HIS Writes: The History, Value and Process

Hokkaido International School is an international boarding school that not only values the outdoors, the arts, and service, but also literacy. Please join us in supporting a reading and writing life, beginning with HIS Writes.

HIS Writes was created in 2021 to pair with its companion HIS Reads (begun in 2015). It is a short story competition open to entries from all students in grade 6 and above. Created as a way to provide an avenue to bring student writing beyond the classroom, HIS Writes encourages student creativity through narrative writing, which many have argued stands at the heart of all writing. Our entire life, in fact, is a story that we are writing as we go. The better we plan and organize, the much easier the winding path of life is to follow.

In this short story competition, students may choose to create a story collaboratively or solo, with the contest open to any story that meets the following criteria:

  1. Conveys the school’s annual literacy theme (the same theme used in HIS Reads)

  2. Fits the length requirements of 2,000 to 8,000 words

  3. Submitted via the school’s creative writing course or during the open submission periods (2 per year)

Annual Theme 2023-2024


"Man was made for conflict, not for rest," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. "In action is his power; not in his goals but in his transitions man is great." Ongoing action through tension is at the heart of good storytelling and it is the key ingredient for future growth in our own lives. Choosing the right time to pivot and the right focus can make all the difference. 

Why we value HIS Writes

Human beings thrive on creation. A study published in International Journal of Education & Literacy Studies reveals that creative writing can improve students' writing abilities, language proficiency, and communication skills. It also positively impacts their overall academic performance. Equally important is social and emotional development. The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) emphasizes that creative writing and storytelling support the social and emotional development of middle school students. Engaging in storytelling activities allows them to explore their identities, understand others' perspectives, and build meaningful connections with peers and teachers. At Hokkaido International School we value literacy and HIS Writes works to directly support not only the writing modality but all of the other benefits that come with creative writing.

Focused on Middle School, Open to Grades 6-12

Students enrolled in the Middle School Creative Writing class will have direct potential access into this writing competition. 

Middle School Creative Writing is a semester-long course for students who love to read and write and are interested in creating and recreating stories. Focusing on the narrative genre, students will build foundational storytelling knowledge and skills through a guided study of John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. Beyond the guiding text, students will read children’s books, short stories, and various forms of model narratives to further develop their palate for good storytelling. Putting their growing skills into action, students will work collaboratively, in synergy, to produce a narrative. Following their collaborative piece, they will produce a second story, either collaboratively or solo. Both of these narratives are reviewed by the classroom teacher with the possibility of being long-listed and later short-listed for HIS Writes. 

In addition to both semesters of Middle School Creative Writing, any secondary student may submit a piece that meets the contest requirements during the two open submission windows: December & February.

Historic Winners by Year

2023: "All The Small Wishes" by Jiyou Kim, Oto Ueda, Josiah Lee, Jeremy Cheng

2022: "Pen Pal" by Aina-Nishi Strong and Hana Katayama 

Historic HIS Writes Themes by Year

— 2022-2023 — 

To discover is to find out something for the first time. To rediscover is to remember what was lost or forgotten. Moments of great turmoil often lead to great loss, stripping us of the identity we once held dear. But as we battle through that turmoil, we reemerge in the place we started with fresh eyes to rediscover where we came from and who we used to be.

The 2023 Champions: "All the Small Wishes"
HIS Reads 2022 Finals
The 2023 Top Three HIS Writes Finalists
HIS Reads 2022 Finals
The Engraved Plaques for Literacy including "Pen Pal"
HIS Reads 2022 Finals

The Historic HIS Writes Judges Biographies

Ms. Laine Cunningham 


Laine Cunningham was raised by books, so it seems only natural that she built a career writing them. In the pages of novels, she found adventure, challenges, and thoughtful moments. All of them led to rediscovery: of other people, other cultures, and her place in the world. She can’t wait to read the HIS stories to discover something anew.

Laine continues to write and support writing. You can find out more about Laine through her journal SunSpot Literary Journal: https://sunspotlit.com/

Dr. Raluca Nagy


Raluca is an anthropologist and writer. She has written ever since she can remember, mainly because it has helped her understand the world. Most of the texts related to her work as an anthropologist are in English. When it comes to literature, she writes in Romanian, her native language. She published two novels, each telling the story of a woman, probably to balance the fact that the most famous stories of women have been written by men. Her best, most heart-warming encounters as a writer have been with young readers of her books; therefore, she feels happy and excited to have the opportunity to read your stories and have a glimpse of your understanding of the world.

Ms. Karryn Miller 


Karryn Miller

Karryn is an avid reader and can't pass a day without picking up her kindle. She has contributed to several books including Tokyo: The Complete Residents’ Guide (Explorer Publishing), To Japan With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur (ThingsAsian Press), as well as Sacred Places of a Lifetime and Food Journeys of a Lifetime (both from National Geographic). She recently co-authored a children's book Mother Wild: A Book of Mothers Dreams that was created with moms in mind. Her passion is travel writing and she has been published in several top magazines and newspapers around the world including Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure and CNN. 

Mr. Beau Miller


Before joining the State Department, Beau worked in magazine publishing as a writer and editor.  Through writing assignments in Beijing and Tokyo he met and profiled people doing interesting things – guerilla street artists, cocktail craftsmen, Japan’s “last ninja,” pro snowboarder Travis Rice, ten-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony.  He also dabbled in freelance writing for travel and trade publications, taking assignments on subjects as varied as upscale patissiers and radio-frequency wireless technology.  He has loved reading since he can remember, dating back at least to a reading incentive program in second grade that rewarded every five books read with free fast food.  He proudly chewed through a record number of books and french fries that year.

Mr. Tim Schlosser 


Not just our head of school but also a passionate reader and writer. Reading is one of the primary reasons Tim ended up in education. Since starting out as a middle school Language Arts teacher in Los Angeles, he has continued to keep a “reading record” of every book he finishes cover to cover. He has also continued to write when he can, and he has a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel draft that is edging its way closer, year by year, to completion. He believes storytelling just might be the most powerful tool there is for positive change, and he feels honored that he gets to read your work. Each new story brought into the world makes it a little bit richer

Mr. Hiroki Finn Hoshino


Hiro Finn Hoshino is a keen reader and writer of fiction. With a background in contemporary performing arts, he is always looking for fresh ways to express creative ideas. His favorite genres include horror, mystery, and fantasy, but will generally pick up anything with a thrilling story full of cracking characters. 

His short stories have been published in Australia and the USA. His surrealist horror short 'The Visitor' won an Honorable Mention at the Writer's Digest 90th Annual Writing Competition and will be published in an upcoming anthology with Brigids Gate Press. He currently works part-time as a creative writer for the entertainment company Whiskers and continues to pen weird poems and short stories as he works up the courage for a full-length novel.

Mr. Neil Maclean


Before teaching, Neil was a journalist and editor. Based in Brussels, he used to write about politics, trade and business. Doing lots of trips around Europe for work, he branched out into writing about culture and travel — eventually coming to Japan to write for Rough Guides.

He wishes all the students the best of luck in the contest, looks forward to reading their entries and passes on the best writing advice he ever got — Never lie… Never be boring… and Never be late.

Ms. Ann Van Den Borne 


Ann has always loved reading and is amazed by all the different worlds and views she has seen and felt through books. She started reading in English during her teenage years to learn the language but has recently switched back to reading Dutch to taste a little bit of the Netherlands when not able to travel home. She is very much looking forward to reading HIS-made stories.


HIS Literacy Celebrations by Year