GRDA Staffer Claims Will Rogers Writing Contest Prize

Will Rogers Memorial MuseumThe top three winners in the 2015 Will Rogers Writing Contest come from varied backgrounds — one from Rogers County.

Eileen Mitchell, writer-author-blogger from the Chicago suburb of Palatine, is first place winner with her essay “Roped in by Technology.”

Her essay was judged top entry in a national competition to find the best examples of the style of writing practiced by Rogers, popular “cowboy philosopher” of the 1920s and 30s, said Robert Haught, president, Will Rogers Writers Foundation, contest sponsor in association with the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Alberty Justin copyJustin Alberty of Inola, Grand River Dam Authority communications director, claims second place. Third place winner is Dan Baxter of Lowell, Ark., who was raised in Oklahoma.

Haught said there were 82 entries from 20 states, 36 from Oklahoma.

Mitchell placed second in the first of these contests, conducted in 2006 in conjunction with the Will Rogers Writers’ Workshop in Oklahoma City.

Her winning entry was a humorous commentary on modern technology. She is a published author and contributing author to a number of books as well as Film Hound blog writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A self-described “ardent admirer” of Will Rogers, she said his “down-to-earth wit and wisdom is much needed and sorely-missed today.”

Alberty, whose essay “The Barefoot Approach” a philosophical view of human relations, is a blogger as well as part-time columnist and full-time with GRDA.

“Writing, public speaking and trying to help others share their stories are the things I enjoy the most,” he said.

“God Save the Queen” is the title of Baxter’s entry, a satire about Queen Elizabeth’s finances. Nearing 70, the retired physician said he has “lived more lives than an unlucky cat.”

He was raised in wheat and cattle country of northwest Oklahoma and worked in radio and television 12 years before medical school and practicing 30 years as an obstetrician-gynecologist in Oklahoma and Tennessee. He writes an essay every week for a life writing class.

The Foundation, which promotes “clear, simple and effective writing” as exemplified by Will Rogers, awarded prizes of $200 for first place, $100 for second and $60 for third.

Steve Gragert, Will Rogers’ scholar and retired Will Rogers Memorial Museum executive director, served as final judge for this year’s contest. He was complimentary of writing displayed in submissions.

“I was impressed with the quality of the entry essays of this year’s finalists,” he said. “Will was strongly present in each. He would have enjoyed the chance to jaw with each of these fellow columnists over a bowl of chili.”

The top essays can be read at


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