The Estancia Valley Classical Academy, a charter school in Moriarty, won two of the top three spots in New Mexico in the annual “Letters About Literature” contest, and will move on to national competition.

Held by the New Mexico State Library, the writing contest asks students to read a book, poem or play, then write to that author about how the liberature changed their views on the world.

Grace Logsted, a fifth-grade student at EVCA, is the Level 1 (grades 4-6) champion. She wrote her letter to James Dasher about his series,“The Maze Runner.” Kate Colson, an eighth-grade student at EVCA, won the Level 2 (grades 7-8) competition. Her letter is addressed to “Cry of the Icemark” author, Stuart Hill.

Arielle Moosman of Ramah won the high school level of the contest.

In addition to the winners of the contest, several other students at the Classical Academy ended as finalists: Melanie Erb, Avery Kraus, Jean Shelly Massey, Dan-Enan O’Neill, Shannon Urquhart, all 8th-graders in Delores Williams’ class. Other finalists were Seth Kraus, a 5th-grader in Cid Schumpert’s class, and two more fifth-graders, Daniel Fishburn and Brandie Ramirez, in Marlee Torres’ class.

There were 621 students around the state who entered the contest, representing nearly 40 schools and home schooled students. Of those, 103 finalists went to round two, then 55 of those to the final round of judging.

The winners get a $150 cash prize. The judging panel was made up of government officials, librarians, authors and book professionals. Winners will be honored at the state capitol on May 6.

National winners will be announced in May and each get a $1,000 cash prize.

The two winning letters from EVCA students are reproduced below:

‘Maze Runner’

Dear Mr. James Dasher,

Your series, Maze Runner, has inspired me in many ways. A while ago my sister finished reading the book and told me I should. I did not want to because at the time I did not really care about reading. Now, a book may be a book but they have the power to inspire us all. My sister got Maze Runner last year and then she ordered the other three books in the series. She loved the whole series. I still did not want to read Maze Runner, but my sister kept telling me to read it. I finally read it, just to make her get off my shoulder. About one chapter into the book, it was the best book I had ever read! Thanks to my sister, if she had not gotten me to read it, I would not be writing this letter right now.

The book has inspired me since I read it, including now. A little while ago my dad had to leave for his job he got in Colorado. We were not used to him being gone. Our dinners were lonely. When I get home from school I usually say “hi” to him in his office, but instead I have to go into his office and feed my mouse while she comforts me. Our house felt empty and I thought it would have to last forever. Just like the Gladers had to start their new life in the Glade. They were taken from their family, not knowing anyone at all, just like my dad was taken by his job up to Colorado.

The book also inspired me at school. It inspired me to work hard wherever I am. My three or four friends I have keep me going. At first I had no friends when my school started a few years ago, just like Thomas started with no knowledge or friends. He gained friends and knowledge and succeeded as well.

The book was also very sad. When Chuck got shot by Gally, it made me mad knowing that things can happen like that today. Today innocent people get killed for no reason. A little girl in Albuquerque got killed in her father’s road rage. Things like this happen for no reason when our world gets taken over, but we live through it and it makes us stronger. This book may be sad, but it puts you in suspense. Books are movies that are suspenseful are usually better than movies and books that are not. Books were not written for no reason; they have a purpose.

This book has also taught me a very important lesson: choose your friends wisely. There was a girl at school who was my friend for a year or two. Then she started giving me a hard time whenever I would not give her something, just like in Scorch Trials. Thomas thought Teresa was his closest and most trusted friend even though Wicked was controlling her. She abused their friendship.

This book helps me feel adventurous and brave. When I play in my backyard or the woods next to my house, I am brave. It’s not that I am afraid of the outdoors, it is because there are some big and scary creatures in the woods: a bear, a cougar, and a bobcat. In Maze Runner, when Thomas saw the Grievers he was afraid, but the fact that he wanted to get out of the Glade, and wanted Chuck and the other Gladers to get out with him, kept him going. Thomas never gives up for what he wants and needs to do. Now I am brave and feel as if I can take on anything, just like Thomas could and did. Thomas was afraid when the Grievers were coming to get him and Alby. Even though Alby was almost dead, he refused to let him go. Thomas was afraid that Alby and Minho were not going to make it before the Glade doors shut. I am afraid of many other things. When my dad got the job, I was afraid that if I left and I came back someday, my friends might get used to not having me around and leave me out. I was also afraid that if I left, my best friend would have no other friends because she did not go to my school anymore. I was afraid that the animals would come and get me and that moving would change the place I call home. Thomas fought back and his actions led him well, he got through the Glade, the Scorch, and the Cranks. He finished victorious. I fought back, I did not let my fears get the best of me, and I still hope that if I move my fears will not come true. Thomas and I both fought back and success is in the blink of an eye.

Your book has helped me through hard times in my life, and it has helped me grow closer to adventurous books. I will never doubt the power of your book, or its characters. Thomas, Teresa, Newt, Minho, and the other characters will always end victorious. Thank you for writing these books that help me through my life whenever it’s hard. I hope you write more amazing books like these that will last a lifetime! Thank you for writing the best books ever!

A Glader who is always being inspired,

Grace Logsted

(5th Grade, EVCA)

‘The Cry of the Icemark’

Dear Mr. Hill,

Your book, The Cry of the Icemark, from the Icemark Chronicles, is very intriguing and inspiring. I could not put down the book when I read it. With each page, the anticipation of what was going to happen next built. I love how Thirrin takes control and perseveres through all of her difficult trials, though she is still quite young. I, being fourteen as well, cannot imagine going through all that she did. She conquered her enemies and her trials, though it was hard. Thirrin’s story has taught me that even though I may not be the Queen of Icemark, I can persevere and conquer my trials and difficulties with the same kind of strength she had.

I was first introduced to your book by my older brother. He enjoys reading books in which characters go on quests to fulfill their destinies, along with the help of wizards, knights, kings and queens, and mythical creatures. I, however, was never really drawn to them. Despite that, I became suddenly interested when he told me The Cry of the Icemark was about a girl around my age who had the “most epic battles,” as my brother put it, and fought with “super awesome allies.” So, because of your book, Mr. Hill, I now quite enjoy these types of books too because I can find really clever and well-thought out analogies and lessons within them.

One of the interesting analogies that I saw in your book was the overall war between the Polypontian Empire and Icemark. I can see a war between science and imagination; or, fact vs. legend. A balance between both is good, even though it rarely happens. The overuse of one can cause chaos and sometimes distortions of what reality is. I can see a battle, similar in idea, in the world today. That is technology vs. simple life. The technology we have today is great, but sometimes we overuse it and become lazy. As your character Oskan spoke to Thirrin, he said that not all science is bad. I agree with him. And like science, technology can be very useful and helpful. Technology that does something for us that we could easily do can be convenient, but do we really need to use that technology all of the time? I would say no.

Some technology can distract us. One of the biggest cases in which I see this is cell phones and social media. Using social media on cell phones can distract many teenagers and even adults. Social medial is filled with many of the “latest new trends” and latest gossip about celebrities. These can influence people, especially youth, in a way that is not good and almost never reflects reality. For example, some of these trends and celebrities are not all bad, but they can make teenagers, like me, feel like we are supposed to look, speak, or act a certain way to fit in; or that it is “cool” to do certain things because a celebrity may do it. But then I ask myself, why fit in when we were born to stand out? I think that sometimes people use social media in order to fit in and do what they think everybody else is doing. But it can make them feel sad and depressed knowing that they are different, even though they may not necessarily want to be. I think it is important to know we are different and to accept and embrace it. I try my best to use social media in a way that will not change me, just being myself.

Nevertheless, the most important lesson I learned from your book was to persevere and work hard. As I said before, I really love how Thirrin took and accepted her trials and defeated them. She truly inspires me. Though I have not had hard trials and difficulties as Thirrin has, like losing a father, and then having to lead an army into battle against a frightening Empire, I too have my trials which I know I can and must overcome. I have moderate hearing loss in both of my ears, which my family did not know until I was four. During that time, I missed many basic words, the incidental language going on around me. So now, it is somewhat difficult for me to comprehend things I hear and read, making school challenging. But I know if I persevere and keep at it, I can overcome the little daily trials with my hearing.

Thank you so much for writing this book. It made reading exciting again, and not just a chore to get through. Your book opened up a whole new world of ideas and imagination that I had not experienced in a while. And better yet, not only was your book creative and imaginative, it also taught many life lessons. Even though those lessons may just be from a story, I can learn and apply them in my own life.

So, as Thirrin rallied her soldiers with the cry of Icemark to persevere and conquer, I, too, say, “Blood, Blast, and Fire!”

Kate Colson

(8th Grade, EVCA)