LONGMEADOW, MA – Eva McCoomb loves to write.
For the friendly but quiet fifth-grade student at Blueberry Hill Elementary School, putting pen to paper is a way to break down barriers and explore new ideas.
“I like writing fantasy because you have no limits,” she explained. “I like writing because I feel like I can express myself and what I like. I can basically write about whatever I want.”
One thing Eva loves to write about most is cats – namely her two pets Peanut and Marmalade. So when she entered a writing contest at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, there was little doubt what her story would be about.
Contest entrants were challenged to write a story about what would happen if they received a message in a bottle. In Eva’s tale, “Marmalade and Peanut, the Cats’ Secret Message,” she writes that she received the bottle, but the message inside was for the feline protagonists, leading them on an adventure where they encounter a dog, a kitten and a bit of danger along the way.
“There are all these wonderful themes that Eva has embedded in her story,” Blueberry Hill Principal Amy Bostian said.
The cats in the story, Eva said, are just like her cats at home – “Peanut is very skittish and I feel like Marmalade is the braver one.”
Marmalade and Peanut’s antics and experiences weren’t just fun for Eva to write; the folks at Odyssey found them entertaining to read as well and awarded her first place among all fifth graders who participated.
“I was in my room and my mom just started screaming happily, so I came downstairs and asked her, ‘What’s wrong?’ and she was like, ‘You won!’ And I was just so happy,” Eva said, describing the moment when her mother received the voicemail stating she had earned the award.
In winning first place, Eva was given the opportunity to read her story to an audience at Odyssey Bookshop. Described by her mother, Liz McCoomb, as a “voracious reader,” she also received a gift card to the bookstore.
Anyone who knows Eva shouldn’t be surprised by her award. Eva has always had a gift when it comes to writing according to her mother and between her teachers at Blueberry Hill and special classes with Lynn Bowmaster, a creative writing teacher from Hadley, she has flourished.
“When I gave her the prompt, it all just flowed out of her,” Liz said. “It’s such a joy to watch her write.”
Bostian added, “Eva is really, really smart, but she’s really, really quiet about it. This is great because she has given us an opportunity to make sure we are giving all our kids creative ways to express themselves.”
Bostian also said Eva can serve as inspiration for other students.
“There are other kids who are quiet and who don’t maybe don’t know how to take risks or feel like things like this are possible and so I think Eva’s going to help. Even if it helps even one kid say, ‘Wow, I’m going to try that,” I think whenever you can inspire someone to do something positive, it’s a home run.” Speaking to Eva, she added, “You may not know the power that you have,”
To read Eva’s story, see below: