Cathedral sixth-grader wins state DAR essay contest

Published 1:17 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

NATCHEZ — In a choice between computers and handwritten notes, Chloe Curlee prefers pen and ink.

The sixth-grader at Cathedral School said she enjoys writing poems about her friends, family and about the things going on around her.

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Though she, like other 11-year-olds, loves texting her friends, Curlee said she spends much of her time with a pen and paper.

“I want to be a poet when I grow up,” she said. “But I want to write books, too.”

One poem focuses on the relationship she has with her mother, Alicia Mitchell.

“We used to live by ourselves,” Curlee said. “And every Friday was my pretend birthday. We would get a cake and blow out the candles.”

Curlee only showed the poem to her mother; the verse was something special, just for the two of them.

“She hugged me, and she cried,” Curlee said. “She liked it.”   

Recently, Curlee’s love of writing won her first place in the American History Essay Contest for the Mississippi chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Curlee said she wrote about a young girl, Mary, whose father died in the Civil War.

As Mary’s mother takes on more and more of the family’s business, Mary takes on the job of caring for her younger siblings and the household.

“Her mom works all the time,” Curlee said of her character. “Mary’s stressed because she has to take care of her sisters and brothers, and she has to teach them.”

When she first sat down to write the essay, Curlee, who said she prefers poems to long-form writing, felt reluctant.

“I didn’t want to,” she said. “But then it was actually fun.”

Still, Curlee said, she did not expect her story to stand out among the other entries across the state.

“When they said I won, I was so excited,” she said. “I never thought I would win.

“They announced it over the intercom and everyone in the class laughed,” she said. “They told me ‘congratulations,’ and I laughed, too.”

Curlee was staying with her stepfather that week, but she said she called her mom as soon as she could when she got home.

“She said, ‘You won!’ and I said, ‘I know!’” Curlee said.

Perhaps part of why the essay, and the win, meant so much to her, Curlee said, is because of the similarities she finds between herself and her characters.

Mary is 14 and Curlee is only 11; Curlee grew up away from war and Mary’s family is forever changed by it.  But the girls, Curlee said, share feelings, thoughts and hopes.

“Sometimes I get really stressed, too,” she said. “Mary is a lot like me.”

Next year, Curlee said she plans to write an even stronger essay.

“I want to win again,” she said. “I think I can, and I want to.”