louisiana, 1990. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creole_art_cajunmusic_aliv.html>.

Congratulations to the 2018 Writing Contest winner, Husna Quinn!

More info on our winner and her poem, "The Family Portrait," coming soon!

The 2018 Theme: Color

We are pleased to announce our annual Writing Contest and this year’s theme: Color. Color fills our lives and affects us in ways that are both direct and subtle. It has the power to bring back childhood memories, create an atmosphere, unite people or set one group against another, and fill us with joy, sadness, or hunger. We are looking for prose and poetry submissions that play with color, ask questions of it, capture rare shades, challenge the traditional meaning of color, and more. Entries are due no later than January 26, 2018 at midnight!

One grand prize winner will receive $200 cash and publication in our annual anthology. For a special touch, this year we are collaborating with the Portland Symphony Orchestra who will set one winning piece to music and perform it during our 2018 Big Night Event!

Prompt Ideas

  • Envision a very rare shade of color. Tell the story of the object, animal, place, etc. of that color.

  • Write a poem that “pairs” color with memories, e.g. the color of your first memory, or with other senses, e.g. what would red color smell like?

  • In a story or an essay, use color to set the mood or the atmosphere for an upcoming scene. 

  • Write a story or an essay that explore the way skin color affects your life or the life of your character.

  • Think of a color you associate with your home, school, a friend. In a poem or a story, explore why they remind you of that color.

  • Try to describe a color without naming it directly.

  • Write a poem in which two or more different colors "speak" to each other, for instance two shades of one color, two very different colors, or a color that occurs naturally conversing with an artificial one.

About the contest

Our annual contest allows students to show off their writing chops! The contest runs from December through late January each year. This year's deadline is Friday, January 26th.

Writing Contest Rules

  • All submissions should be related to the annual theme.

  • Entrants must be from Maine in grades 6-12 during the school year, or, if home-schooled, between the ages of 11 and 18.

  • Poems must be 40 lines or fewer, in any form. Prose pieces should be 750 words or fewer.

  • Submitting to our contest constitutes an agreement to be considered for publication in our annual anthology.


Submissions are closed!

Please check back in December 2018 for our next contest.


  • A panel of professional writers will select one grand prize winner.

  • The grand prize winner will receive a $200 award and have their piece published.

  • One entry (not necessarily the grand prize winner) will collaborate with the Portland Symphony Orchestra to have their poem or story set to music in 2018.

Brooks Miller wins the 2016-17 writing contest!

We are thrilled to announce that Casco Bay High School student Brooks Miller is the winner of our 2016-17 statewide writing contest.  A panel of judges chose his poem out of over 200 entries from all corners of Maine. Brooks will be published in the May 2017 issue of Maine Magazine and will be awarded a $200 cash prize at our 2017 Big Night Event.

Thank you to the many talented writers who submitted stories and poems this year. We loved reading them and look forward to hearing from you again next winter!

Here is Brooks' winning poem:

Of a Conversation We Cannot Finish

Dear Grandfather,
Dear Professor of Biology,
Dear Ex-Wild-Life Society President,
Dear My Christian Zealot,
Today, I pose a question:
You’re the smartest man I know
And despite all the knowledge you have,
You still pledge to a god who hates your grandson?

Your words are a bug in my ear
–No, not just a bug–
You speak, and bugs crawl on my skin.
There's no substance to your words
Like hot water without tea,
Hot water diluted with turned milk.

With anger behind your words
You tell me I look like a girl.
Stunned and embarrassed in the parking lot of a hotel,
My identity is in question.
You tell me to cut my hair,
Your words wasting air.

“Your generation has an interesting identity.”
“Your generation emasculated.”
“Your generation phone addicted.”
“Your generation social media inflicted.”
And yet we are the most active
Wielders of the Internet. How can you doubt us?

You and I are hatred, we are opinions,
Hatred and opinions that tear us from love.
Words like shots, we hurl at each other.
We are a dove with a bullet in its heart.

But as we drive to the wrong theater
Between our laughs and radio

I hate small talk,
Little talk, the pointless talk,
The “how is the weather” talk,
The work break-room talk,
The worst kind of talk.

I like big talk.
Big talk, deep talk,
The "do you fear death?” talk,
The perfect silence talk,
The good talk.

I’m sorry but we need an intervention.
This has gone on too long and we need to talk.

Listen to Siri Piece, our 2015-16 grand prize winner!

Siri Pierce, Portland - "Wings"

Listen to Lizzy Lemieux, our 2014-15 grand prize winner!

Lizzy Lemieux, Gorham - "The Presumpscot Baptism of a Jewish Girl: After Hanel Baveja"

Listen to the winners of the 2013-14 contest read their work:

Kaitlyn Knight, Rome - "I Am Not Wild"

Alicia Thurston, Topsham - "Astriferous"

Listen to the winners of the 2012-13 contest read their work:

Meghan Lane, Rockport - "Prelude in A Minor"

Mary McColley, Berwick - "Lapti"

0 thoughts on “Aatf Essay Contest For Maine”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *