Brett Okamoto, A promising young writer

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``AVON -- Brett Okamoto was always told by teachers he has a talent for writing, and after awhile he started to believe it.

When his work was recognized by a renowned author, he realized those compliments weren't just typical encouraging words from teachers.

He recently was awarded the ''Promising Young Talent Award,'' which is the top honor of a state-wide writing competition called Power of the Pen. About 200 winning entries from each year's contest are published in a ''best-of-the-best'' book and those top stories are read by an author who then chooses a favorite.

Though Okamoto only recently received his honor and had his story published, his story was from last year's competition. Okamoto's published story, about meeting his nemesis on a football field, was selected by Lois Lowry, author of fiction for young adults, as the best of last year's ''Book of Winners.''

''I really didn't think I had a chance,'' said the modest, 15-year-old writer, who just completed his freshman year at Avon High School. ''Even though I'm confident with my writing, with the competition you just always think that there is someone better than you.''

More than 18,000 students competed in the 2000 Power of the Pen competition, which invites seventh and eighth grade language art students from Ohio's public, private and parochial schools to participate. Of the approximately 430 students who advanced to the state level last year, some 200 stories were published in the book, which was judged by Lowry.

Okamoto remembered how he felt while competing in last year's competition, which consists of four rounds of impromptu, short-story writing. The students are first given a topic during each round of writing and then 40 minutes to submit a short story (with a title) to the judges.

After three rounds, Okamoto was confident his writing was on the money.

''I knew I had done pretty well. The adrenaline was going,'' he said. ''I treated (state) competition like I was at a practice. That's what I tried to do. I was never nervous about writing, because I never get nervous about stuff.

''It goes really fast, because all of the sudden you don't know how to finish and you still haven't given it a title,'' Okamoto said of the contests. ''I was calm and I wasn't nervous, but I still thought about everything and wanted it to be good.''

Brett Okamoto at his home in Avon. (Morning Journal Photo)

His published story was entitled ''Goliath Meets David,'' which spawned during the second round of state competition where students were instructed to write about meeting their nemeses.

As an avid sports fan, a soccer player, former football player and hopeful sports journalist, Okamoto said about half of his stories are centered around sports. So when he heard the word nemesis last year, he thought about football, and that led to the award-winning story.

''I just tried to write it with my personality style,'' said Okamoto, whose story also received an honorable mention in the humor category. ''I never really try to be funny with my stories, because usually if you try to be funny it's not.''

Unfortunately for Okamoto, he said his entry during the fourth round kept him from being named in the Top 25 students at the state competition. But receiving the top distinction from Lowry reinforced Okamoto's belief in his writing.

''I thought that was pretty cool,'' he said. ''I'm kind of excited about it.''

And now Okamoto said he wants to continue writing for the rest of his life.

''I really like to do it, and that's what I want to do when I get older,'' said Okamoto, who explained he likes to work with people and wants to combine that with his interest in sports as a sports writer.

Last week, Okamoto, the son of Kim and Steve Okamoto, received a $500 savings bond, copy of the hard-back ''Book of Winners'' book, and a $5,000 scholarship to attend the College of Wooster for being the most promising writer. The awards were given him during this year's state competition that was held at the College of Wooster.

[Avon] students who participated in this year's Power of the Pen state competition, after advancing from a regional competition at Avon High School, are ...

Saray Ferralo, Avon Middle School, 7;

Malorie Rooney, Avon Middle School, 8;

Gina Mingo, Avon Middle School, 7;

Molly McDonnell, St. Mary School, 7;

Molly Corrigan, St. Mary School, 7;

Meghan Ventura, St. Mary School, 7. ... ''

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