The Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation (KDMF) has joined forces with AAA Southern New England as this year’s corporate sponsor for the annual writing contest. The Foundation also announced that this year’s celebrity judge will be Joan Parker, who edited best-selling author and late husband Robert Parker’s books and TV series “Spenser for Hire.”
The DeCubellis family hopes Parker’s participation will bring added attention and awareness to a cause they have championed.
“After our daughter Katie died at the hands of a drunken driver at such a young age, we wanted to find a way to carry on her legacy and keep her spirit alive,” said Meg DeCubellis in a press release. “As the years progressed, we were fortunate enough to receive an outpouring of support and the writing contest is one way for us to give back to others and also raise awareness on important topics.”
The topic of this year’s writing contest is to depict a real or fictional situation in which an individual’s presence on Facebook or Twitter influenced another’s behavior and decision-making for better or worse.
“Sadly, a dear friend of mine was severely injured in a drunk driving accident, one of her own making,” said Parker in an exclusive interview. “Having overindulged in alcohol before getting behind the wheel, she fell asleep at the wheel and sustained broken ribs, hip and concussion. Watching her slow and painful recovery is impetus enough for me to join in an effort to draw attention to the dangers of drinking and the results of distracted driving.”
“This, combined with the initiative to keep Katie's spirit alive through a writing contest, highlights for young people an awareness of important topics. I couldn’t resist such a meaningful mission,” Parker added.
Parker is a philanthropist, editor and inspiration to best-selling author Robert Parker’s main female character in his “Spenser for Hire” book and television series. The late Robert Parker wrote more than 60 books. His novels were adapted many times for television and movies. From 1985 to 1988, actor Robert Urich appeared as the central character of the television series, “Spenser: For Hire” and Parker’s “Jesse Stone” series was the inspiration for seven television movies starring Tom Selleck.
Joan Parker continues her husband’s legacy by overseeing writers who have taken over the successful series.
“We are truly excited and appreciative to Joan Parker for agreeing to serve as the celebrity judge for the KDMF’s 10th annual writing contest,” says Executive Director John DeCubellis. “It is a tremendous honor that such an accomplished and acclaimed author, editor and humanitarian is willing to take time out of her busy schedule to support other aspiring writers, while at the same time raising awareness about the KDMF and its efforts.”
For the past nine years, KDMF has awarded money and prizes to students who placed in the annual writing contest. This year’s topic is about peer pressure through social media.
The deadline for entries is March 29. A ceremony will be held May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Warwick Mall to announce this year’s winners. Television reporter/WPRO radio anchor and children’s book author Laura Clarizio will emcee the event.
The contest is open to any high school student in Rhode Island, grades 9 through 12. There is a cash prize of $1,000 that will go to the first place winner. There will be additional cash prizes for second place ($500), third place ($350) and honorable mention ($100).
Parker’s experience in literature will help her judge the submissions.
“I always look for characters that I can care about, or who are so finely drawn that I am intrigued by their goodness or their evilness; characters who are not one-dimensional,” she said. “The plot is always secondary for me, but I am always engaged by a good story.”
All completed entry forms and writing submissions must be postmarked by March 29 and mailed to KDMF Creative Writing Contest, c/o Joel S. Chase, 300 Metro Center Blvd, Suite 150A, Warwick, RI 02886.
“Whenever we’re able to engage young people on issues like impairment and distraction or other risky behaviors behind the wheel, we view it as an important opportunity to make our roads safer for all motorists,” said Lloyd Albert, AAA’s senior vice president of public and government affairs. “We are pleased to help support this year’s writing contest and to partner with the KDMF in such a worthwhile effort.”
Parker’s final advice on all high school students who enter? “Bob always gave inspiring writers advice, which I agree [with]: write the book you would want to read,” said Parker.
For her part, she is looking forward to reading the submissions, and to supporting the Foundation in its mission.
“It is always a pleasure to work with a Foundation like the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation. Not only do they strive to raise awareness about drinking and distracted driving, but they also strive to enrich the lives of young people through events like their annual writing contest,” she said. “My husband and I shared a passion for reading and writing and I am excited to be this year’s judge.”
Professionally created posters with the winners’ names and writing entries will remain on display at the mall during the week following the ceremony. For more information about the contest and annual scholarships, visit the Foundation website at www.kdmf.org.